FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Make Family Memories Along California’s Stunning Highway 1

by Kristy Alpert

Jun 12, 2023


Leisure Lifestyle 2023

The sting I felt as my hair whipped me from all directions faded as our cherry-red convertible completed its turn and the glimmering, whitecapped waves of the Pacific Ocean came into view, tumbling forcefully into the bay. For a 10-year-old in the 1990s, this scene along California’s Highway 1 was straight out of a music video, and I threw my chubby hands up from the backseat of our family rental car to catch the cool breeze just in time for Celine Dion to belt out, “… there were moments of gold, and there were flashes of light,” from my parents’ well-traveled mixtape.

In this ethereal moment — puffy green hills to my left, azure waters to my right, my family laughing and singing loudly as the open road stretched ahead — I imagined returning here one day with my own family. Fast-forward three decades, and I finally found myself back on this iconic slice of American roadway, this time in the front seat with my husband at the wheel and my two young kids giggling in the rearview mirror.

Before the construction of Highway 1 began in 1919, only a series of rugged horse trails connected the sparse villages along the coastline. It took nearly 70,000 pounds of dynamite to blast through the rugged terrain over the course of 19 years; and when it finally opened in the 1930s, it did so under a multitude of names (Pacific Coast Highway, Roosevelt Highway, Cabrillo Highway, among others). Only in 1964 did the route earn its No. 1 designation, but by that point many had already made the more than 650-mile trip from Leggett to Dana Point, with plans to do it again.

“The Santa Lucia Mountains are so steep in parts … and then we built a highway on the edge of the continent,” explained Kevin Drabinski, public information officer, Caltrans District 5, who recommends checking road conditions before planning any Highway 1 adventures for that reason. “The experience sticks in your memory, and you feel part of that ancient conversation between the mountains and the ocean that’s like no other place you’re going to see in California.”

Although it’s possible to drive the length of the highway in one day without stops, travelers often drive it in sections over multiple days. Highway 1 was never intended to be the quickest route from Point A to Point B but rather a journey designed to enjoy. The road almost comes alive when you drive it slowly, as the charm of the coastal towns and the beauty of the scenery become more than mere backdrops. We made a family pact to slow down and take everything in during our five-day journey as we gathered around our open-air firepit at our starting point, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. A bagpiper serenaded the setting sun as the Bay Area breeze tickled the flames around my son’s roasting marshmallow and my daughter burrowed deeper into my arms.


Early the next morning we soared past redwoods and picturesque beaches with names like Shark Fin Cove before pulling over for breakfast at surfer-chic Jack O’Neill Restaurant in Santa Cruz. We watched surfers ride the waves as we nursed our own grinds from Verve Coffee Roasters and downed hearty breakfast burritos. Tempted to rent e-cruisers from Gazelle Bikes, we strolled instead along Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf to watch sea lions bask on the sun deck.

Our next stretch led through the artichoke capital of the world, Castroville, and its beloved farm stand, Pezzini Farms, where we stocked up on preserved artichokes and candles scented with artichoke flowers. Farmland gave way to the golden sand dunes of Fort Ord Dunes State Park, hiding the ocean views briefly before we rounded a corner and gasped at Monterey Bay before us. Cannery Row called, and we answered with a stroll along the shopping and dining street on our way to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It’s strange to spend an afternoon gazing at amazing creatures of the sea only to find yourself craving seafood. Nonetheless, we soon enjoyed fragrant Monterey-style cioppino at Schooners Monterey. We checked in to Monterey Plaza Hotel just as our day rental arrived from Monterey Touring Vehicles, and heads turned as we drove off for 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach in our classic car. The dramatic drive is equally as famous as the peninsula’s Pebble Beach Golf Course, and we spent two glorious hours driving and stopping for photos along the scenic loop.

Our joy ride continued to Big Sur, where landslides prevented us from continuing but gave us a chance to enjoy the views twice as we doubled back to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Feeling glamorous in our rental, we sampled upscale appetizers at Chez Noir before reluctantly returning the car and refitting our car seats into the Jeep. Sunset over the bay was magical from our waterfront suite, and we fell asleep to the sound of waves brushing against the shore.

It’d be easy to get used to the morning mews of seagulls, we decided, as we relished the peaceful early hours before driving Route 101 to Pismo Lighthouse Suites, our home base for traversing vineyards and scenic hikes for two days. We eventually headed north through Morro Bay, Cambria and San Simeon to Hearst Castle to tour the art-haven-turned-Hollywood-hangout of William Randolph Hearst.

The San Luis Obispo area is famous for oysters, Chardonnay and tri-tip, but our kids will forever remember the chewy, sweet-and- salty cookies from Brown Butter Cookies (we bought an extra box for home). We took one more treasure-hunting trip to Shell Beach before returning to Highway 1. We cruised the streets of Malibu and navigated a narrow staircase leading down a 150-foot bluff to El Matador State Beach. We arrived at Marina del Rey Hotel in Los Angeles before sunset, so we rented two bikes and a Burley stroller to explore Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier.

The wild lights of the pier lit up just as we began pedaling back to our hotel, grateful to be out of the car breathing in the sweet night air. We spent the next morning at the hotel’s pool before finishing the last two hours of our journey still in our damp swimsuits … a useful clothing choice as we explored Huntington Beach and Treasure Island Beach near Laguna Beach.

The salt was still drying in our hair as we noticed the signs for Highway 5 in Dana Point, marking the end of our journey. Nostalgia hit me, and so I scrolled through my Spotify playlist, rolled the windows down, and let the words ring out once more … “there were moments of gold, and there were flashes of light.”


Marina del Rey Hotel
Amenities at this waterfront retreat include a heated pool, gardens, picnic area and award-winning dining at SALT Restaurant, minutes from Venice Beach.
13534 Bali Way, Marina del Rey

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Enjoy a classic California coastal experience at this elegant hotel boasting a rooftop luxury spa. Many rooms feature sweeping ocean vistas and the sound of waves lapping the shore.
400 Cannery Row, Monterey

Pismo Lighthouse Suites
Overlooking sunny Pismo Beach, the all-suite hotel offers fun for all ages, from a heated pool and hot tub to badminton, ping-pong, life-sized chess and a pirate ship play structure.
2411 Price St., Pismo Beach


Chez Noir
The coastal California cuisine showcases ingredients from the Monterey Peninsula. Start with appetizers like chilled oysters and abalone skewers, and try local rockfish and rock crab.
Fifth Avenue between Dolores and San Carlos streets, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge
Grab a bite at this surfside restaurant where sustainability and regional ingredients drive the menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, plus a kids menu.
Dream Inn, 175 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Schooners Monterey
Schooners serves contemporary American cuisine with a focus on carefully sourced seafood. Take in the sights and sounds of the bay from the heated waterfront terrace.
Monterey Plaza Hotel, 400 Cannery Row, Monterey

Non-local travelers often fly into San Diego (SAN), Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) and rent a car to access their desired section of the Pacific Coast Highway. From L.A. or San Diego, head to Dana Point. From San Francisco, drive about 3.5 hours north on Highway 101 to access the starting point for Highway 1 heading south.


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore Excursions


Insta Feed
Feb 23, 2024

The Radical: A New Boutique Hotel, Opens in Asheville, North Carolina’s, River Arts District

Once an abandoned 1923 constructed warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina, it took a creative group of designers, artists, musicians, chefs and business folks to transform a neglected, 100-year-old structure into one of Asheville’s most interesting and daring hotel projects.

Reconnecting the World: GBTA Convention 2023 Spotlights the Vital Role of Business Travel and In-Person Connection

In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention remains an indispensable platform for business travel industry professionals seeking to make the most of the power of face-to-face connections. Taking place August 13–15 in Dallas, the 2023 GBTA Convention provides the unique opportunity for professionals and companies to join visionaries, thought leaders and industry experts for meaningful networking, cutting-edge insights and inspiring innovation.

February 2024
Feb 23, 2024

Pickle Up: Get in on America’s Fastest Growing Sport

Early on, pickleball had something to do with pickles. Pickles the dog, that is. In one story, the game was named for a family dog that ran off with the ball between sets.

Feb 23, 2024

Hôtel Norman Opens Near the Top of Champs Elysées

Located a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe, Olivier Bertrand recently opened Hôtel Norman for those looking to explore the city.

Fill Your Heart with Ireland

Whether it's the people, the craic (fun) or the coasts, travelers always find something to love about the island of Ireland. What fills your heart?

Feb 23, 2024

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco Completes Renovations

JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco recently completed renovations of its entrances, lobby, culinary concepts and meeting space. This marks the final stage of the renovation, which began in 2021 with the revitalization of its 269 guestrooms and 45 suites.

Feb 21, 2024

Make Alberta, Canada, Your Next Wellness Getaway

Rich in mountains, prairies, forests and hot springs, Alberta, Canada, takes nature and wellness travel to a whole new level. Combine the beauty of this western Canadian province with relaxation and you’re in for a treat.

The Argosaronic Islands Are Calling

The Saronic or Argo Saronic Islands of Greece call travelers to explore its seven small islands and islets brimming with history, natural sites and more. With most easily accessible by boat, the islands’ proximity to ports of Athens make the Saronic Islands an ideal destination for those preferring shorter boat rides. In fact, trips from Athens ports to the islands take only between 10 minutes and two hours, depending on the island you choose, making them perfect for day or weekend trips. From Piraeus port, you can access Hydra, Spetses, Aegina and Poros directly. Come explore these stunning islands with us and find the inspiration to plan your next trip to these islands. Hydra Hydra town curves around a slope overlooking the Argosaronic Gulf like an amphitheater and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Greece. Most unique to the island is its lack of vehicles. People on the island get around on mules and donkeys as well as water taxis, making for a peaceful and laid-back day. Hydra lies a two-hour ferry ride from Piraeus port in Athens.

eFlyer Reviews
Feb 21, 2024

Amantaka Review

You know what you’re going to get at an Aman hotel, and also you don’t. Expect peerless service, obsessive attention to detail, architectural elegance worthy of a fashion magazine, a holistic approach to wellness and astounding levels of comfort. But each property is also intimately connected to its setting, and that’s where the surprises lie. For instance, finding yourself on your knees on a sidewalk in Luang Prabang handing out sticky rice to Buddhist monks at 5:30 a.m. isn’t something we expected.