California Road Trip
Credit: SCP Mendocino Coast Lodge

From Laguna Beach to Mendocino: Your Guide to a Road Trip Up the California Coast

Windows Down, Music Up

Embark on a journey where the sandy shores of Laguna Beach mark the beginning of an unforgettable California road trip, charting a course through the state’s most iconic towns. As you navigate Pacific Coast Highway, you’re not merely a traveler—you’re an explorer at the helm of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQB, an electric car that marries sustainability with the timeless luxury of the open road. This voyage will take you from the intimate, art-infused corners of Laguna Beach to the majestic and rugged coastlines of Mendocino. 

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With each leg of the journey, we delve deeper into the rich narrative of California, where boutique accommodations whisper local lore and each meal is a taste of the region’s bounty. From the Danish charm of Solvang to the serene sophistication of Santa Barbara and the mystical allure of Big Sur, this road trip was curated for the conscious California traveler. 

Let’s hit the road!



📍Stop 1: Laguna Beach

Solo Day Guide Laguna Beach
Credit: Visit Laguna Beach

We’re kicking it old school in the city where Lauren Conrad got her start. Laguna Beach is a sleepy surfer town-turned-vacation destination, where people come to catch as many vibes as there are waves and soak in all the seaside glory of this tucked-away town. This is where your road trip begins and the rest is still unwrittener wait, it’s actually written below. Check it out…


Lease a 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQB

First things first, you need the proper mode of transportation to cruise down Pacific Coast Highway to Natasha Bedingfield. And that car is the Mercedes-Benz EQB. It is the smallest electric SUV that Mercedes-Benz makes, which makes it perfect for whipping around town and fitting into those tight Laguna parking spots. She’s fast, she’s compact and, most importantly, she’s cute! It can quickly charge in a half hour and has a range of over 300 miles on a full charge. This car has large, luxurious seats and plenty of cargo room if you happen to indulge in a little retail therapy. 


Stay at SCP Seven4One

Credit: SCP

You’ll need a place to put your sandy feet up, and Laguna has no shortage of cozy options to call home for your quick stay. SCP Seven4One is one of our favorite spots for a family or group of friends looking to sit back, relax and enjoy all this little town has to offer. This ultra-boutique beachfront hotel boasts 12 guest rooms and includes a rooftop deck that likely gets some of the best sunset views in the city! Pop next door to Orange Inn in the morning for one of their iconic cinnamon rolls or head down the street to The Cliff Restaurant for an ocean-view dinner. The accommodations themselves are light, bright and environmentally friendly, and staycationers are mere steps from the sand. Take advantage of their sister property’s beach valeta full-service amenity that takes the legwork out of lugging chairs and umbrellas down to the shore. Hot tip: If you book during the week, you can take advantage of a 17% discount, but room rates are extremely reasonable as well, starting at $250 per night.

Local Insight: Every stay at an SCP Hotel helps to make the world a better place through their Every Stay Does Good program! This initiative aids in supporting people and the planet through various partnerships with nonprofits.


Stay at Laguna Riviera

California Road Trip
Credit: Katie Oswald

Our other accommodation option is Laguna Rivieraan oceanfront oasis disguised as a chic surf lodge. This 41-room hotel is the perfect place to check in and zen out. Ask if you can book one of their newly renovated rooms, which have been redesigned and reimagined to embody the bohemian way of life with peaceful amenities, such as pillow mist, essential oils, an air purifier and a curated selection of books. Nature will be your sound machine as the beach is mere steps from this boutique staycation spot. The property’s beautiful indoor/outdoor pool embraces a vintage vibe and is perfect for a dip, and Sunset Stand Up Paddle is right around the corner for adventurers who want to explore the famous Laguna Beach cliffs and coves by sea. Laguna Riviera offers various specials on multiple night stays and guests should take advantage of their 20% off deal happening right now! Be sure to use code SEASONAL if you book before Dec. 1. 



Grab a Bite at Anastasia Cafe

There’s a place on Ocean Avenue where I used to sit and talk with you. Yellowcard said it first, but there’s a quaint little spot called Anastasia Café that is perfect for curing those hunger pangs with the quintessential breakfast by the beach. Located a quarter-mile stroll to the sand, this Laguna staple is slinging huevos rancheros, Belgian waffles, and eggs done any way you like ‘em. There’s metered parking available or make it an adventure and catch the free Laguna Beach Trolleythe transit depot is right next to Anastasia Café. 


📍Stop 2: Santa Barbara

Lunch at Revolver Pizza

California Road Trip
Credit: Revolver Pizza

Before traffic gets gridlocked, you’ll want to make your way north for lunch at Revolver Pizza in Santa Barbara. This New York-style pizza joint is offering up a limited menu of handcrafted pies and seasonally inspired shareplates. Located on the Westside right off of the 101, you can make this a quick pit stop for pepperoni before heading north to the next spot on our tour de CA.


📍Stop 3: Solvang

Visit Ostrichland USA

Solvang is a SoCal city in the Santa Ynez Valley that is known for its wineries, Danish-style architecture and…ostrich farms. That’s right, ostrich farms. One of the most unique experiences on our itinerary this trip is a visit to Ostrichland USAa sprawling estate housing over 100 emus and ostriches, this photo-friendly farm allows you to feed, pet and hang with these oversized feathered friends. Ostrichland is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and general admission is $7 for adults and $3 for anyone 12 and under. 


📍Stop 4: San Luis Obispo 

Stay at Hotel San Luis Obispo

Credit: Tanveer Badal

What a day it has been! Coast into your final resting place for the evening at Hotel San Luis Obispo. This boutique stay is central to the main city, making it ideal for exploring the surrounding areas and getting a taste of the town that is known for its charming restaurants and excellent wine. Rooms are reasonably priced, clean yet cozy and include a refillable water bottle with filling stations located all throughout the property. Be sure to stop at Madonna Inn for a photo or two!



DAY 2 

📍Stop 5: Morro Bay

Dine at Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley

Credit: Giovanni’s Fish Market

Morro Bay is a hop, skip and a jump away from San Luis Obispo, making it a great place to pass through and maybe polish off a bowl of fresh clam chowderand we know just the place to do that! Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley is doing fish and chips, shrimp and chips, clams and chips…basically any seafood with chips, and it’s fresh-caught and served hot. Grab it to go and take a five-minute walk down to the Morro Bay T Pier to view the otters in action while you eat. 


📍Stop 6: Big Sur

Burgers at Nepenthe

California Road Trip
Credit: @nepenthe.bigsur

Our next pit stop might be one of our favorites (don’t tell the others). Big Sur gives off almost a mythical aura when you’re sitting sky high and overlooking this iconic stretch of California coast. It’s sort of the halfway house to Northern California as the tree line gets a little denser and that woodsy vibe creeps in. Big Sur is home to award-winning luxury hotel Post Ranch Inn, premier glamping destination Treebones and fan-favorite casual eatery Nepenthe, which happens to be our next stop on the tour. You come for the burger and stay for the beauty. It’s a tad pricey but worth it for the picture-perfect panorama.

Local Insight: Rough winter weather caused Hwy 1 to close and remains closed for a 2-mile stretch from Limekiln State Park to the town of Lucia. Check Caltrans District 5’s social media platforms for updates. 


Shop at Mother Botanical + Shop

Be sure to swing by Mother Botanical + Shop for some knickknacks and homemade goods. This quaint shop is showcasing local purveyors and artisans and their goods with many one-of-a-kind items perfect for gifting yourself or others. Check out their ceramics, skincare and sacred items to bring a little bit of Big Sur home with you. Another thing you must bring home with you? Anything from Big Sur Bakery.


📍Stop 7: Carmel

Explore Calla Lily Valley

Let’s get a little flirty with nature, shall we? Calla Lily Valley in Carmel is truly a “you won’t believe it until you see it” type of spot where bouquet-worthy calla lilies bloom in the wild next to the beach. Save all of your photogenic genes for this setting because you’re going to want to get the shot. The calla lilies bloom from January to April, so try to time your visit accordingly.


📍Stop 8: Santa Cruz

Unwind at the Tea House Spa

Road trips can literally drive you insane with all that time behind the wheel, so it’s important to find some time to unwindluckily, we have just the spot. Tea House Spa in Santa Cruz is a great solo mission or day-date destination. Treat yourself to massages and hydrotherapy while overlooking their tranquil bamboo garden. Check out their spa packages to find the best option for you, and be sure to take advantage of the complimentary hot or iced tea, which come as is or infused with seasonal herbs and fruits. 


📍Stop 9: Tiburon

Lunch at Malibu Farm Tiburon

It’s lunch time; you’ve earned it! The new Malibu Farm Tiburon just opened in Tiburon and is everything we need it to be and more. Seas the day at this oceanfront oasis and enjoy all the cult classics like the ahi poke cones, Swedish pancakes and some Maine lobster sliders. Throw in a cocktailwe won’t tell anyone. This is the perfect place to admire the shore and slow-sip the day away! See if you can secure a spot on the patio to soak in all that fresh salt air. 


📍Stop 10: Mendocino 

Credit: Simon Hurry

Throw that car in park because you have made it to Mendocino! Mendocino is this relatively untouched town filled with wildlife, redwood groves and wineries. It’s the ultimate getaway, and there are two excellent lodging choices for your stay.


Stay at SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm

California Road Trip
Credit: SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm

The first is SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm, a property that houses an 1867 country manor, an adjoining modern lodge and other unique guest-room options. This bed and breakfast has 31 rooms over six buildings, offering authentic perks like wood-burning fireplaces and idyllic ocean views. They practice holistic hospitality here, which means invoking sustainability when possible and giving back as much as they take. SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm is spread out over 15 acres housing both guests and farm animals alike. As a farmstead, they use the land to also harvest cropsthey even have llamas! As with their other properties, SCP Mendocino Inn and Farm is offering various specials on multiple-night stays, and guests should take advantage of their 20% off deal happening right now! Be sure to use code SEASONAL if you book before Dec. 1.


Stay at SCP Mendocino Coast Lodge

California Road Trip
Credit: SCP Mendocino Coast Lodge

The other amazing accommodation option is SCP Mendocino Coast Lodge, which is an incredible place to fall asleep with the sound of the waves crashing right below you. Offering 22 oceanfront guestrooms, they are redefining the concept of seaside serenity with private bungalows overlooking sweeping seaside cliffs. A unique characteristic of this property is the Albion River Inn Restaurant located on-site and open for breakfast and dinner. Their menu features locally sourced produce and protein as well as fresh seafood from the shores below. Did we mention they have a full bar? This is another chance to utilize the 20% off offering with code SEASONAL if you book before December.


DAY 3 

Shop at Folklore

Another thing to do while you are milling around Mendo is shop! You’ll need some fuel for your financial foray, so stop at Goodlife Café and Bakery for a coffee and treat to go. Next, head to Folklore for some handcrafted and consciously created goods for your home, heart and beyond. If it’s ethical, sustainable and just a dang good product, then you’ll probably find it here. This is the kind of shopping you can really feel good about. 


Sip and Savor at Fog Bottle Shop

Mendocino may be cute and quaint, but they do know a little bit about getting boozy. Fog Bottle Shop is a natural wine bar and bottle shop that’s open Wednesday-Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. and serves up wine flights and small plates with plenty of bottles to take to go. We’ve spotted tinned fish, vegan and local cheeses, and mushroom pate on the menu. This place feels like it is straight out of an old postcard. They also have a fun little curated retail section too so you can get a little tipsy and spend a little of that hard earned cash.


Dinner at Luna Trattoria

And finally, it’s time to celebrate a successful cruise up the coast at Luna Trattoria. Reservations are pretty much a prerequisite here since it is such a sought-after dinner spot. Making things exclusive, they sometimes only do a few seating times per night, so just know you’re at the mercy of the maître d’ here. They have indoor and outdoor seating but, if weather permits, we recommend sitting in the garden. There’s a reason their pasta dishes are so popular, and you have to save room for dessert. Cannoli for him and tiramisu for her. They often have live music, but take note: They’re closed on Mondays. Buon Appetito!

Plan your road trip up the California coast and experience the most charming and picturesque corners of our Golden State!

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Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.




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