Summer Road Trip – California (Monterey, Big Sur, Paso Robles, Huntington Beach)

Part 3 of my Summer Road Trip series details our travels on the second half of California including the Monterey, Big Sur, Paso Robles and Huntington Beach.


We left Yosemite bright and early and drove approximately 3.5 hours southwest to the city of Monterey.

What we did


I think this is on the of the most expensive aquariums we’ve been to ($50/person) but also probably one of the biggest.  There were lots of cool exhibits but it was CROWDED.  You could barely move in some areas and that kind of tainted our experience.


Technically this is in Pebble Beach, but it was a quick 12 minute drive from Monterey so we did it the morning we left.  It’s a gorgeous drive alongside the ocean with very large and extravagant houses scattered along the coast;  can you image waking up to this view every morning?

We also saw the infamous Lone Cypress Tree which has survived on it’s perch for over 250 years.


This is very similar to Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco, but on a smaller scale. Lots of souvenir shops and cheesy restaurants.  Some decent views from the pier though!

Where we ate


The bellman recommended this restaurant and when we looked it up it mentioned it had been featured on Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives so we figured it had to be decent.  It’s very comfort food-focused – I had a hot turkey sandwich and it was simple yet good (and large – I could only eat half!).  Their desserts are where they really shine – D and I shared this colossal slice of Cookies & Cream Cream Cake and it was amazing…next time I’d go just for dessert.

Where we stayed


This hotel was perfect for our one night stay in Monterrey; the location was great – within walking distance to restaurants, Fishermans Warf, and Cannery Row.

Our room was newly renovated and very comfortable.

At the time it was under construction so the lobby was a bit of a mess but that really wasn’t a big deal at all.


More seals!  We walked along a pier next to the Coast Guard station and there were tonnes of seals sunning themselves on rocks just hanging out. They were pretty entertaining to watch because one would be relaxing on rock and another would sneak up on him/her and push him/her off said rock – and then a battle would ensue.



This is another drive along the coast with majestic views of the ocean, mountains and forest.  Unfortunately when we were there the forest fires were still burning which resulted in a hazy, smoky sky and some key sites being closed.  We still really enjoyed the drive though – it’s definitely worth doing!

Near the end of Big Sur was an Elephant Seal visitor center; I’ve never seen an elephant seal before and it was a really cool experience – they’re amazing animals.  They were pretty docile when we were there but there were a couple that slid their way up from the water to sun bathe in the sand which was really neat to see.


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

This literally looked like something out of a movie – this little cove was a short walk from the parking lot and breathtakingly beautiful. Definitely my favourite stop along the way.


Paso Robles Road Trip

Paso Robles was a one-night stay in between Monterey and Huntington Beach.  In hindsight we probably could have driven further that day, but I’m actually really glad we stopped in here. The area is known for their wineries, olive oil and almond orchards but unfortunately we only had time to stop in at a winery.

What we did


We chose this winery because it was one of the highest rated ones on yelp; we had a guided tour of their wine caves and complimentary tastings – which was a really nice change from Napa where you pay for absolutely everything.

Where we stayed


Another Holiday Inn; no complaints about the hotel itself but if I were to stay in Paso Robles again, I’d stay closer to the downtown area.  This location was a little isolated and about 30 minute walk to downtown where the majority of their restaurants and shops were located.


Paso Robles Road Trip

This is Zifandel – Eberle Winerie’s canine mascot.  She was pretty cute but she was more concerned with catching some rays than any human attention.


Huntington Beach was our final stop in California; we chose it because we have stayed in LA, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara and wanted something different and laid back.  Getting here was interesting – the freeways in and around LA are absolutely nuts.  At some points there were 10 lanes of traffic one-way and people drive like mad!  No signal lights, slamming on their brakes, chatting on their phones.  I don’t know how the people that live there do it but I guess it’s just something you get used to?

Where we stayed



This was one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in; the views from our balcony were spectacular.  The room was beautiful and so peaceful and relaxing.

The location of this hotel was fantastic – it was right across from Huntington Beach, and close to a ton of restaurants and some shopping.  We really enjoyed our stay here and would highly recommend it!

What we did

We didn’t do much in Huntington Beach – and that was on purpose.

We hung out at the hotel’s pool one afternoon and spent another day exploring downtown Huntington Beach.  The weather was perfect and warm; definitely recommend a stop here if you’re looking for somewhere more relaxed and less congested than LA to stay.

Where we ate

Ola Mexican Kitchen

This restaurant was located in the Pacific City shopping complex next to our hotel and after a day stuck in the car it was a convenient option.  We enjoyed some great table-side guacamole and these steak enchiladas which were delicious! The restaurant had a pretty spectacular view as well – it overlooked Huntington Beach.


Watching the Surfers off of the Pier; surfing is fascinating to me – I have horrible balance so there’s no way I could ever do it but I like to admire those who can and do!

In Summary

My favourite stop on this part of the trip was Huntington Beach – at this point we were really looking forward to a break from driving and being able to relax.  Our hotel was beautiful, the beach was great and weather was warm.  That said, I’d love to go back and spend a weekend in Paso Robles and explore more of their wineries.

My last and final trip report will include details on our stay in Vegas and thoughts on our road trip overall.

Missed Part 1 and 2 of my Summer Road Trip series?  Catch up below!

Summer Road Trip – California Part 1 (National Redwood Park, Napa, Yosemite)

Summer Road Trip – Oregon (Portland & Oregon Coast)

Thanks for reading!


    • prettyrufflife says

      It is pretty amazing, isn’t it? I’d love to go back too, particularly on a bright and sunny day, I feel like the views would be even more breathtaking!

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  1. stashy says

    Amazing photos! I love looking wildlife in their natural habitat – like seals!
    That hotel in Huntington Beach looks wonderful – so relaxing and spa-like. Location of a hotel is such a huge factor for me too – I don’t want to waste time travelling from hotel to the attractions.
    Thanks for sharing your trip photos with us!

    • prettyrufflife says

      Me too – I was really hoping we were going to see some whales or dolphins or even otters in Big Sur but we didn’t see any which was disappointing. We saw a few whales for a few seconds in Oregon but that was it. The elephant seals made up for it though!

      The Pasea really was an awesome hotel – I love brand new hotels too, they’re always so clean and fresh and feel less germy! Haha! 🙂

      Thank YOU for reading! 🙂

  2. Amanda says

    SO happy I found your blog! I’m looking forward to following and reading more! Being a California native, I’ve been to all the places you’ve highlighted here and you totally made me miss it so much(I just recently moved to Florida about 6 months ago)! Your photos are absolutely stunning!

    • prettyrufflife says

      Thanks so much – I’ve followed your blog as well! Lucky you for living in Florida – although I can see why you’d miss Cali. If I had to pick a state to live in, that would be it. 🙂 Looking forward to reading about your adventures!

  3. Polished and Inspired says

    Awesome update on this leg of your trip! My fiance and I go to an aquarium every time we visit a new city, lol…the Monterey Bay Aquarium sounds awesome (jellyfish are so captivating to watch!) And yumm, those cakes at Rosine’s…I could do with one right now!
    Huntington Beach looks like a dream. The hotel you guys stayed at there was so nice! Definitely a well-deserved break not doing anything and just enjoying some people-watching after driving for so long and making so many stops to sight-see.
    Looking forward to hearing about Vegas. Vegas is always a fun time! 😉

  4. Robyn says

    Everything looks so beautiful! I just want to teleport myself to all these places right now, as I sit on my couch avoiding the heaps of snow outside.

    • prettyrufflife says

      Ugh I know I despise Winter! We’ve actually had a very mild November though, no snow here, aside from a few flurries last week. I feel like we’re going to pay for it majorly in January.

      Thanks for reading!

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