Top down, music up—the California road trip is as quintessentially American as apple pie or baseball. Unfortunately Mother Nature is preventing us from driving the whole Pacific Coast Highway at the moment—need to say why. But a jaunt along the southern coast still lets you live the California dream. 

By Jes Ware
Belmond El Encanto--Santa Barbara, California

START: SANTA BARBARA

Tucked away in the hills above Santa Barbara, it's easy to see why Belmond El Encanto was a favorite getaway for Hollywood stars in the 40s and 50s. The property retains that old-school SoCal glamour, but it was completely rebuilt just a few years ago. Wander along the twisting garden paths to the Terrace to enjoy a glass of bubbly and sample the hotel’s house-made cheese—from milk supplied by the property’s own cow, Ellie. And soak in the view of the red rooftops and the sparkling Pacific. Really, we can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon. 

Montage Laguna Beach--Laguna Beach, California

PIT STOP: LAGUNA BEACH

Los Angeles has a ton of stop-worthy sites and bikes, but save it for another day. Instead, drive the roughly three hours from Santa Barbara to Laguna Beach for a dose of sophisticated, laid-back Cali chill. Case in point: Montage Laguna Beach. Atop a high seaside bluff, with huge ocean-facing windows and a spa that doesn't quit, the hotel is a place to unwind and reset--and perfectly placed for a pit stop on your drive south. 

Hotel del Coronado--Coronado, California

LAST STOP: SAN DIEGO

It's only a hour's drive from Laguna Beach to San Diego. You can spend the afternoon wandering Balboa Park, poking around the shops and restaurants in the Gaslamp District or, depending on their schedule, catch a Padres game at Petco Park. At the end of the afternoon, cross the causeway to Coronado and check into the Hotel del Coronado. Plan to stay here for a few days, so you can do sunrise yoga one morning, a sunrise spin class the next, and a surfing lesson the day after.