The stretch of Pacific Coast from a few miles north of Cambria up as far as Carmel by Sea is, quite simply, one of the best driving roads in North America. It even rivals some of the best found in Europe. The journey (over the drive) up the Pacific Coast Highway is best done in the late afternoon and evening to avoid the relativley pedestrian traffic found during the day. Nothing quite beats driving a real (read manual) convertible around winding coastal roads at speed. You don’t want to be stuck behind a convoy of RV’s or tragically stereotypical American tourists taking photos through the windows of their cars without actually stopping to take in the sight. Fourtunatley most of these people are sensible or old, or both, and wouldn’t think of starting a 100 mile drive when the sun is almost ready to set, which is, of course, when the best views are to be had.
It is not, as Jeremy Clarkson would have you believe, all about the speed, handling and cornering, but about the breathtaking beauty of the coast too. Take time to stop at the view points which are sign posted every few miles, and when you can drive down to the coast, walk out into the water and feel the full power of the Pacific as it’s waves crash against you. If you’ve timed it right, it will still be warm enough to dry off during the walk back to your car.
I recommend starting out from Cambria about 3 or 4 hours before sunset, which means you will catch the most stunning of the sun’s rays warming the rugged coast just when you hit Big Sur, the most spectacular section of the drive, and will arrive in Carmel of Monterey in time to check into your hotel for a good nights partying, or sleep, if that’s your thing.