Photo Essay: Slow Travel Down the Pacific Coast Highway

by Ekua on February 1, 2010 in California,captured on memory card,local discoveries,slow travel

A couple months ago, I visited a fellow wandering friend of mine in Santa Cruz. After a fantastic night of Mexican food and drink and a Toots and the Maytals show, I drove back up to San Francisco on Highway 1 the following afternoon and took advantage of a gloriously sunny day. Also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, this road is a prime example of a journey becoming a destination. On the segment between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, much of the area surrounding the highway is sparsely populated and unruly. Ragged edged cliffs give you a sense of the awesomeness of traveling along the perimeter of a continent. With a full day available, I drove slowly and pulled off the road whenever I felt the urge to explore…

In September when I was on the way back to San Francisco from Henry Cowell State Park, I’d seen a wonderful field of sunflowers. Because I was driving a van full of students, I had to resist the urge to pull over. Nearly three months after that, I was happy to see  one lovely row of sunflowers still left.

Pampas grass lines the walkway to a beach. While the plumes of pampas grass have a scenic effect, they are unfortunately an invasive species that take space away from native plants. The National Park Service recommends that you do not pick them because their seeds spread easily.

If you follow your instincts and take a random turn off the highway, you may just stumble upon an gorgeous empty beach.

Birds take flight and scatter as I approach them. At one point there were so many that I knew I was bound to be pooed on, so I started running…

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero is closed to the public, but visitors can stay at an adjacent hostel and further explore the surrounding areas.

Warm blooded harbor seals soak up as much sun as possible before returning to the frigid sea.

The water at much of California’s beaches is too cold for those without wetsuits. But there’s more to do than surf or visually appreciate. At beaches where the edges of the coastline have crumbled to large rocks, low tide offers an opportunity to go tide pooling and view the some of the sea life swept in by the ocean.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah February 2, 2010 at 6:22 am

Gorgeous photos! You made me crave a seaside road trip.


Ekua February 3, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Thanks! I am craving the sea as well. I might be making that same trip again next weekend. The weather most likely won’t be as nice, but the ocean is so therapeutic.


Laura February 2, 2010 at 7:29 am

Gorgeous pictures! Love the seals. I had no idea about the pampas grass being invasive! Any idea how it got there in the first place?


Ekua February 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm

It was brought as an ornamental plant and also to control erosion. It’s originally from South America. Thanks for stopping by!


Nancy February 2, 2010 at 11:15 am

Gorgeous photos Ekua. Reminds me of my childhood, especially #2. One of my dreams is to one day make it out to the Pacific coast.


Ekua February 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I’m surprised that haven’t yet been to the Pacific! Looks like it’s time to start planning a trip to San Francisco 😉


Lauren Quinn February 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Beautiful! Got me so stoked for my solo Highway 1 road trip. You take really good photos, lady.


Ekua February 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Thanks Lauren. That sounds fun… are you traveling a long chunk of it?


Fly Girl February 2, 2010 at 5:07 pm

What lovely pix! And Toots and the Maytals sounds like a wonderful soundtrack for this scenery.


Ekua February 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Mellow but happy music is definitely perfect for a beach road trip 🙂


Mary R February 3, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I love how you explored in your own area. many times we think we have to go somewhere else to appreciate natural surroundings and don’t even pay attention to what’s right in front of us.

One question, how did you copyright your photos?


Ekua February 3, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I feel lucky to live in a place that has so many cool things to do, so I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. Keeps me happy between traveling 😛

I copyrighted my pics on the same program I used to make my header. It’s called PhotoImpression and I think it came with my Nikon Editor package. Photoshop or any other program that allows for layering images or text would work!


Abbie February 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

LOVE the PCH! I have only seen the southern section, though, I definitely need to explore the northern PCH 🙂


Ekua February 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I’ve done many parts of it now at different times, and it’s almost all gorgeous. It would be awesome to drive the full length of it someday. North of SF, there are parts that are terrifying to drive on, but also very incredible.


GRRRL TRAVELER February 8, 2010 at 7:44 am

Love the photography and the poetic journey you take us through. I can’t remember the last time I experienced a nice meditational moment like this- thanks.


Ekua February 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Thanks and you’re welcome!


Lola February 8, 2010 at 9:19 am

Beautiful photos. Really liked the mood in the sunflower and lighthouse pieces


Ekua February 8, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Thanks Lola! Those two photos are my favorites as well.


Andi February 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Looooooove this post! One of my fave trips ever was along Highway 1. I have so many beautiful memories from it. Awesome pics too–sunflowers are the best. 🙂


Julie February 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I LOVE the PCH! Thanks for helping me dust off some good road trip memories.


Sarah Chambers August 26, 2010 at 7:52 am

Hi Ekua,

There are some beautiful images here. Have you considered entering the Grantourismo travel blogging competition?

There are great prizes on offer including £500 towards a stay in any one of holiday home rentals on our site, tour vouchers and more. All you need to do for this month’s contest is enter one great portrait photograph of a person you’ve met on your travels who touched you in some way and 250 words describing the moment you took the photo and how it affected you.

You can find more details here:



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