Driving through L.A., you will experience everything from glitz and glamour to rugged mountains and valleys. Cruise down classic thoroughfares, such as Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, or enjoy the iconic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Palos Verdes Drive. No matter which route you take, you’ll experience breathtaking views and beautiful scenery. So, grab your keys and fill up the tank, ’cause it’s time to roll out!
The Best Scenic Drives in L.A.
Santa Monica to Malibu on the PCH
Put the top down and crank up your California playlist, because coastin’ on the PCH is a scenic drive you won’t want to miss—the PCH is a quintessential road trip. As you whip around twists and turns, admire the picturesque views of the glimmering ocean on your way up to the rugged terrain of the canyons.
Start your drive at the end of Interstate 10 in Santa Monica. From there, turn north onto the PCH. On your way from Santa Monica to Malibu, you can hop off the highway to visit the Getty Villa, a stunning recreation of an Italian villa. Home to an extensive antiquities collection, this L.A. landmark is an absolute must-see (if you have the time for it, of course), but be sure to reserve a timed-entry ticket in advance. There’s no admission fee, but you’ll have to pay for parking.
Once you arrive in Malibu, there’s plenty of opportunities to take photos and to admire the hillside homes and dazzling views. If the incredible beaches are calling your name, stop by the areas marked “Beach Access” and stretch your legs by taking a stroll along the shore. The most beautiful part of the drive is the section between Malibu and Point Mugu State Park. It’s impossible not to admire the jaw-dropping scenery unfolding in front of you.
Relish in Hollywood stardom as you drive down the famous, palm tree–lined Sunset Boulevard. Stretching 22 miles long, this gorgeous street will take you from Hollywood to the PCH and back again. The weather is often perfect in sunny Southern California, so make sure the top is down and your shades are on!
As you wind past Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and UCLA, you’ll get a glimpse of some of L.A.’s most well-known, prosperous areas. If you have time, tour around UCLA—home of the Bruins—before hopping back on Sunset Boulevard to continue the drive toward West Hollywood. Known as Sunset Strip, the section between Havenhurst Drive and Doheny Drive has maintained prominent historical significance, thanks to the infamous nightlife scene that attracted rock stars and prominent actors during the “Golden Age of Hollywood.”
Celebs still frequently visit the Strip’s Chateau Marmont hotel (which hosted legends like John Belushi and James Dean back in the day), so check in for the night or savor a meal at The Restaurant at Chateau Marmont.
If you haven’t watched the Hollywood classic Mulholland Drive, you definitely should before coasting down this iconic road. As you wind through hills overlooking the metropolis, you’ll be mesmerized by breathtaking views of the L.A. basin, the San Fernando Valley, and the Hollywood Sign. While you drive down this 21-mile stretch, try spotting the gorgeous homes of the many celebrities who live here, (you might even find one for sale). You’ll soon understand why this is one of the best scenic drives in L.A.
If you want to spot more celebrities or shop for luxury goods, then Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is the place to go. Complete with European-style shopping alleys and cobblestone streets, this internationally renowned shopping district is heaven on earth, so take your time and enjoy the leisurely drive. If retail therapy is what you need, stop at the Rodeo Drive Shopping District, beginning at Wilshire Boulevard and ending at Santa Monica Boulevard.
A definite must-see is Torso—a sculpture designed by world-renowned artist Robert Graham at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way. While on Rodeo Drive, check out the talented architectural creation by Frank Lloyd Wright, too: Known for his architectural ingenuity, Wright designed the magnificent building at 332 North Rodeo Drive.
Palos Verdes Drive
Once you complete this mesmerizing, 14-mile drive through the magnificent topography of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, you’ll be dizzy in awe. You definitely haven’t been on a drive as fascinating as this one—get ready to weave your way past rugged cliffs and spectacular beaches as you coast by the shimmering Pacific Ocean. Keep an eye out for migrating gray whales and Palos Verdes blue butterflies, too.
From the Palos Verdes Estates to San Pedro, it's a complete scenic overload. Not only does the peninsula feature stunning vistas, but it also has an important claim to fame: Several scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed here. While on Palos Verdes Drive, pull over to check out the Wayfarers Chapel; designed by architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright, this is one of the most stunning structures in California and among the most mysterious attractions in the state. From mid-winter to spring, you can also stop by the Point Vicente Lighthouse to spot gray whales and admire the view. If you’re a history buff, hike down the 4.6-mile out-and-back Shipwreck Trail to see the remains of the SS Dominator, a freighter that ran ashore in 1961.
Angeles Crest Scenic Byway
Leave the chaotic city behind and go for a pleasant, 55-mile scenic drive along the Angeles Crest Highway. Just minutes from L.A., this secluded road is the perfect alternative to navigating the big metropolis and offers a spectacular view of the mountains and valleys. Cruise your way among towering trees and enjoy the phenomenal scenery of the Mojave Desert, the San Gabriel Mountains, the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, and the cityscape below. If you’re itching for a hike and a night spent under the stars, pick a trail and a campsite in the forest to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty.
What’s your favorite scenic drive in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below.
You may also like
Celebrate the season by exploring the best places to see the stunning fall foliage in Southern California....Read more
Admire everything from purple sands to grand rock formations on this road trip to the best Central Coast beaches....Read more