The distance between these two cities is 189 miles (3 hours and 30 minutes approximately) by US-101 or by Hwy1. If you take 1 Pacific Coast Highway -PCH- (also known as Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway ), it is much more recommended, you will be able to enjoy impressive views of the Pacific almost until you reach Santa Barbara.
It is the first beach that you should pass before reaching Santa Monica, it has a little less hook than this, but you cannot miss it (you can get there from Santa Monica by Ocean Ave). The landmarks are Ocean Front Walk, which overlooks the beach and is full of shops, bars, restaurants, and street vendors, it is where you will find the most atmosphere; and to make shopping, stop by Abbot Kinney Blvd.
It is one of the most beautiful cities within Los Angeles (the light, the immense beach and the color of its buildings help a lot), when you arrive it will be very familiar, the main points are: Ocean Ave, is crowned by a row of palm trees (which you have seen in dozens of movies) and it is the avenue that leads to the beach; the pier with an amusement park (the oldest in California), the Hotel The Gregorian (you will not be able to pass the entrance since the prohibition is indicated, so you will have to take the photo from outside); and the beach promenade, where you will find places for renting bicycles (recommended, since you can move towards Venice Beach or towards Malibu, the rent is by the hour or the whole day).
For shopping in this city, there is Third St Promenade (in front of the beach), Montana Ave (to the north), and Main St (already close to Venice). Surely for time, you will not be able to dedicate much to these streets, but if you can, take a walk along Third St Promenade, and if you have not had breakfast yet, it is a good time. The streets that concentrate the greatest leisure, restaurant, and fashion activity are California Ave to the west to Colorado Ave to the east, and from Lincoln Blvd to the north to Ocean Ave to the south. Malibu
On the way to Malibu, make a stop at Getty Villa (17985 Pacific Coast Hwy), to enter you must have made a prior reservation, this is free and is done through their website, you can choose the times you want to go ( book it with a little time as it is usually very requested). The Roman villa overlooking the sea is a spectacle.
As such, there is no specific center of Malibu, but rather a succession of houses/mansions, beaches, and restaurants. Make a stop at its pier, and some of its reference beaches: Las Tunas or Point Dume before arriving at Adamson House (23200 Pacific Coast Hwy), it is a very nice Spanish-style house, it is only open from Wednesday to Saturday and they close at 3:00 p.m.
Try to get to this city before lunchtime, since you will have to spend at least three hours on it. The main points to visit: the beach and its Stearns Wharf (south of State St), the Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park (123 E Cañon Perdido St), and the County Courthouse (it is free, at 1100 Anacapa St ).
Leaving the city center, head towards the Mission (at 2201 Laguna St, it is one of the most beautiful in California, both for how well preserved it is, and for the environment in which it is located, from here you will be able to see spectacular views of Santa Barbara ).
The shopping area is mainly concentrated on State St, stop at the shops of Gossip, Anthropologie, and Marshall (a shopping center/outlet with branded clothing and footwear for men and women. The floor at street level is for clothing and Signature women’s footwear ( Kate Spade, Steve Madden, Vince Camuto, or Coach ) at quite good prices, and the lower floor is men’s clothing, you will have to look around but you will find real bargains.
If you see that you have time, when you leave Santa Bárbara, deviate from 1 to go to 246, it will take you to the towns of Solvang (a town of Danish origin, its interest mainly lies in walking through the town and entering some of the food and decoration stores that they have) and Santa Ynez (made known as a result of the movie “Between glasses” with an unknown Sandra Oh ). Both are quite charming and do not have to take more than an hour.
Your next stops will be Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Avila Beach .
It is not a really interesting town, what can be highlighted about it is the collection of historic houses that are concentrated in Grand Ave. To get to them, you will have to leave 101 Hwy and join the 4th St.
Another point of interest that all the guides point out is the revolving bridge, it is curious to see it but not essential.
As some travel guides say, it is a retro town ( Dixit Lonely Planet) in the aesthetics of its buildings. It has a good number of stores dedicated to the sale of clothing for surfers and for renting boards
Approach the pier, it has spectacular views of the beach and the surfers trying to catch the waves. The activity of this town is concentrated in Prince St and Doviller St.
It is just 10 minutes from Pismo Beach and has its certain charm for the beaches, although not so much for the activity of the town. If you want to make a stop before arriving and rest in San Luis Obispo it is a good option. So far, it is one of the most beautiful routes that you will have until you reach San Luis Obispo since it combines beaches with cities.
It is a town with a nondescript touch, but you cannot leave without having visited the Mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which is at 751 Palm Street (the 5th of the missions established in California). It depends on where your hotel is, but if you go downtown, the activity is concentrated in Marsh St and Higera St, there are a good number of restaurants and bars with a certain party.
Don’t forget to stop by the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shops (669 Higuera St), it has sweets from different North American states and even from countries like Japan or Mexico.
If you can, before you go, stop by the Hotel Madonna Inn (100 Madonna Road), it is a clear plea the kitch, very funny. You can see it from Hwy 1 or turn off for Madonna Rd, if you go early, pay a visit.