Take the time to follow the coast for seafood caught fresh in local waters, remarkable wines, fresh berries and other seasonal delights as wonderful as the views.
Trip Length: 3 days
San Francisco It’s hard to go wrong food-wise in the City by the Bay. Try One Market , awarded a Michelin star for the fourth consecutive year. Or settle in at Basque-inspired Fringale , or the glamorous Absinthe Brasserie & Bar , perfect before or after a performance at the nearby classically styled War Memorial Opera House or sleek Davies Symphony Hall. For more information: San Francisco Travel Association .
Half Moon Bay (30 mi/47km; 40 min). This little hamlet just south of San Francisco is home to family-run farms and some wonderful (and wonderfully friendly) local restaurants—like Sam's Chowder House , overlooking the bay. For more information: San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau .
Monterey (91mi/146km; 1 hr 50 min). Head back to the coast to twist through fog-and-sun beauty from rugged Big Sur to the Monterey Peninsula. Get a taste of the region at dozens of restaurants featuring fresh local produce from Salinas Valley, excellent wines from Monterey County, and sustainable seafood in comforting cioppino and other dishes. For more information: Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau .
Paso Robles (116mi/187km; 1 hr 50 min). After tasting your way through California's fastest-growing wine region, stop for a bite at Artisan , right off the square downtown. It dishes up simple, seasonal food like meatballs with guanciale and roast chicken—paired with local wines, of course. For more information: San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau .
San Luis Obispo (29mi/46km; 30 min). This laid-back college burb has a walkable downtown, and plenty of great eateries. Try Buona Tavola for northern Italian fare or Novo for eclectic global cuisine. Locals flock to the hip Big Sky Cafe for hearty breakfasts and addictive cornbread. For more information: San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau .
Buellton/Solvang (64mi/102km; 1 hr). At The Hitching Post II , try locally acclaimed Santa Maria-style barbecue with a locally produced bold red wine. For farm-fresh ingredients done with impeccable panache, try Bradley Ogden’s sexy-sleek Root 246 is a must (try to book one of the curtained booths to feel ultra-VIP). For more information: Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association .
Santa Barbara (43mi/70km; 45 min). Rock crab and sea urchin are specialties gleaned from local waters. Find some of the freshest at the Santa Barbara Fishouse , or hit the raw bar at Coast at the Canary hotel. For more information: Santa Barbara Convention & Visitors Bureau .
Oxnard (38mi/61km; 42 min). This agricultural mecca (most of the country's strawberries come from here) has a burgeoning dining scene. At Tierra Sur at Herzog Cellars, taste ingredients from nearby farms alongside award-winning local wines. For more information: Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau .
Santa Monica (48mi/77km; 1 hr 2 min). With one of the area's finest farmers’ market practically on its doorsteps, Fig Restaurant , the Dining Room at Hotel Shangri-La and, the granddaddy of it all, Michael’s , truly celebrate the seasons. For more information: Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau .
Hollywood (15mi/24km; 25 min). After checking out the local color on Hollywood Boulevard, stop at The Hungry Cat for super-fresh seafood, like Santa Barbara sea urchin served in the shell, local halibut ceviche, and scallop carpaccio. For more information: Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau .
Los Angeles (6mi/10km; 10 min). The heart of L.A. sizzles with a slew of new restaurants and classy cocktail lounges. Farm-to-table ingredients make their way into both drinks and dishes at places like Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill at the bustling L.A. Live complex downtown, and Café Pinot near the historic Central Library—well worth a visit. For more information: Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau .