A few years ago, my husband and I took a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco. It was on that trip that we discovered San Simeon, California — a destination unto itself. Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Simeon offers history, opulence, and a wealth of natural beauty and wildlife. Everything you need can be found right on Highway 1, making it convenient to enjoy all the area has to offer.
Things to Do
Elephant Seals – My favorite thing about the San Simeon area is the Piedras Blancas rookery of elephant seals. It’s located on Highway 1 about 7 miles north of San Simeon. This rookery is home to about 17,000 animals and is open year-round. There is no entrance fee.
Hearst Castle – This National Historic Landmark is located on Highway 1 in San Simeon. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The castle is open daily except for major holidays. Visitors are taken to the castle by bus from the Visitor’s Center. Tour times vary by season. Daytime tours are $25 for adults and $12 for children (5-12). Evening tours are $36 for adults and $18 for children.
Tide Pooling – The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary offers the perfect opportunity for exploring the natural wonders of the Pacific Ocean via its numerous tide pools. San Simeon Beach can be accessed easily from Highway 1 directly across from Hearst Castle. Be sure to go during low tide and wear non-skid shoes that can get wet.
Monarch Butterflies – San Simeon is an important overwintering site for the monarch butterfly. A good place to see them is in the Monterey pine forest of San Simeon State Park. The park is about 5 miles south of Hearst Castle and 2 miles north of Cambria on Highway 1. Day use for the park is free.
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse – This historic lighthouse was first illuminated in 1875 and is located on Highway 1 6 miles north of Hearst Castle. Access to the lighthouse is by guided tour only, and the fees are $10 for adults and $5 for children (6-17). Tours begin at 10 a.m. and are offered Monday through Saturday from June 15 through August 31 and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from September 1 through June 14.
Where to Eat and Stay
There are several restaurant and accommodations choices in and around San Simeon, from low-budget to extravagant.
The Manta Rey Restaurant is my favorite dining choice in San Simeon. Located at 9240 Castillo Drive in San Simeon, it is only open for dinner from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. daily. They offer an upscale dining experience of excellent steaks, pasta, and seafood.
My choice for accommodations is the Best Western Cavalier Oceanfront Resort. Located 3 miles south of Hearst Castle on Highway 1, the resort offers first-class, oceanfront rooms with great views.