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Driving Road Review: Pacific Coast Highway - DrivingScene

Driving Road Review: Pacific Coast Highway

Posted on 20 October 2012 by Adam Kaslikowski

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Route: Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica Pier to Point Mugu.

Total Length: 37.9 miles

Directions: Join the Pacific Coast Highway from Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Stay on the PCH for 37 miles until you reach Point Mugu. A turn around area is available at the highway junction just past Point Mugu outside of Oxnard .


Total Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Tell someone you’re a driving enthusiast in California, and they will inevitably ask about driving the famous PCH. We’ve all seen movies and posters of fast cars next to ocean cliffs and though “me too!” Don’t bother. The LA to Oxnard section of the PCH is a crowded ticket trap with scant opportunity to enjoy those ocean views. There are so many better places to drive in this state, you are cheating yourself if you spend any of your gas on this section of tarmac.


Curves Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

The PCH is not a driver’s road so much as a world famous scenic route. Any and all “curves” are high speed sweepers following the coastline. You’re not going to get any rush or push your car’s abilities on any of them.


Police Presence Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

The Polizei are omnipresent and very happy to give you a ticket. Ask me how I know. Speeding is highly verboten on the PCH and there seems to be a couple of motorcycle cops speed-trapping every 2 miles or so. Behave yourself or pay the $250+ price like I did.


Traffic Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Heavy. Always heavy. You’re not going to find any time of day or any day of the week where this stretch of the PCH is anything resembling empty or even slightly non congested. Be prepared to move around traffic if you want to make any forward progress.


Scenic Beauty Rating: ★★★☆☆

There are some magical moments when the condos cease and opposing traffic clears just enough to allow peaks at the surf breaking on the beaches of Malibu. These moments are serene and wonderful and life affirming and over very quickly when the minivan in front of you slams on its brakes. This generally brings you back to the present.


Population Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

The road is alternately lined by ocean vistas and condos. Population is high near Santa Monica and Malibu, then thins out as you approach Point Mugu. Houses or not, traffic is always around.


Speed Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The PCH is a fairly fast road with normal highway speeds, but good luck maintaining that with all the traffic. And don’t be tempted to exceed the posted limit either. Stick to the posted MPH and the Sunday drivers and you’ll be traveling at a decent clip.


Safety Rating: ★★★★★

Only danger you face driving the PCH is getting into a fender bender. Guardrails and parked carsĀ  protect you from going into the ocean and steep hills flank the other side of the road. Stay aware of other drivers, and you’ll be perfectly safe.