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7 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Road Trip on the California Coast

Updated: April 19, 2023

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

Get a Tune-Up

Schedule a tune-up to ensure your vehicle is ready for the road. Routine maintenance tasks like changing your oil, checking tire pressure, inspecting tire condition and topping off fluid levels can have a big impact on fuel economy — and your peace of mind. Find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you at AAA.com/AutoRepair..

Rent a Fuel Efficient Vehicle

Consider renting a fuel efficient vehicle for your next road trip. Hertz’s Green Traveler Collection (available in select cities, including Los Angeles) offers a line of hybrid vehicles with lower carbon emissions and greater fuel economy, which translates to more savings for you and for the environment. Browse the options and take advantage of your exclusive AAA member benefits at AAA.com/Hertz.

Chart Your Route in Advance

Keep your emissions low by planning out your route in advance. AAA’s online TripTik Travel Planner () makes it easy to find attractions, hotels and campgrounds near the roadway. You can also use the tool to plan short scenic detours along the Pacific Coast Highway like the Mulholland Scenic Highway near Los Angeles or the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey.

Appreciate Nature at a State Park

No drive on California State Route 1 is complete without a nature stop or two. If it’s beaches you’re after, don’t miss the dramatic coastal views at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur (pictured above) or the cliffside trails at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For an inland hike among the redwoods, head to Big Basin Redwoods State Park or Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz.

(Keep in mind that some California state parks may be closed due to COVID-19; check park websites for updates about current conditions.)

Camp Out Under the Stars

Spending a night under the stars is a great way to practice a sustainable road trip. Pack only what you need and set up camp at one of the dozens of campgrounds along the California coast. For spectacular ocean views, pitch a tent at in Big Sur or Thornhill Broome Family Camp - Point Mugu State Park near Malibu, where you can camp right on the sand. For luxury glamping in the redwoods, check out Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Hotel.Many California campgrounds remain closed due to COVID-19, and some may be affected by road closures due to adverse weather conditions. Check the website for updates.

Choose Eco-Friendly Hotels

If you're planning to stay in a hotel during your trip, look for AAA Approved accommodations with AAA's Eco Friendly icon, which indicates that the property is recognized by a green certification program such as the California Green Lodging Program. A couple impressive hotels on or near the Pacific Coast Highway that have the designation include the Ambrose Hotel in Santa Monica, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort in Santa Barbara and the Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey. Browse the full selection at AAA.com/TravelGuides/Hotels.

Drive Mindfully

One of the easiest ways to make your road trip more eco-friendly is to modify your driving habits. Use cruise control, keep speeds reasonable (fuel economy is said to peak at around 50 mph on most vehicles) and avoid fuel-consuming driving practices like rapid acceleration and hard braking. Small changes can have a big impact on long road trips like the drive up or down the California coast.

Start Your Next Vacation with AAA

AAA Travel provides peace of mind when you travel — before, during and after your vacation! Members enjoy the advantages of membership including exclusive benefits, savings, map routing and travel planning, plus additional travel needs such as AAA Travel Guides, TourBook® guides, passport photos, International Driving Permits and travel insurance. Your next vacation starts with AAA — your complete travel solution. Visit AAA.com/Travel.

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

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