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Editor Pick

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

Updated: April 25, 2024

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

Wanderlust doesn't have to come at the expense of being a sustainable traveler.

The allure of the open road beckons with freedom and discovery, however in this age of environmental awareness, many want to road trip while still practicing eco-friendly travel.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to take a dream road trip up-and-down the California coast while practicing sustainable travel. For starters, consider renting a fuel efficient, environmentally friendly Hertz vehicle at discounted rates as a AAA member. Hertz offers both electric vehicles and smaller standard size gas vehicles that may be more fuel efficient than the vehicle in your garage. Renting as a AAA member during "Hertz Month" from May 2 to June 30, 2024 can save you up to 40% off rentals.

Here are a few other tips for planning an eco-friendly road trip for your cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway.

1. Get a Tune-Up

If you plan on taking your own vehicle, plan on taking your car for 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.

2. Rent a Fuel Efficient Vehicle

Consider renting a fuel efficient vehicle for your next road trip. Hertz offers a line of EV 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 with Hertz.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 at 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, Katie Broome

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