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Eco-Tourism Escapes

9 Sustainable travel tips for exploring Highway 1

Travel sustainably along Highway 1! Discover unforgettable opportunities to make a difference while exploring this scenic 50-mile stretch of coastline. Whether you lend a hand with trail clean-ups or embark on a guided kayak excursion, every eco-adventure contributes to the stewardship of this precious coastal California route. Enjoy pristine beaches, craggy bluffs and idyllic seaside towns—all while making a commitment to protect Highway 1’s unspoiled beauty. Connect with the land, sea and community, ensuring these natural wonders remain for generations to come. Let’s dive in!

Cayucos wildflowers Whale Rock

1. Do good, feel good

Become a Highway 1 Stewardship Traveler for Good. Explore more than 50 Stewardship Traveler for Good activities along Highway 1, all of which offer amazing opportunities to connect with Highway 1’s wondrous natural playground. This might mean a solo beach clean-up, family outing to a historical site, or a group hike that ends in a spectacular sunset. Simply travel the route, roll up your sleeves and do your part to ensure the longevity of Highway 1’s thirteen state parks, wildlife preserves and marine sanctuary. Now, that feels good, doesn’t it?

Biking Cambria Couple

2. Enjoy the journey

Hike, bike and stroll Highway 1 to reduce your carbon footprint. Abandon the rental car and appreciate the salty, cypress-scented air on an invigorating hike through Montaña de Oro State Park. Let a gentle sea breeze ruffle your hair as you pedal a bike path flanked by green hills in Cambria. Or simply sit back and allow the dramatic ocean vistas unfold through the passenger side of an electric vehicle in San Simeon. With several electric vehicle (EV) charging stations dotting Highway 1, you and your travel companions can easily explore ten enchanting small towns on a single charge. Remember: when traveling Highway 1, the journey promises to be as joyful as the destination. Take advantage of it!

Sandcastle turtle

3. Think Small

Small, eco-conscious choices can lead to big environmental impacts along Highway 1. Commit to sustainable habits that add up to a greener coastline, like packing reusable bottles, toting cloth shopping bags and avoiding excessive packaging. Choose accommodations that promise an eco-conscious stay and opt to “leave no trace” on hiking trails by carrying out any litter you may find. Along Highway 1, plastic straws, plastic bags and Styrofoam are rarely seen (a boon for local birds and sea life). Help keep it that way by thinking small, wherever you roam. Yes—even the simplest sustainable act can help protect this irreplaceable coastal paradise for future explorers. Needless to say, it’s a very big deal.

Pelican Avila Beach

4. Love on local wildlife

Find your place within Highway 1’s vibrant web of wildlife. With a remarkable 42 percent of all U.S. bird species spotted in San Luis Obispo County, serious birders will be in winged heaven along this scenic route. Plus, keep an eye out for frolicking sea otters, basking elephant seals and migratory gray whales with calves in tow mere yards from the rocky shoreline. Cherish these once-in-a-lifetime interactions by allowing wildlife a respectful buffer and following our handy viewing tips (oh, and be sure to bring those binoculars). After all, this entire region belongs to wildlife, first and foremost. Together, let’s thank these majestic creatures by keeping their home in pristine condition.

Schooner's Restaurant in Cayucos, CA

5. Dine coast-to-table

From ocean to plate, savor local bounty. Fueling up for your Highway 1 adventures starts with fresh, sustainably-sourced provisions like just-caught Morro Bay oysters and fish, locally-grown produce and wines that capture the coastal terroir in every sip. Enjoy farm-to-table cafes, oceanfront wineries, and unique agri-tourism experiences like seaweed foraging in Cayucos to deepen your connection to the flavors of the land and sea. Finally, raise a glass to the farmers, fishermen, winemakers and chefs helping preserve the region’s culinary heritage. Just be warned: You may need more than one trip to properly taste it all!

Stewardship beach cleanup

6. Enjoy a cleaner Beach day

Stroll the sand while lending a hand. A novel idea, right? There’s no better way to soak up the sun-drenched magic of Highway 1 beaches than by giving back to their natural splendor. Get involved with Highway 1’s ongoing beach cleaning efforts by grabbing a free clean-up kit from participating locations. Equipped with reusable bags and gloves, you’ll comb the white sand of Avila Beach and beyond, collecting any litter before it can threaten the sea life. While you take on this important task, be sure to keep an eye on the horizon: You may just spot a dolphin in the gentle waves or a pelican gliding overhead—vivid reminders of our shared ecosystem.

Dana Adobe Gift Shop Nipomo

7. Preserve the past

Improve Highway 1’s tomorrow by honoring the relics of yesterday. The History and Heritage Trail features dozens of fun stops, all of which offer up at least a century of lore. Step through the doors of the Dana Adobe & Cultural Center in Nipomo and be transported to the year 1839. Discover Victorian homes, a weathered train depot-turned-museum and an antique swinging footbridge perched above a babbling creek. From the area’s first tribal inhabitants to the Jazz Age bohemians who once made coastal sand dunes their home, Highway 1 is awash in waves of cultural significance. Help preserve these precious stories by volunteering, donating or simply treading lightly as you step through the years.

Cambria Art

8. Shop local

Take home a treasured piece of Highway 1. Forge an authentic connection with the local community by shopping small at every turn. Around here, this is easy to do! Discover artisan shops overflowing with handcrafted goods made by newfound friends. From handmade jewelry to bottles of small-batch olive oil or wine, each purchase helps sustain the passionate community of farmers, winemakers, artisans and chefs that make up Highway 1’s vibrant economic tapestry. By consciously supporting these homegrown purveyors, you’re not just taking home a unique memento—you’re investing in the diversity that makes this stretch of Pacific paradise shine.

Luffa Farm in Nipomo, CA

9. Get curious!

There’s always more to discover. Let Highway 1 awaken your curiosity with educational hands-on experiences sure to keep the route robust for years to come. Download the iNaturalist app to catalog new plant and animal species at the Estero Bluffs State Park in Cayucos. Discover an unexpected botanical gem: the Luffa Farm in Nipomo. Delight in thousands of Monarch butterflies fluttering in unison in Pismo Beach. Travel an otherworldly trail from forest to dunescape or walk among ancient pygmy oaks treasured by ancient tribal inhabitants. Yes, you should always expect the unexpected on Highway 1. Never stop learning—and be sure to come back soon to further your research.

Thanks again from Highway 1

Take a moment to reflect on the coastal road you’ve traveled. Bask in a famous Highway 1 sunset and experience the gratification that comes from connecting deeply to this treasured seaside route. Your Highway 1 journey went far beyond admiring panoramic views and tasting local flavors. You contributed to the long-term preservation of these lands and formed bonds with like-minded travelers and residents. Go, you! The greatest souvenirs of all are the positive impacts you’ve made along the way. We thank you for your contribution.