101 Highway California | California's Highways and Road Trips
sunset on the 101
california highway 101 sunset picture

The sun sets over Highway 101 in Central California just north of Santa Barbara on the way to Gaviota Pass, then Solvang, Buellton and Santa Maria.


So you are out on that long lonesome highway heading north to the Central Coast. Highway 101 north of Santa Barbara begins to climb outside of town. At sunset, it's always the toughest time to see anything until the sun finally drops behind the mountains. And lonesome isn't so true anymore. Commuters as far away as Santa Maria commute daily to Santa Barbara, making this well traveled state highway.

You may become drowsy along this stretch and if so, there's not a lot of options between Santa Barbara and Solvang. Your choices really boil down to Goleta with is Best Western Hotel and a zoned portion of Santa Barbara north of Goleta with a luxury resort, Bacara. The difference in price is usually around $300, with Bacara costing around $450 for the minimal room after you've paid tax, and Best Western costing around $140. The rates don't get much cheaper for hotels until you hit Santa Maria an hour later, so for gosh sakes, if you are tired, grab a room in Goleta if you can.

What's special about this stretch of road shown in the photo above are the vistas and sparkling views of the Pacific Ocean, especially during the day.  Not long ago (several years), we watched a fire burn along this area from brush. The hills at Gaviota Pass were charred and looked burnt for over a year. They seem to be coming back now. Surfers love this stretch of coast in which the Amtrak rail line runs adjacent to the highway.  Some of the beach is not accessible because of private ownership of the land. But often you'll see cars pulled off the highway pavement into the dirt, and watch surfers as they hike across the RR track and down the slopes to the beach and ocean.