California often conjures up an image of coastal getaways and beach parties, but the state has much more to offer. With incredibly diverse landscapes and locales, there’s always a little something for everyone.
Whether you want to rest at a quiet beach or sample the local wines, you’ll find what you’re looking for in our top California vacation destinations. All of these destinations can be enjoyed by yourself, or with a companion. Click here to learn more about finding a companion in California.
1. Napa Valley
Napa is one of the most stunning destinations you can visit in California. The sprawling vineyards and natural landscapes create a quiet getaway for wine lovers everywhere. For an authentic Napa Valley experience, the Calistoga Ranch provides beautiful accommodations with a rustic feel, where visitors can relax in their cedar-shingle lodges.
Those who want to dine outdoors will enjoy the Solbar experience. This restaurant offers patio dining under the shade of warmly-lit trees. The wine-tasting options are also limitless. Anyone with money to burn might consider sampling the offerings from Stag’s Leap, one of the most distinguished vineyards in the region.
2. Morro Bay
Morro Bay is the prime location for quaint (and affordable) beach vacations. One of this Central Coast town’s most famous landmarks is Morro Rock, which towers over an otherwise flat area.
Animal lovers will enjoy the city’s wildlife viewing opportunities, such as nesting peregrine falcons near Morro Rock and swimming sea otters in the bay. Those who want to catch a glimpse of the local aquatic wildlife can sign up for a tour aboard semi-submersible vessels. The nearby waters are teeming with numerous fish, sea lions, and jellyfish all year round.
Fancy yourself a drink? The Libertine Brewing Company’s local craft beer is truly one of a kind. Some of its beer offerings include refreshing sour beers and even one made with Morro Bay saltwater!
Just a short distance away from San Francisco is Sausalito city, a beautiful hilly landscape littered with colorful houses. The area’s Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic provides plenty of photo opportunities and magnificent views.
You can drive across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge or take a pleasant stroll from the town center along the Bridgeway. The classic street lamps that light this scenic path house hanging pots filled with colorful flowers. The Bridgeway Promenade nearby is a great place to sample the local shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Other famous sites include the Marine Mammal Center, the Viña Del Mar Plaza, and the famous Sausalito houseboats.
There are plenty of hotels in the area that provide luxury accommodations, but those who prefer affordable lodgings also have quality options from which to choose. Hotel Sausalito and Casa Madrona, for instance, provide two-person rooms for less than $230/night.
4. Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is conveniently sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it a reliable choice if you also want to visit either city. With its beautiful wineries and pristine beaches, this small Central Coast town provides plenty of opportunity for relaxation.
If you want easy access to the local beaches, you can find many affordable oceanfront hotels that don’t cost more than $200/night. Pismo State Beach is a great place for coastal walks and bird watching.
For those who prefer a bit more solitude, the Monarch Butterfly Grove can provide the calm and quiet you’re looking to find. This eucalyptus tree-filled grove is brimming with lively monarch butterflies between October and February.
5. Big Sur
Not everyone can enjoy places with big crowds. Some people prefer to relax and enjoy the views in relative peace and quiet. Big Sur can offer that experience.
The scenic coastlines, natural mountain views, and towering redwood trees create the perfect getaway experience for any outdoor enthusiast. With its hot tub and heated pool options, the Contenta Inn offers a great way to unwind after taking in the sights.
Those who want a luxury experience might prefer Ventana Big Sur. It’s an adults-only resort on a hill overlooking the coastline. Like Contenta Inn, it also has hot tubs and heated pools.
Sonoma is the answer for anyone who wants a more affordable Napa Valley experience. You can enjoy free wine tastings in the area, including the Alexander Valley Vineyards and the Korbel Winery. This laidback town has a host of other free or low-cost things to do once you’ve sampled all the wines.
Strolls in the public gardens and art viewing in the Paradise Ridge Winery are some of the relaxing activities you can partake. Those who want a more outdoor experience can boat and hike around Lake Sonoma. If you’re planning for an extended stay, the L&M Motel and Sonoma Creek Inn both offer affordable rooms for no more than $200/night.
7. Coronado Beach
This family-friendly beach is just a short drive from San Diego. The vast stretches of white sand, free parking on Ocean Boulevard, and nearby facilities all contribute to its popularity. From January through March, the beach becomes an ideal whale watching location.
Are you looking for something more romantic? You can take your date at the luxurious Hotel del Coronado, where the rooms have a full ocean view. The establishment also has a private beachfront that’s great for late-night strolls.
Solvang, or the “Danish Capital of America,” as many call it, is a quaint village that lies near the Santa Ynez Mountains. Visitors can enjoy the rustic European architecture and sample the æbleskiver snacks or Danish pastries.
Other activities include horse riding, trolley tours, and golfing. Between June and September, the Solvang Festival Theater is open for those who want to watch an outdoor play.
A fun accommodation option for visitors who want to stay awhile is the Los Alamos Victorian Mansion. This hotel provides six uniquely themed guest rooms (the Egyptian and pirate suite, to name a few).
Limitless Options to Choose From
As you can see, California’s variety makes it a prime spot for those in need of a weekend getaway. You can lounge about and enjoy the sun on a beach one morning, and the next day you’re trekking through beautiful mountain trails. With some research and planning, you can create an itinerary that checks all of your boxes.