From towering redwoods in foggy Northern California to the perfect sun-kissed surf beaches of Southern California, this slice of Pacific Coast is a knockout beauty.
Beaches & Outdoor Fun
In all of your California dreaming, palm trees, golden sands and Pacific sunsets beckon, right? In coastal California, those cinematic fantasies really do come true. You can learn to surf, play a game of pickup volleyball or light an oceanfront bonfire on cool nights. Sunny beach towns from Santa Cruz south to San Diego, each with its own idiosyncratic personality, give you perfect excuses to go play outside. Heading north of San Francisco, dramatically windswept sands have inspired generations of poets and painters, offering miles of oceanfront for beachcombing and tramping in solitude.
Big Cities, Small Towns
No less astoundingly diverse than the landscapes are the people who have staked their fortunes here. Start out exploring San Francisco’s one-of-a-kind neighborhoods, from beatnik North Beach to historic Chinatown, before going celebrity-spotting and people-watching in LA. In between, hang with radical tree-sitting lefties in the 'Humboldt Nation', live the very good life in California’s Wine Country, get groovy with new-age gurus in San Diego’s North County, or talk fishing with salty dogs in port towns like Eureka, Bodega Bay and Monterey.
Food & Drink
Maybe your coastal sojourn will be an epicurean quest. Finding the most-killer fish tacos in San Diego alone could take days or even weeks. San Francisco and Los Angeles are both culinary capitals, where citizens passionately argue about the best sushi bar or food truck. LA is also a melting pot of multicultural cooking, from Thai Town to the tamale shops of East LA. Outside the cities, follow your nose and let it lead you serendipitously up and down California’s coastal highways, stopping at seafood shacks, rollicking breweries and bountiful farmers markets and vineyards.
From the mid-19th-century gold rush to the dot-com bubble, California has survived extreme booms and busts, often getting by on its wits. Today Hollywood still makes most of the world’s movies and TV shows, fed by a vibrant performing-arts scene on stages across the state. In California the hottest trends are usually kick-started not by moguls in offices, but by motley crowds of surfers, artists and coastal dreamers concocting the out-there ideas behind everything from skateboarding to biotechnology. If you linger long enough, you might actually see the future evolving here.