Attractions

Top Choice Historic Building in San Simeon

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is a wondrous, historic, over-the-top homage to material excess, perched high on a hill. The estate sprawls across acres of lushly landscaped gardens, accentuated by shimmering pools and fountains, sta…
Top Choice Aquarium in Monterey

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey’s most mesmerizing experience is its enormous aquarium, built on the former site of the city’s largest sardine cannery. All kinds of aquatic creatures are featured, from kid-tolerant sea stars and slimy sea…
Top Choice Lighthouse in Big Sur

Point Sur State Historic Park

A little over 6 miles south of Bixby Bridge, Point Sur rises like a velvety green fortress out of the sea. It looks like an island, but is actually connected to land by a sandbar. Atop the volcanic rock sits an 1889…
Top Choice State Park in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

They bark, they bathe and they’re fun to watch – sea lions are the stars here at Punta de los Lobos Marinos (Point of the Sea Wolves), almost 4 miles south of Carmel, where a dramatically rocky coastline offers exce…
Top Choice Church in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo

Monterey's original mission was established by Franciscan friar Junípero Serra in 1770, but poor soil and the corrupting influence of Spanish soldiers forced the move to Carmel two years later. Today this is one of …
Top Choice Lighthouse in Avila Beach

Point San Luis Lighthouse

Just getting to this scenic 1890 lighthouse, overshadowed by Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, is an adventure. The cheapest way to reach the lighthouse is via a rocky, crumbling, 3.75-mile round-trip hiking trail,…
Top Choice Park in Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

If you're chasing waterfalls, swing into this state park named for a Big Sur pioneer. From the parking lot, the 1.3-mile round-trip Overlook Trail rushes downhill toward the ocean, passing through a tunnel underneat…
Museum in Salinas

National Steinbeck Center

This museum will interest almost anyone, even if you don’t know a lick about Salinas’ Nobel Prize–winning native son, John Steinbeck (1902–68), a Stanford University dropout. Tough, funny and brash, he portrayed the…
Top Choice Amusement Park in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The West Coast’s oldest beachfront amusement park, this 1907 boardwalk has a glorious old-school Americana vibe. The smell of cotton candy mixes with the salt air, punctuated by the squeals of kids hanging upside do…
Top Choice Museum in Santa Cruz

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

By Natural Bridges State Beach, this kids' educational center is part of UCSC’s Long Marine Laboratory. Interactive natural-science exhibits include tidal touch pools and aquariums, while outside you can gawk at the…