1 . La Jolla

La Jolla, California

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Stunning cliffs. Crashing waves. Hidden coves. Just north of San Diego, La Jolla is a charming seaside town with luxurious, boutique-style lodging, incredible beaches and first-rate shopping. In all – it’s the iconic California coast getaway.

The beaches of La Jolla aren’t as populated as those in San Diego. Rather, they offer a more serene ambience and let the stunning natural surroundings leave a lasting impression. Towering sandstone cliffs and rock formations frame the azure waves rolling onto the sand. One of the most photographed beaches in Southern California, La Jolla Cove is also great for snorkeling and SCUBA diving. Dive down to explore the La Jolla Underwater Ecological Preserve, a protected underwater preserve; or, see the incredible underwater life without getting wet at the Birch Aquarium. You can learn to surf at the La Jolla Shores, which features smaller waves. With the business district right by the ocean, you’ll never lose the scent of salt in the air. Go right from the sand to the shops and restaurants: La Jolla offers everything from luxury apparel stores to an organic cupcake shop!

Related Onsite Offerings

La Jolla features a variety of breathtaking golf courses, right along the shoreline.

Highlights

Being right on the shoreline, La Jolla offers some of the freshest seafood served in restaurants ranging from fine dining to casual fare.

Fun facts

The community of La Jolla began with Cornelio Rodriguez, an accomplished potter who came here looking for a suitable site to start a pottery works!

2 . Venice Beach

Venice, California

CALL DIRECT: +1 (800) 828 - 0688

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You won’t find another location anywhere in the US as artistically vibrant as our No. 2 pick, famed Venice Beach, CA. Street performers, theaters, art galleries, eclectic shopping and much more give Venice Beach a unique flair.

Venice Beach’s rich cultural history includes the Beat generation poets and artists, the birth of modern skateboarding and where Arnold Schwarzenegger first started his acting career. And still today, this rich history adds layers to your California vacation. The Boardwalk is a prime place to get a feel for the area – you’ll see street performers and artists and incredible views of the ocean and beach. Make sure to see famed Muscle Beach, a fitness-inspired area with outdoor weightlifting machines and body building contests. Watching street basketball pick-up games offers the next best thing to a pro basketball game – in fact, many players from the NBA have been picked up from Venice. For acclaimed surfing, look no further than The Venice Breakwater. This varied and vibrant boardwalk culture is combined with vintage shopping, elevated dining and elegant inn-style accommodations.

Highlights

Venice Beach is the #1 sightseeing and tourist attraction in Los Angeles County!

Related Onsite Offerings

Venice Beach has a three-mile sandy beach right beside the boardwalk, one of California’s most famous beaches.

Fun facts

Famous residents of Venice Beach have included Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale, Elijah Wood and Jim Morrison!

3 . Monterey

Monterey, California

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Home to one of the most scenic drives in the world, golf courses frequented by PGA pros and “one of America’s most captivating aquariums” (Forbes magazine). Monterey has all the California basics – expansive beaches and incredible views – and so much more.

The amount of things you can do in Monterey County is so incredibly vast – from glass-bottom boat tours at Fisherman’s Wharf to tours of historic missions. The vineyards in Monterey are smaller than those in Napa, but captivate the same supple flavors. The state parks offer the towering redwoods that have made Yosemite famous; but here, there’s less foot traffic, so you can have more of a personal exploration. Named in honor of John Steinbeck, Cannery Row features the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, local artist galleries and more. A short drive will get you to the famous golf courses at Pebble Beach and the must-see Carmel-by-the-Sea, a celebrity destination spot. Monterey County has nearly 100 miles of scenic coastline, varying from dramatic cliffs to sandy beaches. The 17-mile drive gives you the best of all these views. For a sun-filled day, we recommend Del Monte Beach – a popular surfing and beachcombing spot, known mostly by locals.

Highlights

For the golf enthusiasts, visit in February to catch a peak of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Tournament!

Related Onsite Offerings

The dining ranges from high end to casual, but make sure to indulge at Passionfish, which offers sustainable and organic food with a wine list that has a won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

Fun facts

Built in 1855, Monterey’s Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast.

4 . Fort Baker

Fort Baker, California

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One of the most iconic and spectacular structures in all of California is the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, at our pick, you’ll be right beside it. Fort Baker is a brand new San Francisco vacation destination and quickly becoming one of the most popular.

Fort Baker puts a whole new spin on San Francisco vacations. You’ll be just across the bridge from all of the San Francisco Bay area excitement – Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town and the most crooked street in the world. Yet, you’ll be front and center in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an area filled with greenery and scenery. Fort Baker is surrounded by 75,500 acres of open space and is managed by the National Park Service. Vacations here offer layers of history and incredible views of Alcatraz, Angel Island and San Francisco. Fort Baker accommodations highlight its history, blending colonial architecture with luxurious amenities and “green” features. In addition to a plethora of outdoor activities and San Francisco adventure, Fort Baker also offers programs for intellectual discourse on everything from environmental sustainability to personal rejuvenation. Make sure to visit The Institute at the Golden Gate, which encourage environmental learning.

Fun facts

For over a century, the military post of Fort Baker played a key role in defending the San Francisco Bay!

Highlights

Marin County – where Fort Baker is located – is also home to a collection of charming towns, including Sausalito, famous for its waterfront views and houseboat communities.

Related Onsite Offerings

Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate – provides a spectacular venue for San Francisco meetings and conferences.

5 . Calistoga

Calistoga, California

CALL DIRECT: +1 (707) 942 - 4200

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Mother Nature has thoroughly blessed our No. 5 spot: luxury seeps through the soil. From hot springs with mineral rich waters to perfect soil and clime for vineyards, Calistoga is a charming town with the most indulgent features.

This isn’t the kind of place you’ll find high rise resorts and hotels; rather, experience a smaller venue – the classic bed and breakfast. Calistoga is a great place for romantic getaways – the two of you can explore the stunning natural scenery and local gourmet cuisine. And obviously, you can’t leave Napa Valley without visiting one or two (or seven) vineyards. Delve into the complexities of Cabernets and the refreshing notes of a Riesling at world-renowned vineyards – Sterling, Robert Mondavi and many more. Hop on the Napa Valley Wine Train or create your own vineyard schedule. The Old Faithful Geyser of California is just minutes from Calistoga and an impressive attraction. Make sure to visit at least one Calistoga spa – these spas feature unique mineral baths, naturally-heated geothermal pools and top-quality mud treatments. And the nightlife is just as vibrant as the day activities: award-winning restaurants, live music, dancing and more!

Fun facts

Calistoga was established in 1885 by Samuel Brannan, California’s first millionaire.

Related Onsite Offerings

Calistoga offers a wide range of shopping, from unique, handcrafted jewelry to top quality wine shops.

Highlights

With its natural hot springs resources, Calistoga is one of the best spa towns in America!

6 . Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California

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The dynamic coastal views are what made our No. 6 pick popular – Plein Air artists migrated to Laguna Beach, creating spectacular landscape paintings. Within a few years, half of Laguna Beach’s residents were artists. And now, Laguna Beach offers creative inspiration to artists and travelers alike!

The coastal views and beaches always are forefront in Laguna Beach vacations. How can they not – Laguna Beach boasts some of the best beaches in California, from surfing spots to diving coves. Divers Cove is a popular family beach and Boat Canyon is a great spot for diving. After you’ve had enough of the sunny Orange County weather for one day, take your vacation to indoor venues – Laguna Beach is a quaint village, easy to get around on foot. The shops here feature one-of-a-kind artistic creations, from jewelry to glass blowing – so make sure to take home a unique piece of this incredible California region. The dining here is varied and delicious, with flavors from all over the world – Mexican, Italian, Caribbean, Japanese, Indian and more!

Fun facts

Laguna Beach is famous for its art festivals, including Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and others!

Getting there

From the North – Take the 405 or 5 South, exit Hwy 133 South. The 133 South turns into Laguna Canyon Road and becomes Broadway. Make a left on Beach – it will dead-end at Beach and Forest with the Visitors Center right in front of you.

7 . Palm Springs

Rancho Mirage, California

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Our No. 7 pick takes you just slightly in off the coast – though still within easy access of California’s sugar sand beaches. Palm Springs offers an incredibly diverse landscape, filled with outdoor activities and indoor luxury.

Outdoor enthusiasts love the terrain of Palm Springs, which ranges from rocky gorges to unusual rock formations. From giant palm trees to pine forests, Palm Springs is a hiker’s dream. And if you’re just overwhelmed by the vast beauty of this region, you can take a hot air balloon ride or helicopter tours to see it all from above. Go horseback riding through the pristine desert or take a hummer tour into beautiful remote locations. Get in a bus to see where celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Liberace lived. The shopping in Palm Springs is as celebrated as its outdoor activities. Explore a vast collection of mid-century retailers, fashion boutiques, art galleries and more. Each month, the Backstreet Art District showcases a variety of artist-owned galleries and working studios – a must-see! After all that excitement, return to your Palm Springs resort for relaxation and spa treatments.

Highlights

Palm Springs golf courses are world-renowned – the Indian Wells Golf Course was featured on Golfweek’s Top 20 “Best Courses You Can Play” in California!

Related Onsite Offerings

The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies offers famous, Broadway-caliber shows, featuring music, dance and comedy.

Related activities

Palm Springs features a number of spa experiences, with massage, body treatments and regional ingredients.

8 . Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay, California

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Just 28 miles south of San Francisco rests our No. 8 California vacation destination: Half Moon Bay. This seaside village offers a historic downtown, local farmers’ markets and miles of coastline with truly incredible views.

A quiet and friendly town, Half Moon Bay gives visitors a sense of California hospitality and culture. Roadside stands offer local agriculture and floriculture, from locally grown fruit to herbs. The dining is just as wholesome, offering farm-fresh organic produce and some of the freshest catches on the coast. Go horseback riding along the beautiful beaches or through orchards. October is one of the more festive times of year, with pumpkin patches, pony rides and arts & crafts – a perfect family vacation spot. There are plenty of beaches to explore, including Gray Whale Cove, on which you can often spot gray whales! Stop by Pillar Point Harbor to watch a working fishing harbor in action, unloading their daily catch of squid, crabs, salmon, rockfish and more. Half Moon Bay Coastside has a variety of unique shops in the historic downtown area – choose from artistic jewelry, gourmet chocolates and more. Plus, make sure to browse the famous general store.

Related Onsite Offerings

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the US!

Highlights

For a beautiful hike, try the Coastside Trail in Half Moon Bay, which follows the scenic ocean bluffs between Pillar Point Harbor and Poplar Avenue.

Fun facts

Half Moon Bay is the oldest town in San Mateo County – it dates back to 1840!

9 . Moonstone Beach

Cambria, California

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Moonstone Beach is one of Cambria’s most charming and scenic spots, and our No. 9 California Coast vacation destination. Stay here and have spectacular ocean views, plus all the area attractions of Cambria.

For a romantic California getaway, look no further than this unspoiled beach area. This is the opposite of crowded, touristy beaches; Moonstone Beach gives your California beach getaway a softer side and a romantic ambience. You’re likely to find semi-precious jasper stones, sea otters and even whales from the shoreline. Cambria is equally as appealing – this city features a boardwalk, one of the top glass art galleries in the US, free trolley rides and much more. Make sure to visit the Hearst Castle, an architectural masterpiece, designed by famed Julia Morgan. This property has 165 rooms and 126 acres of landscaping and took builders nearly 28 years to finish! Other area historic attractions include Nit Wit Ridge and the Padras Blancas Light Station. And if Cambria is too restrictive for you, San Luis Obispo is just minutes away. This incredible area is famous for its vineyards, beaches and its rich culture.

Related Onsite Offerings

Virg’s Landing in Morro Bay offers whale watching tours, live bait, tackle, licenses and rentals.

Fun facts

Cambria began as a fishing and quicksilver mining town.

Getting there

From the south, take Hwy 101 to San Luis Obispo (Morro Bay, Hearst Castle Exit sign) to Hwy 1. From the north, take Hwy 101 to Hwy 46 (Cambria Exit Sign) to Hwy 1.

10 . San Francisco Bay

Pacifica, California

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Alcatraz. The Golden Gate Bridge. Fisherman’s Wharf. Cable cars buzzing down steep streets. Our No. 10 pick can be identified by any one of these attributes. San Francisco is a place unlike any other – and an iconic destination for your California coast getaway!

Combine the serene, scenic California coastline with the vibrant culture of San Francisco. The beaches are wonderful for refreshing walks and whale watching. Walk the steep streets, or explore the city the easier way – aboard a cable car. Fisherman’s Wharf offers a seaside ambience and incredibly fresh seafood, from little stands to fine dining restaurants overlooking the harbor. Alcatraz tours leave right from Fisherman’s Wharf and offer a fascinating look at San Francisco history. Hike up Telegraph Hill to see the 210-foot Coit Tower, offering panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and downtown San Francisco. And no trip to San Francisco is complete without crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Rent a bike and ride across the bridge and onto miles of mountain biking paths of Golden Gate National Recreation Area! San Francisco is more than just a great California coast vacation – it’s a city layered in history.

Highlights

Explore the streets lined with houses featuring Victorian architecture, including the Painted Ladies – some of the most photographed streets in the country!

Related Onsite Offerings

Formerly a hippie hub, Haight Ashbury presents an area of San Francisco that’s rich in history, creativity, shopping and more!

Related activities

Explore San Francisco’s Chinatown for authentic cuisine and a ton of shopping!

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