Weather in California during the fall is too perfect to waste sitting indoors and waiting for the rain. So if you still have vacation days left on the table, it’s time to cash them in and go explore some of California’s best seaside cities before the holiday frenzy begins! Here is your complete guide to discovering California from the road.
Just an hour north of LA, Santa Barbara is a great escape from city life. Catch some sun at the beautiful beaches—Butterfly Beach across from the famous Biltmore Hotel is the perfect place to relax for an afternoon. You can get some shopping done along State Street, and when dinner time rolls around, enjoy fresh seafood and a drink at The Hungry Cat. And before you leave the old mission town, grab an Acai bowl from Backyard Bowls (our favorite is the Island Bowl).
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is often mistakenly overlooked by people going to visit Hearst Castle. This town, known for it’s BBQ (the best is Firestone Grill—hands down!) has the charm of a small city with just enough going on to keep you entertained. For a taste of the city’s culture, visit the Farmer’s Market on a Thursday evening and dine and shop with the community. SLO (as locals call it) is also perfectly positioned between the beach and mountains, so you can choose a day at Avila Beach, an energizing hike up Bishop Peak, or both!
Arguably one of the most beautiful sites in California, Big Sur is a trip everyone must do at least once. The gorgeous coastline and deep blue waters are stunning. There are campsites along the beach that can be organized ahead of time, as well as plenty of hikes, like the McWay Waterfall Trail which has beautiful views (and yes, waterfalls). If you’ve had your fill of s’mores, get lunch at Big Sur Bakery for classic Californian cuisine that takes pride in seasonal and local dishes.
Known for its hippies, college students, and surfers, Santa Cruz is the quintessential California surf town. Santa Cruz, like other cities in Northern California, has redwood forests and beaches surfers flock to in the morning. Walk along Pacific Street, the city’s small downtown, and grab a coffee at Verve, a local shop that roasts its own beans. Minutes from downtown is the Santa Cruz boardwalk—California’s oldest surviving amusement park. If you’re a surfer, check online and you may be able to catch a competition.
The city by the bay. There’s so much to do and see in San Francisco that it can be overwhelming, but at least there’s something for everyone. Traditional tourists can visit Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, foodies can dine around at some of the best restaurants in the Mission like Pizzeria Delfina or Tartine, tech lovers can talk startups at a swanky bar in SOMA, and those who want to relax can enjoy a picnic in Golden Gate park.
Ready to get away? Here’s my advice: find your hotel and flight details at Hipmunk.com, the most complete flight and hotel search, showing all your results visually. And catch some wanderlust from Hipmunk’s travel pros on Facebook and Twitter!