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Plan An Exciting Coastal Vacation At These Spots
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Plan An Exciting Coastal Vacation At These Spots

Planning an exciting coastal vacation? Enjoy the breeze at the best coastal getaways in Northern and Southern California!

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4 min read

January 10, 2022

Driving on State Route 1 is an all-around quintessential Golden State experience; it’s one that’s made immeasurably easier by the fact that the road passes through multiple coastal vacation hotspots—these places are worthy destinations in and of themselves and incredibly diverse too. Escaping to gorgeous shorelines is not necessarily a niche pastime reserved for one specific personality type; coastal getaways cannot be “one size fits all”. And we’re very happy to report that California understood the assignment. Whether you’re a swimmer or a surfer, a bird watcher, or a shopper, there’s a West Coast beach getaway guaranteed to match your vibe. All you have to do is pick the right one, and that’s where we help you.

Best Coastal Getaways in Northern California 

The region around Half Moon Bay contains several state parks and beaches, including Poplar Beach and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

1. Half Moon Bay

Among a number of quaint little towns south of San Francisco is Half Moon Bay, a sleepy beach community with a very walkable Main Street that makes for a perfect first pit-stop (if you’re planning on cramming multiple destinations in one spectacular coastal getaway). The beach at Half Moon Bay is where your adventure gets good, and we mean really good. Tailor-fit for meandering walks and setting up a picnic, Half Moon Bay’s hypnotizing view will have you enchanted within seconds, making you want to come back for seconds.

2. Carmel and Monterey

In addition to famous attractions like Pebble Beach and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (each obviously very worthy of a visit), next-door neighbors Carmel and Monterey offer stunning coastlines that also double as a preview to incomparable Big Sur—but more on that later. Everything about these coastal charmers has the ability to take your breath away, from their quaint, unique charm found practically nowhere else in the state to the variety of oceanside unexpected activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea that’ll keep your itinerary busy. And if you prefer pairing a little downtown strolling with your coastal vacation vibes, then these two are definitely up your alley. 

Head towards south of San Francisco to find great surf, sandy beaches, and redwood-covered mountains in Santa Cruz.

3. Santa Cruz

Famed for its classic oceanfront amusement park and Surf City reputation, a Santa Cruz getaway is as good as it gets for a classic California beach vacation. The location is ideal for family, excellent with friends, and unforgettable with your significant other—whichever way you spin it, the friendly atmosphere and the sun-kissed surf are bound to capture your heart. All you have to do is take your pick among a plethora of primo coastal vacation rentals and Santa Cruz Airbnbs and bask in the city's laid-back glory.

Where in Central California Should You Go for A Coastal Vibes Vacation

4. Big Sur

Does Big Sur even need an introduction? Of course, it doesn’t; it’s on every possible bucket list. A word of advice—give yourself more than a day here so you have enough time to soak it all in. The enormity of Big Sur has a way of nurturing a certain spirituality in people, so it’s no surprise that the coastal resorts you’ll find here all center on peace and serenity.

A key feature of San Simeon is Hearst Castle, a hilltop mansion built for William Randolph Hearst in the early 20th century.

5. San Simeon

On your way heading out of Big Sur, slowly make your way into the rolling hills and the relaxed beaches of San Simeon, which—albeit a bit less dramatic than where you’ve just been—are just as breathtaking. This is also the place, where you’ll find the greatest Central Coast vacation rentals at very affordable prices, with cultural and natural pit-stops only a stone’s throw away.

6. San Luis Obispo

On your way south, you’ll arrive at your next beach destination—San Luis Obispo. Planning for a visit to Avila Beach is an absolute must; this sandy delight is what will really make your coastal getaway unforgettable. Plus, there’s an array of California food trucks nearby in case you get hungry.

Coastal Getaways in Southern California

7. Santa Barbara 

The good thing about sun-soaked Santa Barbara is that though incredibly scenic, the city is still small enough for you to get a good feel of the area in a relatively short time. Even if you’re just spending a couple of days here, the best activities to do in Santa Barbara will be awaiting, neighboring each other. The catch, however, is that you’re going to want to come back again. Rent a two-wheeler and cruise up and down Santa Barbara’s biking trails that hug the shore—the combined ocean and mountainside views will do the rest.

The City of Angels tops every bucket list of travelers looking to immerse themselves in the quintessential California lifestyle.

8. Los Angeles 

The good news about ending up in the City of Angels for your coastal getaway is the fact that the fun (be it oceanside or gastronomic) practically never stops. Boasting sweeping Los Angeles views of the ocean in both directions—this includes Catalina Island too if the day is clear—La La Land knows how to keep you on your toes; entertaining is what this town does, after all.

9. Redondo Beach

A South Bay beach town lining the shores of Santa Monica Bay, Redondo Beach oozes with coastal vacation vibes. It’s close to the ocean, yet offers plenty of activities and attractions right nearby. Stop by the sandy beach at Redondo, where you can walk or play volleyball, rent a kayak, or cycle to the marina. Later on, relish the sheer variety of seafood offered at the many neighboring restaurants.

Laguna Beach is a scenic seaside town full of small secluded beaches, excellent restaurants, and galleries featuring every type of artwork imaginable.

10. Laguna Beach

One of Orange County’s prettiest coastal towns, Laguna Beach has the best vacation rentals you’ve ever dreamed of—they all line the breathtaking shoreline and hug a bouquet of shops, restaurants, and boutiques. Known as more of a draw for art lovers thanks to the area’s plethora of art galleries and summer festivals, Laguna Beach is one of those must-see places hiding in plain sight in sunny SoCal.

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