California is a beautiful state with beautiful nature and charming towns and cities. We set out to show you some lesser known treasures across the Golden State. You will definitely find something beautiful that you just haven’t been to, because after all, California is a lot more than just Hollywood glitz, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego skylines, and famous traffic jams.
California is the third largest state in the United States and is blessed with snowy mountain ranges, fertile river deltas, vineyards, sunny beaches, and long stretches of bone-dry desert. Small cities and little tows all across California might not have cobbled streets and southern charm, but they are beautiful in their own way, especially thanks to the surrounding nature.
Here is a list of 9 most beautiful places to visit, selected by travelers and famed photographers. Read on and find your next destination, complete historic main streets, Wild West spirit, and natural wonders all around.
Carlsbad is a coastal town in Southern California, famous for its endless coastline. Just like so many towns along the Pacific Coast Highway, Carlsbad is known for mild weather year round, surfing quality waves, long walks on the hard-packed beach, and relaxed vacations. What is different about this town is its chill, congenital mood. World-famous Carlsbad Triathlon takes place there, and the town is home to the first skate park in the state, built in 1976. Skateboarder Tony Hawk and snowboarder Shaun White are from here too.
The town center is full of quirky shops and restaurants. This is where locals mingle every week at the State Street Farmers Market in the Village. Pizza Port and many other restaurants offer craft beers and tasty things to go with it.
This little paradise was once run by Clint Eastwood, a Mayor and Hollywood star, and to this day is considered as one of the best beach towns in the U.S. Carmel and surrounding areas have thousands of picture opportunities of cliffs, angry sea waves, cypress lined coasts, sandy beaches, and resting elephant seals. Put your toes in the sand and breath the salty air – you will never want to leave.
18th century Carmel Mission Basilica still invites you for daily mass, and European-style village offers little boutiques, luxurious shopping opportunities, and gourmet food and wine. You can take an unforgettable stroll along stone-paved streets, lined with curvy-cued roof buildings or visit breath-taking Devendorf Park. The village is only one square mile wide, and yes, there are no lights at night and you have to have a permit to wear heels that are taller than 2 inches. Monterey and Big Sur are just a short drive away, perfect for a spectacular day trip.
This town borders Carlsbad and is also known for amazing beaches. The town is recognized as one of twenty best beaches in the country by NatGeo. The 1960s surf culture is very much alive here; complete with wood-sided surfer mobiles meetings at Moonlight Beach every September. San Diego Botanical Garden is located in Encinitas and is known as the “Flower Capital of the World”, where flora lovers can wonder through bamboo growths and let their children play at the largest interactive children’s garden in the world for hours.
California spirit is definitely here, on the white beaches, with crashing waves, and bluffs, in the quant sidewalk cafes, meditation gardens, and yoga studios.
Plenty if sunshine is good not just for the beach, but also for wine regions. And what could be better than Healdsburg, surrounded by Sonoma Valley and all it has to offer. The scenery is just as picturesque, as are the wines. Healdsburg started as a rural farming town, and even though it grew, the same feeling remains, so you can enjoy fresh air, great food, but no troves of tourists or extravagant lifestyles.
If you crave more than wine, head to a park for a picnic, check out Farm and Art Trails, kayak on the Russian River, or hike on the Ridge Trail. The town center offers plenty of antiquing opportunities and jazz evenings.
Idyllwild is located in the San Jacinto Mountains, about 100 miles away from Los Angeles. This small town is a great starting point for backpackers and mountain hikers. Mountains are all around, so if you don’t want to stay in the city, spend a night under the stars in a tent or a cabin – you will have nothing, but perfect silence and cedar-infused fresh air.
There is so much to do just outside of Idyllwild – rock climbing on Suicide Rock, mountain biking, fishing, swimming, and sightseeing. The town refreshes with unique local restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops.
Who doesn’t know at least something about Laguna Beach? You will find it right off Pacific Coast Highway, between Los Angeles and San Diego. The town is affluent and beautiful, and it has something for everyone on its 7-mile coastline. Every one of 20 coves have something special – some are deserted, others offer perfect surfing opportunities, while others yet have spectacular tide pools. All 20 are linked by dramatic cliffs for stunning views.
The main beach is in downtown, so all the shops, restaurants, and galleries are within reach when you need a break from the sun and water.
This town is located on the shores of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The town is lively during winter when all the snow-lovers flock to the nearby famed Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, but it is plenty busy during the warm season too. The crystal clear lake is right here, so you can get out on a boat, kayak or paddle board and take in all the views. There are plenty of mountain trails and bike paths to tackle in the mountains or along the lake.
The downtown is perfect for strolling, shopping, and eating. This town has attracted many people from the big cities to switch to a mountain town life.
St. Helena has been named Napa Valley’s Main Street. This is home to the first Napa winery and that spirit continues today. The farm-to-table movement is very well established in this little town. Foodies come in search of new trends and satisfying tastes, and are never disappointed – local chefs tend to become celebrities and new students of Culinary Art Institute of America step into their shoes.
The town is not cheap, filled with pricy galleries and shops, but its local spirit is still alive and invites people to linger on. Writer Robert Luis Stevenson and his bride felt the same way and stayed here. You can learn about their amazing story in the museum.
Ever since 1911 this small Danish village in Santa Ynez Valley attracted visitors with its beauty and location. You can feel like you are in Europe here – half-timbered, thatch-roofed homes, windmills, and Hans Christian Andersen statue are all here. And then imagine the scent of freshly baked Danish pastries and coffee.
The town is surrounded by Santa Barbara wine country, so wine is plentiful here too. You can view the town from a horse-drawn trolley or on foot to walk out all those calories. The Old Mission Santa Ines is a close-by beautiful historical place, connecting the past with the future.