3 Coastal Cities in California Worth Checking Out

Sure, everyone knows the big places to visit in California. Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco — these are all highlights on a California bucket list. Unfortunately, many of California’s quaint coastal towns often get overlooked along the way. If you’re seeking a true California experience, consider making a pilgrimage to some of the following smaller towns perfectly positioned against the surf.

Santa Cruz

Image via Flickr by anthony_goto

Peruse the myriad vintage clothing stores, galleries, and cafes when you make a stop in Santa Cruz. Located on the outskirts of Monterey Bay just outside of San Jose, Santa Cruz boasts numerous attractions for the eager traveler. Explore the beauty of 14 different state parks, sip the finest reds and whites at one of the local wineries, or even bike some of the most challenging trails in the region.

Of course, one of the premier attractions is the Santa Cruz Wharf, which extends into the bay and offers postcard-worthy snapshots of the California coast. When you’re done, stroll down the Santa Cruz Boardwalk to grab a bite to eat or a souvenir. As the day winds down, return to your Santa Cruz hotel to watch the sunset and ponder how you ended up in such an idyllic place.


On the other side of Monterey Bay sits the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, one of California’s forgotten treasures. The white-sand beaches are surrounded by mountains on one side and the sea on the other, creating a backdrop that you’ll yearn for in your dreams. Stroll down the main streets and feel like you’re in a magical kingdom thanks to the fairytale cottages, art galleries, and village shops.

If you’re visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea in a period of good weather, it’s the perfect locale for avid scuba divers. Many travelers enjoy exploring the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, which provides 7 miles of walking trails above the surface and plenty of coral, fish, and other marine life below. Of course, Carmel-by-the-Sea is most famous for its Carmel Mission Basilica, a National Historic Landmark featuring 5-foot-thick walls and 30-foot-tall reredos.

La Jolla

Just north of San Diego sits another mystical seaside retreat known as La Jolla. This is just the spot for those who love spending the entire day on the beach, as surfing, snorkeling, and spelunking in sea caves are all common pastimes for visitors and locals alike. Gaze upon seals as they sunbathe on the rocks, work on your tan at the nude Blacks Beach, or even take a private helicopter tour to see the landscape from the sky — the choice is yours.

To skip some of the sand, head a little further north into the Torrey Pines State Reserve. Here, you’ll be able to hike numerous trails lined with pine trees as you explore sandstone canyons carved out millions of years before.

Want to make a stop in all these cities? Your best bet is to fly into San Francisco or San Jose and then take California State Route 1 the entire way down. This road trip will afford you spectacular views for a journey you’ll not soon forget.

Kristy Snyder

I'm a creative and quirky woman just looking to make her mark on the world. Writer, thinker, crafter, doer. Loves playing ice hockey and curling up with a good book. Traveling is a foremost passion and the road is always calling. Above all, I try to be an enjoyer of life.

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