California, or shall I say The Golden State, is renowned for being home to some of the most stunning places in the whole of the USA. With jaw-dropping coastlines, incredible national parks and unique landscapes, you will never be short of something to see or do in this state.
Everyone has their own idea of what it will be like to visit the USA’s most famous state, and from my experience, this will be a trip of a lifetime with so spectacular sights that will leave you utterly starstruck… and that’s before you even come across one of the many celebrities residing in the area.
With so many places to visit, it can be hard to know where to start. If you are planning a trip to this incredible part of the United States, be sure to refer to this list of the 9 Most Beautiful Places in California.
Getting its name from ‘el sure grande’, a Spanish term meaning ‘the big south’, the beautiful Big Sur coastline stretches over 90 miles and is bursting with amazing things to see. Make sure you stop by the iconic McWay Falls; a remarkable 90-foot waterfall that flows straight into the Pacific Ocean in what is a truly magical sight.
Another unmissable pit stop along Big Sur is Pfeiffer Beach; a magnificent shoreline with plum-hued sand that will leave you speechless. The unique colour of the sand can be traced to the erosion of garnet crystals which turns the sand purple and makes it appear marbled with black and white grains.
I also recommend checking out the iconic Bixby Bridge along Highway 1 which, standing at 714-feet-long, is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the United States and one of the most outstanding bridges on the West Coast. With lots of the top sights able to be enjoyed from the comfort of a car, a road trip is a perfect way of exploring the Big Sur.
Yosemite National Park
One of the most popular places to visit in the whole of North America, Yosemite National Park lies in the Sierra Nevada mountains and offers some spectacular natural sights. A magical landscape filled with huge sequoia trees and tall, cascading waterfalls, it’s no surprise that millions travel to this famous park every year.
There are lots of lakes and streams hidden away behind colossal peaks along with sweeping canyons and rich plant life, making the area a wonderful place to explore. The Yosemite Falls is a particularly beautiful sight to see, standing at a height of 2,425 feet that makes it the fifth highest waterfall in the world.
Be sure not to miss out on a trek to Glacier Point; a viewpoint that offers incredible views of the Half Dome, High Sierra, Tenaya Canyon and even the Vernal and Nevada Falls. The Valley View is also worth a visit, being home to the Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Merced River plus more.
Located in northern California, Napa Valley is famed for its gorgeous rolling hills, classic architecture and incredible wineries. With over 400 wineries in the area, the vineyards spread as far as the eye can see and you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to wine tours and chances to taste the award-winning drinks of the valley.
Some say that the vastness of the vineyards is best taken in from a sky-high view, so why not indulge in a hot air balloon ride over the gorgeous landscapes in the region? If you don’t have a head for heights, you can explore the beautiful scenery on foot by embarking on an adventure along one of the area’s many hiking trails.
You can also hop into the saddle for a horse riding adventure, treat yourself to a magnificent fine-dining experience in a Michelin-starred restaurant or indulge in spa treatments at one of the many lush facilities. As the perfect place to relax and recharge, there are plenty of places to stay in Napa Valley, from boutique hotels to lavish resorts.
As well as being the biggest Alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe is one of the clearest bodies of water in the world. Sitting on the border between California and Nevada, the dazzling blue water of the lake is encircled by breath-taking mountains and verdant forests – a stunning sight to see!
Along with being a great place to chill out and unwind amongst beautiful natural surroundings, you will never be short of something to get up to in Lake Tahoe. In summer, you are free to explore the hundreds of hiking trails and take to the clear waters in a kayak, paddleboard or just for a swim.
There are even lots of activities to get involved in during the winter such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. When it comes to sleeping arrangements, you’ll have the option to bed down under the stars or stay at one of the beautiful hotels nestled along Tahoe’s stunning shores.
Joshua Tree National Park
Lying in the southern regions of California where the Colorado and Mojave Deserts meet is Joshua Tree National Park. It comes as no surprise that this park has become one of the most popular tourist spots in the state of California, with the surreal sight of the copious yucca trees being nothing short of spectacular.
Legend has it that the yuccas were given their biblical name by Mormon settlers passing through the area many years ago. The park is a fascinating place to explore, comprising two distinct deserts with separate ecosystems, each offering a diverse array of plants, animals and landscapes to discover.
Whilst the challenging terrain makes the area very popular amongst rock climbers, there are also lots of more relaxing things to get up to such as birdwatching, stargazing, bike riding, hiking and nature walks. In fact, one of the most spectacular viewpoints is also the most accessible, with the panoramic views from the 5,185-foot-high Keys View being particularly amazing.
Death Valley National Park
Despite its name, Death Valley National Park is known for being one of the most sought-after tourist attractions in California. Famous for being home to the lowest point of elevation in North America and one of the hottest places in the world, the harsh environment of this landscape is truly awe-inspiring.
A very unique place, you’ll see towering snow-capped mountains along with colourful sand dunes, steep gorges and amazing oases all the while visiting the driest place in North America. Imagine ghost towns and searing heat in an environment of sharp extremities.
There are plenty of exciting things to get up to in the park. On top of being a fantastic spot for stargazing, there are lots of hiking trails and mountain bike paths to explore. However, make sure you come prepared and are carrying enough water when you visit, as otherwise you may be denied entry by a park ranger.
A Mediterranean-esque coastal city, Santa Barbara occupies a stunning spot between the slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. With a remarkable mountainous backdrop, flawless sand beaches and a sunny climate, the city is often referred to as the ‘American Riviera’.
Along with stunning turquoise waters, the city is home to acres of beautiful countryside, award-winning wineries and beautiful European-style architecture. A favourite among celebs, there are plenty of lush hotels for you to unwind in while keeping an eye out for some of your favourite stars.
Along with enjoying the coastline, you can explore some of the hiking trails in the area. If you fancy a trek, I highly recommend the Lizard’s Mouth which will take you on an adventure across rolling hills with incredible views over the ocean – definitely not one to be missed.
Santa Catalina Island
A Californian Channel Island just off of the coast of Los Angeles in the Pacific Ocean, a visit to Santa Catalina makes the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. A real tropical paradise, you should expect palm trees, cobalt waters flourishing with tropical fish and gentle waves lapping against the boardwalk.
Easily accessed by a ferry ride from four mainland ports, the island comes straight out of an outdoor lover’s dream, with lots of water sports to dive into, a thriving array of sea life to investigate and many hiking trails to explore. You will have the opportunity to take to the flawless waters by kayak or parasail and of course, swim in the ocean if you wish.
Santa Catalina is also a great place to tour on two wheels, as cycling along the boardwalk is a great way to see as much of the scenery as possible. Make sure you pay a visit to the gorgeous island town of Avalon, whose stunning architecture and delicious eateries should make it worthy of its own on this list.
The Cypress Tree Tunnel
Perched neatly between the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay is the charming road known as the Cypress Tree Tunnel. A favourite amongst visitors of the area, the road is renowned for the stunning interlocking Monterey cypress branches that arch over it.
The sight of this tree-lined road is absolutely magical and looks as if it has come straight out of a fairytale. Forming a natural tunnel, this spot is a brilliant place to catch the sunset as the lighting creates the most whimsical setting for a photograph.
Alternatively, if you want to beat the traffic you could always visit at sunrise. My final piece of advice would be to make sure you park in the designated area and definitely not anywhere near the trees, as otherwise you will not only ruin your own photo but be very unpopular amongst other visitors!
The Golden State is a wonderful place to explore, offering some of the most famous picturesque and photogenic scenes on the planet. Whether you are looking for idyllic beaches, majestic mountains, incredible deserts or amazing national parks, there is something for everyone to enjoy in California.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on the 9 Most Beautiful Places in California. You can check out more of my recommendations for this state in my California Travel Guide here.
1: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the top attractions in California. This gorgeous wilderness rests along the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its granite cliffs and waterfalls are the kind of beauty that only exists along America's West Coast: immense, majestic, and breathtaking.
1. San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the most beautiful cities in America, San Francisco should be on everyone's must-see list.What is so beautiful about California? ›
The third-largest state in the US, California is home to a diverse array of beautiful landscapes. Its scenic Pacific Ocean coastline contrasts with the Sierra Nevada and Tehachapi mountain ranges, Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, and the arid conditions of the Mojave Desert.What is the most luxurious place in California? ›
Atherton. Located 45 minutes south of San Francisco and 20 minutes away from Silicon Valley, Atherton is an incorporated town in San Mateo County. Not only is Atherton is the most expensive town in California, but it also holds the title of most expensive in the United States.What is the most beautiful beach town in California? ›
Mendocino is notably the most beautiful beach town in California. It is famed for its picturesque seaside cottages and charming atmosphere.What are the cheapest but beautiful places to live in California? ›
Ventura in Los Angeles is an affordable California beach town to live in if you want to be somewhere with beautiful views and charming weather. Some other inexpensive coastal cities to live in California are Long Beach, San Pedro, and Eureka.What's the number 1 city in California? ›
- Yosemite National Park. Located in the Sierra mountains with thousands of redwood trees and hundreds of hiking trails. ...
- Lake Tahoe. ...
- San Francisco. ...
- Joshua Tree National Park. ...
- Death Valley National Park. ...
- Santa Monica Pier. ...
- Palm Springs. ...
- Sequoia National Park.
- The Getty Center. 14,636. Speciality Museums. ...
- Alcatraz Island. 55,840. Historic Sites • Islands. ...
- USS Midway Museum. 25,310. ...
- Pacific Coast Highway. 1,670. ...
- Disney California Adventure Park. 15,660. ...
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. 9,390. ...
- Monterey Bay Aquarium. 14,347. ...
- Santa Barbara County Courthouse. 2,988.
Using existing weather data, Bodie is officially the coldest spot in California, but colder temperatures do occur on the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada and White mountains.
Santa Monica Beach and Pier
Arguably California's most famous beach, Santa Monica features 3.5 miles of sand, stunning sunsets, and mountain views.
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is where the Disney dream began in 1955 and it's still the 'Happiest Place on Earth', never failing to impress with fun attractions for every member of the family.Where is the happiest place to live in California? ›
Concord is named the “happiest” city in America, according to a study by HouseFresh. The city was also named the “smiliest” in the country. For both categories, San Francisco cracked the top 20 with a ranking of 15th. No other California city cracked the top 20 in either the “happiest” or “smiliest” categories.What is the cleanest city in California? ›
Only one California city ranked among the list of top 25 cities with the least amount of particle pollution: Salinas in Monterey County. The ten U.S. cities with the cleanest air, free of particle pollution are: Urban Honolulu, Hawaii.Where is a rich place in California? ›
|1||Hillsborough||San Mateo County|
|2||Atherton||San Mateo County|
|3||Rolling Hills||Los Angeles County|
|4||Bradbury||Los Angeles County|
The San Francisco Bay Area, where the average zip code has a net worth over $450,000 per resident, is the state's wealthiest region. Sections of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties also have considerable wealth.What is the richest street in California? ›
Nimes Road, CA: $11.445 Million Median Home Value
One of the borders of the original Bel Air Estates, Nimes road is located north of Sunset Boulevard and has a median home value of $11.445 million.
What city in California has the most millionaires? With a total of 255,600 individuals with a net worth of at least $1 million, Los Angeles has the highest number of millionaires in California.Where is the hippie area in California? ›
According to a list put together by Thrillist, the best hippie town in California is Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree is truly a place for all hippies to gather. Thrillist noted that even before the area rose in popularity with the rise of social media; the original settlement was made up of very free-spirited residents.Where is the safest place to live in California? ›
- Rancho Santa Margarita.
- Aliso Viejo.
- Yorba Linda.
- Laguna Niguel.
- Mission Viejo.
- Bakersfield. With a median home price of just $254,430, Bakersfield is a surprisingly cheap place to live in California. ...
- Stockton. The notorious boom and bust town of Stockton, CA continues to offer cheaper house deals. ...
- Fresno. ...
- Clovis. ...
- Sacramento. ...
- Fontana. ...
- Chico. ...
Sacramento: one of the safest places to live in California
That is pretty cheap for California! Sacramento is also set near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which are perfect for hiking, rafting, camping, and exploring the wilderness.
So who is smartest, according to the study? San Jose and San Francisco are among the top 10 most-educated cities among the 150 surveyed by personal finance website WalletHub, according to the report.What is the oldest city in California? ›
Sacramento is the oldest incorporated city in California, incorporated on February 27, 1850.What is the youngest city in California? ›
|Rancho Santa Margarita, California|
|Incorporated||January 1, 2000|
Sacramento, the capital of California is a great place to visit for a cheap vacation. The city has plenty of affordable hotels and restaurants, and there are also lots of things to do in the area. One of the best ways to enjoy Sacramento is by taking a walk or bike ride through the city.
The best time to visit California is summertime from June to August. This is the peak tourism season for the state for good reason. Every part of the state is accessible, making hikes and outdoor adventures in the northern regions possible with mild, comfortable temperatures.Where should I go for a week vacation in California? ›
- Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
- See San Francisco Bay.
- Ride the cable car.
- See the views at Twin Peaks.
- Visit Alcatraz.
- Relax at Golden Gate Park.
- Visit Fisherman's Wharf.
- See the sea lions at Pier 39.
How Many Days You Should Spend in California? Five days in California is enough to see major attractions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We recommend spending at least ten days in the state, as you can visit additional places like Big Sur and Lake Tahoe, as well as major national parks like Yosemite.How should I dress to go to California? ›
So layers are the key to dressing for California's climate. It can be cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon or vice versa. So start with something thin, like a t-shirt. Then add a button-up shirt or sweater.
- Start in Malibu. ...
- Check out the Malibu Sandhills. ...
- Overnight in Santa Barbara. ...
- Head inland to Solvang. ...
- Onto San Luis Obispo. ...
- Be amazed by the opulent Hearst Castle. ...
- Sunset at Elephant Seal Vista Point. ...
- Overnight in Cambria.
Kentucky tops list of kindest states, as new research reveals the state of kindness in the United States.Which state has the best life? ›
Massachusetts topped 2022's list, touting a score of 62.65 out of 100. New Jersey came in second, dropping from the top spot last year. New York, Idaho and Virginia fill out the rest of the top five states to live in, in that order. Virginia is the only new addition to the top five, bumping Minnesota off the list.Which US city is most beautiful? ›
1. Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is by far one of the most beautiful cities in the US. Pastel-painted houses line the cobblestone streets, while colossal oak trees with Spanish moss set the scene.What part of California never gets snow? ›
Long Beach, California
In Long Beach, which has an average annual snowfall of 0 inches, temperatures rarely dip below 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, the sun shines 287 days of the year.
- Big Bear Lake.
- Lake Arrowhead.
- Frazier Park.
- Mammoth Mountain.
- Yosemite National Park.
- Lake Tahoe.
Most of California experiences mild winters with little to no snowfall, especially the areas near the Pacific Ocean coastline. State residents outside the mountain regions can expect average winter high temperatures between 50 and 65 degrees.What is America's Number 1 beach? ›
1: Manele Bay, Hawaii
For most of the year Hulopoe Bay is the best place for kayaking, swimming and snorkeling on the island. In fact, snorkeling and diving spots here are considered some of the finest in Hawaii, making a swim in the 70-degree water all the more tempting.
Clearwater Beach, TripAdvisor's No. 1 Beach in U.S., Again! Visit St Petersburg Clearwater Florida.What is the safest beach in California? ›
Coronado Beach is also the safest beach in California for swimming. Towards the shore, the waves are very gentle, the waters are usually calm and clear that you can easily see what you're stepping on. It also features numerous lifeguard stations, making the area safer.
1. National Mall | Washington DC. Immaculately maintained by the National Park Service, the National Mall and Memorial Parks feature more than 1,000 acres of must-see monuments, sites and green space.What California is best known for? ›
California, the most populous state in the nation, is home to Hollywood's stars, Silicon Valley's technology, Napa Valley's wines and ancient Redwood and Sequoia forests. The Golden State also is one of the country's wealthiest and most socially and politically influential.What is America's prettiest place? ›
- Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
- Kenai Fjords, Alaska.
- White Mountains, New Hampshire.
- Crater Lake, Oregon.
- The Palouse, Washington and Idaho.
- Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming.
- Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.
- Horseshoe Bend, Arizona.
With an estimated 10 million visitors to New York City every year, this is indisputably the most visited city in the US.What is the #1 most visited place in the world? ›
- The richest city in California is Los Altos Hills. ...
- Located in Silicon Valley, Los Altos Hills has 8,000 residents, many of whom work in tech. ...
- The second wealthiest city in California is Woodside. ...
- The third wealthiest city in California is Hillsborough.
Did You Know? Things In California You Won't Find Elsewhere
- Golden Gate Bridge.
- Griffith Observatory. ...
- Hollywood. ...
- Humboldt County's bewildering redwood forests. ...
- Napa Valley, Sonoma County. ...
Everything in California including housing, groceries and land is more expensive than other states and those costs can add up to a higher cost of living.What is the safest place to visit in California? ›
Yosemite is one of the safest places to visit in California, but it's also a great place for tourists who want to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and camping during their stay. It offers some of the most beautiful views in all of California as well as memorable experiences such as climbing Half-Dome.