The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (2023)

The most beautiful places in California to visit span from the Napa Valley wine country in the north to the glamorous beach towns of Santa Barbara, Malibu and Los Angeles in the South. California is one of the most diverse and beautiful states in the USA, so there is more than enough to visit in California to justify multiple trips just to this state alone! Ancient redwood forests, dramatic coastlines, deep beaches, rugged mountains and world renowned wine country is just the beginning. Relax in glamorous seaside beach towns, explore powerhouse cities and wander through charming college towns as you make your way through the most famous state in the USA.

Planning a trip to California can be overwhelming, because there are so many beautiful places to visit and things to do see and do. When I was researching my own travel to California, I was surprised by how many places I found that I hadn’t heard of before – they might be locally known, but I’d never heard of them in Australia! To help you plan your own trip to this lovely part of America, I’ve rounded up the most beautiful places in California to visit.

Related: The Best Places in the USA to Visit

The Most Beautiful Places in California

Click to jump to:

  • Big Sur
  • Santa Barbara
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Los Angeles
  • Solvang
  • San Francisco
  • Napa Valley
  • Sonoma
  • Santa Maria Valley
  • Monterey
  • Malibu
  • Los Angeles

Big Sur

With rugged coastlines, crashing waves and the rolling fog, Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in California. Big Sur is a stretch of California’s Central Coast, between Carmel and San Simeon. Wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains, it’s one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world.

I travelled through Big Sur as part of a California road trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and can’t recommend it more!

(Video) 20 BEST PLACES TO VISIT CALIFORNIA

Read more: Big Sur Road Trip

Big Sur Highlights

  • The Bixby Bridge
The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (1)

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is California’s answer to the French Riviera. This chic seaside town is more glamorous than your average beach town, with the prices to match. Striking Mission Revival architecture, towering palm trees and the dramatic Santa Ynez mountains make Santa Barbara one of the most beautiful places in California. The wide, sandy beach and the rolling Pacific Ocean are just the icing on the cake!

Santa Barbara is less than a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, making it easy to visit on a day trip from the city.

The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (2)

Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel is tucked away on the coast of Northern California, between San Francisco & Big Sur. This tiny, wealthy seaside town is kind of like NoCal’s version of The Hamptons, with the summer traffic to match!

Despite the crowds, Carmel is one of the most beautiful places in California, and is worth a detour. I particularly loved the beautiful Romantic Spanish Revival and Arts & Crafts architecture.

Carmel is a 2-hour drive from San Francisco, so it’s an easy overnight trip from the city.

(Video) 10 Best Places to Visit in California - Travel Video

The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (3)

Los Angeles

Los Angeles conjures up images of smog, highways and traffic jams, so I was surprised to find such a beautiful city on my first visit. My favourite spots are the Griffith Observatory and Runyon Canyon, which both play up the city’s natural beauty. Perched in the Hollywood Hills, the Griffith Observatory offers beautiful views over Los Angeles, and is especially beautiful at sunset. Runyon Canyon is a beautiful spot for a city hike, and offers loads of beautiful vistas over the city. I love the stark beauty of Los Angeles’ desert-like, rocky hills, and think it’s one of the city’s most attractive qualities.

If you know where to look, it’s easy to understand how Los Angeles can be considered one of the most beautiful places in California.

Read more: 3 Days in Los Angeles

Highlights from Los Angeles, California

The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (4)

Solvang

Solvang is unlike anywhere else in California. In a state scattered with Spanish names, Solvang stands out like a sore thumb. Most Danish immigrants to American in the 19th century flocked to the Midwest, where you can still find lots of Northern European heritage today. In the early 20th century, some of these immigrants decided to flee the brutal Midwestern winters, and settle in Southern California instead. In the 1940s, enterprising town planners decided to play up this heritage with windmills and Danish architecture. None of it’s authentic, but it’s surreal – and very pretty!

Solvang is 2.5 hours outside Los Angeles. There’s not enough to do and see here to justify a day trip in its own right, but you could pair it with a trip to wineries in the Santa Maria Valley or lunch in Santa Barbara to make a day of it.

Related: 6 Charming Small Towns in the USA

(Video) Best Places To Visit In California During Winter Travel Video

Solvang highlights

  • Danish bakeries!
The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (5)

San Francisco

Once known for free love, the Beat movement and a visionary literary scene, today San Francisco is more closely associated with Silicon Valley and our super rich social media overlords. San Francisco is facing some big issues these days, but it’s still a beautiful city full of big ideas.

Read more: Three Days in San Francisco

Highlights in San Francisco

  • Street art in The Mission
  • Chinatown
  • Golden Gate Bridge
The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (6)

Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is not only the most prestigious wine regions in the United States, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places in California to appreciate wine country. It’s just a couple of hours outside San Francisco, so it’s possible as a day tour or weekend trip from the city.

The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (7)

Sonoma

The Napa Valley’s little sister used to get overlooked in favour of prestigious Napa vineyards, but today Sonoma is recognized as one of the best wine regions in America too. Sonoma, which includes the Sonoma wine region and the town of Sonoma, is one of the prettiest small towns in California and a perfect day trip from San Francisco. It’s right near Napa, so you can visit both in the same day or on the same weekend trip.

The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (8)

Santa Maria Valley

California is full of wine regions, beyond the household names of Napa and Sonoma. Just outside Santa Barbara, the beautiful Santa Maria Valley is a lot less touristed and has a very cool, down to earth feel. It reminded me of Australia’s Yarra Valley wine region!

Monterey

Monterey is a seaside town in Northern California that has had it’s fair share of the pop culture spotlight. John Steinbeck’s Depression-era novel Cannery Row was set in Monterey, when it had a thriving fishing industry. Reese Witherspoon’s recent adaption of Big Little Lies put Monterey on the map once again, but now as an enclave of wealth and privilege. Monterey still has a beautiful harbor, and a rickety old pier with a retro seafood shack and wholesale seafood. From the pier, you can spot seal lions splashing in the water and sunning themselves on the rocks, or under the pier.

(Video) The 30 Most Beautiful Natural Sites In California

Highlights of Monterey, California

  • 17 Mile Drive
  • Fishermen’s Wharf
The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (10)

Malibu

Malibu is one of the most iconic beach towns in California. Just outside of Los Angeles, Malibu is known for glamorous, multi-million dollar celebrity homes and a chic SoCal lifestyle. We stopped by on the drive into Los Angeles, coming from Santa Barbara.

Highlights from Malibu, California

  • Malibu Pier
  • El Matador Beach
The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (11)

Santa Monica

I wasn’t expecting one of the most beautiful places in California to be what must be the state’s busiest beach. Santa Monica is just outside Los Angeles, and thanks to urban sprawl it’s basically part of the same city now. I was totally unprepared for how gorgeous it would be! The Pacific Ocean, the mountains and the palm trees are almost too much.

Santa Monica Highlights

  • Santa Monica State Beach
  • Pacific Park
  • Santa Monica Pier
The Most Beautiful Places in California to Visit (12)

Where is the most beautiful place in California you’ve visited? Are you planning a trip to anywhere on this list? Use either of the Pinterest tiles below to save this post for later

FacebookTweetPin It
(Video) 9 BEST SPOTS IN CALIFORNIA TO VISIT DURING FALL & WINTER | California Adventure Travel Guide

You Might Also Like

FAQs

Which city is most beautiful in California? ›

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is tucked away on the Pacific Coast, ninety minutes north of Los Angeles. Known as the Queen of Missions, it just might be the most beautiful city in California. The picturesque city was flatted after a major earthquake in 1925.

What is the number one place to visit in California? ›

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the top must-see places in all of America, not just California! Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, it boasts a wide range of attractions, including five cascading 1,000-foot waterfalls, imposing sequoia trees, and 13 spacious campgrounds. What is this?

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 beautiful mission in California? ›

San Luis Rey de Francia, 18th mission

Architecturally the most graceful of California's missions, it has been restored according to the original plans and designs. Today the mission gardens include a fruit orchard where California's first pepper tree still grows.

Why is California the most beautiful state? ›

Because it's insanely diverse, charmingly creative, and it has it all – from sun-kissed surf beaches and fascinating cities to picturesque vineyards, rugged mountains, soaring redwood forests, and dramatic deserts – California stands atop of my list as the most beautiful state in the US.

What is the happiest place on earth in California? ›

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.

What are the best cities in California to visit? ›

The 9 Best Cities to Visit in California
  • San Francisco. Of course, the star-studded city of San Francisco comes out on top of my list of recommendations! ...
  • Los Angeles. ...
  • San Diego. ...
  • Sacramento. ...
  • Napa. ...
  • Palm Springs. ...
  • Santa Cruz. ...
  • Fresno.

What is the number 1 vacation spot? ›

Share this article
World's Best Places to VisitBest Places to Visit in the USA
1. South Island, New Zealand1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
2. Paris2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
3. Maui, Hawaii3. Yosemite National Park, California
4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia4. Maui, Hawaii
15 more rows
24 May 2022

What is the number 1 tourist city in the US? ›

More than 50 million visitors travel to New York City every year making it the number one tourist destination in the USA. New York City is known for its diverse culture and world-renowned attractions.

What is the #1 travel destination? ›

Top 10 most popular destinations the United States

Meanwhile, the Island of Hawaii, the biggest island in the state of Hawaii, is the No. 1 trending location in the United States for 2022.

Is California the most beautiful state? ›

Home to nine national parks (more parks than any other state in the country), California is undoubtedly the most beautiful state in America for natural wonders.

What is the prettiest state in America? ›

There are many beautiful states in the USA, but some stand out more than others. The top three prettiest States in the US are California, Hawaii, and Alaska.

What is California known best for? ›

One of the most popular destinations in all of North America, California is famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland, and Hollywood. Other things unique to California are Coachella, the Wine Country, Silicon Valley, and Surf Culture, in addition to less obvious sights and cultural aspects.

What is the most beautiful mission? ›

Located on a hill overlooking much of the city of Santa Barbara, Mission Santa Barbara is nicknamed “Queen of the Missions” because of its stunning exterior. Established in 1786 by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuén, it is the tenth mission founded by the Franciscans in Alta California.

What are two missions in California? ›

California Missions List
  • ( 1769) Mission San Diego de Alcalá
  • ( 1770) Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.
  • ( 1771) Mission San Antonio de Padua.
  • ( 1771) Mission San Gabriel.
  • ( 1772) Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
  • ( 1776) Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores)
  • ( ...
  • (
21 Dec 2017

What is the biggest mission in California? ›

Often called the "King of the Missions," Mission San Luis Rey is the largest of all 21 California missions. Located on Highway 76, four miles east of Interstate 5 in the seaside community of Oceanside, the mission is the second in geographical location heading north among coastline sites.

Why people in California are happy? ›

Sunshine, low divorce rates, and plenty of sleep are key factors in creating a blissful environment.

Why do people prefer California? ›

Opportunity, adventure, and pleasant weather are some of the many appeals of the Golden State. You can search high (Mount Whitney is the highest point in the 48 contiguous states) and low (Death Valley has North America's lowest elevation) and truly find something for everyone in California.

Where is the nicest place to live in California? ›

Best Places To Live In California In 2022
  1. Sacramento. Population. 525,041. Median home price.
  2. San Diego. Population. 1,381,611. Median home price. ...
  3. San Francisco. Population. 815,201. ...
  4. Los Angeles. Population. 3,849,297. ...
  5. San Jose. Population. 983,489. ...
  6. Vallejo. Population. 124,886. ...
  7. Oxnard. Population. 201,879. ...
  8. Modesto. Population. 218,771. ...
26 Oct 2022

What is the most happy state in America? ›

WalletHub this week released its "Happiest States in America" list for 2022, ranking Hawaii as No. 1.

What's the happiest city in America? ›

(KRON) — The happiest city in the United States is in the Bay Area, says one study. However, it may not be the city you think of. (Spoiler, it is not San Francisco or San Jose.) Concord is named the “happiest” city in America, according to a study by HouseFresh.

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's the cheapest city in California to visit? ›

Sacramento

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.

What is the kindest city in America? ›

The 10 Friendliest Cities in the U.S.
  1. Greenville, South Carolina.
  2. Alexandria, Virginia. ...
  3. San Juan, Puerto Rico. ...
  4. San Antonio, Texas. ...
  5. Charleston, South Carolina. ...
  6. Key West, Florida. ...
  7. Santa Fe, New Mexico. ...
  8. New Orleans. ...
9 Feb 2022

What is the number 1 most beautiful city in the world? ›

1. Rome, Italy. At number one you voted Rome as the most beautiful city in the world. With its thousand-year-old buildings such as the Forum Romanum or the Colosseum , beautiful piazzas and world-class art – not to mention Vatican City – we are certainly not surprised.

What is the most relaxing vacation in the US? ›

From quiet seaside retreats to historic hideaways, all of these locales are easily accessible for U.S. travelers.
...
Best Relaxing Getaways in the USA
  • Savannah.
  • Hot Springs, AR.
  • Sanibel Island.
  • Kennebunkport.
  • Nantucket.
  • Isle of Palms.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea.
  • Newport, RI.

What city attracts the most tourists? ›

Bankok. This famous capital city in Thailand ranks as the top-visited city in the world. Bangkok welcomed 22 million visitors in 2021! Imagine 22 million people flocking to one city, crazy!

What is the #1 city in the world? ›

Overall, Edinburgh, Scotland was named the best city in the world.

Where is the cheapest place to travel? ›

  1. Thailand. There's a reason why Thailand remains so popular with backpackers – it's got idyllic islands , a rich culture, beach-huts aplenty, tantalising cuisine and adventures galore , and all available at often staggeringly low prices. ...
  2. South Africa. ...
  3. Vietnam. ...
  4. Uruguay. ...
  5. Cuba. ...
  6. Prague, Czech Republic. ...
  7. Greece. ...
  8. Guatemala.

What state is the most popular to visit? ›

1. California

Millions of travelers crowd to California to visit the national monuments, historical places, parks, and beaches. California's most popular tourist destinations are Disneyland, which is visited by almost 15 million people annually. Other popular attractions in the state are: Yosemite National park.

Which travel is best? ›

World's Best Places to Visit
  • South Island, New Zealand.
  • Paris.
  • Maui.
  • Bora Bora.
  • Tahiti.
  • London.
  • Rome.
  • Turks & Caicos.

What are the 10 most beautiful states in America? ›

The 10 Most Beautiful U.S. States, According to Travel Writers
  • Maine. Dermot ConlanGetty Images. ...
  • Arizona. Dean FikarGetty Images. ...
  • West Virginia. Joe RebelloGetty Images. ...
  • North Carolina. Lightvision, LLCGetty Images. ...
  • Wyoming. Ron and Patty ThomasGetty Images. ...
  • New York. DenisTangneyJrGetty Images. ...
  • California. ...
  • Oregon.
3 Oct 2022

Is California a happy state? ›

A study released in September by WalletHub ranks California as the seventh-happiest state with an overall score of 59.97. That study also named Hawaii the happiest state.

Is California a good place to life? ›

The study found that California ranked near the bottom of nearly every metric and overall was found to be the 48th best state to live in.

What is the #1 best state? ›

WalletHub has an answer. Researchers at the personal finance publication ranked the 50 states based on scores in five categories: affordability, economy, education and health, quality of life, and safety. Massachusetts topped 2022's list, touting a score of 62.65 out of 100.

What US state has the most beautiful beaches? ›

Hawaii is home to many of the best beaches in the US, but Makena Beach State Park, at the south end of Wailea, is a wild, seemingly endless expanse of golden sand and turquoise water that feels more secluded than its crowded neighbors.

What is the least beautiful state? ›

Yes, Kansas was ranked as the least beautiful state by the food and travel website Thrillist.

Is California rich or poor? ›

More than a quarter of Californians are living in or near poverty. In fall 2021, 28.7% of residents were poor or near poor, down from 34.0% in 2019. The rate of Californians who were near poor (with resources up to one and a half times the CPM poverty line) fell slightly, from 17.6% in 2019 to 17.0% in 2021.

Why is California a good tourist destination? ›

Vibrant cities, beaches, amusement parks, and natural wonders like nowhere else on Earth make California an intriguing land of possibilities for travel. The gateway cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are home to some of the state's most well-known sites, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Hollywood and Disneyland.

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.

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 safest part of California to live in? ›

Here are the 10 Safest Cities in California for 2022
  • Danville.
  • Rancho Santa Margarita.
  • Moorpark.
  • Aliso Viejo.
  • Yorba Linda.
  • Laguna Niguel.
  • Poway.
  • Mission Viejo.

What is the cheapest city to live in California? ›

Cheapest Places to Live in California
  • 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. ...
  • Eureka.
21 Sept 2022

Where is the cheapest place to live in California right now? ›

Sacramento

Sacramento is the cheapest large city to live in California. It's also the capital of California and one of the state's most diverse cities. It has its own funky local culture and also features easy access to popular destinations like San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

Where in California do most celebrities live? ›

Celebrities can be found in all kinds of places in the US and abroad, but the highest concentration of famous people is still in Hollywood Hills.

Where is the most expensive city in California? ›

San Jose, California is most expensive city for monthly bills: Report. A report by Doxo ranked the most expensive cities in the U.S. for monthly bills and expenses.

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 is the coolest place to live in California? ›

Best Places To Live In California In 2022
  • San Francisco. Population. 815,201.
  • Los Angeles. Population. 3,849,297. ...
  • San Jose. Population. 983,489. ...
  • Vallejo. Population. 124,886. ...
  • Oxnard. Population. 201,879. ...
  • Modesto. Population. 218,771. ...
  • Fresno. Population. 544,510. Median home price. ...
  • Bakersfield. Population. 407,615. Median home price. ...
26 Oct 2022

Where is the cheapest but safest place to live in California? ›

Sacramento: one of the safest places to live in California

As the state capital city, Sacramento is also surprisingly one of the cheapest places to live in California. Downtown Sacramento is not that cheap, however, there are lots of smaller surrounding suburbs that have affordable rent and real estate prices.

What is the healthiest place to live in California? ›

California's Healthiest Cities
  • San Francisco.
  • San Diego.
  • Irvine.
  • Huntington Beach.
  • Fremont.
  • San Jose.
  • Oakland.
  • Glendale.
28 Apr 2022

Which city has the lowest crime rate in California? ›

Hillsborough is the safest city in California. A small, affluent city of 11.5K in the San Francisco Bay area, Hillsborough notched a very high 0.89 score in our Safety Index due to a very low violent crime rate of 0.69 per 1,000 inhabitants and an even more impressive 6.07 property crimes per 1,000 residents.

Is California or Florida safer? ›

In Florida, the property crime rate is 2302.4 per 100,000 people which exceeds the national average. Property crime breaks down to 76.7% larceny thefts 14.8% burglaries and 8.5% auto thefts. California has a crime rate above the national average as well as in Florida.

Is California expensive to live in? ›

California is the third most expensive state in the country, according to MERIC data gathered in 2021.

Videos

1. California's Top 25 Beautiful Places to Visit
(Travel Lover)
2. 10 Most Amazing Places to Visit California 4K 🇺🇸 | US Travel Video
(Lifestyle Hal)
3. California Travel Guide 2022 - Best Cities to Visit to Caloifornia - Best Places to Visit
(Bobo TV)
4. Best Places to Visit in California
(Revel)
5. 10 Best Vacation Spots In California - Travel Video.
(Grace Media)
6. 7 Beautiful Places in California You Didn't Know Existed
(Holaholaholiday)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Otha Schamberger

Last Updated: 11/30/2022

Views: 6236

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Otha Schamberger

Birthday: 1999-08-15

Address: Suite 490 606 Hammes Ferry, Carterhaven, IL 62290

Phone: +8557035444877

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: Fishing, Flying, Jewelry making, Digital arts, Sand art, Parkour, tabletop games

Introduction: My name is Otha Schamberger, I am a vast, good, healthy, cheerful, energetic, gorgeous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.