California is home to some of America’s best loved destinations. From serene coastal escapes to sprawling cities filled with culture and history, there’s no shortage of things to do here. And now you can discover the best places to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful states – without breaking the bank.
Top-Rated Romantic Getaways in California, home to some of America’s best loved destinations
1. Monterey, CA
2. San Francisco, CA
3. Palm Springs, CA
4. Los Angeles, CA
5. Big Sur, CA
6. Napa Valley, CA
7. Yosemite National Park, CA
8. Lake Tahoe, NV
9. Paso Robles, CA
10. Tuscany, Italy
11. Maui, HI
12. Sedona, AZ
13. Las Vegas, NV
1. The Dramatic Coastline of Big Sur
Big Sur is a rugged region of Northern California, located about two hours north of San Francisco. With breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, the area is known for its gorgeous beaches, towering redwood forests, and picturesque towns such as Carmel-By-The-Sea.
In contrast, Big Sur offers visitors a different type of beauty. Instead of seeing wide open spaces, travelers see rocky cliffs, steep trails, and dense forest. This makes Big Sur one of the most unique places in the United States.
This coastal area of Northern California is home to some of the best hiking trails in the state. Visitors can hike along the coast, through the mountains, or venture into the wilderness. In fact, there are over 40 miles of public trails in Big Sur.
There are many ways to experience Big Sur. A popular option is to take a tour with a local guide. These tours offer insight into the history and culture of the area. Other options include renting a car and exploring on your own, or staying at a luxury resort.
2. Carmel-by-the Sea: A Quaint and Upscale Seaside Resort
Carmel-by-the sea is a quaint and upscale seaside resort located along Monterey Bay. Nestled against the backdrop of the Santa Lucia Mountains, it boasts a number of charming attractions, including a secluded white sand beach, winding streets lined with unique shops, and a variety of historic buildings that date back to the early 1900s.
The town itself is home to many wonderful dining establishments and award-winning wineries. Visitors are welcome to explore the area during the day and enjoy a relaxing evening stroll along the waterfront. In addition to its scenic beauty, Carmel-by the Sea is known for its rich history, eclectic culture, and small-town hospitality.
3. Santa Barbara, the American Riviera
Santa Barbara is nestled among the rolling hills of the Santa YneZ Mountain Range. Its scenic beauty makes it a perfect place for a relaxing vacation. Located just south of San Francisco, Santa Barbara is home to over 200 wineries, some of which offer tours and tastings. There are many beautiful parks, including the Santa Barbara Zoo, where you’ll find exotic animals like giraffes, elephants, lions, and tigers. You can also take a tour of the mission there. Another popular attraction is the beach; visitors can enjoy surfing, swimming, fishing, and boating.
4. Gourmet Dining and Country Charm in Sonoma
Sonoma is one of America’s premier wine destinations. In fact, it’s been named Wine Spectator magazine’s best wine region four times since 2011. But beyond those award-winning wines, there are many reasons why people love living here.
For starters, the weather is great almost year round. Summer days are warm enough to sit outside without a jacket while fall evenings are perfect for strolling along the brick streets lined with century old buildings. Winters are mild thanks to the Pacific Ocean breeze blowing off the coast. And springtime brings wildflowers blooming throughout the county.
But what really makes Sonoma special is its small town charm. There are plenty of places to shop, dine out, grab coffee and lunch, and explore the outdoors. You won’t find anything too big or busy in Sonoma, and that’s just how some visitors like it.
5. Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina Island has everything you could want in a romantic getaway: secluded beaches, picture-perfect seaside villages, and beautiful island scenery. And now it’s even easier to find the perfect spot.
Avalon provides visitors with the widest range of lodging options. From charming inns to five-star resorts, there are plenty of places to choose from. If you’re looking for something special, consider staying at one of the island’s quaint bed & breakfasts—many offer free breakfast, too.
For those looking for activities beyond exploring the island, Avalon has many choices, including hiking trails, golf courses, tennis courts, and boat rentals.
If you’d rather relax on the beach, check out Descanso Beach. Located just steps away from the hotel lobby, this quiet cove has great amenities, like a private beach club where guests can rent lounge chairs and cabana rentals. Or, if you prefer to do some fishing, head over to nearby Guadalupe Cove.
6. Rugged and Unspoiled Mendocino County
Mendocino County is a windswept stretch of craggy coastline in Northern California, where redwoods thrive and wildlife is abounding. The peaceful setting, uncrowded natural beauty spots, and gooey ocean views make Mendocino identical for a romantic getaway. Visitors are rejuvinated by hikeping in the priste enviroment, breathing in the fresh air, relaxating at hidden beaches, and enjoying outdoing activities such as camping and outdoor sports, like kayaking or canoaling on the Big River Estuary and boating, swimming, or fishing at Lake Mendocino, a 700-acres protected natural reserve. While the location is rustic and remotic, the village of Mendoco is packaged with investigating hotels, luxery inns, and charminable bed-and-breakfast restaurants. Mendoco is listed on the National Register of Heritage Sites because of its well-preserved 19th-century architectophy.
7. The Russian River
The Russian River runs through Northern California, beginning near Eureka and ending just north of Jenner, Calif. It flows approximately 120 miles southward into the Pacific Ocean. Its headwaters are located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where snowmelt from the surrounding mountains feeds the river throughout much of the year.
During spring runoff, the river surges up to over 40 feet in height and rushes along at speeds up to 50 mph. During this season, the water temperature ranges from 45°F to 65°F, depending upon elevation. Summer brings cooler temperatures, high humidity, and frequent rainstorms. In fall, the weather cools off again, bringing foggy days and occasional winter storms.
The Russian River is surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills. Many people come here to enjoy the outdoors – camping, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, rock climbing, skiing, surfing, and tubing.
There are many places to eat along the river. Some of the best include the following:
• The Red House Cafe (Duncan Mill): This restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. They offer live music every night. Their menu includes sandwiches, salads, soups, pasta dishes, steaks, seafood, and desserts.
• The Old Spaghetti Factory (Guerneville): This casual eatery serves Italian food, including pizza, pasta, calzones, lasagna, and chicken parmesan. There is indoor seating, patio dining, and a children’s playroom.
• The Bluebird Café (Guerneville/Rohnert Park): This café specializes in gourmet coffee drinks, baked goods, and light fare.
8. Victorian Village of Ferndale
Ferndale is nestled among dairy farms in Northern California’s Humboldt County. This small town of fewer than 2,500 people boasts some of the best preserved historic homes in America. These beautiful structures date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The oldest building in Ferndale dates back to 1852 and is located near the main intersection. Many of the houses and businesses along Main Street were built during the same era.
Today, Ferndale is home to over 200 lovingly restored Victorians. In addition to being charmingly unique, these properties offer guests a chance to step into another world—one where life moved at a slower pace and neighbors knew each other personally.
9. Lake Tahoe in the High Sierra
Lake Tahoe is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains at an altitude of more than 6,200 feet above sea level. Its pristine beauty makes it a popular destination for tourists seeking respite from the heat of Southern California.
The region is home to some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the United States. Visitors come here to experience the stunning views of Mount Rose, the tallest peak in the state, and the surrounding high desert landscape. They also take advantage of the many recreational options available, including golfing, fishing, swimming, kayaking, sailing, horseback riding, hiking, biking, rafting, and off-road motorcycling.
In wintertime, skiers head to nearby Squaw Valley Ski Resort where there are more than 80 trails spread across three different areas. There are also several smaller resorts within driving distance. For those looking for something less strenuous, there are plenty of places to rent boats and paddleboards.
Summertime brings a whole new set of activities. Hikers, bikers, campers, and daytrippers flock to the area to explore the rugged terrain and breathtaking vistas.
For those who want to spend the night, there are numerous accommodations ranging from small cabins to large luxury resorts. Some offer spa treatments, while others provide gourmet dining.
10. Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is a laid back coastal community surrounded by rolling hill, small farm, and woodlands. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, it offers visitors beautiful views of the bay and a chance to explore some of California’s best surf spots. A short drive away from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is home to many restaurants serving delicious food and drinks. In addition to the gorgeous natural surroundings, there are plenty of things to do here including surfing, kayaking, walking along the shoreline, and hiking up nearby Mount Tamalpais.
11. Paso Robles: A Rustic-Chic Country Town
Paso Robles is nestled among the rolling hills of California wine country, about 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo. This picturesque town offers visitors a quaint countryside vibe while still being close enough to enjoy some of the best wineries in the state.
The historic downtown has a pleasant county ambiance, with tree-lined roads and many restaurants that feature outside seating. Wellness seekers come to Paso Robles to soak in the tranquil beauty of the rural landscape and indulge in pampering day spa treatments.
Local spa facilities offer amenities like thermal mineral water pools, steam rooms, massage therapy, and aromatherapy, along with accommodations ranging from cozy inns to luxurious resorts. Visitors can even spend the night at one the area’s charming bed & breakfasts or stylish boutique lodgings.
12. Avila Beach Resort Town and Hot Springs
Avila Beach is a small town located 10 miles south of San Luis Obispo. The city offers visitors a variety of activities including surfing, fishing, hiking, golfing and shopping. There are several hotels in the area, one being the Sycamore Mineral Spring Resort & Spa.
The resort features spacious rooms with fireplaces and private hot tubs. Guests can enjoy the spa treatments offered at the resort and can take advantage of the many recreational activities the area has to offer.
13. Solvang north of Los Angeles
Solvang is located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, near Buellton and Ojai. The city lies within San Luis Obispo County and is part of the greater South Coast region.
The area is known for its wine tasting, especially Pinot Noir, and it’s home to many wineries. Visitors can tour some of those vineyards and sample local wines while enjoying the scenery.
A number of popular attractions are nearby, including Big Sur, Monterey Bay, Carmel, and Cambria. There are plenty of places to shop for gifts and souvenirs, too.
14. Palm Springs
During a honeymoon in Palm Springs, you will spend days lazing by the pool, sipping cocktails alfresco, and exploring chic bars and restaurants. You can either hunker down together as a couple or join in on the famous Palm Springs party scene, depending on your mood. There are several hip hotels and luxury suites in Palm Springs, but you might prefer a Palm Springs Airbnb to live like a local. Many have pools and are located in classic mid-century homes.
In Palm Desert, you can do some shopping, take a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, take a picnic at Vista Point on Highway 74, or visit Joshua Tree National Park. Spas abound, and many hotels offer cocktail hour in the evening, including the Ritz Carlton, Ace Hotel & Swim Club, Arrive Palm Springs, The Saguaro, and Parker Palm Springs. Visit Melvyn’s Piano Bar or Michael Holmes’ Purple Room for some Rat Pack style evening entertainment.
15. San Clemente
The romantic town of San Clemente sits on the coast of southern California, about 20 miles north of Newport Beach. This picturesque beachside locale is home to some of the best surfing spots in the United States. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation spot, look no further than San Clemente, California.
There are numerous hotels in the area, including the Hilton Garden Inn, Best Western Plus, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Ramada Plaza. All feature swimming pools, fitness centers, and business services.
If you want to get out and explore, there are plenty of things to see and do in the surrounding areas. For example, you can go whale watching, check out the USS Midway Museum, hike through Torrey Pines State Reserve, or visit the beautiful beaches of Dana Point.
16. Joshua Tree
The vastness and plethora of hiking trails makes Joshua Tree National Park a must-visit for couples looking for a romantic escape. The rugged rock formations and harsh desert landscape make Joshua Tree a bucket list-worthy destination. Here are some of the best ways to spend your time in Joshua Tree National Park.
17. Humboldt County
The beautiful coastal region of California known as Humboldt County is one of the most picturesque places in America. Its natural beauty, diverse wildlife, warm weather and friendly residents make it a dream destination for visitors looking for romance, adventure and relaxation. From breathtaking coastline views to lush forests and rolling hillsides, there really is something for everyone here.
18. Carmel by the Sea
The Carmel Coast is a stunning California coastline located just two hours south of the city of San Francisco. This area is known for its picturesque views, tranquil atmosphere, and gorgeous natural scenery. There are numerous activities to do here, including hiking along the coast, taking a romantic stroll along the ocean shoreline, relaxing at the spa, exploring the local wineries, and enjoying some great food.
19. La Jolla
The beautiful seaside town of La Jolla, nestled along California’s coast, is a romantic hideaway for couples looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With miles of sandy beaches, world famous surfing spots, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, there’s no better place to enjoy some quality alone time. In fact, the area is home to one of the most exclusive resorts in America, the Four Seasons Hotel Los Cabos.
20. Best Honeymoon Spots in California: Catalina Island
Catalina Island is one of the most popular destinations for couples looking for a romantic getaway. There are many things to do on the island, including hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, shopping, and even wine tasting. If you want to enjoy some privacy, there are plenty of cozy inns and resorts where you can spend the night. You’ll find everything you need to make your dream vacation come true on Catalina Island.
21. Laguna Beach is One of the Best Honeymoon Locations in California
Honeymoons are meant to be spent together, and it’s no surprise that some people choose to spend their big day with the person they love. But what happens after the ceremony? Where do newlyweds go to celebrate their union?
California offers several great options. You could head to San Francisco, where the city streets are filled with unique shops and restaurants. Or maybe you want to explore Los Angeles, home to countless museums and cultural attractions. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, Orange County might be just the place for you. There, you can find plenty of quaint towns like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach, both of which offer scenic views and numerous activities.
But if you’re looking to experience the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, there’s really nowhere better than Laguna Beach. Located along the coast of Southern California, Laguna Beach is known for its gorgeous weather, stunning coastline and charming downtown area. And once you check out the town, you won’t want to leave.
In addition to being located near the ocean, Laguna Beach is surrounded by lush greenery and boasts miles upon miles of hiking trails. Plus, the area is home to dozens of art galleries and museums, making it easy to satisfy your creative side. So whether you’ve got a few hours to spare or a week to enjoy, Laguna Beach is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway.
22. Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore, located just one hour north of downtown San Francisco, is a hidden gem in Northern California. With over 150 miles of coastline, secluded beaches, breathtaking views, and some of the most incredible wildlife you’ll ever witness, Point Reyes is truly a unique destination.
The park offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the area while enjoying the great outdoors. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, watch whales migrate along the coast, hike around the many beautiful forests, and take part in numerous outdoor activities.
While Point Reyes is known for its gorgeous landscapes, there are plenty of things to do within the park itself. There are several different trails throughout the park that offer hikers spectacular views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape. One of the most popular trails is the Estero Trail, which takes about 30 minutes to complete and leads through coastal grasslands. Another trail that is popular among locals is Chimney Rock Trail, which is approximately 1.6 miles long and provides breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. This trail is particularly interesting because it gives visitors a chance to see the migration of grey whales during the winter months.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, check out the park’s campgrounds. Camping here is free and allows visitors to experience the true essence of camping without having to worry about paying for expensive accommodations.
There are three main campgrounds; Inverness, Tomales Bay, and West Marin. Each of these campgrounds offers different amenities and services for guests. For example, Inverness Campground features bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and a general store where visitors can buy food and supplies. On the other hand, Tomales Bay Campground does not have any of those amenities, but it does feature a large beachfront area where visitors can relax and enjoy the sun.
Whatever activity you decide to partake in, make sure to pack comfortable clothes, sunscreen, and plenty of water. Because the weather in Point Reyes can change quickly, especially during the summer months, it is important to dress appropriately. Also, bring insect repellant, binoculars, and a camera to capture the sights and sounds of nature.
23. Monterey & Big Sur Honeymoon Ideas in California
Monterey is a beautiful coastal town located just south of San Francisco. It offers visitors a great combination of natural beauty, historic sites, shopping and dining options. Plus, it is close enough to Los Angeles and San Diego to make day trips easy.
Big Sur is a rugged region of mountains, cliffs and beaches that stretches along Highway 1 about 50 miles north of Monterey. It is famous for its dramatic scenery and breathtaking views. You can hike, bike, kayak, fish, camp and dine in some of the most spectacular places.
If you want to experience both areas, check out our list of 20 things to do in Big Sur and Monterey during your trip.
24. Sonoma Valley
The heart of California’s Wine Country, Sonoma Valley is home to some of the state’s most celebrated wineries, including Napa’s famous Chateau Montelena. This lush region is known for its picturesque landscapes, stunning sunsets, world-class museums, and incredible restaurants. With over 200 miles of trails, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventure options, whether it’s hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, sailing, kayaking, golfing, camping, or just relaxing under the stars.