Centered around the vibrant hub that is San Francisco, these cities and towns in Northern California provide some of the most spectacular vistas over the Pacific Ocean. Take a deep breath and enjoy.
Sausalito is a picturesque waterfront town with some of the best views looking back into San Francisco. After developing rapidly during World War II, it became an artistic, affluent area, as well as a popular tourist destination, characterized by beautiful homes nestled in the hills lining the bay.
Situated in Mendocino County, Gualala lies three hours north of San Francisco. While many escape to this small town for the waterfront views and redwood trees, others opt to take in the impressive art and culture scene; Gualala Arts showcases local artists’ work, and offers music, theater and photography classes for adults and children.
Drive 70mi (113km) north of San Francisco and seek out Bodega Bay, a small town in Sonoma County with a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a popular area for hiking, birdwatching, and observing gray whales from Bodega Head. You’ll also love the beaches, where you can surf, kayak or simply take in the view.
Roughly 100mi (161km) south of San Francisco, Monterey is an easy getaway from the city. Home to whales, seals and sea otters, it has a stunning shore lined with 36 breathtaking parks, each of them perfect for hiking or a morning run along the ocean. If you’re more in the mood for sauntering through some woodland, you don’t need to venture too far inland in Monterey to hit the forest, either.
Tahoe is an outdoor-lover’s paradise all year round. Situated right on the border between Nevada and California, it has activities for just about anyone. Whether it’s skiing in South Lake Tahoe during the winter, hiking Mount Tallac in the summer, or spending time on the sandy beaches around the 192sqmi (496sqkm) lake, there’s no shortage of breathtaking views from nearly any viewpoint.
Calistoga is less well-known than the neighboring towns of Napa and Sonoma, but the drive north of San Francisco is well worth the trip. Calistoga has geothermal hot-spring pools, geysers, mud baths, and picturesque vineyards with incredible wine.
Home to the University of California Santa Cruz, this college town has just about everything: beautiful, busy beaches; a coastal redwood forest; trendy restaurants; and a classic boardwalk with carnival games and rides. Natural Bridges State Beach isn’t to be missed either; it’s a marine-protected area conserving ocean wildlife and natural ecosystems.
Half Moon Bay
Just 25mi (40km) south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay makes for an excellent day trip down the coast of California. There’s beautiful Pillar Point Harbor right in the center of town, where you can enjoy fresh fish and views by the water. Also, make sure you hike the forested hills nearby. One of the best views is from the Ritz-Carlton.
This California Historical Landmark was founded before the Civil War as a military garrison. Today, it’s popular with tourists thanks to the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the rugged beaches, sand dunes and coves. The town is small, stretching for just over 4mi (6km) along the coast, but well known for Glass Beach. It’s appropriately named for the abundance of sea glass – natural frosted glass. Don’t forget the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens either, cozied up right along the coastline.
Pacifica, a 6mi (10km) stretch of city in San Mateo County, lies on the coast between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. A popular surfing destination, it is made up of several small valleys. You’ll probably spend most of your time at the scenic Rockaway Beach, where you can sunbathe, shop or dine at one its many restaurants.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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