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 Best Vacation Spots in California

Your vacation in California is just around the corner, and you may be considering an exciting adventure beyond the captivating city of Los Angeles. Get ready to be captivated by these legendary cities and breathtaking national parks that await you.

Be sure to pack your camera and embark on an unforgettable journey under the sunny skies of California! Here are the 12 best vacation spots in California in 2023:


1. San Francisco

San Francisco Best Vacation Spots in California
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

One thing is certain: impossible to make a road trip in California without spending a few days in San Francisco. Nicknamed “everyone’s favorite city” by Americans , you might fall in love with it.Among the essential things to discover, there is of course the Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz prison is the most famous penitentiary center in the world and a real must-see. If you are still wondering what to do in San Francisco , there is also:

2. Yosemite 

 Yosemite Best Vacation Spots in California
The famous Valley View of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a real highlight of a California road trip. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this park offers spectacular landscapes . Take to the many hiking trails to discover towering granite cliffs, mighty waterfalls and giant sequoias. No wonder the site is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site  !

In the Yosemite Valley area, do not miss under any circumstances:

Do not leave without having taken the superb Tioga Road of Yosemite National Park. This scenic route that crosses forests, meadows, lakes, and granite domes offers breathtaking views. Stop at Olmsted Point and Tuolumne Meadows to enjoy these incredible landscapes.

3. Mammoth Lakes 

Mammoth Lakes  Best Vacation Spots in California
The stunning Mammoth Lakes

Less known to visitors, Mammoth Lakes is nevertheless a destination of choice during a circuit in California. If you want to stretch your legs between Yosemite and Death Valley, this is the place to take a break. You will certainly fall in love with its impressive mountains, dense forests, and wild lakes.

Depending on the season, outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and downhill skiing.

Don’t miss a detour to the Devil’s Postpile National MonumentThis cliff composed of basalt columns is one of a kind.

4. Death Valley 

Badwater Basin Best Vacation Spots in California
Badwater Basin

Despite the chilling name, Death Valley is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating places in California. Few places in the world can boast of such great diversity. Death Valley is not only a desert where the temperature exceeds 50° Celsius in summer,but it is also mountains, canyons, salt marshes, the dunes of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and the Ubehebe crater.

Here are some of the highlights of Death Valley National Park :

5. Los Angeles

Venice Beach in Los Angeles  Best Vacation Spots in California
Venice Beach in Los Angeles

Symbol of the American dream, the City of Angels is a sprawling city that has no real downtown. LA is made up of multiple neighborhoods, each with its own atmosphere and a common point: 320 days of sunshine a year.

The reputation of Venice Beach is second to none. So, discover its canals and its beach without forgetting its always very lively boardwalk. Continue your walk by the Santa Monica Pier, this mythical pier with a carnival atmosphere which is one of the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Continue your visit to Los Angeles with Hollywood, the emblem of cinema, and Beverly Hills which inspired the famous television series. Don’t skip Downtown LA either for its museums and its many restaurants whose eclectic gastronomy will take you around the world.

6. San Diego

Balboa Park  Best Vacation Spots in California
Balboa Park

For a dose of culture and city vibes during your vacation in California, go to San Diego. Here, Mexico is very close and you will quickly realize it. Between the historic district of Old Town, the museums of Balboa Park, and the energy of the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego reveals its most beautiful finery to you.

This pretty Californian town is also an excellent spot for observing marine mammals, so bring binoculars and a camera. To see the city from another angle, leave the center and explore La Jolla, Sunset Cliffs, Coronado Island, and Point Loma. 

7. The California coast

Big Sur Best Vacation Spots in California
The South end of Big Sur along Highway 1 in California

A real gem of California, this wild coast is characterized by its steep cliffs throwing themselves into the Pacific Ocean. It’s time to re-read Kerouac and Steinbeck and listen to the Beach Boys thoroughly as you hurtle down the miles of asphalt on the California Coast.

Take Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles and take your time to discover this fabulous section. Santa Cruz, Monterey, Point Lobos State Reserve, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Malibu, not to mention Pfeiffer beach are considered one of the most beautiful beaches in California.

There are plenty of opportunities to stop along the California coast, so take the opportunity to immortalize these magical moments in photos.

8. Sequoia National Park 

Sequoia National Park  Best Vacation Spots in California
Sequoia National Park

Welcome to the land of giant sequoias! This must-see national park, considered one of California’s most beautiful parks, stands out for its oversized trees that will make you feel small in comparison. During the hiking trails, especially along the Congress Trail, discover the General Sherman Tree which is to date the largest living organism on Earth.

The Big Trees Trail is a trail you should also enjoy. Located next to the Giant Forest Museum, this path has many interpretive panels that will teach you lots of exciting things about the ecosystem of Sequoia National Park .

Moro Rock, Tunnel Log, Crescent Meadow, and Crystal Cave spots are also among the top 10 spots in Sequoia.

9. Kings Canyon 

Kings Canyon Park In California Best Vacation Spots in California
The Zumwalt Meadow, is a must on your California vacation

You may never have heard of Kings Canyon in California. And yet, if it is not the most famous of the parks of the American West, the cousin of Sequoia National Park is just as fascinating. Don’t miss it on your California vacation  !

Among the essential places to see in Kings Canyon, I particularly recommend:

Words quickly fail to describe so much beauty, so make up your own mind by adding this destination to your itinerary.

10. Lake Tahoe

 Lake Tahoe in California Best Vacation Spots in California
Make the most of your vacation in California and try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe

If you want to recharge your batteries at the edge of pure, crystalline water during your vacation in California, head for Lake Tahoe! At 6,000 feet is the largest alpine lake in the United States and one of the most beautiful lakes in the American West. Prefer the north shore of the lake during a family trip. Kings Beach is ideal for a picnic while Tahoe City has a rich historical heritage and many tourist attractions.

To visit Lake Tahoe in the southern sector, go to Emerald Bay to take your best photos then take the Heavenly Mountain Gondola to enjoy a spectacular panorama.

11. Joshua Tree 

Joshua Tree  Best Vacation Spots in California
Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Joshua Tree is an incredible experience! Although it is not very large, this national park has a magical and bewitching aspect that gives it incredible charm. Spend a day there, starting in Pioneertown, which has been the location for many Old West-themed movies and TV shows.

Once inside the park, absolutely do the Hidden Valley Trail, Barker Dam Trail, and Skull Rock Trail hikes, not forgetting the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail which will allow you to discover all the beauty of the Joshua Tree desert. Thousands of Joshua trees stretch out before you.

Also head to Keys View, the highest vantage point in the park, for views of the Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea.

12. Channel Islands 

Channel Islands National Park Best Vacation Spots in California
Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands are located west of Los Angeles. Less known than other star national parks in California, these islands are absolutely splendid. Nicknamed the “Galapagos of North America“, they have a wild nature made up of endemic plants and abundant fauna.

Here are must-see places in The Channel Islands: