California is the most populated and diverse state in America and a true vacation wonderland if you can just get around all the people. Southern California offers San Diego beaches and the pop-culture mecca of Los Angeles along with more romantic getaways than you could imagine. Northern California has San Francisco, Napa Valley, and redwood forests. In between, you’ll find towering mountain peaks, crashing surf, and desert skies that stretch on forever.

Table of Contents

Price point levels scaled for a 7-day visit for a couple and anchored on research and personal experiences.

$ - up to $1500
$$ - $1500 - $3000
$$$ - $3000 -$5000
$$$$ - $5000+
Price Point



US Dollar

Reported for the US traveler with foreign countries rankings based on the US State Department's travel advisories.
Exercise Increased Caution

Reported for three representative cities within the destination via Weather Spark.

Climate (°F)
Summer Winter
San Francisco 72 45
Palm Springs 106 45
Los Angeles 85 48

Best Time to Visit

California is the longest state south of Alaska, with radically different environmental regions. Each region has its own best time to visit:

SoCal Beaches – Beach season starts late in Southern California because May Gray and June Gloom are things. July has perfect Mediterranean weather, and August occasionally gets downright hot if the Santa Ana winds kick up. September and early October are the best time to come because the water is warm (relatively), the weather is perfect, and the summer crowds are gone. Springtime is also pleasant with spring flowers (especially a ‘super bloom’) and all kinds of baby animals, but the water will be shockingly cold, but you can escape the gray by heading inland.

NorCal Coast – It takes a hearty soul (or a thick wetsuit) to brave NorCal beaches, especially north of Santa Cruz, but they are visually exquisite. Also, the rainy season begins shortly after Labor Day. The Northern California coast is more a natural playground than a beach vacation, and in that, it excels. You will not be disappointed with mountains coming down to reach the sea, towering redwood forests, and picture-perfect beaches.

Mountains – The summer and winter are the best times to head to the mountains, but it’s two completely different trips. In the summer, you’ll find camping, hiking, and mountain sports with towering waterfalls and massive sequoias. Fall is short-lived, with many campgrounds closed after Labor Day, and the mountain roads are snowed-in come November. This sets the stage for a winter wonderland of skiing and Nordic adventures. Springtime is mud season as the snow melts, and the cycle begins anew.

Deserts – Summer in the desert is oppressively hot, but mornings and evenings are more than pleasant in the spring and fall, especially during the spring flower season. Winter is the high season for desert activities, from Palm Spring resorts to tramping around Joshua Tree.

Fun Facts

  • Fallbrook is the Avocado Capital of the World
  • UCLA is the birthplace of the internet. The first message was supposed to say “Login”, but the system crashed at “Lo”
  • The state motto is ‘Eureka’, in honor of the California Gold Rush
  • It’s illegal for men with mustaches to kiss women in Eureka (the city)
  • California experiences over 100 earthquakes a day, but only one big one a year (on average 😉)
  • California has the world’s largest tree (General Sherman), the world’s tallest tree (Hyperion), and the world’s oldest tree (Methuselah)
  • Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park
  • Mt Whitney is the highest peak in the Continental United States (14,494′)
  • California would be tied with Russia for the third most billionaires if it was its own country
  • The anarchist community at Slab City is known as the ‘Last Free Place in America’
  • San Diego has more than 1,715 miles of bikeways
  • UC Santa Cruz’s mascot is the Banana Slug

Bucket-List Activities

  • PCH road trip on the Big Sur Coast (between Carmel and San Simeon)
  • Hiking the John Muir Trail (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks)
  • Scuba diving with baby sea lions (Channel Islands National Park)
  • Seeing the Super Bloom (Southern California)
  • Watch a sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park (San Diego)
  • Climbing Mt Whitney (Bishop)
  • Big wave surfing at Mavericks (Half Moon Bay)
  • Wine tasting bicycle tour in Napa Valley (Napa)
  • Cage diving with great white sharks (San Diego)
  • Kayaking with otters in Monterey Bay (Monterey)

Natural Wonders

  • Yosemite Falls (Sierra Nevada)
  • Joshua Tree National Park (Twenty-nine Palms)
  • Sequoia National Forest (Kernville)
  • Channel Islands National Park & National Marine Sanctuary (Ventura)
  • Big Sur Coastline (between Carmel and San Simeon)
  • Lake Tahoe (South Lake Tahoe)
  • Death Valley (Lone Pine)
  • Redwood National Forest (NorCal)

Major Attractions

Native Foods

  • California Pizza (featuring non-traditional pizza ingredients, such as fresh produce and barbecued meats)
  • Cobb Salad (created by Bob Cobb in 1937 at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, California)
  • French Dip Sandwich (Created in Los Angeles in 1908)
  • Street Tacos (bonus points if they’re from a taco truck)
  • Sea Urchins (a delicate blend of sweet and briny)
  • Sourdough Bread (a staple in San Francisco since the Gold Rush)
  • Avocado Toast (bonus points you use SF sourdough bread and Fallbrook avocados)
  • Craft IPA (if you have to ask, you’re not worthy)

General Travel Tips

Common Phrases

  • The 10 (or any other road) – Californians love to identify their web of highways by the road number.
  • It takes xxx minutes, depending on traffic – Every driving estimate has to be prefaced with a traffic report.
  • June Gloom – It follows May Gray and means you shouldn’t expect sunny beaches until the 4th of July.
  • It’s pretty gnarly out, bro – master the nuance between bro and brah, and you’ll be shredding surf culture in no time.
  • Hella – It’s how to say “very” with an Oakland accent
  • Double – Double, animal style – The perfect order from In-N-Out’s secret menu.
  • 420 – A not-so-secret code word for pot and an official holiday on April 20th.
  • Dank – The opposite of bomb, unless it’s 420 friendly.
  • SoCal / NorCal – Southern and Northern California, with a specific emphasis on the coastal regions. Big Sur is the commonly accepted split between SoCal and NorCal.

Enplanements scaled by the number of commercial passenger boardings that occurred at the airport in calendar year per Wikipedia

🛩 - Limited commercial air service

✈ - 25,000  - 100,000

✈✈ - 100,000 - 500,000

✈✈✈ - 500,000 - 1,000,000

✈✈✈✈ - 1,000,000+

Major Cities / Airports

  • Los Angeles / Los Angeles International Airport (LAX ✈✈✈✈) – SoCal’s biggest metroplex home to Hollywood, Venice Beach, and 18-million people
  • San Francisco / San Francisco International Airport (SFO ✈✈✈✈) – The City By the Bay is filled with iconic architecture and a working public transit system
  • San Diego / San Diego International Airport (SAN ✈✈✈✈) – America’s Finest City is also California’s beach getaway
  • San Jose / Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC ✈✈✈✈) – Home to Silicon Valley and an alternate gateway to San Francisco
  • Oakland / Oakland International Airport (OAK ✈✈✈✈) – A multicultural city across the bay from San Francisco
  • Sacramento / Sacramento International Airport (SMF ✈✈✈✈) – California’s capital city
  • Orange County / John Wayne Airport (SNA ✈✈✈✈) – A kinder and gentler gateway to the LA metroplex
  • Burbank / Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUT ✈✈✈✈) – A kinder and gentile gateway to the LA metroplex
  • Ontario / Ontario International Airport (ONT) – The air-hub to the Inland Empire and East LA
  • Long Beach /  Long Beach Airport (LGB  ✈✈✈✈) – Yet another way into the OC, home to Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, and the primary ferry to Catalina Island.
  • Palm Springs / Palm Springs International Airport (PSP ✈✈✈✈) – A desert resort town and gateway to Joshua Tree.
  • Fresno / Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT ✈✈✈) – The shortcut to Yosemite / Kings Canyon / Sequoia without going through the Bay Area.
  • Santa Barbara / Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA ✈✈) – Where the LA rich and famous go for their spa day
  • San Luis Obispo / San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP ✈✈) – Life in the SLO lane
  • Santa Rosa/ Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (STS ✈✈) – North Bay is the gates to wine country
  • Monterey / Monterey Regional Airport (MRY ✈✈) – The best way to Monterey without going through the Bay
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Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman, and together we are Coleman Concierge. It is our goal to inspire you to get out, expand your world, and to seek adventure, even in your own backyard.

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