What kind of California vacation beach are you looking for? Whether you want to get away from it all, or to get in on the action, there's a place for you on the California coast. With over 1100 miles of coastline to choose from, how can you go wrong?
The California coast can be divided into 4 regions, each with distinctly different climates and attractions. We'll go from north to south.
You'll find some weather patterns are similar along the California coast. First of all, coastal areas are cooler than inland areas during the summer months. You'll find a common pattern of fogs rolling in during the evening and then burning off in the morning, usually before noon. What varies greatly, however, is the amount of fog, with Northern California and the Bay Area getting the most.
During the winter, the pattern reverses, and the fog sits in the inland valleys, while the coast is relatively clear.
If you're looking to get away from it all, the North Coast of California is a great place to do it. No crowds, no traffic jams, lots of peace and quiet. And trees - acres and acres of big, beautiful trees.
Wild, rugged and beautiful, this area is known for its redwood forests, coastal bluffs and wildlife. You won't find amusement parks and sunny beaches, but you will find plenty of outdoor activities.
The North Coast is a great place to cool off. During the summer, daytime temperatures range in the 60s to low 70s (°F). Expect morning fog, burning off before noon, then returning in the evening.
Even winter temperatures are mild, usually in the 40's and 50s. Winter is the rainy season, and unlike most other regions of California, here that really means something. Crescent City gets 75 inches of rainfall annually, and parts of the Lost Coast area get 100 inches!
That's why you'll find the dreaded banana slug in the redwood forests here. Large, slimy and colored like an over-ripe banana, you won't soon forget them.
But fear not, the summers are still dry, with the sunniest weather coming in spring and fall.
In spite of its ruggedness, there's still plenty to do in this area, and you won't be lacking in creature comforts, though accommodations aren't as numerous up here. You just won't find the big, flashy attractions you get on the South Coast.
You can choose to stay in a romantic Victorian bed & breakfast inn, or rough it at one of many available campgrounds.
Choose from hiking, horsebackriding, fishing, whale-watching, kayaking, surfing, beachcombing, clam digging, abalone diving, and more. There are launching facilities if you tow your own boat. Explore the tidepools and enjoy the abundant wildlife, including elephant seals, sea otters and numerous bird species.
Explore the beaches of the Northern California Coast:
The Bay Area includes Marin County to the north, down through ,b.Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz in the south. You'll find the Bay Area still refreshingly cool, but not as wild and rugged as the North Coast. Temperatures range between 40 - 70 °F. Keep a light jacket or sweater handy. As with the entire California coast, you'll find morning and evening fogs rolling in during the summer. Evenings tend to be cool.
Amazingly enough, you'll find plentiful wilderness experiences close to the City. Point Reyes, to the north in Marin County, offers hiking, swimming, camping, horseback riding, and more. This is one of the best spots for whale-watching, and abounds in all sorts of wildlife, including birds, sea lions and elk.
Get up close and personal with the San Andreas fault on the Earthquake Trail. Or visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse to get some great views or do some whale-watching.
You can enjoy breathtaking views of the bay, the ocean and the hills from nearby Mount Tamalpais (which rises to 2571') in the state park by the same name. You can also enjoy a great view of the Pacific Ocean from Cliff House, overlooking Ocean Beach at the west end of Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco is surrounded by parks and beaches. In fact, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the largest urban park in the world - though it's not really one park, but a collection of parks totaling 75,000 acres and 28 miles of coastline.
There are a variety of tours you can take in the San Francisco Bay. Choose from a seaplane tour, an hour long bay cruise, or take a self-guided tour in your car.
You'll find plenty to do around Bay Area beaches. Go surfing, swimming, fishing, explore tide pools, rent a horse or watch the whales go by. Enjoy the beachfront amusement park at Santa Cruz, or take a ride on a vintage train through the redwoods.
And that's just for starters.
Explore San Francisco Bay Area beaches:
The Central Coast includes the area from Monterey, down through Big Sur, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara and Ventura. You'll find that as you head south the weather gets progressively warmer and drier.
The Central Coast is all about variety. Whether you prefer your vacations elegant and comfortable or wild and adventurous, there will be something to please in this section of the California coast. You can enjoy such activities as shopping, sight-seeing, camping, biking, horseback riding, golfing, kayaking, diving, surfing, fishing... and the list goes on!
Wildlife is plentiful, from playful California sea otters, dolphins and elephant seals to the lovely and delicate Monarch butterflies who overwinter in this section of coastline.
You can visit such attractions as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Hearst Castle, and various Missions along the way. And, of course, your trip won't be complete without at least a drive through the scenic rugged coastline of Big Sur.
Explore Central Coast beaches:
The South Coast includes the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego. This is the land of sun, surf, and amusement parks. The water is considerably warmer and more inviting, getting up to 70 degrees F in August. And the cool ocean breezes offer a welcome respite from the summer heat you'll find just a few miles inland.
What can you do at South Coast beaches? A better question would be what can't you do. You'll find hiking and wilderness parks, camping, biking, beach volleyball, diving, surfing, bird watching, whale watching, and much more.
There are art museums and art festivals right on the coast. You can enjoy beachside amusement parks, aquariums, a surfing museum, and numerous attractions. And, although many South Coast beaches can get pretty crowded in the peak summer months, you can always find pocket beaches, coves, and hidden beaches where you can get away from it all.
Explore South Coast beaches: