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Indio, California
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Vacaville, California
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Bakersfield, California
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Northridge, California

California’s Central Coast

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Ventura to Santa Clara truly is a thrilling experience. As one of the most beautiful highways in the world, this road ties together the central coastal communities of Monterey Bay, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura, among others, showcasing stunning landscapes masterfully formed by Mother Nature.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara dazzles visitors with red-tiled roofs, whitewashed walls, sparkling blue waters and a mountainous backdrop. Featuring Spanish colonial architecture and an undeniable Mediterranean vibe, you’ll feel as if you were transported straight to the Cote d’Azur the minute you arrive. Ritzy restaurants, little boutique shops and art galleries wind their way down the mountainside along palm tree-lined streets, all the way to the oceanfront. Uncover the city’s vibrant past by exploring the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, Old Mission Santa Barbara or a Spanish fortress from 1782, or by joining the informative Red Tile Walking Tour. Sample the region’s best vintages on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, an itinerary consisting of over 30 wineries.

View of the mountains at sunset

Michael Troutman/DMT Imaging

Channel Islands

For a quiet respite, take a boat to Channel Islands National Park, one of the most remote parks in the National Park System. Coined the “Galapagos of North America,” these remote islands are about an hour away from the mainland and home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, with 145 of them found only here. With no accommodations, stores or restaurants, the Channel Islands are the perfect place to get off the grid and bask in tranquil solitude. Spend your days hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling or bird-watching.

Pismo Beach

Enjoy the spectacular monarch butterfly migration at Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove from late October to February. Tens of thousands of the colorful insects swarm the area during the winter season, and the best time to witness the vibrant flapping of wings is usually the warmest part of the day from noon to 3 p.m. On Pismo’s coast, the beach beckons. Pismo Beach is known for epic kiteboarding, surfing, kayaking, bodyboarding and fishing. Lined by stores and eateries, the epicenter of town life is Pomeroy Avenue, which leads to Pismo’s beloved pier and boardwalk. Take a sunset stroll near the waves.

San Luis Obispo: Take It SLO

Get into full vacation mode in San Luis Obispo. “SLO,” as the locals like to call it, will keep you smiling with its world-class attractions and entertainment options. Hike, bike or drive up Prefumo Canyon Road for panoramic vistas and dazzling sunsets. A roughly 2-mile hike above Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will take you to Serenity Swing, where you can feel like a kid again as you swing away to a backdrop of rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Conclude your visit by hopping on the Old SLO Trolley for a historic ride through downtown and get off at the popular Bubblegum Alley to leave your mark on the city.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay’s awesome scenery adorns countless postcards, but this town boasts a lot of substance behind the scenery. Indulge in fresh, locally farmed oysters. Hop on a kayak, stand-up paddleboard or surf the waves at the base of Morro Rock, one of nine peaks that comprise the Nine Sisters and forms part of the natural bay habitat of Morro Bay State Park. Explore the embarcadero’s shops, galleries and restaurants.


Cambria is a quiet little seaside art town, but it gets pretty loud on the village’s nearby beaches from October through March when up to 17,000 elephant seals show up. These huge mammals, each weighing up to 5,000 pounds, go through mating rituals, as the bulls profess their love with noisy roars. It is truly a sight to see and hear. Take a short drive up the coast to San Simeon to tour fabulous Hearst Castle, the sprawling estate of early 1900s newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Diners overlook the ocean in a spectacular Big Sur restaurant

Michael Troutman/DMT Imaging

Big Sur

Drive 90 minutes north of San Simeon to reach the enormous, awe-inspiring Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Drive at a leisurely pace and plan to pull off frequently to catch views of dramatic cliffs, post-card-worthy bridges, vast redwood forests, fog-trimmed waterfronts and charming coastal towns. Keep your binoculars handy to spot California condors soaring above or sea otters frolicking in the ocean below. Park your vehicle and trek one of the many trails available.


If animal interaction is of interest, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers up-close and personal visits with marine mammals like sharks and skates, crustaceans, fish and even penguins. Check out Cannery Row, a former industrial area that has been transformed into a charming stretch of shops and restaurants.

For More Information

Central Coast Tourism Council


California Tourism