While many California road-trippers head to popular places like San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara or San Francisco, this Desert Sun article looks at some of the hidden gems along the Pacific coast.  These are quaint beach towns, vineyards and other inviting enclaves.  And, they’re perfect for both summer getaways to escape the heat or winter getaways to explore the California coast, using the Coachella Valley as your home base.  Briefly, among the places mentioned:

  • Encinitas – Referred to as a quirky town that is quintessential coastal California, drawing surfers, artists and sanctuary seekers.  Located 26 miles north of San Diego, the area consists of the New and Old Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Olivenhain and Leucadia communities;
  • Dana Point – Referred to as reminiscent of the New England seaside, with its marina, shops, restaurants and surrounding ocean.  In addition to the surrounding water, Dana Point features 68 acres of wild headlands featuring walking and hiking trails, some with views of Catalina Island and La Jolla;
  • Laguna Beach – Referred to as a draw for both water babies, due to its Mediterranean climate and aqua-blue seas, and photographers, filmmakers and painters, due to its dramatic topography;
  • Ventura – Officially named the City of San Buenaventura and incorporated in 1866, Ventura has rich California history.  Located 65 miles north of Los Angeles, Ventura features picturesque beaches and a harbor that serves as the gateway to the Channel Islands;
  • Santa Cruz Island – Referred to as a backpacker’s haven because of its diverse terrain and trails which cross the island’s interior grasslands and wind along scenic coastal cliffs, its 600 plant species and its some 200 mammals, marine creatures, reptiles and birds;
  • Summerland – Referred to as a sleepy little beach town in Santa Barbara county, known for warm, dry summers, with walking described as the best way to intimately explore its many offerings;
  • Santa Ynez – Referred to as a wine community in north Santa Barbara County, with roots in ranching and a western lifestyle;
  • Los Olivos – Hugging Highway 154, just a few miles north of Santa Barbara, in addition to offering good grapes, this small community is well known for its gourmet restaurants, highlighting a movement towards fresh, organic culinary creations and other sweet delights;
  • Montecito – Referred to as being best known for celebrity residents like Oprah and Rob Lowe, this community sports great restaurants, shops and hotels, with stunning stretches of coastline and lush green hilltops;
  • Big Sur – The 90 miles of rugged coastline south of Monterey is referred to arguably the most famous and spellbinding stretch of road in the world.  The narrow serpentine-like highway winds along the edge of where the Santa Lucia Mountains shoot high from the Pacific Ocean…and has drawn artists and writers seeking inspiration, among them Robinson Jeffers, Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac;
  • Carmel By The Sea – Referred to as a village that has evolved into a spirited and stylish destination, attracting many artists, actors and other bohemian types and a great place to bring Fido along, since many of its restaurants and shops are dog-friendly;
  • Half Moon Bay – Referred to as a charming oasis that is a sweet escape from big city life, primarily that in San Francisco, located 35 miles to the north and a getaway for those Bay area residents and Silicon Valley moguls looking for surf and serenity;   
  • Bodega Bay – Sonoma – Referred to as offering a slice of paradise year round, with its 50 miles of postcard-like coastline and redwood forests, an international film festival and sensational wine, equally stellar to Napa Valley;
  • Mendocino – This old logging-turned-tourist town is referred to as an attraction for artists and vacationers seeking respite due to its scenic position on a headland surrounded by deep blue ocean waters and in the Redwood empire, housing the vastest expanse of old-grown redwood forest running all the way to the Oregon border; and last, but by no means least,
  • Eureka Redlands – Referred to as a trip back to an era of gracious living, grand mansions, fine art and dining.  While the waterfront district built its reputation as a lusty, brawling timber town, the quiet neighborhoods of Eureka grew more elegant as prosperous Eurekans built substantial homes from enduring redwood.

 For more information about these communities, read more below: