18 Most Beautiful Places in California [Update 2024]

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Although there is so much to see and do in California, it is difficult to experience everything the state has to offer. It is one of the most well-known states in the United States due to its unique character, natural beauty, and numerous tourist attractions.

Since California is a common port of entry for tourists coming from other countries to the United States, the state possesses a wide selection of attractions that are enjoyable for a diverse group of tourists. If you haven’t visited California yet, you may miss out on some of the most amazing places.

To assist you in the process of vacation planning, here is a list of some of the most beautiful places in California below.

1. Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

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Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park is one of the Most Beautiful Places in California

Yosemite Falls are popular with visitors from around the world. Much of the water that crashes down the falls and into the lake below comes from snowmelt. Yosemite falls itself is the fifth-highest waterfall in the world and from top to bottom it is 2,425 feet.

Additionally, the falls look most spectacular in May and June. Once the snow has melted, the falls become a trickle, and you then have to wait for the cooler weather.

2. Sturtevant Falls In The Angeles National Forest

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Sturtevant Falls In The Angeles National Forest

Sturtevant Falls are located in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. The falls themselves are fifty feet in height and look exceptionally beautiful due to the moss and algae that grows on the cliff. This makes the colors you see as the water runs distinctive and mesmerizing.

3. California’s Pacific Coast Highway

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The Pacific Coast Highway in California is one of the most beautiful drives there is. It runs along most of the coastline of California and is famous across the world for its beautiful scenery. The route is a designated blue Star Memorial Highway as a way of providing recognition to those that serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Make sure to check out the best waterfalls in California.

4. Santa Cruz

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Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is one of the surfing meccas of the United States. The city itself is very small with a population of approximately 50,000 but the beautiful beaches and Bohemian vibe attracts many visitors from across the world. Also, the all year summer feel adds to the feeling of never ending paradise that you will always feel in this city.

5. Pfeiffer Beach

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Pfeiffer Beach is a quiet, beautiful and unusual beach. The locals visit the area regularly but to the tourists, the beach is still fairly unknown. The sand at the beach is an unusual purple color and this is caused by the manganese garnet particles that get washed down from the neighboring hillside.

6. San Diego

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Along the coast of the Pacific Ocean is the vibrant and gorgeous city of San Diego. There are plenty of beautiful beaches to explore which, when tempered with the mild climate of the area, make this a fantastic place to visit. San Diego has the nickname “America’s Finest City” which should say it all really.

You might also like to know about the best places to visit in California.

7. Big Sur

Big Sur was derived from the Spanish words ‘el sure grande’ which means ‘the big south’. The area is lightly populated and sits to the south of the city of Monterey.

There are some stunning views you can enjoy whilst you are in this small area. Many people take in these sights by road trip, stopping to see the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach and staying in a yurt along the way.

8. San Francisco

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San Francisco is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and is famous for the stunning Golden Gate Bridge, colorful houses from the Victorian age and the last remaining cable cars. The city has many huge skyscrapers that create a beautiful view. Just off the coast is Alcatraz Island, which was home to a famous prison.

9. Monterey Beaches

Monterey Beaches are made up of a selection of beaches that range from small jewels to large areas of sand. Each beach is unique and offers plenty of recreation facilities from kayaking to surfing to diving.

10. Emerald Bay

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Emerald Bay is a small island that sits within Lake Tahoe. The bay has now been designated a National Natural Landmark due to the natural beauty that this small island provides. There are two camping grounds and a scenic foot trail that goes around the outside of the island.

11. Napa Valley

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In the north of California, you will find the Napa Valley. The area is famous for its beautiful landscapes and legendary wineries. Moreover, this place is perfect for those that want to get away from it all and pamper themselves for a few days in the award-winning restaurants and spas.

12. Cathedral Peak

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Cathedral Peak is one part of the mountain range known as the Cathedral Range. The peak got its name because of the shape of the peak that looks like a cathedral. Glacial activity formed the peak, and it has remained in its current form for many years.

13. Mariposa Woods

Mariposa Woods are a grove of giant sequoias. When you arrive, you will feel like you are in a fairy-tale as the trees get taller and taller the further in you go. Some trees are between 1900 and 2400 years old with the star of the show being the giant sequoia named ‘Grizzly Giant’.

14. California One Highway

You can go from San Diego to San Francisco on the California One Highway. It is one of the most celebrated driving roads in the world as you get to travel through wine country and beaches along this winding coastal drive. Travelling through California One Highway is an absolute must for anyone who loves a road trip.

15. Mendocino Coast

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With breathtaking scenery and rock formations, Mendocino Coast is a nature lover’s paradise. There are tide pools and secret coves to explore as well as wetlands filled with birds and other wildlife. A truly fantastic place to visit!

16. Carmel-by-the-Sea

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Known simply as Carmel, this is another European-style town located on the Monterey Peninsula. It is famous for the historic Carmel Mission, and wonderful libraries and museums, making it a must-visit for anyone touring the California coast.

The San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission was founded in the 18th century and remains a beautiful and peaceful spot. Everyone falls in love with the town cottages that look like they could have been the inspiration for many Disney fairy tales.

17. Julian

Julian got its start as a gold mining town. Hidden in the Cuyamaca Mountains, with exceptional pine and oak stands, this small town in Southern California is known for its apples and history. Visit the museums, art galleries, and cafés that feature pies and cider from local farmers. You can even learn to make your own cider.

18. Sonoma

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Sonoma, a wine country in California, is a historical destination, a foodie paradise, and a nature lovers dream spot. The historic downtown features Mexican colonial architecture and the street layout still follows the original plans designed by General Mariano Vallejo.

It’s likely that there are a lot more places to discover in California. The locations that were just described are among the most well-known and frequently visited destinations in this state. So, if you are planning a trip to this part of the state, it is imperative that you take the time to explore some of the most breathtaking locations in California.

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