15 Best Romantic Getaways in California (CA)

If you intend on going on a romantic getaway with your significant other while enjoying a scenario of paradisiacal beaches, where nature is lush, a good bet is California. There, you will also find vineyards and incredible coastal cities.

With its unique style, California is the state of great films and dreams and exudes a mixture of art and freedom. Surrounded by beautiful landscapes, California offers a magical journey that makes it possible for your romantic trip to be marked by new discoveries and natural beauty.

Interactive Map of 15 Romantic Getaways in California

Source: Map data @2022 Google

1. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
Source: Flickr / Eric Moreno | CC BY 2.0

With more than 60 miles in circumference, Lake Tahoe is one of those places where nature blows your mind. A lake of crystal-clear blue water, it is beautiful and immense right on the border of California and Nevada. It is surrounded by high mountains that are covered with snow in the winter. In fact, Lake Tahoe is one of the most sought-after destinations in the US for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or just enjoying the magical atmosphere of the place.

The lake is so big that it is divided into north and south. Each of these regions has its characteristics and excellent infrastructure for both winter and summer holidays. Lake Tahoe resorts have the high-quality infrastructure to welcome visitors all year round.

2. Big Sur

Big Sur
Source: Unsplash / Ganapathy Kumar

Big Sur is not really a city, it is the most beautiful stretch of Highway 1. This highway crosses the California coast and is full of wonderful landscapes, picturesque beaches, waterfalls, and even hot springs. In reality, Big Sur is more like a forest reserve on California’s fabulous Pacific coast. The region is very close to San Simeon, about 25 miles from Carmel and 240 miles from Los Angeles.

In addition to natural beauty, there are some campsites, resorts, hotels, gas stations, convenience stores, hiking, and paradisiacal beaches. Anyway, for those who enjoy nature and tranquility, it is an unmissable stop to add to your road trip along the California coast. Highlights for visitors to Big Sur include Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Bixby Bridge, Point Sur Lighthouse, and several beautiful viewpoints.

3. Carmel-by-the-Sea

Source: Flickr / Pedro de Carvalho Ponchio | CC BY 2.0

Carmel-by-the-Sea, better known as Carmel, is a charming city on the northern coast of California. Small, but full of personality, Carmel is one of the first official stops for those who travel along Highway 1. To protect the city’s crazy growth, there are a number of very strict laws in the city. One is that Carmel cannot have any chain stores or restaurants, which makes the city’s commerce hyper authentic and quite different from other tourist cities in California.

Romantic and ultra-stylish Carmel is full of cute shops, art galleries, fine restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and one of California’s oldest Catholic missions. When booking your hotel in Carmel, the main tip is to keep an eye on the location and choose something right in the center. Also, Carmel is synonymous with good food and a sure call for a tasty lunch or fancy dinner on the weekends.

4. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara-1
Source: Flickr / Damian Gadal | CC BY 2.0

Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is a beautiful city with less than 100 thousand inhabitants and beautiful beaches. The city offers a mixture of the sophistication of big cities with the simplicity of a countryside town, which certainly deserves attention. The main street is State Street, with shops and excellent restaurants.

Besides, Santa Barbara also has vineyards, golf courses, art galleries, and Bacchus tours. And once there, it is worth taking a trip to Solvang. Surrounded by wineries, this Danish city charms with wooden houses, windmills, and typical confectioneries.

5. Napa Valley

Napa Valley
Source: Flickr / Guian Bolisay | CC BY-SA 2.0

With a collection of tiny towns filled with cool wineries, Napa Valley is California’s most famous wine region. Napa is a very good option for a round-trip from San Francisco and an even more delicious option for those who have time to enjoy the valley calmly and want to spend a few days there.

With fancy restaurants and the romantic landscape of wineries, Napa Valley is one of these perfect itineraries to go with a loved one. There are about 500 wineries for all tastes, and you can visits on foot, by car, by train, or even by bicycle. Their towns are very cute and the ideal schedule is always for two. Also, there are several tours to take, such as, for example, taking the Silverado Trail, a 30-mile road that connects Napa to Calistoga.

6. Malibu

Source: Unsplash / Nathan Dumlao

Between Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, Malibu is the perfect destination to combine with the beaches of Los Angeles. Malibu has a spectacular coastal look. On one side there is the Santa Monica Mountains, and on the other, the sea displays its neat waves and cliffs colored by undergrowth and golden sand.

This is also a great destination for surfing, so much so that one of the most popular beaches in the region, Surfrider Beach, was the world’s first surf reserve. Malibu has other beautiful and famous beaches like Zuma Beach, Paradise Beach, and El Matador State Beach.

7. Sonoma County

Sonoma County
Source: Unsplash / Trent Erwin

Less well known than its renowned sister, Napa Valley, Sonoma is also one of California’s wine tourism destinations. It is on the back roads around these cities that more than 400 wineries are concentrated. Interestingly, it was in Sonoma County that the Californian wine industry was born.

Now, if you have been enchanted by the bucolic air of Sonoma and are considering a longer stay, know that tourism in the region has been diversifying to offer more activities. Local companies offer trails through the forests of Redwoods National Park, walks along the rugged coast of Sonoma Coast State Beach, kayaking and canoeing along the Russian River, yoga classes, among others.

8. Mendocino County

Mendocino County
Source: Unsplash / Derick Daily

Founded in 1850 as a logging community, Mendocino is a small town on the northern California coast with less than a thousand inhabitants. Many of the first settlers were from New England, and for this reason, Mendocino has a typical architecture of that region. Most of the city is considered a World Heritage Site. Mendocino Presbyterian Church on Main Street is one of the oldest Protestant churches in California still in operation.

Although small, the city has the advantage of being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, making it a popular tourist destination and a popular art center. Mendocino is perfect for those who want tranquility, to relax with a beautiful view of the sea, to eat in good restaurants, and to stroll the graceful alleys. Highlights in Mendocino include Ford House Visitor Center & Museum, Kelley House Museum, MacCallum House, Mendocino Art Center, and Artist’s Co-op of Mendocino Gallery.

9. Paso Robles

Paso Robles
Source: Unsplash / Brenda Lai

Discover Paso Robles in California, the perfect detour for those who want to include delicious wineries while traveling on Highway 1. Paso Robles is not exactly on Highway 1, but it is so close that it is worth including in your itinerary. Because it is a delicious little-known wine region, tastings are much cheaper and much more intimate than in Napa Valley.

There are dozens of wineries, beautiful landscapes to live in, and a place full of fantastic restaurants. For those passionate about wine, it is worth considering spending a couple of days in the city, but for those who have little time, with an afternoon you can enjoy a little.

10. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach
Source: Unsplash / Nayeli Rosales

South of Los Angeles in Orange County, Laguna Beach is the perfect destination for those who want to go beyond the main tourist spots in California and get to know the beachside of the state. There you will find wonderful beaches with clear waters, charming houses, good restaurants, and a unique sunset.

The main beaches around Laguna Beach are Victoria Beach and Treasure Island, Thousand Steps Beach, Crescent Bay, Crystal Cove State Park. Also, with the Trolley’s you have the chance to enjoy the beautiful landscapes that are available throughout the route and also make a few stops at points where important attractions and monuments are located.

11. Santa Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island
Source: Unsplash / Luke Bender

Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, 22 miles from the coast, Santa Catalina Island is a perfect destination for a round trip or even to enjoy on a weekend. The city is all colorful, organized, the people are friendly, and the food is good. Santa Catalina has stylish shops and cozy hotels facing the sea and full of activities for all tastes and pockets.

If you want to do everything on your own, you should rent a golf cart to ride up and down the island. This is the official transport of tourists within the island. Take a tour along the beaches and up the slopes to get a real sense of the scenic look that the island has. You need to pass Skyline Drive and from up there, you will have spectacular views. Take your time to admire the deep gorges, quiet coves, and an endless blue ocean. Then, head to the heart of this historic city full of charms and shops.

12. Russian River

Russian River
Source: Unsplash / Eric Ward

Russian River is a region a little less known than Napa and Sonoma, but also famous for its wineries. The differential of the Russian River is the type of wine produced there, smoother white and red wines. They have this characteristic because they are on the side of the mountains that receive the sea breeze, and for that reason, they are less softer.

Along the Russian River, there are around 16 towns but Healdsburg is probably the most popular one. The city has a central square, Healdsburg Plaza, surrounded by several shops, art galleries, restaurants, and bars, and tasting rooms. The place is a reference in terms of good food and wines, connecting the wine regions of the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley.

13. Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay
Source: Unsplash / Farica Yang

Featuring a surfers beach with a cute center, Half Moon Bay is 40 minutes from San Francisco. Theoretically, it is the first city that people should stop when traveling along the famous Highway 1. However, Half Moon Bay goes unnoticed on many itineraries.

The center of Half Moon Bay is small and super stylish, prepare about 2 hours to go for a walk there. The main street is Main St which has artists everywhere, bookstores, antique shops, and more. The city is also known for craft beers and bars with live music. Besides, Half Moon Bay is known internationally for the quality of its flowers.

14. San Francisco

San Francisco-1
Source: Unsplash / Andre Tan

San Francisco is considered the birthplace of movements like the counterculture, hippie movement, and gay rights. The city whose postcard is the Golden Gate Bridge has several attractions. Those who go to the city must visit the Chinatown neighborhood and Alcatraz Island. With a romantic and cinematic setting, it is known for its peculiar steep streets. Also, its residential neighborhoods made up of semi-detached houses are traditional stops for tourists.

With a particular architecture, very different neighborhoods, and a healthy and modern lifestyle, San Francisco is a unique city in the US. The city gathers several museums, national parks, and restaurants of high gastronomy. And the Golden Gate Park is a great tour tip, super nice, and ideal for having a picnic for two.

15. Palm Springs

Palm Springs
Source: Unsplash / Cody Board

Palm Springs is a charming city that provides a lot of entertainment and fun for everyone. However, several people who go there usually do not know for sure what to do in the place and what are its main sights.

Just like in Los Angeles, Palm Springs also has a walk of fame distributed along the street. Another suggestion is the famous aerial cable car of Palm Springs. The ride up takes an average of 20 minutes and you will be rewarded with a breath-taking view. The next tip is Palm Springs Air Museum, a very popular place among locals and tourists. And for the culture and art lovers, this air museum of the city is the ideal choice, as it features several collections and exhibitions by internationally renowned artists.