More than just a state, California has become synonymous with a sound, style and lifestyle all of its own. Its unique attributes make it the most visited state in the USA. And while the California clichés of sunny weather, golden beaches, palm trees and friendly locals ring true, there's so much more to the state than its Hollywood depictions. Yes, there are the beaches – Santa Monica, Newport and Malibu to name a few – but there are also deserts, notably Death Valley – the lowest, driest and hottest area in North America. You’ll also find snow-capped mountains in the Sierra Nevada, rolling wine regions in the north and giant sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park. And then there are the cities – the glamorous home of Hollywood in Los Angeles and the bohemian home of innovation in San Francisco. To experience it all, hire a car, and hit the road; a California holiday is also the perfect place to begin that all-American road trip.
Popular Tailor-made California Holidays
From the palm-tree lined beaches of Los Angeles to the bohemian neighbourhoods of San Francisco and the magnificent greenery of Yosemite National Park, a holiday in California can encompass a fantastic range of locations and things to do. It's also one of the best places in the USA to embark on that all-American road trip - thanks, in part, to the stunning Pacific Coast Highway. To ensure you experience the best of the Golden State, we’ve created a range of California holidays which include everything from flights to hand-picked hotels, car hire, day tours and experiences. If you're in need of some inspiration, you can of course choose from our recommended, carefully curated itineraries. However, if you're looking for something a little more bespoke, chat to one of our Experts about you travel style, needs and budget, and we'll help you tailor make a Californian adventure that's unique to you...
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Where to Go in California
Stretching from the border of Mexico and 900 miles along the coast line north to Oregon, California promises everything from iconic cities to golden beaches, sprawling national parks and tranquil deserts within its remit. It’s even home to the happiest place on earth: Disneyland, Los Angeles! For an ideal California holiday, we recommend beginning in San Francisco or Los Angeles where you can hire a car and drive along the picturesque coastline before heading inland to Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, Palm Springs or Lake Tahoe.
California Holiday Types
If there was one USA state made for a driving holiday, it would be California. Famous drives such as Route 66 and Highway 1 are located within the state, while the Big Sur is considered to be one of the best road trips in the country. In addition to fly-drive holidays, our Experts have also created itineraries to suit a range of interests.
California Holiday Ideas and Advice
- Top things to do
- Top places to see
- When to go
- Extra info
Top things to do in California
Walk amongst the stars on Hollywood boulevard
What would a trip to California be without taking the chance to visit the iconic Hollywood boulevard and take a picture next to your favourite stars of radio or screen.
Visit Universal Studios
The oldest and most famous of the Hollywood studios still in use is a must see when visiting LA. The studio displays sets from Jurassic Park, King Kong, Transformers and so many more iconic works of screen.
Kayak on Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is utopia for the adventurous, or just the admirers of stunning alpine environments. Right on the border of California and Nevada this freshwater lake is popular with Californian holidaymakers who enjoy sailing, kayaking, fishing and lazing on the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter. Join them on your California holiday, take in the vistas and see what all the hype is about.
Take a road trip down highway 1
With the exception of Route 66 there is no more iconic American road trip than highway 1. This winding route of tarmac perfection hugs the coast of California and takes in so much of what this fantastic state has to offer. Take in the dramatic, wildlife-laden coastline of Big Sur, camp amongst the towering coastal redwoods and chill out in the relaxed college towns of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.
Go wine tasting in Napa
Add some class to your California holiday with a visit to the Napa Valley. The Napa Valley is a bucolic area North of San Francisco that serves up some of the best food and wine in the world. Sample some beautiful Californian Zinfandels, Cabernet Sauvignons in the surroundings of the elegant landscapes of estates like Castello di Amorosa or Chateau Montelena.
Enjoy the laid back city of San Diego
Located next to the border with Mexico and alongside the inviting Pacific this city has a mild climate year round as well as extensive beaches. These two factors mean that it’s the perfect place to get caught up in the laid back lifestyle and experience why the locals are so passionate about SoCal.
Go on a tour of Alcatraz
Get swept up in the fascinating stories that come from the USA’s most secure prison which has incarcerated some of America’s most notorious prisoners.
Top places to see in California
San Francisco and the Golden Gate
The Golden Gate City typifies so much of what is iconic about California – this forward looking city famous for the beat generation and tech start-ups embodies the American dream. Visit the city to ogle at the sea lions on Pier 39, take that iconic photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, and learn about America’s most secure prison or simply to experience some of the hedonism that’s rife throughout the city.
If you would like to visit the moon without leaving earth look no further than Death Valley national park. The park is famous for recording the hottest temperature ever recorded but is so much more than sweltering hot. Dante’s view gives you great panoramas of the entire park, the aptly named devil’s golf course serves up out-of-this world-terrain and at Badwater Basin you can visit the lowest point in North America. All more than worth sweating for.
Joshua Tree National Park
A short distance from Los Angeles, Joshua tree national park is the meeting place for two different desert ecosystems and, as a result, is home to a brilliant array of landscapes and wildlife. The park is named after the distinctive tree which dot the campsites where you can enjoy some of the most spectacular star gazing in America.
Yosemite National Park
Nothing can prepare you for the magnificent Yosemite Valley, it defies superlatives. The landscape is carved out by thousands of years of geological process and what they’ve left is a masterpiece and heaven for those who love the outdoors. There are walks of different levels to waterfalls like Bridalveil Falls and Vernal Falls as well as beautiful panoramic views such as Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome.
Venice Beach and Santa Monica
These beachside neighbourhoods in Los Angeles are essential neighbourhoods to see on your trip to Los Angeles. Have a photograph on Santa Monica pier, end of route 66, or watch people pumping iron at Muscle beach.
The Giant Sequoias and the mighty redwoods
The Sierra Navada is the only place in the world to see these gigantic living structures, some of which are thousands of years old. These leviathans will truly humble you and fill you with a sense of awe as you stand by some of nature’s largest creations. The coastal redwood trees are just as fascinating, growing taller but less voluminously than the Sequoias they are more accessible and just as awe inspiring.
When to go to California
California isn’t called the Golden State for nothing: this western USA destination is renowned for its accessibility and great year-round warm weather. But that’s not all, snow-seekers are at home here too, thanks to some of the best ski and snowboarding slopes in the country. When to go all comes down to what you want to see and do on your California holiday. For seasonal recommendations, check out our when to go to California guide.
More About California
Currency: US Dollar
Vaccinations: Extra vaccinations are not required.
Main Airports: Los Angeles International Airport, also known as LAX, and San Francisco International Airport.
Visas: British Citizens require an ESTA, which you can apply for online.