Just north of Santa Barbara on California’s dreamy Central Coast, El Captain has some incredible camp spots nestled on cliffs just above the water. The amazing thing about this part of the coastline is how rich it is in sea life, including the big guys like whales and dolphins. I can’t think of a time when I have been camping there and didn’t see dolphins show up within 10 minutes of staring at the horizon. They always seem to appear.
The best activity:
- Surf and turf: For those who love nature, this is a great spot to stay if you still want to experience Santa Barbara, go winetasting or hit up some of the famous surf spots in the area, but come back to a tranquil camp spot at night.
Getting there: Either add it onto your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary or fly into Goleta and pick up a car from the airport. You can reach Gaviota here.
Yosemite: Famous for its Waterfalls and “The Valley”
We couldn’t talk about the national parks in California without mentioning Yosemite. Carved by glaciers from the last Ice Age, The Valley is so famous that it welcomes 4 million visitors each year, making it the third most visited national park in the US. The park is full of famous waterfalls and is a favorite among rock climbers. Since it is so popular, this one is great to visit during the off or shoulder seasons, especially if you can time it with the first snow of the season.
The best activity:
- Go chasing waterfalls. With so many different waterfalls in the park, you can pick an easy, paved trail like Bridal Veil Falls or go for something more difficult and strenuous like Nevada Falls.
Getting there: Fly into either Sacramento or Fresno and drive into the park.
Additionally, if you want to start south and head north or vice versa, Alamo offers one-way rentals to make this easier.
Those are a few of my favorite parks in California, each with its own uniqueness and special beauty. All of them are ideal for outdoor lovers and if you’re lucky enough to visit all six, you’ll end up with some varied experiences that it’s hard to believe they are all in the same state.