Do you love to explore Southern California as much as I do? Whether you’re exploring on foot, by bike, or even by car, there’s so much to see and do in SoCal that it’s hard to pick exactly where to start. So how about a handy dandy list of the must-see spots in Southern California that will satisfy the explorer in you? I thought you might enjoy that, so I put this list together for you. We’ll wander through historic parks, forested hikes and hidden hot springs on this SoCal tour. Ready to explore?
1. La Jolla Sea Caves
La Jolla is one of those places I simply cannot get enough of. One of my all-time favorite things to do in this magical little city is taking a kayak tour of the sea caves. There are several companies in the La Jolla area that offer half-day excursions so you can tour this stunning spot in La Jolla up close and in person.
2. Carbon Canyon Regional Park --Orange County
Orange County is home to one of my favorite hidden gems in SoCal. This woodsy park will surround you with towering redwood trees that will make you think you've taken a wrong turn and ended up in Northern California. Nope, you're still in SoCal and these handsome trees are all yours.
3. Fullerton Arboretum
I'm a sucker for any kind of bench that allows me to sit and relax while being surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Not only is Fullerton Arboretum a picture-perfect spot for wandering, but you'll find many charming benches that are perfect for relaxing. Have I mentioned yet how much I love the relaxation part of exploring?
One of the most photographed hotels in all of Southern California is the Hotel Del in Coronado and it's one magnificent place to see. Not only is the hotel worth exploring (rumor has it that it's haunted) but the entire Coronado area is a worth a visit. Spend a little time on the hotel grounds then take a walk through the gorgeous town of Coronado that will remind you of a little slice of Mayberry.
5. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
You may be under the impression that Santa Barbara is not part of Southern California, but I'm happy to report that this stunning city is technically part of the SoCal region. Aren't we lucky to claim this beautiful spot as our own? One of my favorite places to explore in the area is the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. You'll find over 5-miles of trails that will take you through a variety of native plants and wildlife that are a treat to the senses.
6. Thornton Winery -- Temecula
You may think that Northern California has all the pretty wineries, but we have a few beauties of our own right here in Southern California. Head to Temecula for a day of exploring wine country. Thornton is not only one of the prettiest ones I've seen, but it also hosts an annual Jazz Series that is a blast to attend if you time your visit just right.
7. Balboa Park -- San Diego
If Balboa Park is one of those spots you've always heard about but never taken the time to explore, I must tell you that you're missing out. It is one of the most beautiful and well maintained urban parks that can be found in Southern California. You'll find everything under the sun to keep you entertained for an entire weekend or longer -- museums, fabulous restaurants, gorgeous walking paths, a beautiful theatre offering some of the best shows in SoCal, and a botanic garden with a variety of native plants growing in their natural habitat. Make a day of it. Better yet, plan your whole weekend around it.
8. Huntington Library and Gardens
One of my favorite places in Southern California is the lush and heavenly Huntington Library and Gardens. This is where I go to clear my hand by surrounding myself with nothing but beauty. You could explore this spot all day and still have more to see.
9. Kelso Dunes -- Mojave National Preserve
At first glance this may look like a snow-capped mountain, but what you're actually seeing is the sculpted beauty of the sand dunes in Mojave National Preserve. Hiking through this area is the best way to experience this unexpected side of SoCal.
10. San Gabriel Mountains
A hike through the San Gabriel Mountains is enough to remind me why I love it here so much. If anyone thinks SoCal is nothing but ocean and sandy beaches, take them on a hike in the wilderness; it will open their eyes to the variety of scenery you can find in this part of the state.
11. Malibu Creek State Park
On a day when you want to take a refreshing dip in the water, the Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park is the perfect spot to wander. Pack a picnic and spend a day at this relaxing setting in Malibu.
12. Deep Creek Hot Springs -- Apple Valley
Take a load off your feet and sink into the soothing Deep Creek Hot Springs in San Bernardino County. Be prepared to do some hiking first, approximately 4-miles roundtrip, but all that exercise will earn you some down time in that relaxing pool of water.
13. Heisler Park -- Laguna Beach
We are blessed to have some of the most beautiful parks in Southern California such as Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. This is a favorite spot of mine that looks like the perfect place to bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful surroundings on a sunny SoCal afternoon.
14. Speaking of Laguna Beach...
Here's another grand spot in Laguna Beach worthy of an afternoon stroll. Located above Treasure Island Beach, this little hideaway offers up cozy benches perfect for watching the sun go down after you've enjoyed a leisurely stroll around Treasure Island Park.
15. Ventura Harbor Village
I always feel like I've been dropped inside a postcard when I visit Ventura. This picturesque spot right on the harbor is a wonderful place to be a tourist for a day. Browse the local shops, then grab a seat outside at a local restaurant and have a long lunch with this stunning view surrounding you.
16. Cabrillo National Monument-- San Diego
For one of the best views in San Diego, I must suggest you spend some time at Cabrillo National Monument located in Point Loma. This is the perfect spot to look out at the harbor and admire the breathtaking view that can be found in this part of the country. Walking trails abound in this pocket of San Diego so bring along some comfortable shoes.
Do you have a case of wanderlust right about now? Make sure to pack a camera and some comfortable shoes to make the most out of your SoCal explorations. If these 16 ideas aren’t enough to satisfy the explorer in you then take a look at these
10 Fascinating Spots In Southern California That Are Straight Out Of A Fairytale.