Are you looking to explore California but want to avoid going too touristy? If you’d prefer strolling through places that are a bit bohemian then look no further. Here are 12 charming seaside villages to explore in California.

Seaside Villages

1.  Fort Bragg

Start your day here in this remote NorCal destination with coffee from Headlands Coffee House and something sweet from the Mendocino Chocolate Company. You can then take a sea cave tour, hit the famous skunk trail, and go horseback riding on the popular Fort Bragg Coastal Trail. Spend the night at the noteworthy Inn at Newport Ranch. It’s a private 2,100-acre timber preserve, a working cattle ranch, and a luxurious inn along the coastline too.

2.  The Mendocino Village

This rugged seaside Northern Californian Village is perfect for outdoorsy people. Take in the views at Russian Gulch and hike the Mendocino Headlands trail. Not into hiking?

Check out the art galleries and boutique shops for souvenirs. Have a snack at famous Frankie’s Ice Cream. Check out Pacific Star Winery which is right on the water. Dine at cozy Trillium Cafe in their garden. Spend the night at popular JD House. It’s said to be “the epitome of cozy seaside charm.”   

3.  Bodega Bay

Sign up with the local business Wine Country Trekking if you’re feeling adventurous. Stroll along the nine-mile coastal Kortum Trail. If you feel less athletic, explore the downtown area.  

Check out the shops and sample a Dungeness crab sandwich and some chowder at the popular Spud Point Crab Company and don’t forget the Tabasco and oyster crackers. Check out Doran Beach. Watch the sunset at Bodega Head then dine at Terrapin Creek before retiring at the Bodega Bay Inn.

4.  Sausalito

Sausalito is located north of San Francisco. Athletic types can go biking, hiking, biking, kayaking, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding. You can also check out the art galleries, and browse shops selling ceramics, and handmade jewelry.

Enjoy a spa treatment at Casa Madrona’s spa. When you’re hungry, there are over 50 different delicious dining destinations. Have a cocktail at The Spinnaker and take in the view of the San Francisco skyline across the bay. Stay at the popular Inn Above Tide.

5.  Capitola

Cozy Capitola is not only historic but it’s also one of the oldest vacation spots on the coast. Have some breakfast pastry at Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria, head for the beach for some world-class surfing, or simply take in the picturesque Capitola Venetian Hotel houses. Visit Venetian Court (recently added to the official National Register of Historic Places). Ride the cable car to historic Shadowbrook Restaurant and have a romantic dinner for two. Spend the night at the 10-room Capitola Hotel.

6.  Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is situated on the Central Coast. It has a European style to it and covers one square mile. Here you can walk along the cobblestone streets and browse over 100 art galleries, boutiques, courtyards, gardens, and wine-tasting rooms.  

Don’t forget Carmel Beach either. Carmel includes over 50 assorted eateries–more culinary options per capita than any other place in the country. Stay at any one of 42 different inns. Veteran visitors suggest you check in at the lovely La Playa Carmel. 

7.  Cambria

In Cambria, adventurous folks can take a ride through the forest on a Clydesdale horse, or go hiking at the neighboring Fiscalini Preserve. Stroll along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk then hunt for genuine moonstones on the beach. Sample some wine amidst the vines at Stolo Vineyard. Enjoy dinner at Robin’s, which specializes in “comfort cuisine” made with local ingredients then pop over to Linn’s and have olallieberry pie for dessert. The trendiest place to stay is the bohemian-like inn White Water.  

8.  Carpinteria

Some call this place the “classic Californian surfer city” that takes one back to another time. Stroll along Carpinteria State Beach or relax and catch some rays. Then go shopping at the boutiques on Linden Avenue. Get a bite at the family-friendly popular Padaro Beach Grill. They offer burgers and other California beach favorites. Then spend the evening at the well-known Carpinteria Beach Cottages which can be found only four blacks from the beautiful beach.

9.  Laguna Beach

Start your day with breakfast at La Sirena Grill on Mermaid Street. Go for a relaxing stroll along scenic Treasure Island Beach then check out the many murals along the little streets of this village. If you prefer massive mountains, there are assorted hiking and biking trails too.

Take in the sunset from the popular Top of the World then dine at The Deck on Laguna. Stay at the reportedly “luxurious but bohemian Hotel Joaquin,” 

10.  San Clemente

Your day begins with coffee at Bear Roast Coffee. Next, take a walk on the San Clemente Pier. It’s a great place to go surfing or simply to see the sunset. 

Shopaholics should hit the boutique shops on Avenida Del Mar. Hungry? Stop at popular Cafe Calypso.

It’s nestled in a Spanish-style courtyard. They serve light, healthy California fare. Finally, book a room at the memorable Casa Tropicana Boutique Beachfront Hotel.

11.  La Jolla

Just north of San Diego, you will find La Jolla or “the jewel” of California. Here you can hit the beach, go biking, visit the sea lions seaside, go kayaking in the sea caves, and explore Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Have brunch or cocktails at the outdoorsy George’s at the Cove. When you’re ready to rest then have a nice night at the Balinese-inspired resort known as the Pantai Inn.  

12.  Coronado Island

Coronado Island is right off the coast of San Diego. Shop ‘til you drop on Orange Avenue. On a budget? You can still people-watch. Explore the canals of Coronado on a private and romantic gondola ride via The Gondola Company.

Book a personal “gourmet beach bonfire” with the family-friendly, gourmet experience known as ROAST. It takes place at the iconic Hotel del Coronado and comes complete with s’mores! Book accommodations at the luxurious Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa. It’s famous for its residential, live, bright pink flamingos.


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