The West Coast of the United States is filled with amazing travel destinations from the sunny shores of San Diego to the coffee-filled city of Seattle. As a matter of fact, there are so many fantastic locations on the West Coast that it can be difficult to choose where to go! Luckily for you, I’ve come up with 12 of the best getaways on the West Coast to help you decide. These destinations are perfect for a quick weekend getaway or a longer trip.
I’ll admit — I’m more of an East Coast kind of girl. But, I’ll admit that the West Coast is slowly stealing my heart. The laid back vibes, picture-perfect beaches, and good weather all contribute to the West Coast’s charm. Wherever you choose to visit on the West Coast, you won’t be disappointed!
In This Post:
12 of the Best Getaways on the West Coast
1. San Diego, California
With its sunny skies, sandy beaches, talented surfers, and year-round warm weather, San Diego is undoubtedly one of the best West Coast getaways. This Southern California beach destination is the perfect place for a little rest and relaxation.
While in San Diego, the first thing you have to do is enjoy the beaches, including Coronado Beach and Pacific Beach. Then, you can explore all the other gems of the city, including Little Italy, Torrey Pines Nature Preserve, Liberty Station, and the Embarcadero.
2. San Francisco, California
While your first instinct for a West Coast getaway may be to head to Southern California, Northern California has a few great getaways of its own, including San Francisco.
As one of the largest cities in California, San Francisco is packed with things to do. First and foremost, you have to check out the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Take a few photos and maybe even drive across this San Francisco landmark.
After popping by the Golden Gate Bridge, hitch a ride on a historic cable car, make your way to Alcatraz, and get a glimpse of the views from Twin Peaks.
3. Portland, Oregon
Not only is Portland, Oregon is one of the best getaways in Oregon, it’s also an extraordinary place to visit on the West Coast as a whole. After all, the city’s slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.”
This destination has quite a few spunky things to do. Explore the underground network of catacombs known as the Shanghai Tunnels. Taste the one-of-a-kind donuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. Wander around Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. And end your day with a scoop of an intriguing ice cream flavor from Salt & Straw.
In addition to all of the unique things to do in Portland, this Oregonian city also has quite a few breathtaking natural attractions. Bask in the beauty of Multnomah Falls, stop and smell the flowers at the International Rose Test Garden, and take a breath while at the relaxing Portland Japanese Garden.
RELATED: 14 Unique Places to Visit in Oregon
4. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Within the past few years, the popularity of Joshua Tree National Park has skyrocketed. What’s behind all the hype, you ask? There are a few different reasons: the trees, the desert, and the sky.
The most popular reason people head to Joshua Tree National Park is to see the trees. These unique, bushy trees – which are actually called Joshua trees – are only found in the Mojave Desert. Be sure to go on a few hikes to fully experience the beauty of these trees.
As for the desert aspect, Joshua Tree National Park is part of both the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. It’s where these two dry, yet otherworldly landscapes meet – and at Joshua Tree, you can get the best of both!
Finally, Joshua Tree is a popular destination for stargazers. This national park is one of the few places in Southern California far enough away from the light pollution and smog to enjoy stargazing. If you’re lucky, you might even see a few shooting stars race across the night sky!
5. Bend, Oregon
Bend, Oregon is one of the best getaways on the West Coast for nature lovers or those looking for an under-the-radar destination. As a matter of fact, you can enjoy just about any nature-based activity you have in mind while in Bend.
During your time in this trendy town, you can hike to the stunning Tumalo Falls, rock climb at Smith Rock State Park, ski on Mount Bachelor, canoe down the Deschutes River, and go spelunking at the Lava River Cave. You can even climb a volcano at Newberry National Volcanic Monument!
6. Big Sur, California
You’ll have to go a little out of your way to reach Big Sur, as it’s a three-hour drive from San Francisco, a four-hour drive from Sacramento, and a five-hour drive from Los Angeles — which makes for a fun road trip. But that just makes it one of the best getaways on the West Coast for some hard-earned rest and relaxation.
The most popular thing to do in Big Sur is to spend a day at Pfeiffer Beach. While there, you can search for sea creatures in the tidepools, admire the soaring Keyhole Rock, and even find some unique purple-colored sand on the north end of the beach! This purple sand actually comes from a natural collection of manganese garnet gemstones buried within the cliffs.
But there’s so much more to do in Big Sur than hang out at Pfeiffer Beach. Stop by the Point Sur Lighthouse, wander around Garrapatta State Park, and see all of the natural wonders that the Andrew Molera State Park has to offer.
7. Cannon Beach, Oregon
Situated along Oregon’s coastline, the tiny town of Cannon Beach is perfect for ocean lovers.
The most popular thing to do in Cannon Beach is to stop by Haystack Rock. This lofty rock formation in the Pacific Ocean is home to some of the best tidepools in the state. As a matter of fact, there’s a good chance that you’ll see quite a few brightly colored starfish in these little tidepools, so keep an eye out!
Other than searching for eye-catching sea creatures at Haystack Rock, you can also wander around Ecola State Park, tackle one of the many hikes at Oswald West State Park, and take a peek at the waterfall at Hug Point.
8. Solvang, California
Solvang, California is one of the most interesting West Coast getaways. In fact, it’s an underrated destination in the USA as a whole. Danish immigrants in the early 1900s actually settled this little town. Today, the Danish influence is still going strong – so much so, it feels like you’ve experienced a little piece of Denmark.
While in this lovely Danish town, visit the five windmills, spot The Little Mermaid Fountain (a replica of the one in Copenhagen), stroll through dozens of boutique shops, sample an assortment of beers and wines, and savor some traditional Danish dishes.
9. Yosemite National Park, California
As one of the most visited national parks in the country, Yosemite National Park is certainly one of the best getaways on the West Coast. With its challenging hikes and towering green trees, Yosemite National Park is unlike any other destination on this list and it’s no wonder that it’s at the very top of many United States bucket lists.
While at Yosemite National Park, be sure to take on the difficult Half Dome hike, do a little rock climbing at El Capitan, and take in the beauty of the fire-like Horsetail Fall at sunset.
10. Seattle, Washington
Due to its rainy weather, Seattle doesn’t get the attention that it deserves as a vacation destination. While a large amount of precipitation isn’t the most ideal, Seattle has so much more to offer, including trendy coffee shops, stunning views, and lovely artwork.
The first three things that top just about every Seattle bucket list are seeing the view from the Space Needle, stopping by Pike’s Place Market, and grabbing a cup of coffee from the first-ever Starbucks.
But there’s even more to Washington’s capital city. You can also stare in awe at the glasswork at Chihuly Garden and Glass, watch the sunset from Gas Works Park and venture to Bainbridge Island.
11. Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is one of the most adorable small towns in the United States. Between the laidback beachy atmosphere, the array of tasty restaurants, and the luxurious Spanish-inspired architecture, Santa Barbara is certainly one of the best getaways on the West Coast.
While in Santa Barbara, there are a few things that you must see and do. First, you must check out the breathtaking views of the city from the Santa Barbara courthouse tower — that’ll just add to the excitement for everything else you’ll get to see during your trip.
Then, you need to head to McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams for a fabulous scoop or two of ice cream. Will you opt for the traditional vanilla bean or the intriguing eureka lemon and marionberries? Finally, the last must-do activity in Santa Barbara is to watch the pastel-colored sunset while sitting on Butterfly Beach.
12. Malibu, California
Malibu has developed a reputation as being the land of surfers and celebrities. And while those two ideas are definitely true, this beachfront town has a lot more to offer.
Fun story — I was walking along the beach in Malibu when I saw a wedding reception happening in someone’s backyard. I made eye contact with the bride and I waved. She walked over to me and invited me to her reception. That’s the story of how I enjoyed bougie champagne that’s worth more than my life at a stranger’s wedding in Malibu.
While in Malibu, you can go for a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, grab a delicious breakfast burrito from Lily’s, find the sea lions at Pirates Cove Beach, and learn a little history while at the Getty Villa. And if you’d like to see more of the surfers and celebrities that Malibu is known for, you’ll find the surfers at Zuma Beach and El Matador Beach, and the celebrities at the Malibu Country Mart and the Malibu County Fair.
Do you have any suggestions to add to this list of the best getaways on the West Coast? Let me know in the comments below!
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Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.