California Holidays: An Overview

Everybody knows the one about California being the world's 8th biggest economy if it was a standalone country, but fiscal statistics aside, this is undoubtedly one seriously blessed corner of the world.

Will and Alexandra are here to help give you the inside track.

Why we think you’ll love it

  • With so much to offer holidayers, from surfing, wine tasting, trekking and whale watching to celeb-spotting, shopping, skiing and art galleries galore you'd have to be devoid of interests not to enjoy California
  • A Big Sur road trip is one for the holiday bucket list

Luxury California Holidays: The Detail

California is blessed with as perfect a climate as you could wish for (OK, maybe except for in Death Valley), and landscapes running the full scenic gamut from gorgeous beaches to ski-friendly mountain ranges via perfect winemaking country, vast (in all senses) forests and some of the world's most dramatic National Parks. All rather sickening, really, but boy does California make for an amazing luxury holiday destination. Throw in the culture, creativity and sheer energetic output of the key cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a few treasures that are less well known - just ask! - and this is the perfect destination for family holidays or couples alike.

San Francisco or Los Angeles are the likely starting points for any Californian trip, and the two cities dovetail beautifully; San Francisco the understated, walking friendly, hipster hangout with great shopping and excellent Oriental cuisine, and LA the quirky and exuberantly OTT city of neighbourhoods you'll probably feel you knew before even arriving, thanks to the iconic status of places like Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Speaking of iconic status, the stretch of coastline and road between these two cities is generally regarded as one of the most dramatic and beautiful in the world, and a Big Sur Road Trip is right at the top of several of the Original Travel team's holiday bucket lists. En route are many Californian highlights such as the giant redwood forests, and attractive towns such as Carmel, Monterrey and Santa Barbara.

There's more. South of LA and a stone's throw from the border with Mexico, San Diego is a vibrant mish mash of North and Central American culture. More relaxed than the frenetic Los Angeles but with even better beaches, it is a place to unwind; made even easier by the city's reputation for having the best craft beer in the country. And on the subject of 'liquor', very few wine regions on the planet are as pleasant to visit as the beautiful Sonoma and Napa Valleys north of San Francisco, as famous for their scenery and restaurants as their excellent wines.

After a stint in the wine region, there's no place better for burning off the excess than the jaw-droppingly beautiful Yosemite National Park, on which more in our Great American Wilderness section.

All this, and we haven't even mentioned the multitude of family friendly things on offer in California, ranging from the obvious (Disneyland, SeaWorld and Universal Studios anyone?) to seeing the sea lions in San Francisco and even just enjoying a bit of good old fashioned bucket and spade work on the many beautiful beaches.


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Original Highlight

Now that's a difficult one! It would have to be enjoying a glass of Napa's finest.

Alexandra, Original Traveller

Time Difference

GMT -8 hrs


Top picks for California

Flowers at the spa at Tenaya Lodge, luxury hotel in the Great American Wilderness

Tenaya Lodge

Yosemite National Park

A great alternative to the Ahwahnee Hotel, Tenaya Lodge is just outside Yosemite National Park’s south gate surrounded by almost 50 acres of beautiful forest. This lovely stone and timber lodge has the feel of an alpine lodge with a Native American twist.

Where to stay

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

California

Easily one of the most famous of American National Parks, Yosemite National Park is spectacularly beautiful, and so accessible you’d be a fool to miss it on any Cali road trip.

Where to go

PaliHouse

PaliHouse

Los Angeles

The Mediterranean-Moorish architecture of PaliHouse dates back to 1927, when sleepy Santa Monica sat at the end of the Los Angeles rail road. Today, it houses a trendy boutique hotel two blocks back from the beach, amid swaying Californian palms.

Where to stay

Shutters on the Beach, luxury hotel in Los Angeles

Shutters on the Beach

Los Angeles

Shutters on The Beach is simply the ultimate incarnation of the Californian experience. The hotel evokes a sense of comfortable elegance that one might find in a grand, yet unpretentious, beach home, all with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and California coastline.

Where to stay

Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip

Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip

California

The wind in your hair, the sunglasses on. Welcome to the ultimate California road trip.

Where to go

Napa & Sonoma Valleys

Napa & Sonoma Valleys

California

California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys are the heartland of the winemaking industry in the United States, and with over 600 wineries to explore (don’t worry, we’ve got some favourites to share with you), they’re worthy of a few nights to indulge.

Where to go

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

California

The City of Angels sometimes gets bad press, but if you know where to look, LA can be a hugely rewarding destination.

Where to go

Poolside at Resort at Pelican Hill, luxury hotel in Los Angeles

The Resort at Pelican Hill

Los Angeles

The Resort at Pelican Hill is a place where guests can get a feel for the Med – well, in California. By this we mean the design is that of a Venetian countryside estate, with grounds that are filled with olive, fig and pine trees and rows of lavender, wonderfully located along the Orange County coastline.

Where to stay

Big Sur Whale Watching

Big Sur Whale Watching

Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip

Whale watching is an amazing activity to do while journeying the Californian Central Coast. The Big Sur is definitely one of those special places in the world to experience the breathtaking beauty of these large aquatic mammals year- round.

What to do

Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara

Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara

Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip

Located a few hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara has much more to offer than a beautiful town centre and white beaches. Exhibiting sun coated hills and valleys of vineyards; Santa Barbara is home to 103 wineries. Explore the counties Urban Wine Trail and sip your way through a number of magnificent wineries of Downtown Santa Barbara.

What to do

The pool area at Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire, luxury hotel in Los Angeles

Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire

Los Angeles

In the heart of Beverly Hills, just a few expensively shod footsteps from renowned Rodeo Drive shops, the recently renovated Beverly Wilshire blends tradition with trend.

Where to stay

San Francisco

San Francisco

California

San Francisco is foodie, (occasionally) foggy but most of all extremely good fun.

Where to go

Entrance at Hotel Zetta, luxury hotel in Big Sur

Hotel Zetta

San Francisco

If Soho House were to open a hotel in San Francisco (watch this space) it would look a lot like the Zetta Hotel. This ultimate Californian city hang out comes complete with oversized cushion chairs, pool tables, funky light fittings and a clientele of hip creative types (with the odd business type thrown in for good measure).

Where to stay

Big Sur Road Trip

Big Sur Road Trip

Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip

The coast of California between San Francisco and Los Angeles is home to one of the most famous stretches of road in the world, and one of the most romantic and dramatic road trips. Travelling south from San Francisco, the famous Route One highway passes through long stretches of wild, rugged scenery, with cliffs, sparsely populated beaches and the Pacific Ocean on your right, and Californian Redwood forests and the hills of the Santa Lucia sierra on your left.

What to do

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahnee)

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahnee)

Yosemite National Park

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel sits in splendid isolation in the middle of the Yosemite Valley and for setting alone would rank as the best hotel in the National Park.

Where to stay

SLS Beverly Hills, luxury hotel in Los Angeles

SLS Hotel Beverly Hills

Los Angeles

SLS Beverly Hills is a totally sleek boutique hotel in the enviable location of Rodeo drive and Beverly Hills’ celebrity hotspots.

Where to stay

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip

Located on the hilltop of Enchanted Rock, the magnificent Hearst Castle is California’s most famous monument to wealth and ambition, offering breathtaking views across California’s Central Coast and the Pacific Ocean.

What to do

Views of the Golden Gate Bridge at Cavallo Point, luxury hotel in the Big Sur

Cavallo Point

San Francisco

Cavallo Point is a historic boutique hotel just 15 minutes south of Sausalito. It occupies an enviable position at the base of San Francisco’s most noteworthy landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Where to stay

It was a great holiday and went like clockwork from an operational standpoint, it always does with OT

Nicholas

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