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Where To Stay In California For A Vacation


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Astrid Deng



California, with its diverse landscapes and vibrant cities, is a dream destination for many travelers. Whether you’re looking to relax on pristine beaches, explore bustling urban centers, or immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural wonders, California has it all. When planning your vacation in the Golden State, choosing the right accommodation is key to a memorable stay.


With countless options available, it can be overwhelming to decide where to stay in California. Luckily, with some careful consideration and research, you can find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate during your visit.


When selecting your accommodation, it is important to consider various criteria, such as location, amenities, budget, and the type of experience you’re seeking. Whether you prefer luxury resorts, cozy beachfront cottages, trendy city apartments, or unique and offbeat accommodations, California offers something to suit every taste and preference.


In this article, we will explore some of the popular regions in California, along with their unique offerings and recommended places to stay. Whether you’re a fan of sun-soaked beaches, bustling cities, awe-inspiring national parks, scenic mountain retreats, or world-renowned wine regions, California has it all.


So, let’s dive into this guide and discover the best places to stay in California for an unforgettable vacation.


Criteria for Choosing Accommodation

When it comes to choosing accommodation for your California vacation, there are several factors to consider that will ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Here are some essential criteria to keep in mind:

  • Location: The location of your accommodation is crucial. Consider whether you want to be in a bustling city center, near the beach, close to national parks, or in a more secluded area for privacy and tranquility. Think about the attractions and activities you want to explore during your trip.
  • Amenities: Take into account the amenities that are important to you. Do you need a pool, fitness center, spa, or on-site dining options? Consider the facilities and services provided by the accommodation to ensure they align with your preferences and needs.
  • Budget: Set a budget for your accommodation, taking into account other expenses such as transportation, dining, and activities. California offers a range of options, from budget-friendly motels and hostels to luxurious resorts and boutique hotels. Remember to factor in any additional fees, such as parking or resort fees.
  • Type of accommodation: Decide on the type of accommodation that suits your travel style. Do you prefer the convenience of a hotel, the coziness of a vacation rental, or the unique experience of a bed and breakfast? Each option offers a different ambiance and level of service, so consider what appeals to you most.
  • Reviews and ratings: Research the accommodation’s reviews and ratings from previous guests. Websites such as TripAdvisor or Booking.com provide valuable insights into the quality and reputation of the property. Reading reviews can help you gauge the overall satisfaction of guests and identify any potential drawbacks.

By considering these criteria, you can narrow down your options and find the perfect accommodation that meets your preferences and requirements. Whether you prioritize location, amenities, budget, or a combination of factors, California offers an array of choices to suit every traveler’s needs.


Popular Regions in California

California is a vast state with a variety of regions that offer unique experiences. From the stunning coastline to the majestic mountains, each region has its own charm and attractions. Here are some of the most popular regions to consider for your stay:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area: Located in Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area is known for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. It offers a mix of urban excitement, cultural diversity, and natural beauty. Stay in the heart of San Francisco or explore the nearby cities of Oakland and Berkeley.
  2. Los Angeles: The entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is a must-visit for those seeking a glamorous and vibrant experience. From the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame to the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, there is no shortage of things to see and do. Stay in trendy neighborhoods like Hollywood, Beverly Hills, or Downtown LA.
  3. San Diego: Known for its warm weather and laid-back vibe, San Diego is a paradise for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy the beautiful coastline, visit world-class attractions like the San Diego Zoo or Balboa Park, and indulge in delicious cuisine. Stay in beachfront areas like Pacific Beach or the trendy Gaslamp Quarter in downtown.
  4. Napa Valley: For wine enthusiasts, Napa Valley is a dream destination. With its picturesque vineyards, charming wineries, and exquisite dining options, it offers a perfect blend of luxury and relaxation. Stay in one of the many boutique hotels or bed and breakfasts dotting the valley for an authentic wine country experience.
  5. Central Coast: Stretching from Santa Barbara to Monterey, the Central Coast boasts stunning coastal scenery, charming towns, and world-class wineries. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, visit charming coastal towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea, and explore the iconic Hearst Castle. Stay in beachside towns like Pismo Beach or enjoy the charm of Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley.
  6. Lake Tahoe: Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re visiting in the summer or winter, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, skiing, fishing, and boating. Stay in one of the lakeside resorts for breathtaking views and easy access to outdoor adventures.

These are just a few of the many popular regions in California. Each offers its own unique experiences and attractions, so choose the one that aligns with your interests and preferences for an unforgettable stay in the Golden State.


Best Beach Destinations

California is renowned for its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches. Whether you’re seeking sun-soaked relaxation, water sports, or breathtaking views, there are numerous beach destinations to choose from. Here are some of the best beach destinations in California:

  1. Santa Monica: Located in Los Angeles County, Santa Monica Beach offers a vibrant and lively atmosphere. Take a stroll along the iconic Santa Monica Pier, relax on the sandy beaches, and enjoy the bustling beachfront promenade filled with shops, restaurants, and street performers.
  2. Laguna Beach: Nestled in Orange County, Laguna Beach is known for its pristine coves, crystal-clear waters, and artistic vibes. Visit the picturesque Main Beach, explore the vibrant art galleries in the village, and enjoy the stunning coastal views from the Pacific Coast Highway.
  3. Santa Cruz: Located along the Central Coast, Santa Cruz is a popular beach destination with a laid-back atmosphere. Experience the classic California beach town feel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, ride the vintage Giant Dipper roller coaster, and soak up the sun on the wide sandy beaches.
  4. Malibu: Situated in Los Angeles County, Malibu is famous for its glamorous beachfront homes and stunning coastal vistas. Explore the pristine Zuma Beach, hike through the scenic trails of Malibu Creek State Park, and have a relaxing day by the water at El Matador State Beach.
  5. La Jolla: Located in San Diego, La Jolla boasts beautiful beaches, dramatic cliffs, and abundant marine life. Visit the popular La Jolla Cove, known for its crystal-clear waters and snorkeling opportunities, explore the tide pools at Shell Beach, and take in the stunning ocean views from Torrey Pines State Reserve.
  6. Monterey: Situated on the Central Coast, Monterey offers a unique coastal experience with its rugged cliffs, historic attractions, and abundant marine life. Visit the iconic Cannery Row, explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and take a scenic drive along the 17-Mile Drive with stops at Pebble Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

These are just a few of the best beach destinations in California. Each offers its own charm and attractions, providing a perfect backdrop for relaxation and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re looking for bustling beaches with vibrant beachfront scenes or secluded coves with tranquil surroundings, California has it all.


Top Cities to Stay in

California is home to vibrant and diverse cities, each offering a unique experience and a myriad of attractions. From bustling urban centers to charming coastal towns, here are some of the top cities to consider for your stay in California:

  1. San Francisco: Known for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars, San Francisco is a vibrant city with a rich cultural scene. Explore diverse neighborhoods like Chinatown and the Mission District, visit Alcatraz Island, and indulge in delicious cuisine at the renowned Ferry Building Marketplace.
  2. Los Angeles: As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is a bustling and glamorous city with endless possibilities. Visit the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, soak up the sun on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, and explore the vibrant and diverse neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Downtown LA.
  3. San Diego: With its perfect weather and laid-back atmosphere, San Diego is ideal for a relaxing and enjoyable stay. Explore the historic Gaslamp Quarter, visit the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, and spend quality time at the beautiful beaches like Coronado and Pacific Beach.
  4. Santa Barbara: Known as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, Spanish colonial architecture, and a vibrant art scene. Stroll along State Street, visit the picturesque Santa Barbara Mission, and enjoy the stunning beaches and wineries in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley.
  5. Sacramento: Serving as California’s state capital, Sacramento offers a rich history and cultural heritage. Visit the California State Capitol, explore the historic Old Sacramento district, and enjoy the riverfront ambiance along the scenic Sacramento River.
  6. Palm Springs: Nestled in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is a desert oasis known for its mid-century modern architecture, hot springs, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Relax by the pool at one of the many stylish resorts, explore the Palm Springs Art Museum, and take a scenic ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

These cities represent just a small sample of the amazing destinations California has to offer. Each city has its own unique charm, attractions, and character, ensuring a memorable and diverse experience for every traveler.


National Parks and Nature Retreats

For nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, California is a paradise with its abundance of national parks and nature retreats. From towering mountains to ancient forests and breathtaking desert landscapes, here are some of the top natural wonders to explore:

  1. Yosemite National Park: Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite is renowned for its iconic granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and pristine wilderness. Hike to the top of Half Dome, marvel at the beauty of Yosemite Valley, and explore the ancient giant sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove.
  2. Joshua Tree National Park: Situated in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its unique Joshua trees, stunning rock formations, and dark night skies perfect for stargazing. Explore the otherworldly landscapes, enjoy scenic hikes, and soak in the serene desert atmosphere.
  3. Redwood National and State Parks: Located along California’s northern coastline, Redwood National and State Parks are home to towering ancient redwood trees, some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world. Hike among these giants in the Avenue of the Giants or marvel at the coastal beauty in Fern Canyon.
  4. Death Valley National Park: Set in the eastern part of California, Death Valley is known for its extreme landscapes, including salt flats, sand dunes, and canyons. Witness the surreal beauty of Badwater Basin, visit the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and explore the colorful rocks of Artist’s Palette.
  5. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Adjacent to one another, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are home to immense sequoia trees and rugged mountain scenery. Stand in awe of the giant General Sherman Tree, hike through pristine wilderness, and explore the depths of Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America.
  6. Big Sur: Located along the central coast of California, Big Sur is a picturesque stretch of coastline known for its dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and scenic coastal drives. Take in the breathtaking views from Bixby Bridge, hike through the scenic trails of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and relax on hidden coves like Pfeiffer Beach.

These natural wonders offer a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of California’s diverse landscapes. Whether you’re seeking awe-inspiring vistas, thrilling outdoor activities, or simply a peaceful retreat in nature, these national parks and nature retreats have something for everyone.


Wine Country Getaways

California’s wine regions are renowned worldwide, offering visitors the opportunity to indulge in exquisite wines, beautiful vineyards, and picturesque landscapes. Here are some of the top wine country destinations in California:

  1. Napa Valley: As one of the most famous wine regions in the world, Napa Valley is a must-visit for wine enthusiasts. Explore the scenic vineyards, enjoy wine tastings at award-winning wineries, and dine at Michelin-starred restaurants. Don’t miss the charming towns of Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga while you’re there.
  2. Sonoma Valley: Located adjacent to Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley offers a more laid-back and relaxed wine country experience. Discover the diverse wine offerings, visit quaint wineries, and explore the historic Sonoma Plaza. Indulge in farm-to-table cuisine and unwind at luxurious spas in the area.
  3. Santa Barbara Wine Country: Known for its cool climate wines, Santa Barbara Wine Country offers a unique wine tasting experience. Explore the Santa Ynez Valley, visit the charming towns of Solvang and Los Olivos, and taste world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Don’t miss the stunning views along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
  4. Temecula Valley: Situated in Southern California, Temecula Valley is known for its Mediterranean climate and award-winning wineries. Enjoy tastings at boutique wineries, take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards, and explore the Old Town Temecula with its charming shops and restaurants.
  5. Paso Robles: Located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles is a wine region that has gained recognition for its rich and bold red wines. Discover boutique wineries, indulge in farm-to-table dining, and relax in one of the many hot springs in the area.
  6. Mendocino County: Offering a more off-the-beaten-path wine experience, Mendocino County is known for its organic and sustainable vineyards. Taste unique varietals, explore the beautiful coastline, and enjoy a slower pace of life in this charming and picturesque wine region.

These wine country getaways offer not only exceptional wines but also enchanting landscapes, world-class dining, and a chance to unwind and indulge in the finer things in life. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply appreciate the beauty of vineyards, a visit to California’s wine regions is a truly delightful experience.


Mountain and Ski Resorts

California is not only known for its stunning coastlines but also for its majestic mountains and world-class ski resorts. Whether you’re an avid skier or simply enjoy the beauty of winter landscapes, here are some of the top mountain and ski resorts in California:

  1. Lake Tahoe: Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. With its breathtaking scenery and numerous ski resorts, including Heavenly, Squaw Valley, and Northstar, it offers a wide range of slopes for all skill levels.
  2. Mammoth Mountain: Located in the Eastern Sierra region, Mammoth Mountain is one of California’s premier ski resorts. With its long ski season, ample snowfall, and diverse terrain, it attracts skiers and snowboarders from around the world. Don’t miss the thrilling experience of riding the Panorama Gondola for panoramic views of the mountain.
  3. Big Bear Lake: Situated in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is a popular winter getaway for Southern Californians. With two ski resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, it offers a variety of terrain for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter activities. Enjoy the picturesque alpine scenery and cozy mountain town atmosphere.
  4. Yosemite National Park (Badger Pass Ski Area): Within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park, the Badger Pass Ski Area offers a unique winter experience. With its gentle slopes and family-friendly atmosphere, it provides a perfect opportunity for beginners and families to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in a breathtaking alpine setting.
  5. Mount Shasta: Known for its towering peak, Mount Shasta offers a picturesque setting for winter adventures. With its backcountry skiing, cross-country trails, and pristine wilderness, it appeals to outdoor enthusiasts looking for a more secluded and off-the-beaten-path ski experience.
  6. Sierra-at-Tahoe: Located just south of Lake Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe is a popular resort known for its family-friendly atmosphere and diverse terrain. With its accessible slopes, excellent terrain parks, and stunning mountain views, it provides a fun and memorable ski experience for all skill levels.

These mountain and ski resorts in California offer not only world-class skiing and snowboarding but also breathtaking scenery, cozy mountain lodges, and a range of winter activities. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snow enthusiast, California’s mountain resorts cater to all levels of winter sports enthusiasts.


Unique and Quirky Accommodations

For those seeking a unique and memorable stay in California, there are plenty of accommodations that offer something out of the ordinary. From treehouses to Airstream trailers, here are some of the most unique and quirky places to stay:

  1. Treehouse Rentals: Experience a childhood dream come true by staying in a treehouse. These elevated accommodations are nestled amongst the trees, offering a peaceful and secluded retreat. Some treehouses even come equipped with modern amenities, such as cozy beds, kitchenettes, and private decks.
  2. Airstream Trailers: Embrace the retro charm of Airstream trailers, which have been transformed into stylish and comfortable accommodations. These aluminum-clad trailers offer a unique glamping experience with all the amenities you need, including cozy beds, compact kitchens, and outdoor seating areas.
  3. Converted Barns: Stay in a converted barn for a rustic and unique lodging experience. These renovated structures provide a charming and cozy atmosphere, often featuring exposed wooden beams, cozy fireplaces, and spacious living areas. It’s the perfect getaway for those seeking a countryside retreat.
  4. Boutique Hotels: California is home to many boutique hotels that offer a distinctive and artistic ambiance. These small, independently owned hotels showcase unique decor, stylish furnishings, and personalized service. From retro-chic establishments to trendy design-centric spaces, boutique hotels cater to travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind experience.
  5. Historic Inns: Step back in time by staying in a historic inn, where you can immerse yourself in the rich history of California. These charming accommodations often feature period furnishings, vintage decor, and warm hospitality. Some even have ghost stories and legends associated with them, adding to the allure of the stay.
  6. Glamping Tents: For a blend of luxury and nature, glamping tents provide a unique and comfortable camping experience. These spacious canvas tents are equipped with real beds, stylish furnishings, and often have access to shared facilities like bathrooms and communal kitchens. Enjoy the beauty of the outdoors without sacrificing comfort.

These unique and quirky accommodations in California offer a chance to create lasting memories and a truly one-of-a-kind stay. Whether you’re looking for a secluded treehouse getaway, a retro Airstream adventure, or a historic inn with a story to tell, these accommodations provide a delightful departure from traditional lodging options.


Budget-Friendly Options

Exploring California doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of budget-friendly accommodation options available throughout the state, allowing you to experience the beauty and attractions of California without sacrificing your wallet. Here are some of the top budget-friendly lodging options:

  1. Motels and Motor Lodges: California is dotted with affordable motels and motor lodges that offer basic yet comfortable accommodations. These establishments provide all the essential amenities for a convenient stay, such as clean rooms, private bathrooms, and parking facilities.
  2. Hostels: Ideal for budget-conscious travelers, hostels are a great way to meet fellow travelers and save money on accommodation. California has a wide selection of hostels throughout the state, providing affordable dormitory-style rooms, shared kitchens, and communal spaces for socializing.
  3. Vacation Rentals: Consider renting a vacation home or apartment, especially if you’re traveling with a group or planning an extended stay. Vacation rentals often offer more space and amenities compared to traditional hotels, allowing you to save on dining expenses by cooking meals in the provided kitchen facilities.
  4. Camping: California is famous for its stunning natural landscapes, and camping is a budget-friendly way to experience the great outdoors. Whether you opt for established campgrounds in national parks or state parks, or choose more primitive sites in remote areas, camping allows you to immerse yourself in nature at a minimal cost.
  5. Bed and Breakfasts: While some bed and breakfast accommodations can be luxurious and costly, there are also budget-friendly options available. Look for bed and breakfast establishments that offer rooms with shared bathrooms or fewer amenities, allowing you to enjoy the cozy charm of a B&B without breaking the bank.
  6. Last-Minute Deals and Discounts: Keep an eye out for last-minute deals and discounts offered by hotels and online travel agencies. By being flexible with your travel dates and actively searching for promotions, you can secure affordable rates for accommodations that may typically be beyond your budget.

With these budget-friendly options, you can explore California’s diverse attractions and landscapes without straining your finances. Remember to plan ahead, compare prices, and book in advance to secure the best deals. With a little bit of research and flexibility, you can embark on an unforgettable California adventure without breaking the bank.



California offers a wealth of opportunities for a memorable vacation, with its stunning coastline, vibrant cities, breathtaking national parks, and world-class wine regions. When choosing where to stay in California, it’s important to consider your preferences, budget, and the type of experience you’re seeking.


Whether you’re looking for a luxurious beachside resort, a cozy mountain cabin, a quirky and unique accommodation, or a budget-friendly option, California has something for everyone. From the bustling streets of San Francisco to the sun-soaked beaches of San Diego, each region offers its own charm and attractions.


Don’t forget to consider the incredible natural wonders that California has to offer, including national parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, where you can experience the beauty of the great outdoors. And for wine enthusiasts, a visit to the renowned wine regions of Napa Valley or Santa Barbara is a must.


No matter where you choose to stay in California, you’re sure to be captivated by the state’s diverse landscapes, rich culture, and warm hospitality. From the iconic landmarks to the hidden gems, California’s charm knows no bounds.


So start planning your California vacation, considering criteria like location, amenities, budget, and the type of accommodation that suits your travel style. With careful consideration, you’ll find the perfect place to stay that will make your journey through the Golden State an unforgettable experience.


Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway, an exhilarating mountain adventure, or a blend of city exploration and outdoor exploration, California offers it all. Get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime in this diverse and captivating state.