California’s Central Coast

The Central Coast is made up of the wild coastline and wonderful beaches that California is famous for. In the northern part of the Central Coast, visit beautiful Santa Cruz with its superb beach and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Continuing down the Central Coast visit famous Monterey with Cannery Row and the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium. This eventually leads to the exclusive hamlet of Carmel home to notable celebrities and world-class golfing at Pebble Beach. The waves at Big Sur are legendary and only one of the countless places along the Central Coast that is a paradise for surfers. While here take a look at Point Sur State Historic Park and Lighthouse. Finally, beautiful Santa Barbara is the epitome of a glamorous Central Coast community. Two of many noted attractions here include the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and the Plaza de la Guerra.

Big Sur

Big Sur is located 147 mi (237 km) south of San Francisco, along the Pacific Ocean coast. The term Big Sur generally refers to the town of Big Sur and its surrounding area. The permanent population is considered low, however, thousands of visitors travel to the area each year to watch the grey whale migrations from the Big Sur coastline. The Big Sur International Marathon, held annually in April is the largest rural marathon in the world. Beginning in Big Sur, the marathon track winds through California’s redwood forests into Carmel, which offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Hiking, biking, camping and fishing opportunities are available year-round for visitors to engage in while exploring Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Andrew Molera State Park. The Sand Dollar Beach, which boasts the longest stretch of sandy beach in the area, offers year-round surfing opportunities.


The international styles and individual tastes of Carmel-by-the-Sea residents reflect a community steeped in Bohemian history. Residential districts have no streetlights or sidewalks and many individual homes have no street addresses. The city is a haven for artists, as reflected in the numerous public, commercial and fine art galleries. The Savage Stephens Contemporary Fine Art gallery exhibits only original works by well-established artists, while the Zantman Art Galleries offer art events each month where visitors can meet the artist while viewing their collection. Carmel’s eclectic gardens, courtyards and area artist’s homes are best viewed on a guided walking tour offered by Carmel Walks. The weather is moderate year-round and therefore many outdoor activities are available including scuba diving from Monastery Beach or golfing at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. Guided tours of an 18th-century Catholic mission are available year-round at the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, which was originally constructed in Monterey and relocated to Carmel.


A little piece of California paradise, Monterey is famous as the locale of John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. Located on the site of the major seafood harvesting and canning operations shut down in 1973, Cannery Row today offers numerous tourist attractions, shops, family entertainment venues, and fine restaurants. Found just next to this district is the Monterey Aquarium. Visitors should allow time to experience all of the live exhibits of various species of marine life displayed in their natural habitat. One of the best places to purchase fresh fish is at the working pier named Fisherman’s Wharf, originally built in 1846 to accommodate fishing vessels. Both the Monterey State Beach and Zmudowski State Beach offer such marine-based leisure opportunities as boating, surfing and ocean fishing. Commonly used as an excursion route by the elite in the 1880s, the 17-Mile Drive is a private toll road offering coastal scenery and access to both Carmel and the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is commonly referred to as the American Rivera due to its rich Spanish heritage, cobblestone pathways, red tile roofs, and distinctive architecture. This beachside city is located within the hub of California’s Coastal County, approximately 78 mi (126 km) northwest of Los Angeles. Santa Barbara is recognized as an attractive tourist destination due to its warm climate and breathtaking natural beauty. Carpinteria State Beach and El Capitan State Beach both feature world-class surfing and swimming opportunities as well as regular visits by seals and sea lions. Additional animal encounters in their natural environment are provided by the Santa Barbara Zoo. The city’s most noted landmark is Stearns Wharf. Serving freight and passenger shipping needs since 1827, the wharf was built on the longest deep-water pier in the county and currently boasts a wide variety of restaurants and merchants. An abundance of sightseeing services offers various tours for visitors throughout the year, exploring Santa Barbara’s varied landscapes natural environment.

Santa Cruz

Averaging more than 300 sunny days a year, Santa Cruz is an ideal destination for beach lovers and surfers. The city is located roughly 70 mi (113 km) south of San Francisco and 30 mi (48 km) from San Jose. Known alternately as Surf City, it is reputed that this was where Hawaiian royalty first introduced surfing to mainlanders. Pleasure Point Beach and Cowell Beach are popular locations for surfers, not only for the size of the surf but also because the sandy beaches provide favorable conditions for playing beach volleyball and relaxing by a bonfire. Another popular local attraction is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. One of the West Coast’s remaining seaside amusement parks, the Boardwalk’s features include roller coasters, a 1911 Looff carousel and a mini-golf course. California’s longest working and recreational wharf, the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, offers pier fishing, dining and entertainment opportunities as well as water equipment rentals.

Sights & Attractions

Biblical Garden
Founded in 1904. Stained-glass windows in the sanctuary depict Biblical and local scenes. Park features include Gaza St. Galy mosaic, sundial on a granite boulder, mosaic cross in the garden, and a 32-rank pipe organ. The garden contains trees and plants mentioned in the Bible and indigenous to the Holy Land. A worship service is held each Sunday 10 am. Address: Lincoln Street & 7th Avenue Carmel By The Sea CA USA

Carmel River State Beach
The mile-long beach offers fishing, hiking trails, wildlife viewing and features a bird sanctuary in a lagoon just prior to the Carmel River feeding into the ocean. Swimming and wading are considered dangerous along this stretch of beach, although scuba diving is quite popular. Monastery Beach, also known as San Jose Creek Beach, is part of this area. Address: Carmelo Street Carmel-by-the-sea CA USA 93921

Carmelita Park
Carmelita Park is a typical Carmel style, in that it hides the entrance to a 100-car parade and makes the area aesthetically pleasing. The small inner-city park is located across from the post office and presents a good place to read a book or take a break. Address: Dolores and 5th Avenues Carmel By The Sea CA USA

Garrapata State Park
Garrapata State Park is located in Carmel, CA. Fishing and hiking are popular at this coastal park, in addition to nature viewing. The park has two miles of beachfront with coastal hiking and a 50-foot climb to a view of the Pacific Ocean. The park also offers diverse coastal vegetation, with trail spanning from the beach to dense forest groves. Soberanes Point rewards hikers with a view of sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters, during their migration. Address: 8 scenic road Carmel CA USA

Mitteldorf Redwood Preserve
The preserve protects 1100 acres of redwood and oak forest and meadows. The area is available for day retreats and the lodge is available for overnight stays with Reservations required. The BSLT organization’s land stewardship program has taken on the continual task of preserving and improving the Mitteldorf Redwood Preserve.

Mission Trail Nature Preserve
This park has been a nature reserve for over 30 years and encompasses 35 acres of native vegetation. The preserve has designated public access through walking and hiking trails that wind through the area. Rare examples of remaining native natural flora are found in the wooded area within the park. Fires are prohibited anywhere in the park and visitors are requested to stay on the trail, so they may avoid any encounters with poison oak. Address: Mission St at 11th Carmel By The Sea CA USA

Monastery Beach
Part of Carmel River State Beach, Monastery Beach is located on the south side of Carmel State Beach. Monastery is a popular site for scuba diving, however, is recommended for skilled beach divers. Swimming is highly dangerous and discouraged due to hazardous currents and low water temperatures. Address: Highway 1, south of Carmel River

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Visit one of the many great exhibits like the ‘Mysteries of the Deep’ which has one of the largest collections of deep-sea animals, or the Splash Zone with its hands-on activities for the kids.
Tel 1 831 648-4888. Address: 886 Cannery Row | Monterey, CA | 93940

Plaza de La Guerra Santa Barbara
Plaza de La Guerra, in the heart of Santa Barbara, features historic Casas de La Guerra, restaurants, shops and City Hall. The Plaza is home to numerous festivals and events throughout the year.
Address: De La Guerra Street between Anacapa Street and State Street | Santa Barbara, CA

Point Lobos State Reserve
The entrance to the reserve is located three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. The reserve opens daily at 9am and there is a limit to the number of cars that are allowed to enter. Visitors must exit by 5pm. Permission to scuba dive, guided walks, picnicking and more are authorized at the main gate. Point Lobos derives its name from the offshore rocks at Punta de los Lobos Marinos. This area boasts over 250 different animal and bird species and over 350 plant species. Address: 8 scenic drive Carmel CA USA 93923

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Experience thrill rides, and a 1911 Looff carousol, lazer tag, video games and mini-golf. Summer hours are 11:00am – 11:00pm. Hours vary in the fall. Tel 1 831 423-5590. Address: 400 Beach Street, | Santa Cruz, CA | 95060

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