A view of the beach at Post Ranch Inn
Brett Colbert/Flickr

Where to Stay

Where to Stay
Learn more about the fantastic lodging options in the golden state

Whether you dream of a luxury suite overlooking the ocean, a boutique hotel in the heart of a city, a full-service resort, or a serene campsite under the stars, California has the perfect place to spend the night. Book a stay at a major chain almost anywhere in the state, or consider accommodations as distinctive as California itself: handsome stone-and-timber mountain lodges, restored Gold Rush hotels, snug inns, and ultra-exclusive retreats in one-of-a-kind settings. There are also millions of acres of unforgettable parkland where all you need is a tent, a sleeping bag, marshmallows, and a few good campfire stories. And, maybe, a reservation.

California Welcome Centers and local tourism agencies can offer good suggestions for all types of accommodation, including resorts, hotels, and motels.

Hotels & Motels: Hotels and motels are the tried-and-true standard for most holidays, providing a safe, clean, and comfortable place to go to sleep at night. They are important here. Remember, California invented the motel back in the 1920s. Top chains are well represented statewide, and are often located in larger metropolitan areas and near tourist attractions and travel routes. Boutique hotels tend to offer a more intimate and luxuriously stylish environment for visitors. In more rural areas, consider independently owned accommodation, some in historic buildings.

Bed & Breakfasts: California has hundreds of B&Bs, many in historic homes or hotels and a growing number at family-run (and family-friendly) farms, ranches, and vineyards. B&Bs can give a sense of the region's local character, with helpful innkeepers happy to share insider travel tips. Your stay also includes breakfast—imagine, freshly baked scones, fresh eggs, or strawberries from the garden. To reserve a stay at one of nearly 300 B&Bs statewide, visit the California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns (CABBI).

 

Resorts: Certain parts of the state—the Deserts region, coastal communities, mountain resort towns—are renowned for five-star retreats, with many championship golf courses and tennis complexes, spectacular swimming pools, destination restaurants, and elegant spas (often open to the public). California’s celebrated wine regions also have ultra-luxe retreats, with romantic settings, unparalleled farm-to-table cuisine, and, of course, incredible wine lists. Many resorts also offer special activities for children, like movie-and-popcorn nights, so parents can enjoy time alone while their children have experienced childcare. Weddings and reunions can book private event spaces and exclusive catering services. For top resorts statewide, check California Welcome Centers and local tourism agencies.

RVs: You can also rent a house on wheels. RVs are welcome at public and private campgrounds statewide. Below are some resources to try; also check the California Welcome Centers and local tourism agencies.

Camping: In California, camping is everything it should be—pitch your tent under the stars at campgrounds scented with pine trees, next to alpine lakes and desert oases, or on a spectacular stretch of coastline. If “roughing it” isn't your style, try “glamping,” or glamorous camping, in outdoor settings with fully equipped tents or rustic cabins or even Mongolian-style yurts.

 

Or, consider renting a ready-to-roll RV; check individual campsites in advance for any RV restrictions. 

You can also backpack deep into California's expansive wilderness areas—just be sure you have a permit before you head out (check individual locations for permit requirements).



 

Many state and national parks permit camping, although some popular locations such as Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon tend to fill up months in advance, so reserve as early as possible. Federal lands operated by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife, also have thousands of campsites, which are often without crowds, even during the summer months. There are also many outstanding private campgrounds statewide.

 

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Time to hit the road and explore the Golden State

Road Trips

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December
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Dec - Feb
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Mar - May
20°
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June - Aug
24°
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Sept - Nov
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Endless sunshine, amazing cities, best-in-class theme parks, incredible natural treasures—no matter what you want to do and see on your next vacation, California has it. But here's the best part: California has all the iconic destinations you've dreamed of visiting, plus a countless number of incredible off-the-beaten-track experiences. With our exclusive trip itineraries, you can visit bucket-list landmarks like Yosemite, then follow a wine road or visit a craft brewery. Top theme parks, secret beaches, city finds—they’re all here in easy-to-follow road trips that visit every corner of the state. So start dreaming about your next California vacation—and dream big.

Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets
Where to Stay VC_Hero_Manley -1280x642

Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

Where to Stay WildNorthCoast_Stop9_CrescentCity_RF_691599628

The last stop on this spectacular road trip ends at the very last city in California. Only 20 miles south of Oregon, sea-faring Crescent City is home to the northernmost of California’s lighthouse stations. Overlooking the town’s harbor, the 1856 Battery Point Lighthouse, built with 22-inch/56-...

Mt. Shasta by Kodiak Greenwood

Trip 4-6 days 10 stops

Volcanoes to the Sea

Booming Waterfalls, Craft Breweries
Where to Stay Sac_StateCapitol_1280x642

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capitol is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

Where to Stay EurekaCarsonMansion.CourtesyRedwoods.info__2

This lively seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in the handsomely restored, Victorian-era Old Town district, a still-working seaport where crusty fishing boats chug in and out of a protected harbor,...

Trip 4 days 10 stops

California Gold

Whitewater Rafting, Tucked-Away Wineries
Where to Stay Sac_StateCapitol_1280x642

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-...

Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
Where to Stay SierraAdventure_Stop1_LakeTahoe_RF_136930569

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
Where to Stay PaintedSisters_SanFrancisco_1280x642

End your road trip by exploring one of the world’s great cities. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to...

Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
Where to Stay VC_Hero_Manley -1280x642

Start your trip to one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to explore “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
Where to Stay SundialBridge_1280x642

This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

Where to Stay Highway99_Stop1_Bakersfield_BuckOwens_TF7N8A1694

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

Trip 4-5 days 10 stops

Pacific Coast Highway - South

Beach Towns, Iconic Theme Parks
Where to Stay VCW_D_SantaBarbara_Hero_CC_SBarbaraPier_KG_1280x642

Start your coastal cruise in this elegant city hugging the coastal mountains, where classic Spanish architecture gives the region a sun-washed European look straight out of the Riviera. Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera,” may have a burnished antique look of much of the...

Trip 3-4 days 10 stops

Route 66 - The Mother Road

Legendary Highway, California Dream
Where to Stay SantaMonica_BikePath_JoakimLloydRaboff_1280x642_0

Start your trip in this idyllic oceanfront city, surrounded by a 3.5 mile long beach, and feeling more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Car free options, including a shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport (8 miles south) make it a...

Where to Stay VCW_D_DE_T5_Anza-Borrego_Manley-1280x642

On your way to this park, you’ll pass through the little community of Borrego Springs. Stop in at the town’s visitor center to get driving maps to an astounding collection of enormous prehistoric animals—metal sculptures made by artist Ricardo Breceda—that dot the surrounding desert landscape....

Where to Stay VCW_D_NC_T1_RedwoodNP_Manley-sized
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 11 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
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It may measure less than 50 square miles/130 square kilometers, but San Francisco justly ranks as one of the greatest cities in the world. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the  “City by the Bay” is the...

Where to Stay SanDiego_RegionOpener_1280x642 copy

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Southern California

Beach Towns & Big Thrills
Where to Stay LA-GriffithObs-1280x624_0

Your trip begins in California’s largest city. L.A. has nonstop action and things to do, but it can be a challenge to navigate, so planning your trip in advance is a big plus. Start in the coastal city of Santa Monica, with a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and...

Trip 3-4 Days 8 stops

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point

Venture from San Luis Obispo up Highway 1 to discover pristine coastline, small beach towns, and a fabled landmark