Between work commitments and family life, it can be hard to keep the romance alive in a relationship. But a short vacation could be all that's needed to give your love life a little boost. Whether you're celebrating a milestone moment like an anniversary, hoping to rekindle the romance, or are even planning to propose, California has hundreds of gorgeously romantic destinations that are perfect for couples. If you want to feel closer to your partner than ever before, check out our pick of the 20 best romantic getaways in California.
20. San Francisco
Romantic getaways and big cities aren't always a marriage made in heaven, but San Francisco is one of the exceptions. With its colorful Victorian-era homes, stunning views over the bay, charming neighborhoods like Pacific Heights and Nob Hill, and incredible collection of parks, cultural venues, and beaches, it's got everything you could ever want or need for a few days of loved-up bliss. Chief highlights not to miss include the majestic Golden Gate Bridge (visit at night when it's illuminated), the many trails that wind through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the incredible assortment of fine-dining spots scattered across the city (Embarcadero, Waterbar, and Peruvian La Mar come particularly highly recommended, although part of the fun is discovering your own special spot).
19. Big Sur
As discoverbigsur.com says, the perfect itinerary to California’s Central Coast is not complete until you visit Big Sur. If you're looking for a romantic getaway, it's even more important to factor it in. A 70 mile stretch of rugged coastline that runs between Carmel and San Simeon, it's one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Soaked in myth, rich in legend, and blessed with some of the most breathtaking scenery you'll ever see, it's nothing short of glorious. Some of the most unmissable attractions and activities include a hike along the scenic coastal trails in Point Lobos State Reserve, a dip under the Salmon Falls, and a spa treatment at the renowned Esalen.
18. Laguna Beach
As visitlagunabeach.com says, the artist colony of Laguna Beach is one of Orange County’s hidden gems. Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, it's home to over 20000 acres of protected wilderness, making it perfect for duos looking for adventure. Along with 7 miles of sea caves, beaches, natural tide pools, bluffs, and coves, there are also hundreds of miles of hiking and biking opportunities, lush green hills, and dozens of wildlife sanctuaries. Accommodation options are extensive - if you want to push the boat out on something extra special, you can't go wrong with the Montage Laguna Beach, a sumptuous resort with four restaurants, a spa, a salon, several shops, and a fitness center.
17. Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore gets much less publicity than a lot of other destinations in California, and that's just how it likes it. The 71,028-acre park preserve in Marin County is gloriously untouched by tourism - if you're looking for utter tranquility, this is the place you'll find it. According to Wikipedia, all of the park's beaches were listed as the cleanest in the state in 2010. They're still looking pretty sparkling now. Along with the beaches, there are waterfalls, trails, quiet meadows, and hundreds of different wildlife species. Lodging options are fairly thin on the ground, but the luxurious Olema House Point Reyes comes highly recommended.
Sausalito is packed with shops, restaurants, and waterfront parks to enjoy. Located just a stone's throw from the Golden Gate Bridge and within striking distance of the beaches and hiking trails of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, it's got plenty of things to keep loved-up couples entertained. If you're looking for a romantic dinner for two, Scoma's Sausalito, an Italian seafood restaurant set on an idyllic spot on the water comes highly recommended, as does the Barrel House Tavern, another waterfront spot offering a fine line in contemporary California cuisine. To round off your stay, book a night at the wonderfully romantic The Inn Above Tide, which, as its name implies, sits directly above the water to give incredible panoramic views over the bay.
Located just an hour's drive from San Francisco is Sonoma Wine Country, a relaxed, scenic place full of rustic charms and picturesque beauty. Spend your day enjoying the offerings of the region's winemakers, farmers, and farm-to-table restaurants, before retreating to your hotel to indulge in cocktails, spa treatments, and a touch of unadulterated luxury. To inject an extra touch of romance into your trip, book a stay at the Farmhouse Inn, an elegant, exceptionally comfortable lodging complete with a plethora of luxurious flourishes, including a nightly turndown service with cookies and milk, oversized fireplaces to snuggle up in front off, jetted tubs and fresh flowers.
As Trip Advisor writes, Ojai is brimming with small-town charm and creativity. Tucked away in a scenic valley just 75 miles north of LA, it's bristling with galleries, locally-owned boutiques, quirky cafes, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, biking, rock climbing, tennis, and horseback riding. All in all, it's the perfect place for a rejuvenating, romantic retreat.
13. Yosemite National Park
As Roadtripping California says, if you're looking for a serene escape into nature, you can't go wrong with Yosemite National Park. The setting is sensational, crowds are minimal (if you pick your trails wisely, at least) and there are loads of photo opportunities. To get the most out of the experience, book a cabin in the park to enjoy a cozy night under the stars.
12. Santa Catalina Island
As eastcountymagazine.org notes, Santa Catalina Island is the perfect romantic getaway. Known as “The Island of Romance,” the island, which is an easy ferry ride from San Pedro, offers endless opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Stroll the beach, watch the whales and dolphins play, picnic under a canopy of trees, discover your own secluded cove, explore the botanic gardens, rent a tandem bike and explore the shoreline, book a couple's massage at one of the many day spas... the list goes on.
11. Palm Springs
Palms Springs has it all. There's the scenic desert landscape, and then there's the bustling city. If you're craving the kind of romantic getaway where you can escape into nature in the morning, hit the shops at noon, and enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner in the evening, it's perfect. Accommodation options are extensive, but for something truly romantic, steer away from the expansive resorts and choose an intimate option like the Korakia Pensione, a gorgeously chic boutique resort with a dreamy set of amenities and a faultless location in the heart of Palm Springs.
10. Paso Robles
Located in the very heart of Central California wine country, Paso Robles is perfect for couples looking to experience some fine food, great wine, and plenty of breathtaking scenery. The downtown is packed with wine tasting rooms, quirky little boutiques, and enticing food stores (be sure to grab some cookies from the Brown Butter Cookie Company). Once you've finished soaking up the delights of the city, jump in the car and head out to one of the 200 plus wineries scattered around the surrounding countryside.
9. Lake Tahoe
Boasting more than 72 miles of shoreline, Lake Tahoe is the perfect place to enjoy some relaxing one on one time with your partner. The lake is huge, exceptionally clear, and perfect for outdoor adventure. The forested mountains that surround it are ideal for hiking and skiing, while the lake itself offers endless opportunities for fun, whether that's sailing, paddleboarding, or cruising. You could even take a hot air balloon ride to enjoy it from the skies. You'll have no trouble finding suitable lodging; Harrah's Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino, The Ritz-Carlton, The Landing Resort & Spa all come particularly recommended.
8. San Diego
Named as one of the best romantic getaways in California by budgettravelbuff.com, San Diego is ideal for couples looking for a fun, lively destination brimming with fun activities and attractions to enjoy. Located in an idyllic position on the Pacific Ocean, the city offers stunning beaches, a vibrant downtown, delicious seafood, and glorious all-year-round weather - everything, in fact, that you could wish for on a couple's escape.
With its lovely beaches, lively downtown, and enticing collection of wine tasting rooms, gardens, restaurants, and museums, Santa Barbara has all the ingredients of a first-class romantic getaway. Browse the art galleries, indulge in a little retail therapy at the Paseo Nuevo shopping complex, get creative with the interactive exhibits at MOXI, or take a romantic stroll through the wildflower meadow at the beautiful Santa Barbara botanic garden - regardless of what floats your boat, the one thing you won't do is run out of romantic things to enjoy.
As US News says, Malibu is well known for being a refuge for the rich and famous. But while there's plenty of huge houses scattered around the shoreline, there's a lot more to this seaside community than rich residents and celeb hangouts. Scattered with isolated little beaches and within easy reach of incredible state parks like Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, and Point Mugu State Park, it's ideal for couples looking to find their own secluded slice of the coast. Key spots not to miss include the ocean views on the Paseo Miramar Trail and the pocket beaches of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach.
For couples looking to escape the city and enjoy some of the most sublime scenery in California, a trip to Mendocino comes highly recommended. Its striking cliffs, lush headlands, and sweeping panoramas are hard to beat. Start your adventure at Mendocino Headlands State Park before taking a stroll down the Big Rover Trail to check out the beaches and bluffs. After that, head for the Russian Gulch State Park or Mendocino Woodlands State Park. When it comes to places to stay, you'll be spoilt for choice. If a night of camping under the stars appeals, try the Mendocino Grove, a very luxurious glamping site with a bocce court, hammocks, a bathhouse, yoga classes. and complimentary coffee and chocolates.
4. La Jolla
Located just 15 miles north of San Diego is La Jolla. An upscale oceanfront community with relaxed vibes and sensational scenery, it's ideal for couples looking to indulge in gourmet restaurants, sunset strolls along the beach, spa treatments, and a taste of pure indulgence.
If you're on a tight budget but still want to enjoy a romantic getaway with your partner, book a trip for two to San Luis Obispo, a place cuddlynest.com ranks as one of the most affordable romantic getaways in California. With its charming small towns, Spanish-influenced architecture, incredible food scene, verdant mountains, and endless vineyards, it's got everything you need to enjoy some quality time with your significant other.
Carmel's small-town charm and stunning location on the Pacific Ocean make it a prime destination for couples. Its pick and mix approach to architecture is delightful - expects thatched, Tudor style cottages mixed in with Spanish style stores and Mediterranean courtyards. Chain restaurants are officially banned, so expect plenty of unique little eateries like the European bistro-inspired La Bicyclette, the Italian-influenced La Balena, or the fabulously upscale Aubergine. When you're not tucking into some delicious food, take a sunset stroll along the lovely Carmel beach or check out the delights of the gorgeously secluded Carmel River State Beach.
1. Napa Valley
What says romantic getaway like wine, food, and stunning scenery? Napa Valley has all three in abundance. Home to a whopping 475 wineries and around 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, it's ideal for couples who want to indulge their inner glutton. Key spots to check out include La Toque, Kenzo Napa, and, of course, the iconic three-star French Laundry in Yountville. When you're not treating your belly to some fine food and even finer wine, feast your eyes on the scenery - with lush rolling hills, scenic valleys, and tranquil vineyards, it's the perfect recipe for some special moments with your partner.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn