How to Plan an Unforgettable California Honeymoon
With cliff-lined sandy beaches, stunning redwood trees and mountains galore, a California honeymoon offers epic scenery worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Rent a car and drive from Southern to Northern California, soaking up the views and experiencing top-notch shopping, museums, restaurants and wineries along the way. Here's everything you need to start planning the perfect California honeymoon.
Is California Good for a Honeymoon?
Thanks to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mojave Desert, redwood forests, and bluffs and beaches abutting the Pacific Ocean, California's natural beauty is gorgeous. Not only can honeymooners appreciate the majestic landscape, but they can also hike, bike, surf, sunbathe, swim and otherwise relish the outdoors.
After days spent outside, newlyweds can dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, enjoy pampering spa treatments, see artistic masterpieces, visit wineries and stay at luxurious hotels. The balance of nature and culture makes for an indulgent, satisfying and romantic vacation.
Pros of a California Honeymoon
Since the state is so large, it offers an abundance of activities and places to visit. From cosmopolitan and super high-end spots to rustic and economical ones, California offers options for everyone. Couples can do everything from wine tasting to kayaking. The state is also easy to access, with tons of direct flights into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
Cons of a California Honeymoon
"The only real con to honeymooning in California is trying to see and do it all in one trip," says Reco trip designer Cathy Udovch. "The state is just too big for that." Since the options can be overwhelming, couples need to limit themselves to exploring only a portion of the state (such as San Francisco and the wine country north of the city). Otherwise, they should allot 10 or more days for their honeymoon so they can visit both Northern and Southern California. Newlyweds should also be aware that the primary tourist areas—like Los Angeles and the Napa Valley—can be quite pricey.
The Best Times of Year to Go on a California Honeymoon for Good Weather
"California really is a year-round destination," Udovch says. Since the weather in Southern California is warm all year long, couples can plan their trips for anytime. On the other hand, Northern California gets somewhat wet and cold in the fall and winter.
Places to Visit in California on a Honeymoon
If newlyweds can swing the time, they should consider exploring the entire state, driving on the narrow and windy State Route 1 from north to south.
Misty and charming, this town couldn't be more romantic and photogenic. Stay at a bed-and-breakfast and decompress surrounded by seaside vistas.
Characterized by the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and cable cars, the hilly City by the Bay should be a bucket-list destination. Explore the Victorian architecture, hike the trails along the Pacific coast, shop for produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and eat at famed restaurants. Don't miss Golden Gate Park, especially the gorgeous and serene Japanese Garden.
Head to Napa or Sonoma County (or both), north of San Francisco. Visit wineries and take in the dramatic scenery, with neat rows of grapevines and mustard-flower-covered hills in the spring. Consider a hot-air balloon ride for the choicest views, take a mud bath in Calistoga, and make reservations at award-winning restaurants.
Yosemite National Park
Located east of San Francisco, this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Sierra Nevada Mountains includes 1,189 square miles of protected land. Couples can hold hands while navigating the hiking trails and encountering waterfalls, valleys and giant sequoias.
Renowned for its clear water and mountains on all sides, this large freshwater lake divides California and Nevada. Head to the beaches and ski resorts, and don't miss Vikingsholm, a mansion built in 1929.
Set between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this rugged stretch of coast is misty and romantic. As you drive along State Route 1, you'll encounter a bounty of state parks.
Located about two hours south of San Francisco, this picturesque coastal town is heavy on charm. Take in the storybook cottages and visit the galleries and boutiques on the picture-perfect main drag.
Visit this beautiful beach town known for being home to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe. Drive on the windy roads of the Montecito section to peep at estates.
This spread-out metropolis is dynamic and sophisticated. Drive along Hollywood Boulevard to see the TCL Chinese Theater, footprint courtyard and stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Udovch says. View the city from the rooftop telescope at the Griffith Observatory, stroll on the boardwalk in Santa Monica, and hit the boutiques on Rodeo Drive.
The Newport Coast
Visit this high-end area for Disneyland and resorts with championship golf courses. Art lovers should experience the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters, which runs from the end of June to the end of August, Udovch says.
Located a couple hours east of LA, this laid-back town offers an abundance of golf courses, beguiling desert landscapes, retro architecture and a renowned film festival.
Head to this coastal city 17 miles from the Mexican border to eat authentic tacos, visit a world-class zoo and kick back at the many beaches. Staying on Coronado Island (just minutes from downtown) offers a beach experience plus Art Deco architecture, Udovch says.
Things to Do During a California Honeymoon
California offers some of the most renowned art museums and galleries in the country. Don't miss the Getty Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in LA and the de Young and SF MOMA in San Francisco.
Exercise in Nature
Bike in wine country; rollerblade on the Venice Beach boardwalk; hike at Yosemite or Joshua Tree National Park; and surf in the waters off San Francisco. To truly experience the grandeur of California's natural spaces, couples can stay at resorts inside national parks, Udovch says.
Try Acclaimed Restaurants
San Francisco, Los Angeles and wine country all offer a wealth of Michelin-starred dining rooms. To experience the height of gastronomy, reserve The French Laundry in wine country and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco.
Pretend you're an A-lister and stop by the boutiques on Rodeo Drive in LA. In San Francisco, pick up artisanal items at shops along Union Street or in the hip Mission District.
Best Hotels and Resorts in California for a Honeymoon
This resort set within a winery boasts two outdoor swimming pools with vineyard views, a restaurant overseen by a Michelin-starred chef, and rooms with fireplaces and private terraces.
Situated on Coronado Island in San Diego, this elegant and classy hotel offers guests unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean and beach, Udovch says.
Located atop cliffs near the ocean in La Jolla, this property boasts a championship golf course.
Overlooking the Salt Creek surfing beach, this spot is ideal for honeymooners who crave water sports. Nearly all rooms offer ocean views. Take surfing lessons or tour the galleries in nearby Laguna Beach.
Situated in a canyon across the Pacific Coast Highway, this sustainable resort is home to a golf course.
A luxury property overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Newport Beach, this resort includes private bungalows and villas plus a vast saltwater pool. Its championship golf course has 36 holes, nearly all with ocean views.
Just steps away from the Santa Monica Pier, this beachfront hotel dates back to the 1920s. Rooms include mahogany beds and hydrothermal massage tubs.
This Los Angeles hotel sits on a 12-acre oasis and offers a spa, a large pool and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.
Tucked away in the hills overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean, this property first opened in 1918. Along with charm, couples will find bungalows and a lily pond full of turtles.
The first hotel from the Fairmont brand, this property sits atop tony Nob Hill. With some of the best views of the city, the hotel includes a large rooftop garden and the famous Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar.
This luxury oceanfront hotel features a 36-hole golf course, a spa with 16 treatment rooms and a coed, candlelit Roman mineral bath.
For couples seeking pampering, check out this property's 40,000-square-foot spa with private whirlpool tubs and European-style bathing rituals. The property also includes three pools fed by underground springs.
What to Pack for a California Honeymoon
Bring a light jacket, an umbrella and a raincoat for fall and winter travel, especially if heading to Northern California. Even in the summer, you'll need a light jacket for San Francisco evenings. Although the state tends to be relatively casual, tote stylish attire if you plan to dine at high-end restaurants in LA or San Francisco.