There are hundreds of honeymoon destinations in California, from the rolling hills of Napa Valley to the ecologically pristine Catalina Island. You can find sandy beaches, coastal sunsets, secluded forests, and fine dining in one exciting state: California.
If you prefer your California honeymoon to be less about exploring and more about romance, California has that covered, too. You can spend the afternoon in the shade of a willow tree in a Japanese tea garden, or snuggle at a cozy table for two while you sample wines along the central coast.
As one of the largest states in the country, with more than 840 miles of coastline, different cities can feel like entirely different worlds, and you can see and visit dozens of unique places in California in a relatively short amount of time.
Here are some of the best honeymoon destinations in California.
San Diego is one of the most romantic places to visit in California, and you’ll see why after spending a few days wandering its charming neighborhoods, exploring the inviting coastlines, and lazing the afternoon away in a cozy Japanese tea garden.
Start your California honeymoon with an adventure in La Jolla, an elegant and friendly neighborhood just a few minutes north of San Diego. There’s more than enough to do here for couples who want to have some fun in the sun.
One of the most popular activities in La Jolla, one of the best small towns in California, is snorkeling right off the beach, where you can often see sharks in water just a few feet deep. Don’t worry—the sharks prefer crabs and fish to people. It’s often possible to see sea turtles and large schools of fish, too.
Prefer to spend your time on the water, rather than in? Go kayaking for the chance to see dolphins, seals and sea lions, sea birds, and even whales. Be sure to look up as you paddle, since the cliffs above La Jolla are a popular hang gliding destination for adrenaline junkies.
On your second day in San Diego, make plans to visit Little Italy, one of San Diego’s most lively and active neighborhoods. It’s a wonderful spot for a romantic food and wine tasting tour.
Within Little Italy, you’ll find gelato and coffee shops, traditional restaurants serving family-style meals, and modern wine-pairing bars and brewery tasting rooms. While you can certainly visit this part of the city for an evening meal, tasting your way through the neighborhood may be a better option.
Finally, don’t visit San Diego without making at least one trip to Balboa Park. If your idea of the perfect California honeymoon brings to mind relaxing with a picnic lunch, exploring artisan goods at a street fair, or sitting down to a romantic afternoon tea in a Japanese tea garden, you’ll love sprawling Balboa Park in San Diego.
The park is downright massive, with more than a dozen museums, multiple restaurants, several gardens (including a botanical garden and tea garden), and numerous venues for everything from Shakespeare plays to world-class concerts. Whether you want to stroll through a museum or find a shady nook under a tree to enjoy homemade ice cream, you can do it in Balboa Park.
Read: One Day in San Diego
Exploding with culture, fun, and romance, San Francisco is a truly unique blend of luxury, modernity, and a free-spirited artistic way of life. There’s so much packed into and around the city, from its bustling Chinatown to the picturesque vineyards in the surrounding area.
Read: One Day in San Francisco
When visiting San Francisco, set a day aside to recreate the magic of vintage train travel in Napa Valley, America’s wine capital. Napa is one of the most romantic honeymoon destinations in California, with charming wineries and tasting rooms that seem made for romance.
Explore this top California wine region via the Napa Valley Wine Train, a train with a series of antique Pullman cars retrofitted to create an ambiance of the luxury train travel of yesteryear.
Once you set foot on the train, the entire experience is completely stress-free, from the gourmet meal served on board to the wine you’ll taste along the way. For couples, there’s nothing more romantic than curling up together on a plush sofa as you sample fine wine and watch the rolling hills of Napa Valley pass by.
Once back in the city, set aside at least one night for a date night out in the city. One of the most romantic things to do in San Francisco is hopping on a double-decker bus for an evening light tour of the city, passing through world-famous California Street and the even more famous Bay Bridge.
Not to be confused with the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge is adorned with a permanent 500-foot-tall light installation that creates an absolutely beautiful image when the light shimmers and bounces across the bay. Most light tours include time to stop at the bright and colorful Fisherman’s Wharf for an evening cocktail or stroll along the pier.
If you have an extra day in San Francisco on your California honeymoon, plan a day trip to Muir Woods. it’s is one of California’s most impressive natural treasures, and it makes an excellent honeymoon destination when you’re in the San Francisco area.
Just north of the city, Muir Woods is in lush and seaside Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge. The park is home to ancient redwood trees, some of which are close to 1,000 years old and tower nearly 300 feet into the sky.
Walking through the reserve and standing in the shadow of these giants is an experience that’s hard to recreate anywhere else in the country. There are six miles of trails available, ranging from flat boardwalk trails through the woods to longer dirt trails into less crowded areas of the park.
If your idea of the perfect honeymoon involves relaxing with your honey under a shady canopy, be sure to put Muir Woods on your must-see list.
Monterey has been romanticized since the 1920s when bohemian artists and authors first drew inspiration from its seaside cliffs and stunning natural beauty.
One of the most unforgettable things to do in Monterey is to experience a part of the world-famous 17 Mile Drive. This stunning coastal drive goes past some of the most beautiful coastlines in northern California like Spanish Bay, the picture-perfect Lone Cypress, and Pescadero Point.
This section of Monterey is genuinely a scenic wonderland, and it’s hard not to feel the romance as you watch waves crash on the shore and seabirds land on twisted cliffside pine trees.
Once back in town, grab your sweetie for a stroll along historic Cannery Row and the fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the world. The sprawling aquarium and research center is home to some of the most extensive exhibits of Pacific Ocean wildlife in the world.
You can see sharks, penguins, sea otters, and a magnificent exhibit on rare jellyfish that will leave you just as excited and impressed as the kids next to you. The aquarium is also a leader in ocean conservation efforts, so environmentally conscious couples will find the research exhibits fascinating.
Near the aquarium, you’ll find locally-owned seafood restaurants, bakeries, quirky souvenir shops, art galleries, wine shops, and tasting rooms. This part of Monterey offers a fantastic blend of nostalgia, culture, and easy access to the beach, so try to find at least an hour or two to stroll hand-in-hand during your California honeymoon.
Perhaps no city in the state is more well-known than Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood and the embodiment of California’s sun-loving beach culture.
Venice Beach has a freewheeling Bohemian spirit that you won’t find anywhere else in Los Angeles. On the Venice Beach Boardwalk, the two of you can browse quirky boutiques, sample excellent beachside restaurants and bars, and enjoy unbeatable access to one of the best beaches on the West Coast. This is also where you’ll find the shady and romantic Venice Canals, which actually give the neighborhood its name.
You can stroll hand-in-hand along the 1,300-foot-long walking path on the pier, browse art, knick-knacks, and souvenirs from street vendors, or watch some of the most talented street performers in the country display their skills. Make room to sample some of the sweet treats from Turn Dough, an ice cream shop famous for its decadent ice cream sundaes served in donut-style cones.
If you’re loving spending time strolling in the sun, plan an afternoon date at the Santa Monica Pier. Get tickets for the West Coaster, a seaside roller coaster with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.
Snuggle up in a car on the 130-foot-tall Pacific Wheel, the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. At Santa Monica’s Pacific Park, you can also engage in a bit of friendly competition, testing your skills on vintage games like Whack-a-Mole and Ring Toss.
There’s more to Santa Monica than just the pier. The beaches are beautiful, there’s an upscale shopping area just a few blocks from the ocean, and Palisades Park is a lovely area for a seaside walk to stretch your legs.
Before you start thinking Los Angeles is all about feeling like a kid again, plan a visit to Laguna Beach. The romantic beachside town is often compared to the French Riviera, and it’s the perfect place to take a seashell-finding walk along the beach or browse the locally owned art galleries.
Stop for lunch at one of the picturesque restaurants overlooking the Pacific Ocean, then head to nearby San Juan Capistrano. The historic mission has acres of gardens and grounds to explore on your own, or with a self-guided audio tour. The Spanish Colonial baroque-style church is one of the most beautiful buildings in southern California.
Catalina Island is one of the lesser-visited honeymoon destinations in California. If you’re lucky enough to visit, you’ll be treated to some of the best natural environments (and ocean views) that you’ll find anywhere on the west coast.
Take some of the most beautiful photos possible in the state along Skyline Drive. The drive will take you up into the interior of the island and away from the crowds while offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also have a good chance of spotting wildlife like bison and the island’s namesake fox.
You’ll notice right away that flora abounds on Catalina Island. Head to Avalon Canyon, home to Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens, and wander the beautiful gardens while soaking in the incredible views of Catalina Island from the memorial terrace.
In the city of Avalon, you’ll find a few small boutiques, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and a high-end beach club perfect for couples who want to split a pitcher of margaritas with their toes in the sand.
In Santa Barbara, you’ll find a laid-back ambiance that makes for the perfect California honeymoon destination. Most of the city’s architecture is in a Spanish-colonial style, and the city’s nearly perfect weather is thanks to its Mediterranean-esque weather patterns. If there’s any place in California to take it slow and enjoy your time as a newly married couple, this is it.
Though Napa Valley may be known as one of the best wine regions in California, it’s certainly not the only one, and wines from the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara have won more than their fair share of prestigious awards. If you want to go wine tasting on your California honeymoon but don’t plan to head to Napa, consider a day trip to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.
The valley is home to 120 wineries, many of which are family-owned and operated. When you visit the wineries and tasting rooms, you’ll often get to speak directly with the owner or vintner, which offers a level of intimacy you won’t find at some of the more well-known wine regions in the state.
To safely enjoy as many vintages as you’d like, it’s best to book a tour. That way, someone else can focus on driving while you focus on finding your perfect cheese-and-wine pairing.
While strolling through downtown Santa Barbara, stop by the Santa Barbara Courthouse. A government building might not sound romantic, but it’s actually quite stunning, with a sunken garden filled with native desert plants like succulents and aloe.
Be sure to head up to the courthouse clocktower for the best view in the city. You can take an elevator or stairs to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of Santa Barbara.
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