Today’s Featured Guest Writer is Claire Lovesti.
The west coast may be best known for San Fran and LA, but these beachy babies are sure to make any vacation worthwhile.
The big stars of California (L.A., Long Beach, Napa Valley) and bustling cities of Washington (Space needle anyone?) get all the good reviews on TripAdvisor, but when it comes to getting the small town experience to a t, it’s more about the west coast towns that are a little off the radar.
From beautiful northern islands all the way down to Laguna, here are five beaches that are bound to make you lust after a trip out west.
- San Juan Islands, Washington
This archipelago in Washington with a penchant for northwestern landscape and wildlife are literally a sight to behold. From the horseshoe shaped Orca Island to the bustling Roche Harbor on San Juan, there’s plenty to do and see here to make any beach vacation a gorgeous one. For orca whale sightings, head for the national park on Orca Island. For great hiking and kayaking, head for Moran State Park. With accessibility between these islands limited almost exclusively to boats (Anacorte is the only town you can connect to the mainland by bridge), it’s a dream situation where you’re literally cut off from the rest of the world by, at the very least, a charming ferry ride. Stay at the Roche Harbor Resort in your very own town house and grab a bite at Lime Kiln Cafe—it’s a mix of great views and a great breakfast!
- Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach may be Oregan’s less famous beach town, but it gets you out of the way of all of the tourist traffic of Seaside and offers the same excellent beach feel. Haystack Rock is known for it’s killer landscape and beautiful beach atmosphere (also well known for being featured in The Goonies and Point Break) and is a must-see stop on your itinerary, as is Hug Point State Recreation Park with it’s waterfall and excellent hiking opportunities. Arch Cape Inn & Retreat will provide European style architecture (and eco-friendly outdoor excursions) while Cannon Beach Hotel offers the classic New England style B&B with excellent beach views. With a healthy restaurateur selection, I suggest making plans at The Irish Table (worth the wait in line) and Tom’s Fish and Chips for a local, quick bite.
- Monterey, California
Monterey’s claim to fame may have been all the sardine canneries along the coast, but good news for the tourists (and for the smell) Cannery Row is now a waterfront delight that looks like the “Good Ole Days” but is bustling with excellent, modern attractions. Boasting an excellent seaside aquarium, a stellar brewing company (an original Cannery Row beer milkshake anyone?), and a beautiful inn or two, Monterey is the place to go for local culture, flavor, and an authentic West Coast beach vibe that has nothing to do with surfing or getting the perfect beach tan. American classic novelist John Steinbeck wrote of the Canneries in his novel, Cannery Row, and while Steinbeck’s character enjoyed his beer milkshake, I bet any traveller is going to enjoy it more since it’s gotten an upgrade since it’s literary mention in 1945.
- Santa Barbara, California
While Santa Barbara might not be anyone’s idea of a small beach town, it’s undeniable that this charming city by the sea is definitely underrated. From the picturesque boardwalk to the extensive botanical gardens, there’s so much more to do than just enjoy the beach life (and that’s perfectly great for me). This beach town is perfect for travelers who like to get in plenty of cultural stops as well as sun rays, so make sure to stop at Lotusland for an exotic botanical experience, the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park including Native American stone paintings, and Arlington Theatre for a cool, old-fashioned movie theatre vibe.
For fans of a packed itinerary, download the Best of Santa Barbara app from the iTunes store for free and enjoy the limitless options that the city has to offer. Heading to the West Coast from out of town? All non-US travelers can grab a local SIM card for their unlocked iPhone and save on international plans while keeping the same service!
- Laguna Beach, California
While the innuendo of a Lauren Conrad or Kristin Cavallari apocalypse comes along with any mention of Laguna, it’s still the most picturesque little beach town on the California coast. Full of art galleries, fantastic restaurants, and that full-on beach town vibe, this nook previously visited by artists and writers is now a great place for families, couples, and friends to go on vacation. If you’ve got the vacation budget, I suggest a stay at the The Inn At Laguna Beach—crystal beach water views, excellent food and coffee, and just steps away from the main town center of Laguna.
If you’re aiming for a relaxed, off the beaten path vibe, these five choices are sure to give you that beach tan and hang ten vibe—just a word of warning, you may never want to leave!
About the author:
I’m Claire – a self-confessed travel nut. I’ve been traveling around the world since my mum farewelled me in a teary goodbye and I haven’t looked back since. You can read all about my adventures through 48 cities in 26 countries on 4 continents on my blog Traveltio.com.