California is one of few places in the world with perfect weather and with that, they can offer a wide range of different outdoor activities, which I love, and in this post I will talk about some of my favorites!
My first recommendation when visiting California is two split your trip into two, one trip to Nor Cal (Northern California) and on to So Cal(Southern California).
Why? Well it’s a big state (almost as big as Sweden) and most things to do are separated by long distances. IF you really want to see as much of California as you can in one trip, then I would suggest going on a road trip along the coast! Read more about that here: Californian Road Trip.
In this blog post I will talk about what to do in Northern California!
1. Harley Riding along the coast
You might have heard many people talking about road trips along the coast of California and there is a reason for that! The roads along the coasts are amazing and beautiful; at some points you can see eye-catching cliffs and stunning beaches.
A different ride. IF you are interested in the regular highway 1 from LA to SF then check out this post. But if you want to be different than everyone else, I would suggest jumping on a Harley and riding along the northern coast where you will find stunning sceneries of giant cliffs and redwood trees.
Start by rent a motorcycle anywhere near San Francisco or visit Eagle rider where you can plan either your own tour or join a guided one. I would suggest going from San Francisco along the coast up to Fortuna and then back through the redwoods to San Francisco (see more on the map below). This trip will take you about 8 days and you will find a lot of different dining options as well as sights along the way – Find more info about this tour here.
Renting a bike: 120 – 250 USD/day
8 days tour package including bike and stays: 1,440 USD/person
2. Wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa Valley
As you might know, there are some really good wines in the US! Really? Yes, even if many Swedes think the US only has cheap beers and junk food 😉 California has a lot of great food and wines.
In Northern California there are two popular wine regions about 1 hour north of San Francisco that I would recommend. Napa Valley and Sonoma, they are both fairly similar.
The biggest difference is that Napa is a bit more explored with bigger events and tours while Sonoma is a bit smaller and laid back with a lot of outdoor activities. Napa is more famous for its exclusive wine tours with limousines and 5-star hotels while Sonoma is famous for bike-tours, where you can grab lunch on the road and stay in tents.
In Napa you can choose to do a wine tour with a fancy limousine, car, with a bike, or simply just take the trolley or train. There is a lot to choose from whatever your demands are. One thing to have in mind is that all wineries charge you for every glass of wine, which might be different from the European wineries.
Car/Limousine tour: 60 – 150 USD
Trolley: 99 USD
Bike tours: 160 USD
Bike rentals: 45 – 90 USD
The same goes for where to stay, you will find everything from small cottages, to luxury hotels and B&B. Some of them offers tours as well but I would do some researching before going.
100 – 500 USD / Night
Napa has around 6 wine districts with a lot of different wines, the trick is to find the most unexplored and hidden ones; Artesa is one of those spots that’s high on many peoples lists.
Same as in Napa you can also choose to do a wine tour with a fancy limousine or a car but it’s more common and a better experience according to me to take a bike tour or jump on the trolley.
Trolley: 99 USD
Bike tours: 140 USD
Bike rentals: 30 – 80 USD
Sonoma also offers all kind of lodging but you will find more Inns and B&B than Spas and Hotels. The prices in general are a lot cheaper than Napa so you can still find affordable 5-star hotels.
Prices: 100 – 500 USD / Night
Again, you have many different wine districts with a lot of different grapes, but one thing that I liked about Sonoma is that you can also find a lot of alternative wineries like Robledo’s that’s owned by a Mexican. Robledo has a Mexican look and feel to it which adds to its charm and is a welcome alternative for those seeking something different in a winery.
Interested in Wine tasting in Marche, Italy? Then read here.
3. Surfing in Santa Cruz
If you love outdoor activities, this is something you can’t miss! Santa Cruz has surfing for all kinds; beginners, SUP-ers(Stand up Paddle Boards) and advanced surfers. This is definitely something that is a big part of the Californian culture and Santa Cruz is a great spot for it!
Besides surfing in Santa Cruz, you will find laid back atmosphere with bikers, skate boarders and beach people hanging out at local spots watching the waves with a beer in their hand. The Boardwalk is a great sighting as well, it has all types of unique clothing stores and cafes with organic smoothies and fresh food that’s worth checking out. You can definitely feel the skate/surfer vibe in the entire city!
Beaches to surf at: Cowells and Capitola are for beginners with small breaks and recommended for longboards. Steamers Lane is the most famous surf spot for really advanced surfers, and the same goes for Mavericks, but that’s about 40 minutes away from Santa Cruz.
Surf board rentals:
Only a board: 25-20 USD per day
Board with 2 hour lesson and wetsuit: 90-100 USD
4. Hiking in Yosemite Park
You can’t visit California without visiting Yosemite National Park, if you are not a typical nature fantast, that’s OK but at least go and check it out – it’s amazing. Visit Yosemite for the nature, watch the giant trees raise to the sky or the waterfall fall from the mountains.
There are several activities to choose from, Hiking, Camping, Biking, Rock climbing and horseback riding. You choose what you like the most or combine some of them and just enjoy the scenery. You can either choose a guided tour or if you dare to explore the park yourself!
The most advanced and famous Hike is the hike up Half Dome, which you need a permit for but it’s worth it. It’s a very steep hike that rises nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, and when you near the top, you only have a small chain to hold on to as you walk up a 30 degree rock. It’s exhilarating if you are not too scared of heights.
Bike rentals: 12 USD/hour or 34 USD/day
Hiking tours: 20 USD – 75 USD / day
Whats your favourite activity in California? Let us know in the comments below 🙂