From beautiful smooth sand beaches with bright turquoise water to snow-capped mountain peaks and endless desert views, we've gathered up our top picks we think you'll love. Whether you'd rather be lounging with a cocktail in hand, adventuring up the side of a mountain (or maybe both), there's something for every type of traveler here. Let's check out the most beautiful places in California.

Artist’s Palette: Death Valley 

Price: $25 park entrance fee

Location: Artist’s Drive, CA

Why You Should Go: You can drive through 9 miles of beautiful rainbow-colored mountains.

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Thousand Steps Beach

Price: Free to visit

Location: 31972 Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA

Why You Should Go: You can swim in beautiful ocean pools and explore a beach cove.

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Alabama Hills 

Price: Free

Location: Alabama Hills, CA

Why You Should Go: You can hike amidst stunning rock formations that literally look out of this world.

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Emerald Pools

Price: Free

Location: Emerald Pools Trail, Nevada City, CA 

Why You Should Go: You can swim in amazing clear blue pools. Chances are, you'll get it all to yourself.

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La Jolla Shores

Location: San Diego

Price: Free

Why You Should Go: You can swim or snorkel with leopard sharks in the beautiful waters of La Jolla Shores. 

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Seven Sisters Waterfall

Location: Murray Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 

Price: $9 per adult

Why You Should Go: You can swim in a secret swimming hole surrounded by massive, shaggy palm trees. 

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Mist Trail

Price: $30 park entrance fee

Location: Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, CA

Why You Should Go: This short hike will give you the most gorgeous views of rainbow waterfalls and the surrounding Yosemite Valley.

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Gaviota Hot Springs

Price: $2 for parking

Location: Gaviota Park Boundary, Goleta, CA 

Why You Should Go: You can soak in relaxing turquoise blue hot springs that feels like a jungle oasis

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Pfeiffer Beach

Price: $10 cash park entrance fee per vehicle

Location: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

Why You Should Go: You can explore an actual purple sand beach in California. 

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When a state is this diverse, how do you possibly narrow down the best spots? Our answer is taking a road trip and find your favorites.


We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.


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