Raise your hand if you’ve scrolled through Instagram this past week and saw some influencer lounging by an enviable beach. If you’ve been dying to plan your own dreamy getaway, the vacation you’ve always wanted could be closer than you think. Did you know that you can find clear blue water in California?

This list takes you through scenes of beautiful beaches, steamy hot springs, and a few tucked-away gems that are often overlooked.

Lake Tahoe

Price: Varies by the campsite 

Location: Lake Tahoe, California 

Why You Should Go: This beautiful NorCal city offers various scenic hiking trails, campsites, and turquoise water you won’t believe.

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Russian Gulch State Park

Price: $8 car entrance fee (see here for full details)

Location: CA-1, Mendocino, California

Why You Should Go: This beautiful state park offers three miles of a leafy canyon along the rocky coastline. Inland, you can find a 36-foot plunging waterfall among the redwoods. 

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McWay Falls

Price: Free parking on Highway 1 or $10 via Falls Trail

Location: Highway 1, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California 

Why You Should Go: You’ll see amazing views of an 80-foot turquoise waterfall cascading onto the beach. 

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Big Pine Lakes 

Price: Free

Location: Big Pine, California

Why You Should Go: You can hike to 7 glacier lakes and see multiple waterfalls on this beautiful trail.

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Laguna

Price: Free to visit (metered street parking)

Why You Should Go: There are 27 different beaches to explore within the city of Laguna. Thousand Steps, Victoria Beach, and Treasure Island are a few of our favorites.

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Catalina Island

Price: An adult round-trip ferry ticket costs $74.50. 

Location: Catalina Island, California 

Why You Should Go: This beautiful California island looks like the south of France! You can zipline, hike, and take a glass-bottom boat tour in beautiful, lush surroundings.

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La Jolla Cove

Price: Free

Location: 1100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, California

Why You Should Go: You can spot tons of adorable seals cuddled up on the coves here and the water is so blue! In the summer, you can snorkel with leopard sharks.

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Gaviota Hot Springs

Price: $2 for parking

Location: Gaviota Park Boundary, Goleta, CA 93117

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

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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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