From pristine beaches and gorgeous gardens to coastal cities and stunning landmarks, these are the prettiest places in SoCal.
By Annie A.
6 min read
February 16, 2021
There are millions of ways to describe Southern California—opulent, charismatic, captivating, electrifying—but no amount of words can do it justice. Its beaches are inviting, its state parks are compelling, and everywhere else is simply spellbinding. Once you visit, you never want to leave.
While we never get enough of SoCal’s tourist attractions and picturesque spots, the region has a lot more to offer than you might think. With plenty of destinations to discover, here are the most beautiful places in Southern California that stand out.
The Prettiest Places In Southern California
1. Ganna Walska Lotusland
Location: Cold Spring Road, Montecito
Don’t look too hard for beautiful places in SoCal; Ganna Walska Lotusland is where you should be. The nonprofit botanical garden is one of the prettiest gardens in the state—it’s home to over 3,000 local and non-native plants. Featuring a fantastic selection of palms, bromeliads, and cacti, Lotusland features many themed gardens, each more unique than the other.
Stroll through the serene Japanese Garden, explore the different types of succulents at the Aloe Garden, and feast your eyes on the imaginative bushes of the Topiary Garden. There’s no doubt that Lotusland is possibly the most scenic place in Southern California.
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2. Salvation Mountain
Location: Beal Road, Calipatria
Salvation Mountain is one of the most beautiful places in Southern California. The folk-art site was Leonard Knight’s creation—he unified religion, art, and love to create a hillside visionary environment. More than 100,000 gallons of paint were spilled to design the national treasure. Bible scriptures, flowers, bluebirds, and plenty of other vibrant objects are painted on Salvation Mountain.
While some people consider the religious monument a weird place in California, there’s no denying that the colorful testament of faith makes it unique from many other Golden State attractions.
3. Greystone Mansion
Location: 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills
Also known as the Doheny Mansion, the Greystone Mansion is a Tudor Revival-style manor designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann. The imposing estate was given to Edward “Ned” Doheny, Jr. by his father. Situated on 16 acres of land, the luxurious residence boasts 55 rooms—it was regarded as the most expensive home built in the Golden State, costing more than $4 million to complete.
As one of the prettiest places in Southern California, the Greystone Mansion is regularly used as a film location. The L.A. treasure is also a public park and open to everyone wanting to explore its stunning terraced gardens and admire its grandeur.
The Most Beautiful Beaches In Southern California
4. La Jolla Cove
Location: 1160 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla
San Diego is home to many of the most beautiful beaches in California, with La Jolla Cove taking the lead. The small and picturesque cove is not only a popular swimming spot, but it’s also one of the most desirable places for snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.
La Jolla Cove’s waters are usually rich in local marine life; the orange Garibaldi, sea lions, and seals are commonly seen here. Whether you want to take advantage of the calm waters to practice your swimming or simply spend the day lounging by the coast, one thing’s for sure—La Jolla Cove will take your breath away.
5. El Matador State Beach
Location: 32200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu
If you’re going to watch the sunset in Southern California, head over to El Matador State Beach for unparalleled views of the sun falling below the horizon. As one of the three beaches located within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador is abundant with geological features that enhance its beauty.
You’ll see many people sunbathing, snorkeling, swimming, birdwatching, and taking pictures of the stunning scenery. The long stretch of sand along with its sea caves and colossal rocks make it a must-see when spending a weekend in Malibu. Pay a visit to the most beautiful beach in Southern California, and you won’t regret a single minute of it.
Beautiful Cities In Southern California
6. Newport Beach
The coastal city of Newport Beach is an Orange County paradise with a charming small-town feel. Home to the best beaches in the county—Corona del Mar State Beach, Pirate’s Cove Beach, China Cove, and Balboa Peninsula Beach—Newport Beach is the ultimate destination for surfing and sunbathing. The city is recognized for its luxury shopping and fine dining, too.
What makes Newport Beach so special is the fact that it manages to transport you back to the 1950s surf-rock era while providing modern amenities to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Regarded as one of the most scenic and beautiful cities in Southern California, Newport Beach immediately captures your heart and soul.
Some might think that Solvang doesn’t really belong to California—the extraordinary village looks like it belongs in a fairytale. Dotted with Danish-style architecture, Solvang was founded by Danes who came to the West Coast to establish a community away from Midwestern winters. Now, the quaint town continues to carry the legacy of the Danish immigrants who created the charming destination.
Just like in storybooks, Solvang offers a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants that provide a taste of Europe in the Golden State. It’s no surprise that you’ll come across a statue of the illustrious Little Mermaid and the bust of Hans Christian Andersen here. If anyone ever asks where the prettiest place in Southern California is, the answer is always Solvang.
Beautiful Parks In Southern California
8. Crystal Cove State Park
Location: 8471 North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach
Over three miles of beach and more than 2,000 acres of wilderness comprise Crystal Cove State Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Southern California. The stretch of coastal cliffs and beachfront cove is mainly visited by mountain bikers, swimmers, hikers, scuba divers, and surfers. Crystal Cove State Park is truly paradisiacal—whether it’s the wooded canyons complementing the sandy beaches, everything here is in harmony.
When exploring the state park, you’ll come across the Crystal Cove Historic District, featuring 12.3 acres of beachfront cottages overlooking the ocean. With over 180 different species of birds and plenty of natural wonders, this underrated state park is definitely worth visiting.
9. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Location: 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the wildest stretches of land on the SoCal coast with the most breathtaking views you’ll ever behold. The 2,000-acre coastal park is home to the critically endangered Torrey pine, which only grows here, north of San Diego County, and on Santa Rosa Island.
As one of the most beautiful places in Southern California for hiking, Torrey Pines offers eight trails that differ in terms of length, difficulty, and scenery. Admire the park’s high broken cliffs and deep ravines on headlands that overlook the deep Pacific. Trust us, you’ll want to add this stop to your La Jolla weekend itinerary.
Nice Places In Southern California
10. Mission Santa Barbara
Location: 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara
Mission Santa Barbara, also known as the “Queen of the Missions,” is recognized for its iconic double bell towers and verdant gardens. The remarkably beautiful Spanish mission was established in 1786 and is still an active parish church. With the imposing Santa Ynez Mountains serving as the backdrop, Mission Santa Barbara transports you back in time as you explore the church. Fascinating 17th-century relics and artwork keep the mission’s history alive.
Whether it’s the delicate architecture or the colorful gardens of Mission Santa Barbara captivating you, one cannot deny that the church is one of the nicest places in Southern California—this is one California mission you shouldn’t miss.
11. Algodones Dunes
Location: Sonoran Desert, Imperial County
Sandy beaches, fantastic state parks, and wonderful mid-century modern architecture define SoCal, but places like the Algodones Dunes are the ones that truly blow your mind. The expansive sand field stretches 40 miles north from the U.S.-Mexico border and creates the nation’s largest dune system.
If the vast pile of pure golden sand seems familiar, it’s because the dunes were featured in Flight of the Phoenix, Resident Evil: Extinction, and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. The Algodones Dunes are mesmerizing, magnetizing, bewitching—the great, uncharted erg is the most beautiful place in Southern California.
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- Anaheim. ...
- Joshua Tree National Park. ...
- Palm Springs. Palm Springs. ...
- Ojai. Ojai Valley, California. ...
- Avalon, Catalina Island. Catalina Island Casino, Avalon, Catalina Island. ...
- Big Bear Lake. Big Bear Lake. ...
- Laguna Beach. Credit: Jon Bilous/shutterstock.com. ...
- San Diego. Credit: Bigstock.com.
1. San Diego. Boasting more than 90 diverse museums and nine fascinating art districts, San Diego is the perfect vacation spot for art and culture enthusiasts. You can also look forward wonderful beaches, water sports, and limitless fun activities for families.
1: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the top attractions in California. This gorgeous wilderness rests along the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its granite cliffs and waterfalls are the kind of beauty that only exists along America's West Coast: immense, majestic, and breathtaking.
Concord is named the “happiest” city in America, according to a study by HouseFresh. The city was also named the “smiliest” in the country. For both categories, San Francisco cracked the top 20 with a ranking of 15th. No other California city cracked the top 20 in either the “happiest” or “smiliest” categories.
- San Diego. ...
- Irvine. ...
- Riverside. ...
- Lake Arrowhead. ...
- Palm Springs. ...
- Long Beach. Long Beach is one of the most popular coastal cities in SoCal. ...
- Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is a very laid-back coastal city. ...
- City of Orange. The city of Orange in Orange County has one of the most beautiful Old Towne Districts in all of SoCal.
Ventura in Los Angeles is an affordable California beach town to live in if you want to be somewhere with beautiful views and charming weather. Some other inexpensive coastal cities to live in California are Long Beach, San Pedro, and Eureka.
Rancho Santa Margarita is located in Orange County, ranking as the #1 safest city in Southern California and the #2 safest city to live in in the state of California as a whole.
So who is smartest, according to the study? San Jose and San Francisco are among the top 10 most-educated cities among the 150 surveyed by personal finance website WalletHub, according to the report.
Coronado Beach is considered by many to be the prettiest Southern California beach. The clear blue waters, white sand shoreline, and iconic sunsets make Coronado Beach one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California.
Los Angeles is the most visited city in California. Tourists visit the city to see Hollywood and explore the downtown Los Angeles attractions and world-famous restaurants.
- The Getty Center. 14,634. Speciality Museums. ...
- Alcatraz Island. 55,836. Historic Sites • Islands. ...
- USS Midway Museum. 25,305. ...
- Pacific Coast Highway. 1,670. ...
- Disney California Adventure Park. 15,659. ...
- Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. 9,383. ...
- Monterey Bay Aquarium. 14,345. ...
- Santa Barbara County Courthouse. 2,988.
- The richest city in California is Los Altos Hills. ...
- Located in Silicon Valley, Los Altos Hills has 8,000 residents, many of whom work in tech. ...
- The second wealthiest city in California is Woodside. ...
- The third wealthiest city in California is Hillsborough.
Celebrities can be found in all kinds of places in the US and abroad, but the highest concentration of famous people is still in Hollywood Hills.
- Eureka. The cheapest place to live in California is Eureka. ...
- Stockton. Stockton is another cheap place to live in California. ...
- Clovis. A quiet, medium-sized city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Clovis is just outside of Fresno. ...
- Sacramento. ...
- Vallejo. ...
- Redlands. ...
- Murrieta. ...
Most Common Places People Migrate from California
Texas is currently the number one destination state for those leaving California.
While most millionaires live in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area houses the wealthiest communities, and Los Altos Hills is the richest city, Santa Clara is the current titleholder for the state's wealthiest county.
The Top Five Cities That Californians Are Moving To
- Dallas, TX.
- Austin, TX.
- Seattle, WA.
- Phoenix, AZ.
- Houston, TX.
- Rancho Santa Margarita.
- Aliso Viejo.
- Yorba Linda.
- Laguna Niguel.
- Mission Viejo.
Hillsborough is the safest city in California. A small, affluent city of 11.5K in the San Francisco Bay area, Hillsborough notched a very high 0.89 score in our Safety Index due to a very low violent crime rate of 0.69 per 1,000 inhabitants and an even more impressive 6.07 property crimes per 1,000 residents.
In 2019, California's 5 cleanest cities for PM2. 5 pollution were, Yucca Valley (3.4 μg/m3), Lee Vining (3.6 μg/m3), Twentynine Palms (3.9 μg/m3), Los Gatos (3.9 μg/m3), and Blythe (3.9 μg/m3) respectively.
A: Oxnard or Ventura is the cheapest place to buy a home in Southern California near the beach.
Cheapest Places to Live in Southern California: Bakersfield
The cost-of-living index is 97, 3% cheaper than the rest of the country. If you're looking for the cheapest places to live in Southern California, Bakersfield is an excellent choice. The median home cost is $285,000, and the average rent is $1,073.
9 Small Towns In Southern California That Offer Nothing But Peace And Quiet
- Fallbrook. ...
- Ojai. ...
- Idyllwild. ...
- Wrightwood. ...
- Running Springs. ...
- Green Valley Lake. ...
- Julian. flickr/TICO. ...
- Oak Glen.
Sacramento: one of the safest places to live in California
That is pretty cheap for California! Sacramento is also set near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which are perfect for hiking, rafting, camping, and exploring the wilderness.
- Thousand Oaks.
- San Luis Obispo.
- Grass Valley.
- West Virginia.
- Rancho Santa Margarita.
- Yorba Linda.
- Mission Viejo.
- San Ramon.
- Los Gatos.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the violent crime rate in California was 441.2 per 100,000 residents while it was 5 percent lower in Texas at 418.9 (FBI, 2020 ). In contrast, the property crime rate in Texas was slightly higher at 2,390.7 per 100,000 versus 2,331.2 per 100,000 in California.
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Warm days are abundant in San Diego, which is why it takes the number one spot on this list. Even during the hottest months, San Diego's high temperatures reach a comfortable 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures hover around a cool 66 degrees during the coldest months.
Juniper Research has ranked Shanghai as the world's number-one smart city for 2022, after an evaluation including aspects such as transportation and infrastructure, energy and lighting, city management, and technology and urban connectivity.
Pink Sand Beach: Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach is located inside Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur California. The beach has unique, purple sand that is washed off of the impressive rock formations that line the beach. The purple tint of the sand is not always visible, though it is most obvious right after a rain.
- Manhattan Beach.
- Venice Beach.
- Santa Monica Beach.
- Zuma, Malibu.
- Royal Palms State Beach, San Pedro.
Warmest water – The ocean off Newport Beach and at Avalon on Santa Catalina Island typically heats up to 70 degrees F (21 °C) in August. Highest temperature year round – Long Beach has an annual daily mean of 65 degrees F (18 °C).
Video taken last month in Pacifica, located in the Bay Area, shows the illuminated waves. The natural phenomenon also happens in Southern California. The waves make for a stunning sight, but the algae blooms can be toxic to marine life.
Glass Beach is a beach adjacent to MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg, California, named from a time when it was abundant with sea glass created from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of the town.
Situated on the shoreline of the Pacific, Moonstone Beach is a truly unique beach that is a beautiful and memorable place to visit! Moonstone beach lives up to its namesake, and it is so named due to the shiny gemstones that can be found over the entire area.
Coronado Beach is also the safest beach in California for swimming. Towards the shore, the waves are very gentle, the waters are usually calm and clear that you can easily see what you're stepping on. It also features numerous lifeguard stations, making the area safer.