In This Article
California is the third largest state in the U.S., spanning diverse regions that boast incredible scenery. The Golden State is home to sandy beaches, coastline cliffs, mountain peaks, desert views, and acres of vineyards. It’s also home to picturesque national parks and more than 100 state parks.
So with such a varied range of options for beautiful backdrops and exciting activities, it's no surprise that experts tout California as an ideal honeymoon destination. “The sheer size of the state makes it possible to go from city to beach, to mountains and vineyards all in the course of a single trip,” says luxury travel expert Amina Dearmon. “What makes California romantic is not only the environment and surroundings like gorgeous golden hours, but also the fact that it’s a hub for great dining, wine, and spas.”
Whether you’re searching for adventure, hoping for an itinerary filled with wine tasting, or dreaming of a relaxing wellness retreat, you’ll find it all in this storied and romantic west coast destination.
Meet the Expert
- Amina Dearmon is a luxury travel expert and the owner of Perspectives Travel, a SmartFlyer affiliate.
- Henley Vazquez is the co-founder of Fora, a modern travel agency.
Ahead, find tips from travel experts on how to plan the romantic California honeymoon of your dreams.
Planning Your California Honeymoon
Choosing California as your honeymoon destination is always a good choice, and how you spend your time comes down to the variety of activities and scenery that the state offers. “Because the state is so large, there’s a perfect location, itinerary, and vibe for every type of couple, during any time of year,” says Henley Vazquez, co-founder of Fora. You can rent a car and turn it into a road trip, or choose one resort as a home base for a relaxing stay.
Lovers of nature and the outdoors will be able to explore a number of different regions by hiking on the hundreds of trails in national parks, strolling past mountain lakes, and walking among the towering redwood trees. “Urbanites can take advantage of LA’s vibrant shopping, gastronomy, and art scenes. Surfers should head to Santa Cruz or Malibu, whereas wine enthusiasts should flock to Napa and Sonoma,” adds Vazquez. And with four beautiful seasons, you can visit any time during the year depending on your desires.
When to Go: California is a year-round destination depending on your preferences for activities. “SoCal tends to get busiest during the summer, from June to August. Spring (April and May) is peak wildflower season for the state’s higher elevations,” says Vazquez. “Vineyards are especially beautiful in early fall as temperatures start to cool. And of course, November to early March is best for skiing and snowboarding.”
How Much Time to Spend: One to two weeks will allow you to experience a variety of California’s stunning destinations, or to truly immerse yourself at a relaxing resort.
Getting There: Travelers can drive from nearby states or fly into major airports including Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Sacramento International Airport.
Transportation: Depending on your plans and where you’ll be staying in California, renting a car may be your best bet. This will allow you to explore the many destinations throughout the state.
Must-Pack: Packing will depend on your planned activities. If you’re heading out wine tasting, don’t forget a sun hat. If you’re planning to hike, you’ll want to bring along appropriate footwear and outdoor gear. Sandy SoCal beaches call for a bathing suit and suncreen. Be sure to bring layers, as the climate changes drastically throughout the state.
Places to Stay During Your California Honeymoon
From boutique hotels in bustling Los Angeles to resorts nestled on the cliffs of Big Sur, these are our favorite honeymoon hotels in California—with expert insights into what makes them so romantic.
The Beverly Hills Hotel
Whether you’re landing in Los Angeles for the start of a road trip, or making the metropolis your destination, The Beverly Hills Hotel offers five-star accommodations. “This spot for Hollywood’s brightest lights, the ultimate beacon of glamour, greets you with posh rooms, stellar service, and an array of activities,” says Vazquez. Choose a suite or bungalow, utilize the spa and pool, and wander through the hotel to discover hallways that double as art galleries.
La Serena Villas
Head to sunny Palm Springs and tuck in at La Serena Villas, a unique historic property. Choose from a variety of different room designs with a modern-meets-vibrant color scheme. Rooms come complete with outdoor bathtubs on private patios. Soak in the boho vibe at the on-site rooftop lounge or head out for a walk to explore downtown.
Rosewood Miramar Beach
Head north of LA to spend time on the beach. Rosewood Miramar Beach offers an on-site spa, multiple pools, and waterfront dining. “The hotel’s accommodations feature beach and garden suites that offer lots of privacy and feel like a luxurious home away from home,” adds Dearmon.
Napa Valley boasts countless, stunning properties with impeccable vineyard views. Dearmon suggests Stanly Ranch, which opened in 2022. “It feels like it was built with honeymooners in mind,” she says. “The spaces feel light and airy, but the private fire pits, outdoor showers, and access to on-site vineyards make it a destination that honeymooners will want to return to.”
Ojai Valley Inn
Vazquez suggests Ojai Valley Inn for the wellness-inclined couple. “There’s golf, numerous pools and restaurants, an iconic spa, an apothecary, a farmhouse and apiary, shops, and more,” she says. Choose from a variety of accommodation types including luxury suites and penthouses with panoramic views.
Take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge from this property. Cavallo Point previously operated as Fort Baker, but officers’ quarters have now been turned into renovated rooms. Choose a historic room or a more contemporary option. Utilize the spa, explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, or take an on-site cooking class.
Post Ranch Inn
Big Sur is known for its dramatic views, and you can take it all in from Post Ranch Inn. “Between the stunning setting, infinity pools, and spa, there is enough to do on-property to keep couples occupied,” says Dearmon. “But when you’re ready to venture off-site, the guided nature walks and forest mediation make for nice newlywed activities.”
Head to wine country and tuck in for the night at Farmhouse Inn. “This refined 25-room boutique hotel is a celebration of all things local,” says Vazquez. Choose from a barn suite, chic cottage, or farmhouse room. Utilize the spa, enjoy on-site fine dining at the Farmhouse Restaurant, and cozy up together by the outdoor fire pit.
Things to Do During Your California Honeymoon
If there's one thing you can count on about the Golden State, it's that there is no shortage of things to do. Whether you're an outdoorsy couple who wants to hit the hiking trails, wine-lovers in search of your favorite vintage, or urbanites looking for Michelin-star dining, there's definitely something for everyone in this vast state.
Go Wine Tasting
California is known for its incredible wine regions, but they span much more than just the renowned Napa Valley. Fantastic wineries and tasting rooms can be found in Carmel Valley, Temecula Valley, Paso Robles, and more.
Head Out for a Hike
There are countless opportunities for hiking across California’s landscape. Discover trails amongst the Redwoods or choose a hike that leads you out to a seaside vista.
Relax on the Beach
Being on the west coast, there’s no shortage of incredible beaches in California. Head to SoCal for wide-open beaches to sit and relax for hours while soaking up the sun.
Drive the Coastline
Driving through open roads and taking in breathtaking views is a great activity to enjoy as a couple. “Rent a car and hit the Monterey Peninsula’s 17-Mile Drive for an idyllic and very romantic coastal ride,” suggests Vazquez.
With sunny weather, there are ample opportunities to tee up. Choose a resort with a golf course or discover beautiful courses such as Cypress Point at Pebble Beach or Santa Lucia Preserve.
Hit the Slopes
If you’re heading to California during the chillier months, you’ll find snow in the mountains. Vazquez says Palisades Tahoe and Northstar are great spots for skiing.
Find Serenity at the Spa
Choose a resort or hotel with an on-site spa, or seek out another wellness space. A couple’s spa treatment is perfect for relaxing.
Explore Museums, Galleries, and Gardens
Whether you’re heading to LA, Palm Springs, or San Francisco, culture enthusiasts will find top spots across the state. Go art gallery hopping or visit the Natural History Museum in LA or wander the California Botanic Garden in San Francisco.
Visit National Parks
California is home to incredible national parks spanning across the state. Top spots include Yosemite, the Redwoods, and Joshua Tree where you can soak in the sights from established viewpoints or head out for a walk for plenty of photo ops.
Try Trail Riding
With wide open spaces, California is the ultimate destination for horseback riding. Try taking lessons together to learn how to ride for the first time or head out for a romantic sunset trail ride.
Where to Eat During Your California Honeymoon
With access to abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, California is a dreamy dining destination. Travelers will find everything from prime seafood and grass-fed beef to incredible side dishes prepared with farm-to-table ingredients.
Ad Hoc + Addendum
While Thomas Keller is known for his sophisticated Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry, Vazquez suggests this casual but refined comfort food option as a great alternative. Ad Hoc + Addendum is just down the street in Yountville offering a four-course menu that’s served family-style and changes daily. Find American comfort food favorites from Keller’s childhood packed with flavor.
Flour + Water
Vazquez recommends this top spot in San Francisco for terrific housemade pastas and wood-fired pizzas. The menu at Flour + Water nods to regions of Italy with Northern California flair. You can choose to order from the menu, which changes daily, or try the pasta tasting menu for a unique experience.
For Korean tapas, head to Bansang in San Francisco. Chefs Jin Lim and Ethan Min studied at the prestigious Woosong University culinary school before opening their eatery. “Since the menu highlights tapas, you’re able to share bites and try lots of unique flavors,” says Dearmon. “It feels like a vacation within a vacation.”
Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971 sparking the farm-to-table movement. Restaurant reservations are tricky to get, but Vazquez says if you can snag a table, it’s a must-go. The set four-course menu changes daily depending on seasonal, sustainably sourced ingredients.
“Cozy up next to your new spouse in the leather booth at Cardellino and be prepared for Italian inspired food that’s almost too well presented to eat,” says Dearmon. “With a well edited menu focused largely on steaks and pastas, make sure you save room for dessert.” You’ll also find an incredible wine list focused on Italian wines such as Chianti and Sangiovese.
Come for the food, but stay for the views. Nobu Malibu is a hot spot that has gained a reputation for its open air dining room, incredible seaside patio, and refreshing menu. Enjoy sashimi albacore or octopus, or sit down for wagyu beef with truffle butter.
Rustic history meets elegance at Stonehouse in Santa Barbara. The restaurant is a renovated citrus packing house with a wood-burning fireplace and stunning patio views. Dine alfresco on a menu featuring locally sourced ingredients to create vibrant contemporary dishes.
Budgeting for a California Honeymoon
California offers a choose-your-own-adventure type of honeymoon, with a wide range of options for any couple to enjoy. To budget and plan for the ultimate trip, Vazquez suggests determining what you’re unwilling to compromise on and which aspects of the trip are the most important to you. “Perhaps lodging is top of mind,” she says. “The majority of your budget, then, should be spent on your hotel. Less money could then be spent on tours, restaurants, and other activities.” Renting a car will be an additional expense, but it may offer the option to explore a variety of free parks and beaches. Trying award-winning restaurants or planning days full of wine tasting will be more expensive.