Courtesy of Travel California
Experience the majesty of California’s great outdoors with these exhilarating vacation ideas
California is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world, with opportunities to spot all types of cetaceans up and down the Pacific coast. One of the best spots to experience the majesty of these beautiful beasts is in Mendocino, three hours north of San Francisco. From November through April, the California gray whales migrate from Alaska to Mexico and can be spotted along California’s northern coast. Book a tour with Telstar Charters or All Aboard Adventures (both in Fort Bragg) to see the whales up close. The exclusive Sea Drum House at the Inn at Newport Ranch will provide peaceful privacy at the day’s end. Watch for spouts as you relax in your outdoor hot tub overlooking the ocean.
At the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, you too can get a taste of the action. (Fun fact: Harry’s brother William, the Duke of Cambridge and second in line to the throne, played here in 2011.) The spectator season runs from May through October, while an “Intro to Polo” clinic is held on Saturday mornings year round. Tuck in for the evening at the lavish Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara, or keep your vacation on an equestrian theme by renting a covered wagon at Rancho Oso Guest Ranch & Stables.
Death Valley National Park, home to one of the darkest skies in California, is the ultimate place to stargaze in the United States. Stay at the Inn at Death Valley, a remarkable oasis in the middle of the desert, complete with golf courses and spring-fed pools. After the sun sets, head to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to pick up a planisphere. From there, Harmony Borax Works is only a short drive away and offers an ideal vantage point for taking in the sparkling sky.
A fabulous backdrop for any adventure, Autocamp in Guerneville is the sort of rugged-meets-romantic experience anyone would seem to relish. Tucked in the redwoods-filled Russian River Valley 90 minutes north of San Francisco, Autocamp offers high-end glamping options that include Airstream model suites and airy canvas tents. Chic interiors, spa-style bathrooms, and cozy fire pits make for a luxurious retreat after a day of exploring.
At the luxe Terranea Resort near Los Angeles, visitors can witness a remarkable on-site falconry program at work. Guests learn about how the birds fend off seagulls, and get to participate in a flight demonstration and meet-and-greets with the owls, hawks, and raptors (private tours are available).
Experience the geological drama of an active earthquake fault with an off-road adventure courtesy of Desert Adventures’ Red Jeep Tours in Palm Desert. Ramp up the adventure by booking the sunset tour to witness burnt orange and deep pink hues outlining the cuts and canyons. Settle in for the night in a private bungalow at the exclusive L’Horizon Resort and Spa, a favorite destination of U.S. presidents, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and other Hollywood golden-era royalty.
Secluded, off-the-grid, and surrounded by breathtaking wilderness, the immersive Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School in Forks of Salmon offers two things anyone will love; adrenaline rush and privacy. This thrilling camp in California’s northeast corner provides surprisingly plush amenities, including farm-to-table meals featuring produce from the on-site garden. Opt to recover from a week of Salmon River paddling with a massage or a soak in the hot tub.