Beyond Disneyland and Hollywood, the coastal state of California has plenty more to see. Although the state's plush hotels and resorts may make you never want to leave, take a moment to breathe in the fresh ocean air and you'll feel instantly invigorated to start exploring the wonderful wineries, national parks, rugged mountains and cosmopolitan cities of California...
Hiking & Biking
With a landscape incorporating the glacier-carved valley of Yosemite, mountainous coastline of Big Sur and the enigmatically empty Mojave Desert, you could lace up your hiking boots and walk for days in California. The Golden State's 1.6 million acres of state park - along with nine National Parks - comprise hiking routes in abundance, leading you through steep-walled canyons, beneath towering redwood trees and into bubbling natural hot springs. If it's pedal power you prefer, you won't be alone. California is a cyclist's paradise; whether it's off-the-beaten track routes through the wilderness or a casual city cycle along the beachfront, it's the best way to travel. Easily reached from Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas, Greater Palm Springs is Southern California's most storied desert oasis, characterised by long sunny days and spectacularly starlit nights. Traverse the alluring desert dunes and granite monoliths of Joshua Tree National Park or the incredible slot canyons surrounding the San Andreas Fault Line, before retiring amongst the rugged mountains and pretty palms at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage.
Bixby Bridge, Monterey
Yosemite National Park
Family cycling in California
Further north, unearth the plunging waterfalls and granite grandeur of Yosemite National Park, idyllic for hiking and biking! A twelve-mile loop of paved paths guides cyclists around the 1,000-square-mile park, while hiking paths lead you into the wilderness to find bountiful waterfalls and budding wildflowers. Amid the swathes of evergreen forest, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is the perfect mountain retreat; you can even join the daily nature hike if you simply haven't tired of the scenery! If it's a movie-worthy finale you're looking for, venture along one of the three trails which lead to the iconic Hollywood Sign. Wander amongst the Santa Monica mountains and take in the fragrant wildflowers before you arrive at the look out, where you'll be rewarded with views of the sign, bustling downtown Los Angeles, and on a clear day, the cobalt blue Pacific Ocean.
Wine Country Charm
Approximately 85% of all U.S wine originates from California, with the state housing 3,000-plus wineries, from boutique, family-owned cellars to big-name wine makers with vines seemingly sprawling as far as the eye can see. Since the state's first vineyard was planted in 1779, wine-tasting has become one of California's must-do activities, and with so many award-winning labels and lesser-known tipples to taste, we're not surprised! Just a short drive from San Francisco, you'll unearth the grapes and vines of the notoriously alluring Napa Valley. Hop aboard the 100-year-old railcars of Napa's vintage Wine Train and relish polished, personal service and a gourmet, multiple-course meal onboard, or roam the region's wineries on foot and bask in the golden hue of the warm, afternoon sun. For those wishing to spend a night or two amongst this naturally beautiful setting, wine enthusiasts are warmly welcomed at Meadowood Napa Valley's two-hundred-fifty-acre estate, a quaint venue for tastings by nearby vintners and grapegrowers and home to one of only two, three Michelin-starred restaurants in the region.
Nearing double Napa Valley's size is Sonoma County, where world-class wines are only the beginning. Sonoma's slower-paced lifestyle means there's more time for picnics paired with Pinot Noirs, touring the gastronomic gems of the Sonoma Palaza and meeting with fourth- and fifth-generation wine-producing families, to discover how their tipples have travelled through the ages. An authentic, yet luxurious taste of life in Sonoma Valley, Farmhouse Inn's exclusive Winery Partner Programme promises guests privileged access to the finest Sonoma wineries, providing a taste of the finest tipples and epicurean delights with bespoke tours led by an expert sommelier.
Step outside your plush hotel and you'll find local life thriving in California. The Golden State's multitude of cities see residents intermingled with visitors on every street, equally enjoying the star-studded culture and authentic activities of this ever-diversifying destination. Set on a seven-by-seven-mile peninsula, San Francisco is a city of sights; from cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and riding the world's last manually operated cable car system, to strolling through the streets of Chinatown and across the pier at Fisherman's Wharf, there's plenty to pack in. Hidden away at the heart of it all is urban oasis, San Francisco Botanical Gardens - 55 acres of extraordinarily beautiful plants and flowers from around the world. If you prefer boat trips to blooms, make the short hop across water to Alcatraz Island, where you'll learn more about the former federal prison's history and previous inhabitants.
Golden Gate Bridge
Santa Monica Beach
In Southern California, Los Angeles is buzzing with activities and adventures. You're never far from celebrity culture in L.A., but you're never closer than when in Hollywood. Stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where more than 2,000 of entertainment's most illustrious names are immortalised, or venture to neighbouring Beverly Hills and indulge with shopping and street art on the equally eminent Rodeo Drive and Melrose Avenue. Although it's encircled by the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, if it's chilled out, coastal city culture you're looking for, Santa Monica is the place to be. Famed for palm-lined streets, golden beaches and, of course, the photogenic pier, it's the perfect detox from the hustle and bustle. Try living like a local and experience the active, SoCal lifestyle; try your hand at paddleboard yoga, hit the surf breaks or simply take a sunset jog along the sand - you'll feel soothed by Santa Monica in no time.