Santa Barbara: The American Riviera

With oceanfront views, cinematic festivals and fine wine, Santa Barbara has been called the "American Riviera" -- with a twist. The coastal city also comes with a down-home style all its own.

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Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Discover the highest waterfall in North America -- and the sixth largest in the world: Yosemite Falls. At 2,424 feet, the waterfall is a major attraction in the park, located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It’s best viewed in late spring when snowmelt flows most vigorously. 960 1280

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Half Dome

Half Dome

The granite dome in the background is Yosemite’s most popular rock formation: Half Dome. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 feet above the valley floor -- hikers can ascend it with the use of cables. 960 1280

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Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows

Discover this meadowy section of Yosemite along the Tuolumne River. Wild, wonderful plant and tree species to explore include Ross’s sedge, Lodgepole Pine and dwarf bilberry. The area also offers day-hike and camping opportunities (the park service campground is open July through late September). 960 1280

Steve Dunleavy, Wikimedia Commons  

El Capitan

El Capitan

Rock climbers will find few vertical rock formations as challenging as El Capitan (left, background). At one time “El Cap,” which stretches roughly 3,000 feet from base to top, was considered impossible to climb. Today, the most popular route to tackle is The Nose, which follows the rock’s huge projecting front. 960 1280

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Valley View

Valley View

Thank the 145-mile-long Merced River: It’s responsible for carving out the glacial valley known as Yosemite Valley. The valley is about 8 miles long and a mile deep, with an amazing vantage point offered at Valley View. This turnout is located near the park exit, traveling west on Northside Drive. 960 1280

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Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome

Got 3 hours to spare? Take a short hike (2.8 miles roundtrip) up the granite rock formation of Lembert Dome, which rises 800 feet above Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows. Then bask in the satisfaction of knowing you hiked up a real mountain. 960 1280

Ava Weintraub, flickr  

Tunnel View

Tunnel View

Journey along State Route 41 and you’re in for a treat: The viewpoint known as Tunnel View offers a breathtaking snapshot of Yosemite Valley and several of its attractions -- El Capitan, Half Dome and the waterfall Bridalveil Fall (pictured, right). 960 1280

Bala Sivakumar, flickr  

Cathedral Peak

Cathedral Peak

The Cathedral Range of mountains stretch through Yosemite -- and Cathedral Peak is their star attraction. At a height of 10,911 feet, the granite peak was first scaled in 1869 by naturalist John Muir -- perhaps the first person to undertake a class-4 climb anywhere in the Sierra Nevada range (of which Cathedral is a sub-range). 960 1280

Steve Dunleavy, flickr  

Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall

Looking to meet someone special? Head to Yosemite’s Bridalveil Fall. The 617-foot waterfall owes its name to a legend from the Ahwahneechee Native American tribe: They believed that inhaling the mist of the waterfall would improve one’s chances of getting married. 960 1280

Matt Haughey, flickr  

Glacier Point

Glacier Point

One of Yosemite’s best viewpoints is Glacier Point. Located on the south wall of Yosemite Valley, the overlook rises to an elevation of 7, 214 feet -- with great views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall (a 317-foot waterfall) and Nevada Fall (594 feet). 960 1280

Getty Images  

Vernal Fall

Vernal Fall

After an afternoon hike, cool off with the gentle mist sprays from a nearby waterfall. That’s what you’ll experience when you take a 2- to 5-hour hike near Vernal Fall. The hike starts at the Happy Isles trailhead and reaches the base of the waterfall. 960 1280

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Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Visitors look up at one of the largest living things on Earth: a giant sequoia. It’s also one of the oldest. Within Yosemite’s mariposa grove of 500 giant sequoias, visitors will find trees more than 3,000 years old. 960 1280

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Nevada Fall

Nevada Fall

Within a small glacial valley (Little Yosemite Valley), you’ll find Nevada Fall. The 594-foot waterfall owes its name to its location – it’s the nearest waterfall to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Meanwhile, the Native American name for it is Yo-wy-we, meaning “wormy” water, signifying the twists of the falling water. 960 1280

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point arena lighthouse

point arena lighthouse

Marianela gets the 411 on the historic Point Arena Lighthouse from expert William Brown. 960 1280

  

Mendocino County

Mendocino County

Point Arena Lighthouse is located in Mendocino County, CA, 2 miles north of Point Arena. 960 1280

  

fresnel lens

fresnel lens

Marianela checks out the first-order Fresnel lens, worth over 3.5 million and made from over 600 hand-ground glass prisms. 960 1280

  

lighthouse musuem

lighthouse musuem

Some items in the museum have been kept since the lighthouse’s reconstruction in the 1906. 960 1280

  

original lighthouse

original lighthouse

The original lighthouse, constructed in 1870, was destroyed when a devastating earthquake struck the Light Station. 960 1280

  

lighthouse top

lighthouse top

Marianela can’t wait to reach the top of the lighthouse. 960 1280

  

musuem gift shop

musuem gift shop

These unique handmade mirrors are available for sale in the museum gift shop. 960 1280

  

100 stairs

100 stairs

Only 100 more stairs to the top! 960 1280

  

postcard

postcard

Point Area Light looks like it appeared straight out of a postcard. 960 1280

  

california coast

california coast

Marianela and William check out the spectacular view of the California coast. 960 1280

  

symbol of hope

symbol of hope

Many view the majestic lighthouse as a symbol of hope. 960 1280

  

lighthouse keepers

lighthouse keepers

“These (lighthouse) Keepers must’ve really been in shape,” says Marianela. 960 1280

  

tallest lighthouse

tallest lighthouse

The Point Arena Lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouses on the West Coast. 960 1280

  

rocky coast

rocky coast

The lighthouse was built to help ships navigate their way through the rocky coast. 960 1280

  

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

Just 5 minutes from San Diego, this family-friendly beach boasts wide stretches of sand, mostly calm surf and ideal whale watching (January through March). The lifeguards on staff, nearby public facilities and free parking along Ocean Boulevard add to its convenience -- and popularity. Couples can take a romantic walk to the luxury beachfront Hotel del Coronado and sip cocktails on its patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

Tashka/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

La Jolla

La Jolla

You’ll have to leave the surfboards and boogie boards behind, but trust us it will be worth it. La Jolla Cove is the most desired area for swimming, snorkeling and diving; it is ecologically protected, making it a safe home for the bright orange Garibaldi fish (among others species) in the crescent-shaped cove. Called “the jewel” of San Diego, this beach is small, but you’ll find more room to stretch out on the mile-long La Jolla Shores to the north. 960 1280

John Hoffman/ iStock/ Thinkstock   

Sonoma Coast

Sonoma Coast

Sonoma Coast State Beach comprises 13 miles of coastline, stretching from Blind Beach to Bodega Head. It’s dotted with nothing save hidden beaches tucked between the rocky coves and tall bluffs. Follow the Sonoma Coast Trail to visit these secret beaches and take postcard-worthy pictures, #nofilter necessary. 960 1280

Jairo Leiva/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach, founded by the Chumash Indian Tribe, is located in central California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whichever direction you travel from, there’s plenty of activities to keep you here: fishing on the 1,200-foot-long pier, strolling through the Monarch Butterfly Grove, horseback riding along private trails, and exploring tide pools and caves, to name just a few. 960 1280

JB325/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Main Beach in Santa Cruz

Main Beach in Santa Cruz

For most beachgoers in Santa Cruz, Main Beach is where the action is -- complete with restaurants, shops, surfing spots, beach volleyball courts and, of course, a scenic boardwalk and bandstand. If you ask us, it’s just the right amount of Americana. 960 1280

Mitch Diamond/ Photodisc/ Getty Images  

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach Pier

With a location at the end of Main Street and a nickname like “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach evokes a time gone by. The pier (one of the longest on the West Coast), the year-round surf (thanks to ocean swells around Catalina Island) and Ruby’s Diner (the milkshakes are a must) will continue to draw crowds here for years to come. 
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Christopher Riddler/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Our resident beach expert, Marianela Pereyra, can attest to its weirdness, but there’s a reason Venice Beach is world famous. It may bring to mind visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muscle Beach of the ’70s, but let us assure you that the 1 1/2-mile-long boardwalk is still the perfect storm for people watching, street performers and souvenir shopping. 960 1280

Christian Kober/ AWL Images/ Getty Images  

Baker Beach

Baker Beach

To the west of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the rocky serpentine shoreline of Baker Beach. Rip currents make swimming unsafe, but you’re here for the panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge … and maybe to picnic. Just don’t venture too far north unless you’re looking for another kind of scene: the northernmost end of Baker Beach, which attracts clothing-optional sunbathers. 960 1280

Jamairani/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Malibu Surfrider Beach

Malibu Surfrider Beach

Formerly known as Surfrider Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach’s famous right point breaks have made it the most-surfed spot in Los Angeles since the ’60s. Arrive early to find a parking spot and pick a point -- some of the perfect swells due to Surfrider Beach will give you a ride all the way to the pier (a couple hundred feet away). And for non-surfers, the historic wooden Malibu Pier offers excellent saltwater fishing, bird-watching and picnicking. 960 1280

Ryan McVay/ Digital Vision/ Thinkstock  

Dockweiler State Beach

Dockweiler State Beach

Located just west of the LAX runway, Dockweiler Beach is where people come to relax and party. That’s because the 3-mile-long shoreline is the only Los Angeles beach that has an RV park and allows bonfires. S’mores, anyone? 960 1280

Jose Gil/ iStock/ Getty Images  


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