Hikers rejoice! Diamond Head State Monument offers breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu. In fact the view is so good, it was used by the US military as a post for preventing attacks against Honolulu.
The trail takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. While the hike isn’t that long in terms of distance, it can be somewhat challenging due to its ascent. Parts of the trail are over uneven rock, and the 99 steps near the end of the hike are steep. Also, the only water fountains are at the beginning of the trail, so you’ll want to bring a water bottle or bottled water to stay hydrated.
Every year, more than a million people get to swim with the fishes in a marine ecosystem located on the southeast coast of Oahu, 10 miles east of Waikiki. Hanauma (or curved bay) Bay is a former volcanic crater that became a protected marine life conservation area in 1967. Since then, it’s become an underwater park for snorkel enthusiasts, swimmers and anyone desiring to see more than 400 species of Hawaiian fishes including Hawaii’s state fish the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, turtles and other marine life.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open year-round, except for Tuesdays, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Plan to arrive as early as you can or wait until the crowd trickles out in the mid-afternoon. During summer, the state park opens at 6 am and closes at 7 pm. It closes at 6 pm in winter.
Waimea Falls, also known as Waihi Falls, is one of the more accessible falls on Oahu. It is located within Waimea Valley, which is a unique Hawaiian botanical garden within a significant cultural and archaeological site. There is a small fee to enter the park. This is a worthwhile contribution, as the place is dedicated to the preservation of the incredible botanical and cultural features of the area.
Walk among old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the freshwater of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, this primeval forest is both refuge and laboratory, revealing our relationship with the living landscape.
Muir Woods National Monument is world renowned for its old-growth coastal redwoods, attracting over one million visitors each year. With the park’s popularity come pressures on a fragile ecosystem representing more than 380 different plants and animals.
The incredible diversity of flora and fauna at Muir Woods can be daunting sometimes, elusive at other times. The redwoods themselves dominate the scene, but the Steller's jay often steals the show. Ladybugs clustering by the thousands on ancient horsetail ferns boggle the imagination, while the slimy banana slug is able to disgust and fascinate all at once. Plants adapt to low light levels on the forest floor, while whole plant and animal communities bustle in the canopy above our heads.
Another San Francisco beach located near an old fort. Fort Funston a rugged beach with crashing surf at the bottom of 200 foot cliffs, just south of Ocean Beach. Very popular with dogs, as well. When the winds are blowing, you'll see hang gliders soaring from the cliff tops.
At the western tip of San Francisco, jutting out into ocean, is Lands End: a nature park of steep cliffs with beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. It has a small, rocky beach, called Mile Rock Beach, accessible from the Coastal Trail. Wonderful beach to walk to.
Golden Gate Park is the third most visited park in the United States. While the park is free to visit during the day, popular attractions charge admission, such as deYoung Museum, California Academy of Sciences and Conservatory of Flowers. The park is filled with gardens, museums, art, flowers, trees, lakes, birds and wildlife. There are also plenty of opportunities to participate in sports, clubs and other activities. Browse the site for information on parking, maps, weddings, hotels, permits, making reservations, transportation, contact numbers, and the history of Golden Gate Park.
China Beach is a great little local beach in San Francisco. The China Beach Cove is protected by rock walls on both sides creating a protected area that once was a camp for Chinese fishermen, hence the name. China Beach faces north toward the Marin Headlands and has a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge too. It’s not a large beach so when the tide is up and the summer sun is out, it can be hard to find a spot that is dry and isn’t already taken. At low tide there are tide pools to discover.
Like all the beaches in this area, China Beach is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Swimming isn’t safe at China Beach for many reasons including the lack of lifeguards. The area just south of the cove is called Lands End and has many hiking trails to explore.
Baker Beach is a large popular beach not far from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On sunny weekends both parking lots could be full and all the spaces along the entrance roads too. This popular spot is one of the many beaches in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Just north of the main parking lot is the Battery Chamberlin, a large historic military gun installation that was built in 1904. It is worth checking out especially if you have kids. Be aware as you explore the north end of Baker Beach because North Baker Beach is a clothing-optional area. All of Baker Beach is an unsafe swimming area because of cold water and frequent rip currents in the surf.
Just inside the Golden Gate, Crissy Field has a wide, sandy beach with a pretty view of the bridge and Alcatraz. It's a short, 10 minute walk from Fisherman's Wharf. Of the San Francisco beaches, this one's the most popular with windsurfers.
Lombard Street in San Francisco is often called the most crooked street in the world. Actually, it's the second crookedest, but San Francisco has the number one street as well! The pretty, postcard view of Lombard Street has become famous worldwide and many visitors enjoy seeing the cars carefully winding down the turns among the beautiful flower beds.
Aquatic Park Cove has a narrow sandy beach and a grass park at the end of the Hyde Street Cable Car line on the San Francisco Waterfront. The cove is located at the north end of Hyde Street and Van Ness Avenue near Fisherman’s Wharf. Boats are allowed to anchor in the protected harbor in the cove. It is protected by a long curved municipal pier that should not be missed if you have time to walk out on it. The view from the pier includes the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the San Francisco skyline. Nearby Hyde Street Pier has historic ships to see as well. The Marine Museum sits at the center of Aquatic Park Cove near the beach. Behind that is Ghirardelli Square. Aquatic Park Cove is part of San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, a district within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The large park at Fort Mason is a short walk away up the trail to the west.
This park and beach is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, as well as seals and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, public access tidepools offer a glimpse of life beneath the sea. Low tides reveal sea stars, shore crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub and grasslands, with bright native wildflowers in the spring. Moore Creek flows through the park, forming freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh before it reaches the sea.
At this 135-acre outdoor, living museum, you can also explore the Hummingbird Trail to seek out the rare, elusive white hummingbird, and sniff pleasing scents of lavender, jasmine, and oregano in the fun Aroma Garden.
The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s rich and diverse collection contains representatives of more than 300 plant families of Mediterranean climates. The garden maintains collections of rare and threatened plants of unusual scientific interest. Particular specialties are world conifers, primitive angiosperms, and bulb-forming plant families. Large assemblages of plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California natives are displayed on the grounds. Many of the species in these collections are not otherwise available for study in American botanical gardens and arboreta.
The small surf community of Pleasure Point is located in an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County, nestled between Moran Lagoon and 41st Avenue, adjacent to the Monterey Bay. Nearly a dozen famous surf breaks make this an ideal destination for skilled surfers. It’s a classic beachside town and the genesis of surf culture in Santa Cruz – home to wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill – where locals mix effortlessly with visitors eager to capture that authentic surf vibe.
Think there’s no wide-open countryside left in Los Angeles? Think again. The Santa Monica Mountains stretch for 80km across the northwestern boundary of the Los Angeles basin. Within the range lie more than 60,000 largely undeveloped hectares of grassy swales, rock-studded hillsides, tree-shaded glens, and windswept beaches. A mosaic of state, local, and federal preserves protects this land, all managed under the umbrella of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the nation’s largest urban national park.
One of the few mountain ranges in the United States to run east to west rather than north to south, the Santa Monicas can claim big nature bragging rights. Considered to be a “botanical island” in L.A.’s urban corridor, the slopes that run straight down to the Pacific are covered in chaparral, coastal sage, springtime wildflowers, and oak and sycamore forests. More than 20 species of endangered plants and animals thrive here. This is a place where you might see a bobcat stalk its prey, a coyote lope across the grasslands, or a golden eagle fly overhead.
Malibu Pier isn’t one of the longest piers in California, but it is in one of the best locations. West of the pier you can walk for several miles when the tide isn’t high. In that direction you’ll cross Carbon Beach, La Costa Beach, and Las Flores Beach (the latter two are not easily visited from Pacific Coast Highway). East of Malibu Pier is Surfrider Beach where longboard surfers and stand-up paddleboarders play in the mild rolling break. Farther to the east, Malibu Lagoon State Beach offers a unique setting without million dollar mansions behind (although they are never far away in Malibu). The Adamson House and Garden (Tour) between the lagoon and the pier is cool to see when it’s open. Malibu Farm Cafe and Restaurant is at the end of the pier and has healthy food for hungry visitors. Nobu and other restaurants are nearby as well. Parking is available in the lot next to the pier and along PCH.
The Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden is a thirty-minute stroll up Avalon Canyon from town center. The Botanic Garden is the primary gateway to access one of the Island's most popular hikes, the Garden to Sky Trail.
The Wrigley Memorial honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., who lived from 1861 to 1932. Although best known as the founder of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, largest manufacturer of chewing gum in the world, he also played an instrumental role in the history of Santa Catalina Island.
Lovers Cove is on Pebbly Beach Road just a short distance east from Avalon on Catalina Island. It is a short walk to this cove from town and even shorter from the Catalina Express ferry landing dock. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a beach between the road and the water at this location. This rocky shoreline is mostly a snorkeling destination. Inquire in town about nearby snorkeling spots and they might send you to this location. Snorkeling gear, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, bikes, golf carts, and more can be rented in town to explore the area. The Catalina Express operates boats daily to Catalina Island from the mainland in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Dana Point.
Looking for a picture-perfect view of the Sign? For many visitors to Los Angeles, there is no more coveted photo than a shot of the world famous Sign. Though it is visible from all over the city from its lofty perch on Mt. Lee, it can actually be surprisingly difficult to get a well-angled shot.
Stunning views of the Hollywood Sign unfold at your own pace on hiking trails that meander through the rolling chaparral of the Santa Monica Mountains. Trails originally blazed by paws, hooves, and yucca-thatched moccasins now connect us to cultural as well as natural wonders. The western frontier of Griffith Park offers hikers amazingly close encounters with the Sign, which is off-limits to human hands, just below the ridgeline at the 1,708-foot summit of Mt. Lee. On the longest hike, you can ascend above and behind the Sign’s 45-foot-tall aluminum letters, where you look out over a windswept vista encompassing the DOOWYLLOH sign, the dreamy towers of downtown Los Angeles, and, on a clear day, the ageless blue Pacific.
Located in La Cañada Flintridge, the 160-acre Descanso Gardens was originally developed in 1936 by newspaper magnate Elias Manchester Boddy, whose numerous interests included horticulture and politics. Descanso Gardens offers numerous areas for exploring, including a bird sanctuary, five-acre rosarium, Japanese tea garden, water-wise garden, Oak Woodland, California garden, and the world’s largest collection of camellia flowers.
Pasadena's only dedicated free public garden, Arlington Garden was built in 2005 on the former site of the historic Durand Mansion. The garden includes thousands of California-native plants such as poppies, sunflowers, cactus and succulents, orchards of orange and olive trees, and many more species. Arlington Garden also features a variety of benches and tables, birdbaths and statuary. A classical, seven-circuit Labyrinth was built at the garden in October 2010. In November 2008, 21 crepe myrtle trees were donated and permanently installed at Arlington as part of Yoko Ono's Wish Tree series.
This garden is not only friendly to people and pets, but also exists as a refuge for Pasadena’s native fauna. Birds, bees and butterflies are particularly abundant and can be seen throughout the year.
The Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort can be found on a secluded, pink beach fringed with palm trees at the southeast end of the atoll. Located fifteen minutes by boat from the airport and the main village of Tuherahera, this hotel serves as the ideal home base for any and all leisurely activities including kayaking, snorkeling and biking. It even has its own dive center on site, making it easy to arrange your daily excursions.
Venture across the lagoon with your guide to the tiny islet known as Bird Island. This bird watcher`s paradise provides the opportunity to view many unique avian species in their natural island habitat.
The Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa is located on the northern stretch of Rangiroa near the Tiputa Pass. Surrounded by a coconut plantation, the resort combines this convenient setting with a hidden seclusion. The architecture is elegant and refined, resting in perfect harmony with the natural environment.
This spectacular waterfall in south-eastern savaii plunges from the rainforest deep into a fresh-water swimming pool.
The Afu Aau Waterfall also known as Olemoe Falls, is a spectacular waterfall in south-eastern Savaii that plunges from the rainforest deep into a fresh-water swimming pool.
Access is on a dirt road which is maintained by the village. Entrance fees are collected at the Samoan fale about 650m from the main road and visitors are encouraged to park their car here and enjoy a 10 minute walk to the pool and waterfall.
These impressive blowholes in the village of taga on south-west savaii are wave power in its purest form, as they propel a roaring jet of water hundreds of feet up into the air. They are particularly worth watching when locals throw coconuts into the holes and these are blasted into the air as well
Mount Pahia is the second-highest summit on Bora Bora and the challenging hike leading up to it features steep jungle climbs on faint trails with spectacular views all around the island and lagoon. Difficulties encountered on the hike include arranging for a hiking guide, avoiding hiking during times of rainy weather (because the trail will become muddy, slippery, and dangerous), dealing with heat and humidity, watching out for rockfall while passing along the base of cliffs, and using ropes and safety gear during areas of exposure if passing beyond the summit of Mount Ohue.
Mount Otemanu on Bora Bora island is a jagged remnant of an ancient volcano that rises up to a sharp point at 2,385 feet (727 m) from the surface of a turquoise blue lagoon. The French Polynesian islands, in general, are blessed with some incredible picture-perfect sceneries but Mount Otemanu takes the crown. There is something very magical about this unique landform that can be seen from every part of the island.
Thousands of people are drawn to Bora Bora every year because it is one of the most beautiful islands on earth. Most resorts have designed their overwater bungalows to specifically face Mount Otemanu and rooms that have unobstructed views typically come with a premium price tag.
Matira Beach is a mile of exquisite white sand at the southern tip of Bora Bora Island.
When you visit, you will understand why it is Bora Bora's most popular public beach. It stretches from Hotel Bora Bora (currently closed for renovations) to Matira Point and is framed from behind by lush palms and green hills. To each side, there are more long strips of privately owned beaches.
Often described as the most beautiful beach in the world, Matira Beach is actually the only public beach on the main island that is worth a visit. It is so gorgeous that it is in our list of the best things to do in Bora Bora! Everybody is welcome on this expanse of sand. There is a fun atmosphere that offers natural shade from palm trees, safe swimming and easy snorkelling.
Point Defiance Park sits on 702 acres at the northern tip of Tacoma and features the best of everything, with miles of forested hiking and walking trails, beautiful rose gardens, picnic areas, beachfront access, and a 29-acre zoo. It’s no wonder over 2 million people visit each year – once you come here, you won’t want to leave!