An insiders guide to California

Forget the American Dream, now it’s all about California dreamin. But what is it about the U.S.’s 31st state that puts at the top of so many people’s bucket-lists? The answer is simple. It is a place for everyone- the forward thinkers, the sun worshippers, the wildlife enthusiasts and the city kids.

“It’s a unique place, unlike any other U.S. state, not just geographically but culturally too. To really experience California you have to go there and live it, it’s not just about Napa Valley, Yosemite or Venice beach. The way to make the most out of Cali is to embrace it all – the lifestyle, the people, the atmosphere. There isn’t another like The Golden State.” – Travel Expert Rob

When to go

California is a 365 day of the year destination – good, isn’t it? And unless you’re any closer to the equator yourselves, you’re most likely heading for a sunnier climate regardless of when you visit.

However, if you want peak seasons, then ideally travel between the months of May to October. Our advice after that? Head to the Hawaiian Islands. This timing is ideal for visiting these paradisiacal islands.

What you should experience

Yosemite National Park

Many people say and few argue that Yosemite is the most dramatic National Park in America. Take a two day private hiking trip through Yosemite Valley and beyond to get back to nature in the most awesome place it can be done.

Napa & Sonoma wine valley

Ok, we don’t literally suggest both. If you see one you can excuse yourself from seeing the other. There are only minor differences between the two and for many it comes down to preference in wine – not a bad decision to have to make. So whether it’s wine tasting in Sonoma or hot air balloon rides in Napa head north on the 101 from San Fran for a relaxing couple of days in wine country.

Whale watching in Carmel Bay

Carmel is one of the best destinations in the world to see the abundance of wildlife that swims these shores. Migrating north for the summer months, you’ll find pods of dolphin, sperm whales, blue whales…arguably all of the whales you can image. Picture soaking in the sunshine on the deck of your private catamaran — whales or not, this is a day trip worthy of a trip to California itself.

The Geography

California is all about the epic Pacific coastline, and rightfully so. With the Sierra Nevada desert to the east, we suggest keeping ocean-side. Generally our favourite route is North to South, whilst heading inland for Napa, Sonoma and Yosemite National Park.

The North

North of San Francisco is great for the adventurist and sporty type. You’ll find great hikes, enchanting trails, and a handful of lakes near the Oregon border. Whatever you do, don’t miss Avenue of The Giants, where a section of the road is engulfed by an ancient Redwood forest. Must be seen to be believed.

Ultimately, the North is all about the food and wine. Four of America’s 12 three Michelin – starred restaurants are located in NorCal. As well as this, you have the untouched evergreen beauty of Napa and Sonoma Valley. Wine tasting and hot air balloons rides are just a bonus here. Rob, our in-house California expert, recommends a day excursion to his favorite vineyard — Domaine Chandon.

Stay at: Solage

The South

SoCal – destination sunshine. Year round the south is home to the best weather, while also offering the most variety of experiences.

From San Francisco to San Diego, the beach is where you want to be. From private surf lessons in LA with ex Hollywood actors to whale watching in Carmel, there is something for everyone.

Stay at: Shutters on the Beach

The East

The east of California is home to a row of National Parks running along the Nevada border. There’s plenty you can stop and visit however the crowning jewel of maybe all American National Parks is Yosemite.

It’s a true wilderness. No one forgets the first time they take in the renowned ‘Tunnel View’ after passing through Wawona Tunnel on Route 41 – and that is just the beginning. Head out with a private guide to go hiking in Yosemite Valley (and beyond, for those a bit more adventurous) or alternatively head out on horseback.

Yosemite was a huge destination for the gold rush in the 40’s. Who is to say if you don’t head out on the water, you may strike it lucky?

Stay at: The Majestic Yosemite Hotel

The West

There is so much you can see in the West of California. Along the coast, you have the giant cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Each city has endless, unique experiences. If you discover one yourself, be sure to let Black Tomato in on the secret.

Stay at: Post Ranch Inn