Southern California is the perfect vacation destination. It offers everything you need to relax — tons of beaches, sun, and fun. But rather than flocking to where crowds of tourists go, why not check out some lesser known spots? Here are the eight fun SoCal getaways you've probably never heard of.

1. Mt. Woodson Summit

Mt. Woodson Summit

If you're outdoorsy, plan a getaway to Mt. Woodson Summit. Near San Diego, Mt. Woodson Summit is known for its Potato Chip Rock landmark, a unique rock formation at the peak. The lovely eight-mile loop hike takes you 1,700 feet in elevation, winding around a beautiful lake before returning you to the trail head. The summit affords you view of San Diego. Camp in the area if you plan on going.

2. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Named after a tree native to Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park sits where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet. This region makes for a unique getaway; depending on the elevation, the park's landscape changes dramatically: Some areas are carpeted with mature Joshua trees and other areas are barren. Joshua Tree National Park offers nature paths, hiking trails, and vehicle pullouts. There are plenty of unique hotels to stay in, including the Campbell House and 29 Palms Inn. If you're into hiking and nature, you'll definitely fall in love with this park.

3. Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Some 30 miles west of Santa Monica lies Leo Carrillo State Park. In it is over a mile of sandy beach that's ideal for swimming, surfing, and windsurfing. The beach is also home to tide pools, coastal caves, and reefs for exploring. There's a camping site if you want to camp on the beach, and the park itself offers hiking trails. If camping isn't your thing, there are plenty of luxurious hotels surrounding the Leo Carrillo State Beach area, such as Shore Hotel, Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club, and Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village. The Leo Carrillo State Beach region is a must for anyone who loves swimming and tanning.

4. Catalina Island

Catalina Island

Catalina Island lets you relax and escape all your worries. The only way to get to the island is by ferry. Once on the island, your best bet is to rent a golf cart. There are plenty of activities to do and sites to explore: Catalina Islands is home to the Wrigley Memorial Botanical Garden as well as the Will Richards Studio that hosts quirky artwork. And sign up for a Jeep Eco Tour, where you can see wild bison. The Pavilion Hotel is a great place to stay. It offers fire pits, plus complimentary wine and cheese.

5. Roar and Snore Safari

Want to explore a safari without having to travel to another country? Check out the Roar and Snore Safari in Escondido, a town west of San Diego; it's a unique weekend getaway that even includes an overnighter in a safari tent. All overnighters include camp activities, a tour of nocturnal animals, guided walks, campfires, dinner, a snack, and breakfast. You can rent a variety of different tents to suit your needs that include electrical outlets and queen-size beds. If you love animals, you'll be able to experience local wildlife at all hours of the day and night.

6. Torrey Pines Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines Natural Reserve

Unless you're a local, you have likely never heard of Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. Located within the city limits of San Diego, it is one of the wildest stretches of land in Southern California. It is home to miles of pristine beaches and a lagoon filled with seabirds. There are plenty of trails to hike that are filled with beautiful views of plants, animals, habitats, and unique geological formations. There is also an underwater ecological reserve offshore you can visit. The reserve has modern amenities, such as bathrooms and showers near the Penasquitos Lagoon, as well as year-round lifeguards. Popular activities at this destination include guided tours, hiking, surfing, and swimming.

7. Ojai

Ojai

Rural Ojai is an easy Southern California getaway from L.A. Less than two hours north of the city, it’s a bohemian town filled with artists, hippies, musicians, hip biker bars, world famous DJs, pool parties, and fine dining. Ojai is a small, Mediterranean microclimate rife with citrus groves, olives, and grapes. With plenty of vineyards, the wines are overwhelming and in abundance. Ojai is also right near Los Padres National Forest, which is located just north.

8. Solvang

Solvang

Want to experience the vibe of Scandinavia without having to travel to Denmark? Plan a getaway to Solvang, an entire town modeled after Denmark. The streets are filled with Scandinavian-style buildings as well as replicas of monuments and sculptures found in Denmark. Near Solvang are more than 100 wineries and vineyards to explore as well as world famous bakeries serving Danish pastries. And if you're into shopping, Solvang is home to over 150 boutique shops that offer unique items. Finally, enjoy plenty of restaurants that dish up some of the best Scandinavian cuisine around.

SoCal off the beaten path

Whatever destination you choose, you're sure to have a truly memorable Southern California experience — and all without hordes of others trying to have that experience along with you.

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References

  1. "9 Fun Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park: Hikes, Sights, & Activities," Planet Ware, June 7, 2016.
  2. "Here Are The 10 Best Kept Secrets In Southern California," Only in Your State, July 18, 2016.
  3. "Potato Chip Rock: Mt Woodson Summit in San Diego," California Through My Lens, April 5, 2016.
  4. "The Ultimate Guide To Catalina Island," Los Angeles, November 23, 2016.

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