8 Incredible Hidden Gems In California To Visit In 2024

8 Incredible Hidden Gems In California To Visit In 2024

If you don’t visit California at least once in your lifetime, it’s like you wouldn’t have existed. It boasts incredible nature, stunning beaches, and chilled vibes, which makes it one of the top vacation destinations in the U.S. However, for the same reason, it’s often busy and overcrowded. But who said you have to stick to the most popular tourist spots?

How about you discover its little-known wonders and experience what the cool side of California is about? On top of that, your trip will be more budget-friendly. To help you prepare the itinerary, here is a list of the 8 incredible hidden gems in California to visit in 2024.


Sausalito is a charming little town set just across the Golden Gate Bridge. It has a rich history, a unique Bohemian vibe, and a vibrant art scene that attracts both painters and writers. Its hip bistros, cafés, and restaurants are another reason you should visit it.

Make sure to get a table by the waterfront to enjoy outstanding views of the San Francisco skyline. For a different point of view of the Bay Area, we recommend you take a ferry ride to the city, during which you will also get a glimpse of the famous Alcatraz Island.

Point Lobos

If you prefer spending time in nature to city escapes, head to Point Lobos. Located in Monterey County, this state park is often nicknamed the “crown jewel of the California State Park System”. And for a good reason. It boasts dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches, and fascinating wildlife. All that often becomes the focus of photographers and will please any nature lover.

There is also a lot to see underwater. As part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, it’s home to various species, including giant blue whales. So go for a dive or snorkel, just bring your gear as there are no rentals available.

Note that camping isn’t possible at Point Lobos State Park and dogs aren’t allowed. However, you can enjoy at least a nice picnic – there are tables and barbeque pits.

Thousand Steps Beach

If you’re looking for the ultimate beach escape, you simply must visit Thousand Steps Beach in South Laguna. Tall cliffs from all sides border it and you must take a long staircase to access it. But don’t worry. It’s not really a thousand steps but a little over 200, which is definitely manageable. 

You will be rewarded with a secluded atmosphere, pristine sand, and clean waters full of marine life. It also provides excellent conditions for surfing, body surfing, and skimboarding. In the southern corner, there is the Thousand Steps Sea Cave, which you can enter and explore. Just watch out for high tide and strong rip currents.

Salton Sea

Set about a three-hour drive from LA and San Diego lies one of the world’s largest inland seas – the famed Salton Sea. Because even though it doesn’t sit on the shoreline, it has salty water and is home to various fish and bird species.

You can engage in boating, kayaking, and fishing – if you’re lucky, you can catch tilapia or corvina. On the other hand, swimming there isn’t recommended as it isn’t considered safe. If you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop at Slab City, where you can get captivated by many cool art installations.

Burney Falls

Nestled in the forests of northern California, Burney Falls is an ideal place to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some outdoor activities. The most popular ones include fishing, boating, picnicking, and hiking. One of the trails will take you to the park’s highlight – the 129-foot waterfall.

If you want to enjoy a bit of serenity in the woods, we recommend you come on a weekday. Also, the waterfalls look the best at sunrise. So why don’t you come in the evening, camp, and wake up to this magnificent nature’s glory?

Pinnacles National Park

Not far from Point Lobos, there is another undiscovered natural wonder – Pinnacles National Park. Its name comes from the towering rock formations, which are the main attraction there, and you can discover them through over 30 miles of scenic hiking trails.

Some are longer, others are shorter, which makes them suitable for all levels. In any case, bring your camera, as you’re likely to spot many birds and other wildlife on your way. Pinnacles National Park is also an excellent spot for stargazing.

Mono Lake

This is another enchanting desert lake that has been kept secret for a while. Similar to the Salton Sea, it’s saline and full of life, such as migratory birds, brine shrimp, and alkali flies. And the limestone formations called tufa towers add to its charm.

If you’d like to learn more about Mono Lake and its unique habitat, there is a visitor center. Alternatively, you can take a free tour organized by the Mono Lake Committee. They also offer canoe trips and field seminars.

Trinity Alps

California is known for its incredible nature. And who wouldn’t like to have a piece of it only to themselves? In Trinity Alps, this can be done pretty easily. This amazing mountain range spreads over 500,000 acres of land with about 600 miles of hiking trails. Yet, it’s often overseen.

Amid mountain peaks, crystal-clear alpine lakes, waterfalls, and lush meadows, you can soak in the tranquility you would hardly find elsewhere. It’s also well worth staying overnight. There are plenty of camping and glamping options in the area.