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California for Active Travelers


No lounging by the pool for me! I want to hike, bike, swim, walk, play golf and stay active.

Beach Volleyball in Manhattan Beach

(c) Betsy Malloy 2004

You can find plenty to keep yourself active on a California vacation no matter where you go, so we've organized this page by type of activity.


You can go to the beach almost anywhere along the California coast, but the experience varies, with water getting colder and rougher as you go north. For the stereotypical California beach culture with surfing, beach volleyball and bonfires, go to San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles or Discover California's Best Beaches.

Water Sports

Divers and snorkelers like Catalina Island for its clear water and underwater sea life.

Surfers flock to San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles or to Santa Cruz further north, one of the spots where surfing was born. Located a little further north off Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, legendary Mavericks has claimed the lives of professional surfers and is not for the casual surfer on vacation.

If you like your water still and warmer, opt for a houseboat vacation on Lake Shasta.


California's ski season normally runs from Thanksgiving through Easter, but may start earlier or end later depending on the weather. Mammoth Mountain boasts the state's best snow, but its east of the Sierras location makes it the hardest to get to. Most Northern Californians ski at Lake Tahoe, and Southern Californians ski the mountains east of the coast. Winter is also a great time to go dog sledding.

Back Country Hiking

The High Sierra camps at Yosemite and Sequoia provide meals and a place to sleep on your mountain hike, but they're so popular that you'll need to get into a lottery months beforehand just to get a spot.

Other popular back country hiking trails include the Tahoe Rim Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.

More Active Pursuits

You'll find plenty of great golf courses, both public and private all over the state, but especially in San Diego, Palm Springs and Pebble Beach near Monterey. For an unusual golfing experience, tee off on the world's lowest course (214 ft below sea level) at Death Valley.

If you want to climb Half Dome at Yosemite, our guide will help you get prepared.

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