California's long been on the top of my list of adventure and surf trips I’ve been hankering after. An avid consumer of most west-coast ocean and thrill-seeking literature, from Kerouac and Beach Boys beat days, to Steinback and Point Break fantasies, Into The Wild fuelled Gidget dancing mirages. My mind had long been littered with images of tip-toeing down the line of perfect right hand breaks, peaking Pacific shorelines of perpetual swell, the great wide yonder of open-spaces and palm & cacti-crested wild lands.
Check out my handy one-stop California guide for my favourite spots to hit up, best activities, places to stuff your face, where to stay and how to travel! Check it!
HUNTINGTON BEACH TOP TIPS
On arrival late at night in Huntington Beach, creeping out onto our balcony at the Pasea we pretty much had our minds blown from the offset, our immediate view being of the incredibly iconic Huntington Beach, the sound of waves piquing our excitement at what was to come. For a one-stop hotel with ocean-facing rooms, gym, spa, a stones throw from the surf, beach cruiser bikes out front ready for you to take and explore (the best way to check out the town), Pasea is the spot.
So-Cal style food with generous servings. Try the Huevos Rancheros and Green Thumb Bowl stuffed with Avocado, Almond Butter, fruits and Honeycomb.
If you’ve been busy making the most of the swell or skating the park, chances are you’ll need refuelling. Sessions Sandwiches is the one for generous served portions a stones throw from the surf and park.
Try one of the local speciality “Steam Kettles”, pots of incredibly delicious shellfish you’ll be dipping hunks of hearty crab-topped sourdough into. One of my best meals of the trip.
What’s a surf town without your local friendly surf shop? I headed out for a surf with the Toes on The Nose crew who offer easy rentals, have lockers and changing rooms on site, and knowledgable instructors and guides.
Picking up a cruiser and exploring Downtown Huntington Beach, which is packed with super-cool old-school architecture, vintage stores rife with hot-finds, coffee shops and bars.
The International Surfing Museum is pretty much like no other, packed with surf and skate original artefacts and a real insight into the rich history of California surf and skate culture.
40,000 feet of skatepark, the ultimate utopia packed with different obstacles and terrains, changing rooms, lockers and snack bars.
PALM SPRINGS TOP TIPS
Hike the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation
Make this hike as challenging as you want - head up to the top in 3 or so hours or just cruise up for half an hour. The views across Palm Springs are mind blowing no matter the height.
The Avalon Hotel is a dreamy, must-stay stop in Palm Springs. The heady, floral-scented grounds are the ultimate in R N R. Spacious, chic bungalos, excellent eateries and an on-site spa mean you barely need to leave the grounds.
Surf-weary muscles can check into Estrella and make the most of the full range of massages, scrubs and holistic health treatments to get your zen on.
The health-conscious will love the offerings of CHiChi, and I pretty much had one of the best salmon gravalax beigals of my life here (a cute touch, our waiter replaced my beigal one morning, insisting, as the baker had just delivered a fresher batch which he wanted me to have).
The kitschy-cool brightly-coloured Saguaro has pool-side yoga classes non-staying guests can attend, down-dogging under the nearly permanently azure-blue Palm Spring skies, and follow up with breakfast at the brilliant Rocco’s Electric.
Get Into The Wild (Chris McCancles famously explored here) and explore the wildly-beautiful desert valleys on bike.
The breathtaking grounds of Two Bunch Palms transport you to otherworldly realms of zen. Sheltered by ancient palms and giant tamarisk trees, explore the alternative-wellness treatments on offer like Mud Therapy baths, where you are immersed in mineral-rich clay and peat moss.
SAN DIEGO TOP TIPS
Any trip to La Jolla should include a trip to the righteous Surf Diva. Founded by renegade sisters Izzy and Coco Thiyani, Surf Diva was the world's first all-girl surf school. No matter if you’re lacking the Y chromosome, Surf Diva provide board rentals and lessons, and have a killer selection in their store.
Work up an appetite surfing the incredible breaks of La Jolla and duck into the Cheese Shop for a huge array of sandwiches, vegan options available.
La Jolla’s marine life is unparaplled partly due to the purity of the waters. Head out on the kayaks and dive to the underwater world of the kelp forests, which apparently the scientific laboratory on the pier is finding that kelp is a highly energy rich renwable source. Spot local friendly sharks, seals and dophins like we did and have your noggin' blown.
For proximity to all the activities on offer and the beach Hotel La Jolla, with its 11th floor rooftop restaurant and bar, beach cruisers on-site and plush rooms is ideal.
Dukes for brunch
Find out about the iconic Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku, the first man to bring surfing to Australia and California at brunch spot Dukes. Overlooking the crystal waters of La Jolla with an outdoor terrace, spot spouting whales if you're lucky.
MALIBU TOP TIPS
Surfing, pick up londboards from Malibu Surf Shack right in front of the iconic Malibu break, a quick walk across the road.
Malibu State Park has a huge range of climbing options including sport climbing, bouldering and top toe routes. Escape the bustle of LA and find the dreamy solitude of Malibu
VENICE BEACH TOP TIPS
Get your green-fix at Kreation Kafe, where even the tap water has drops of green, mineral-rich solutions mixed in front of you. Pressed Juices, a smorgasbord of egg and veg dishes and killer coffees make this a must-stop for healthy foodies.
Surfboard rentals from Jays Venice Beach
Surf the iconic Venice Beach and pick up a rental from Jays, a friendly on-beach store which also rents bikes and cruiser.
Need to hot-desk and be fuelled with a killer cup of coffee at the same time? Pitch up at Deus, which has strong wi-fi, a good snack selection and great coffee.
By far the best way to road trip and explore California is with your own set of wheels. We picked up an adventure-ready SUV from Hertz less than 10 minutes from LAX. Gas is cheap in California and we only had to refill twice in 2 weeks.