The town of Mendocino sits on a scenic headland overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the northern coast of California. Its moderate Mediterranean climate and spectacular surroundings that include redwood forests, pristine beaches, and rugged seaside cliffs and caves make it extremely popular with visitors. Whether you come to explore the boutiques, wineries, art galleries and museums or to enjoy the thrill of outdoor recreational activities, a Mendocino vacation rental is the best way to explore this beautiful region. Here are the top locations for vacation rentals in and around Mendocino you need to check out.

1. North Mendocino

Seascape Headland Mendocino

A large portion of Mendocino Headlands State Park dominates the northern portion of the town of Mendocino. From the walking and jogging trails along the edge of the bluff, you can view sea arches, grottos carved out of the cliffs, marine birds, and the seasonal migration of gray whales. Popular activities include surfing, kayaking, and diving for abalones. The Mendocino Music Festival also takes place at the headlands every year.

2. Downtown Mendocino

 Mendocino, California
Source: Flickr/Harold

Downtown Mendocino is a wonderful place to stroll and explore. It’s full of eclectic cafes, bakeries, pubs, and restaurants. Among its numerous art galleries are the Mendocino Art Center and the Art Cooperative of Mendocino. The Ford House Museum on Main Street is the Mendocino visitor center, the Mendocino Headlands State Park headquarters, and a fascinating source of information about local ecology and history. The Kelley House is another museum devoted to the history of the Mendocino Coast.

3. South Mendocino

Wildflowers

On the south side of Mendocino is another portion of the Mendocino Headlands State Park that runs along the banks of the Big River. Trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding lead into stands of towering redwoods, pine, and cypress. As you canoe or kayak along the river, you can spot brown pelicans, northern spotted owls, and bald eagles. Big River Beach is a wide sandy spot at the mouth of the river where you can swim, sunbathe, and build sand castles.

4. East Mendocino

Waterfalls
Source: Flickr/Steven Bratman

Vacation rentals on the east side of Mendocino have convenient access to Russian Gulch State Park, a beautiful area that features miles of hiking and cycling trails through Russian Gulch Creek Canyon. One of the highlights is a 36-foot waterfall. A branch of the park extends west to the coast, where you find a blow hole caused by pounding waves and a beach where you can fish, skin dive, and explore tide pools. Another lovely park east of the town is Mendocino Woodlands State Park, set in the midst of a redwood forest.

5. Little River

 Forest
Source: Flickr/mlhradio

The town of Little River lies just south of Mendocino on a bluff overlooking the ocean and the beautiful California coastline. Among its attractions is an 18-hole golf course set amidst magnificent scenery. Van Damme State Park, a diverse area that includes a pristine beach, a pygmy forest, and a fern canyon, surrounds the town. Its numerous trails are great for hiking, cycling, bird watching, and watching salmon spawn in the clear waters of the river. At the beach, you can take a kayak to explore the sea caves and go diving for abalone.

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6. Albion

 Albion
Source: Flickr/Andrew Pasquale

The town of Albion is 7 miles south of Mendocino at the mouth of the Albion River. It’s in a spectacular setting on seaside cliffs surrounded by redwood forest. The area features several beautiful beaches. Albion Flat Beach lies in a cove near a scenic highway trestle bridge and is an ideal place for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Whitesboro Cove Beach is a pristine patch of sand at the mouth of Big Salmon Creek. Navarro Beach at the Navarro River mouth is a wide sandy area with patches of driftwood in Navarro River Redwoods State Park, where you can view awesome stands of redwood trees and wildlife such as black-tailed deer and raccoons.

7. Elk

 Greenwood Pier
Source: Flickr/ Jack French

The town of Elk, also known as Greenwood, lies south of Albion on a rugged cliff overlooking sea stacks, coves, and the vast Pacific Ocean. The small-town streets have numerous unique shops, galleries, eateries, and a museum to explore. Greenwood State Beach, at the base of the cliffs, is a picturesque spread of sand from which you can kayak out to the sea stacks, arches, and small islands.

8. Caspar

 Caspar
Source: Flickr/John ‘K’

Caspar is a small coastal town just north of Mendocino. Its vacation rentals have easy access to several beautiful natural areas and historic landmarks. On its south side is Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, where you can explore the lighthouse and its museum, watch for sea birds, and observe harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises, gray whales, and humpback whales. Caspar Headlands State Beach on the town waterfront is a great place for swimming, hiking, and fishing. To the north, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve combines a lovely beach, coastal bluffs, and stands of pine and cypress trees.

9. North Fort Bragg

 Glass Beach
Source: Flickr/CasparGirl

The city of Fort Bragg is less than 10 miles north of Mendocino. In the northwest corner is famous Glass Beach, a former trash dump ground down by the sea that is now covered with astonishingly beautiful clear glass pebbles. The Guest House Museum is the headquarters of the Fort Bragg-Mendocino Coast Historical Society, and its exhibits highlight local history. Near the museum is the departure point of the Skunk Train, which takes you on a 40-mile scenic tour through the redwood forest.

10. South Fort Bragg

Noyo Harbor
Source: Flickr/Ron Lute

On the south side of Fort Bragg is Noyo Harbor, where you can charter a boat for whale watching or open ocean fishing. The harbor is full of excellent seafood restaurants, and if you’re a seafood enthusiast, you won’t want to miss the annual salmon barbecue and abalone cook-off. Across the Noyo River is Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a vast area of coastal bluffs, canyons, pine forest, and wetlands that features numerous collections of flowers and other plants.