Whether you’re looking forward to relaxing on a serene beach, hiking through a majestic forest, or exploring vibrant city culture and nightlife, there’s always something fun to do in California. Southern California’s lovely year-round warm weather makes it the perfect place to escape the cold. Alternatively, head north to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding in the scenic Northern California mountains. California boasts both rural nature and lively cities, and both are often within driving distances of each other. There are plenty of vacation rentals in California to choose from, and many are conveniently located near the state’s biggest spring break attractions. Here are eight of the best places to stay during your spring break vacation.

1. Santa Monica

santa monica pier

There’s plenty of fun to be had in sunny Santa Monica. The beach is the main attraction, boasting quintessential Southern California charm. Whether you enjoy surfing, swimming, sunbathing, or people-watching, you’re never going to run out of things to do. Be sure to take a stroll over to the world-famous Santa Monica Pier, where you can ride the iconic Ferris wheel and a number of other nostalgic amusement rides at Pacific Park. The pier also has plenty of great shops and eateries, and it’s a great place to enjoy viewing fun street performers and eccentric locals. Santa Monica’s beach is less than a half hour’s drive from downtown Los Angeles, giving you quick access to the big city’s incredible nightlife.

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2. Lake Tahoe

lake tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of the most versatile vacation destinations in California. Spend a morning boating on the picturesque lake in your bathing suit, and then spend the evening snowboarding or skiing one of the area’s many mountain resorts. There are plenty of rowdy beachside barbecues for younger crowds looking to party, as well as a wide variety of family-friendly attractions. As far as vacation rentals go, Lake Tahoe is loaded with everything from quaint, rustic cabins to full-blown luxury mansions. The Northstar area is a popular location for cabin rentals, as the local ski resort features a small, charming village with family-friendly entertainment options such as live music, ice skating, and restaurants. If you prefer a warmer spring break visit, look for lakefront vacation rentals, many of which include boat access.

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3. Laguna Beach

laguna beach

Laguna Beach is an affluent coastal city in Orange County. The area’s pristine beaches are some of the most gorgeous California has to offer, and the downtown area offers world-class shopping and dining. The area also offers fantastic whale and dolphin watching, so be sure to book an aquatic adventure at Captain Dave’s Whale & Dolphin Watching Safaris. When you get back to shore, stop by Laguna Beach Cyclery to rent some bicycles and explore the area’s scenic back roads. Heisler Park is a great place to relax and take in some of the town’s stunning natural beauty, so pack a picnic and relax under the palm trees, or use the on-site barbecues to fire up a hot meal with your travel partners.

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4. San Diego

san diego mountains

San Diego gives you big city amenities and quick access to some of the world’s best beaches, as well as some of the hottest year-round weather in the state. Attractions such as The San Diego Zoo, Knott’s Berry Farm, Belmont Park, LEGOLAND, and SeaWorld are always fun options for young-at-heart visitors of all ages. La Jolla Beach is arguably San Diego’s most popular beach, and it’s a great place to bring the family if you want to avoid college parties. Head to the North Park neighborhood to check out the various entertainment venues, art galleries, bars, eclectic cafes, and restaurants. Be sure to spend some time exploring beautiful Balboa Park, a public park that’s home to stunning botanical gardens and so much more.

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5. Yosemite National Park

lake at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of the best vacation destinations for travelers who are hoping to explore California’s incredible nature. It’s a great spot to rent a cabin in the woods and get away from it all, or you can get active and check out the area’s many outdoor attractions, including breathtaking waterfalls, cliffs, groves, and other natural wonders. Spring is a great time to visit Yosemite, as it’s usually less busy than the summer season, yet the weather is still ideal for outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting, boating, bicycling, and hiking.

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6. San Francisco

golden gate bridge

One of California’s most vibrant cities, San Francisco, has something to offer everyone. The weather is pleasant, but be sure to bring a jacket, since the spring weather can get chilly at times. There are plenty of local day-trip options, such as Santa Rosa, Sausalito, and Half Moon Bay, if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You’re never going to run out of things to do in San Francisco. Party with your family at Smuggler’s Cove, a pirate-themed tiki bar, or enjoy a stroll down Pier 39, a scenic pier with plenty of shopping and dining options. While you’re in the city by the bay for spring break, be sure to spend some time on the gorgeous water — Captain Kirk’s Yacht Charters is always a great choice.

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7. Big Sur

california pacific

Conveniently located roughly at the halfway point between Northern and Southern California, Big Sur lets you experience both areas. You can catch some sun by the water on the shores of one of the area’s many secluded beaches, and then take a stroll through towering redwood forests that are just minutes away. Vacation rentals are available in the nearby San Simeon, Carmel, and Cambria areas if you’re not able to find anything right in the village. Pfeiffer Beach is a great place to spend some of your time, as it’s incredibly beautiful but usually uncrowded. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is another incredibly beautiful hiking hot spot among visitors and locals, and it’s a fantastic spot for scuba diving.

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8. Sonoma County

california vineyard

Sonoma County is famous for being one of the best wine regions in the world. The region features a variety of towns and cities including, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Sebastopol. The towns and cities are easily accessible by car, and each has its own unique charm. Santa Rosa has a thriving downtown area with exceptional restaurants and bars, including the world-famous Russian River Brewing Company. The Russian River flows through the area, and it’s a wonderful spot to go tubing or just tailgate by the shore. If you head north a bit, you’re going to hit the rural redwood forests, including Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve, a stunning public forest with some of the most massive trees in the world.

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