You know that old idiom praising moderation, too much of a good thing? I generally struggle finding situations or examples where too much of a good thing would be, well, a bad thing. That is, until I was tasked with showing Jan-Pieter my favorite stops on the California coast on our recent vacation. There are just too many beautiful beaches and points of interest to cover on a 4 day road trip, but I certainly did my best. Maybe filing this under "quality problems" would be more appropriate.
Anywho, our itinerary went something like this: Yorba Linda to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz to Livermore. Livermore to Carmel. Carmel to Morro Bay. Morro Bay back to Yorba Linda. We were fighting jet lag and the last stand of a really nasty cold contracted back in Dordrecht. Besides feeling slightly run down, our little getaway could not have gone better and here are the highlights:
Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz: One of my favorite places to watch the sunset, especially after strolling down West Cliff Drive (this always brings me back to my days at UC Santa Cruz). There's something so surreal about the rocks forming a natural bridge, the way the light casts on the beach, the coastal scrub. But it gets better. From Mid-October through February, the park's mild climate and eucalyptus grove provide a sanctuary for Monarch Butterflies - up to 100,000 of them! While we missed the butterflies this year, I really recommend checking out the park's butterfly preserve.
Point Lobos, Carmel-By-The-Sea: In a word, glorious. It's been called the "greatest meeting of land and water in the world" and known as a crown jewel in the California state park system. There is something magical in the diversity of plants and wildlife - ocean that fades from cool jade to deep indigo, cypress tress shaped by the ways of the wind, lichen covering everything like confetti at New Year's Eve Party, you really need to be there to take it all in. We were even lucky enough to spot some migrating humpback whales.
Ragged Point, Big Sur: This was not a planned stop but I'm so glad we rolled in. While I've camped at several locations in Big Sur (and loved them all) Ragged Point stole my heart. It's easy to access, boasts breath taking ocean views and provides a rustic and welcoming area to stretch your legs and grab a bite (or even sleep if you're so inclined).
Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach: Miles of hiking. Pristine beaches. A colorful historic district. A few great restaurants. A day here does not do the park justice, but will certainly put you in great spirits.
If you happen to have adequate time to really explore PCH, here are some more of my favorites in California (beaches I love that we didn't have a chance to visit): Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach, Malibu. Rio Del Mar State Beach, Santa Cruz. Bonny Doon Beach (clothing optional!) 8 miles North of Santa Cruz, CA. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg. Crescent Beach, Crescent City. Limekiln State Park, Big Sur.