1. Big Sur
Find unbeatable hiking, exhilarating scenery and a low-key neighborhood vibe at this woodsy coastal retreat. The iconic drive down the California Coastal Highway (Hwy 1), alone, is worth the trip.
Check out: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (47555 Hwy 1; 831-667-2315), the best-known section of Big Sur, has gorgeous redwood groves and an 80-foot waterfall. Abandon your modesty for a soak in the clothing-optional hot springs at Esalen Institute, a New Age retreat open to the public by reservation only. In the evening, watch the sunset from the heated patio at Nepenthe, where you’ll get views of the mountains and ocean. (Pro-tip: Skip the overpriced food and stick with drinks instead.)
Stay at: Treebones Resort, a community of yurts furnished with queen-sized beds and heaters starting at $320/night. For a more rustic experience, roll out sleeping bags in the resort's Human Nest, a lofted, woven-wood-art shelter (starting at $175/night).
Eat at: Splurge on dinner at coast-hugging The Sur House, where local, sustainably fished seafood combines with foraged and housemade delights for an unforgettable meal.
Distance from SF: 2 hours 40 mins