Discover the Top 5 Senior-Friendly Travel Spots in California

Written by Niccoy Walker
Published: August 13, 2023
© Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com
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Older men and women are less likely to experience stress, depression, and other diseases when they take at least two vacations per year. And what better way to enjoy your retirement age than to visit one of California’s many charming cities? Whether sipping wine in Napa or lounging by the sea in Huntington Beach, this popular western state has a perfect and relaxing getaway with your name on it. Check out these picks for the top five senior-friendly travel spots in California and discover what there is to do, where to stay, and what to eat.

1. San Clemente

Colorful flowers and view of San Clemente State Beach from Calafia Park, in San Clemente, California.
San Clemente is known for its Spanish Colonial architecture and surf culture.

©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com

You may know San Clemente as Richard Nixon’s favorite vacation spot. And there’s a reason the former president owned a mansion in this part of the state. San Clemente is a Southern California city, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. The city is known for its beautiful beaches, Spanish Colonial architecture, friendly locals, and laid-back surf culture. You can spend your days strolling along the beach trail, visiting a cultural center, or shopping in the downtown district.

Things to do and see: San Clemente Pier, Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, Outlets at San Clemente, San Clemente State Beach, Left Coast Brewing Co., San Clemente Farmers Market, San Clemente Beach Trail, Calafia Beach Park

Where to stay: Sea Horse Resort (3-star oceanfront suites), Always Inn (Tuscan-style B&B)

Where to eat: Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar (seafood on the pier), Pizza Port (hand-tossed pies and house-brewed beer)  

2. Carmel-by-the-Sea

Large numbers of people enjoy the Pacific Coast of California at the dog friendly Carmel Beach, at Carmel by the Sea.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a unique destination with fairytale cottages.

©David A Litman/Shutterstock.com

With a name like Carmel-by-the-sea, you know this is a unique destination. This small beach city is on the Monterey Peninsula, about 74 miles southwest of San Jose. Carmel-by-the-sea is a little hidden gem filled with beautiful scenery and one-of-a-kind experiences. It features a village-like center with museums, a historic library, galleries, and fairytale cottages. From oceanside golf and secret coves to scenic drives and candy cottages, there is plenty to do at one of the best senior-friendly travel spots in California.

Things to do and see: Carmel Mission Basilica Museum, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel River State Beach, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Carmel Beach, Lone Cypress, China Cove, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Storybrook Cottages

Where to stay: L’Auberge Carmel (elegant 4-star inn with a renowned restaurant), Wayside Inn (3-star village hotel)

Where to eat: La Bicyclette Restaurant (unpretentious French-Italian), Dametra Cafe (lively spot for Mediterranean fare)     

3. Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach has many scenic natural areas and a laidback vibe.

©ianmitchinson/Shutterstock.com

Located nearly 40 miles south of Los Angeles, Huntington Beach is an oceanside city with an old-school California beach scene. While it’s popular as a surfing destination, there are many other things to do, as well. Visitors can check out one of the scenic natural areas, walk along the pier, stay at a luxurious oceanfront resort, or do a bit of shopping. This sophisticated surf city has a laidback beach vibe, perfect for a stress-free vacation.  

Things to do and see: whale-watching tours, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington State Beach, Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Central Park, Shipley Nature Center, Downtown Huntington Beach, The Reptile Zoo, Old World Village

Where to stay: The Waterfront Beach Resort (polished 4-star beach hotel), Pasea Hotel and Spa (premium 4-star hotel with many amenities)

Where to eat: Duke’s (Hawaiian seafood on the water), Old Mexican Kitchen (modern Mexican food with ocean views)

4. Napa

Beautiful fall colors found in a Vineyard in Napa, California.
Beautiful fall colors are found in vineyards across Napa, California.

©iStock.com/TraceRouda

There is no other place in the country quite like Napa. Located in the heart of the Napa Valley wine region, this charming city is known for its stunning vineyards, opera music, art scene, and late 1800s architecture. Napa is the closest thing you’ll get to Tuscany without going on a 15-hour plane ride. Check out the wine train, visit the farmer’s market and cheese shop, and eat at the riverfront promenade. This destination is definitely for those who appreciate food and wine.

Things to do and see: Oxbow Public Market, Trefethen Family Vineyards, Domaine Carneros, Alston Park, Hess Persson Estates, Robert Biale Vineyards, hot air balloon rides, shopping, gondola rides

Where to stay: Andaz Napa (sleek 4-star hotel), Meritage Resort and Spa (relaxed 4-star resort)

Where to eat: Bistro Don Giovanni (Italian bistro with terrace seating), Angele Restaurant & Bar (French cuisine in an old boathouse)   

5. South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe
South Lake Tahoe is a resort city on the lake.

©Fritzie Brady/Shutterstock.com

While most people think of the southern beaches when they hear California vacation, this western state has extremely diverse landscapes for every type of getaway. South Lake Tahoe is a resort city on Lake Tahoe, featuring both mountains and lake beaches. It’s in Eastern California near the Nevada border and the casino city of Reno. If you love being immersed in nature, South Lake Tahoe is quickly becoming a favorite spot among retirees.

Things to do and see: Pope Beach, Tallac Historic Site, Emerald Bay State Park, Vikingsholm Castle, Balloon rides, Lakeside Beach, The Shops at Heavenly Village, South Lake Brewing Company

Where to stay: The Landing Tahoe Resort & Spa (upscale 5-star hotel with a rooftop deck), Hotel Azure (3-star lakeside lodge) 

Where to eat: Base Camp Pizza Co. (unique homemade pies and cocktails), Heidi’s Pancake House (favorite local spot for homecooked breakfast)   

Senior-Friendly Travel Spots in California: A Recap of the Top 5

RankSenior-Friendly Travel Spots in California
#1San Clemente
#2Carmel-by-the-Sea
#3Huntington Beach
#4Napa
#5South Lake Tahoe


The Featured Image

Colorful flowers and view of San Clemente State Beach from Calafia Park, in San Clemente, California.
San Clemente
© Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the Triangle area and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

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