BEST TIME TO VISIT CALIFORNIA’S CENTRAL COAST
Located between two of the West Coast’s fast-paced major cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central California Coast happily moves a little slower. This past April, we got to soak in its laid back vibe, natural beauty, and road trip for miles along stretches of beautiful coastline.
Just because there are over 300 days worth of sunshine each year on the Central Coast, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great tips for how to make the most of your trip here. Whether it’s a visit to one the world-famous wineries, a day at the beach, or a lowkey getaway to hang around one of the local surf towns, we’re sharing our best advice and insider knowledge to help you do it right.
- Read Next: 6-Day Central California Coast Road Trip Itinerary
- Read Next: California Beach Vacation Packing List
Here’s all you need to know about the best time to visit the California Central Coast.
Visiting the California Central Coast in Spring
During our April visit, we were spoiled by warm and sunny weather with slimmer crowds. For that reason, it makes spring one of the best times to visit the California Central Coast. The rainier winter season leads to a dramatic burst of wildflowers and lush landscapes that you won’t see year-round. Temperatures can range from 50 degrees to mid 70s during the day with full sun, and there can also be a bit of rain. So, pack accordingly (we’ve got a list for that)! Be aware that there is a saying, ‘May Gray’ and ‘June Gloom,’ which means that these months can be foggy.
Things to Do in the Spring on the California Central Coast
- Bike the Ventura River Trail out to Ojai for the best weather and green landscape during springtime
- Enjoy beachfront camping at Faria Beach Campground – reservations are recommended
- Photograph the sunset at Moonstone Beach and stay a few nights at the Cambria Beach Lodge
- Take a hike to see the wildflowers bloom in the foothills of Santa Barbara
- Beat the summer crowds and hang out at sunny Avila Beach for a day
Visiting the California Central Coast in Summer
Summer is California’s high season, when visitors start rolling in and places fill up fast. Despite the crowds, this is also one of the best times to visit the Central Coast of California, which tends to be a less popular destination in comparison to its southern and northern counterparts. Temperatures are warm and sunny, sometimes varying 20 degrees from day to night, so bring the right clothes. The coast is cooler and more enjoyable during the summer, plus, there’s a lot going on in the downtown areas. It’s not hard to choose your own adventure during this season, but here’s what we suggest…
Things to Do in the Summer on the California Central Coast
- Go sea kayaking at Avila Beach Paddlesports to see the magical Port San Luis Lighthouse
- Head out to camp on the Channel Islands. Bring a wetsuit and go snorkeling!
- Go on a whale watching tour off the coast of Santa Barbara for your best chance of seeing blue, humpback and minke whales.
- Enjoy the breeze and the scenery as you bike along the Ventura Pacific Coast Bikeway, from Ventura to Santa Barbara
- Go camping at Lake Casitas. As an alternative to the beach, this oasis is several miles inland, and you can still be out on the water, or go hiking and biking, too.
Visiting the California Central Coast in Fall
During the fall, crowds thin out at the beach and the weather stays sunny and warm well into September and early October. If you’re into wine, this is your best time to visit the California Central Coast to catch harvest season at the wineries. You might even catch some fall colors! Regardless of where you go, the tourist season will have ended, which makes it a great time for outdoor enthusiasts to soak in the Central Coast’s natural beauty.
Things to Do in the Fall on the California Central Coast
- Head out to Tin City in Paso Robles for local wine, breweries, and farm-to-table food. This is also a big time for live music, fairs, and other events in the area.
- Watch the sunset over the Pacific from Douglas Lookout at Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara
- Take a tour (and stomp some grapes!) at the Samsara Winery, Goleta’s first winery where they make the wine onsite, on the outskirts of Santa Barbara
- Road trip the California Central Coast from Ventura to Big Sur along California Highway One
- Snag an oceanfront campsite at secluded Jalama Beach
Visiting the California Central Coast in Winter
California’s Central Coast is beautiful all year-round, but there are a few things you want to avoid doing in the winter. This is the rainy season, so be prepared and aware that mudslides are more likely to occur and can result in road closures as you approach the Big Sur area. During the colder months, temps are cool to mild, so you’ll be better off going inland.
Things to Do in the Winter on the California Central Coast
- Go whale watching in Morro Bay to see orcas, grey whales, or humpbacks during their southern migration
- Go a bit inland and spend a day or two exploring Ojai or San Luis Obispo, where you can hike, eat, drink and take in the local culture
- During December, Santa Barbara and many other beach towns and cities, celebrate the holidays with light shows on the water. Check out the Santa Barbara Parade of Lights from Stearns Wharf to feel a little festive.