Planet-friendly, feel-good holidays in California

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Protecting and preserving the natural environment has long been key to California’s tourism industry.

In Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, the focus is very much on wellness, relaxation and allowing visitors to ‘pause and reflect’, explains Sonoma County Tourism CEO & President Claudia Vecchio.

Vineyard tours and wine tasting are popular in this lush corner of California and almost all of Sonoma County’s 60,000 acres of vineyards and most of its 425 wineries are certified sustainable.

Visitors are also lured by its 40+ spas, many of which are based in luxury hotels, its hiking trails through redwoods and ocean bluffs, and its more unusual wellness activities such as forest bathing, which allow tourists to escape their hectic lives.

Sonoma County

With so many fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs growing on the doorstep, and with so much livestock grazing in its fields, Sonoma County’s restaurants are able to serve up the freshest farm-to-fork ingredients, while the finest crab, salmon and oysters are harvested from the sea.

Talking of delicious fresh food, just two hours south of San Francisco, and only an hour’s drive from San Jose, you’ll find the rolling fields of Monterey County. “We are the salad bowl of the world,” said Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO Rob O’Keefe.

Your smashed avocado probably came from here along with the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay you wash it down with! Monterey County is also home to Big Sur, the most rugged and mountainous section of California’s Central Coast, perfect for long hikes followed by a soak in its natural hot springs.

The Pacific Ocean at Big Sur, California

For a true wellness holiday, visitors can also attend a healing workshop, perched on a cliff edge, with the native Esselen tribe.

Monterey Bay, once at the centre of the sardine-packing industry that was immortalised by author John Steinbeck, now houses an impressive aquarium with thousands of marine animals and plants.

Golf is also popular with visitors to Monterey County, whose Pebble Beach Club is a frequent host of the US Open Championship and host to the Women’s Open Championship this year.

Huntington Beach Pier

If surfing is more your clients’ thing, they should head south of Los Angeles to Huntington Beach, otherwise known as Surf City USA, renowned for its 10 miles of pristine beach, warm Mediterranean-like climate and its laidback style.

“Adaptive surf is huge in Huntington Beach,” said Visit Huntington Beach President & CEO Kelly Miller, adding that the city has put in a big effort to make the sport accessible to all. It will host the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Championship in November this year, the eighth major ISA event to be held in Surf City.

Back on dry land, Huntington Beach boasts some fantastic restaurants, such as Duke’s, well-loved for its coastal views and Hawaiian-style seafood, great shopping at the Pacific City outdoor mall, home to stylish boutiques, and luxurious beach resorts such as the Hyatt Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, The Waterfront Beach Resort or Paséa Hotel & Spa, where the rooftop is a great place for sundowners.

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