California Vacation Destinations That Evoke European Locales

Perfect road trips.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Corry Cook
  • Above photo courtesy of
    Park Hyatt Aviara Resort

Who needs Capri when there’s Malibu?

Daydreaming of an Aperol spritz on a patio overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea? Book a night or two at Malibu Beach Inn, located directly on Carbon Beach (nicknamed Billionaire’s Beach), featuring extensive ocean views. Guests can take advantage of the direct stairway to the sand and lounge on the hotel’s European-inspired chairs to soak up sun and people-watch. Speaking of people-watching: Spend time at the Malibu Country Mart, featuring unique boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, nestled against the majestic Santa Monica Mountains. Or grab a picnic lunch at Trancas Market and spend the day at Zuma Beach. For dinner, go fish-shack casual at the Reel Inn or (way) upscale at sprawling sushi emporium Nobu.

So long, Switzerland—we’ve got the Lost Sierra

While the natural assets of Switzerland can’t be overstated, the Lost Sierra in Northern California also provides scenic landscapes with some of the world’s most spectacular recreational areas, mountains and 50-plus glacially carved lakes. The Nakoma Resort has a 42-room lodge with a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed clubhouse, an 18-hole golf course, and Altitude Recreation Center with weight room, sauna, steam room, climbing wall, lap pools and theater. Those who crave outdoor adventure can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing and kayaking.

Portugal may have perfect waves, but so does Carlsbad

For surfers looking for an alternative to the popular Algarve region in Portugal, Carlsbad is an excellent option. Along its stunning six mile, easily accessible coastline, two spots, in particular, are favored by surfers: Tamarack Beach and Ponto Jetties. The SoCal destination mirrors Portugal’s soothing warm weather and also boasts numerous golf course offerings. Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond resort, is debuting a $50 million transformation this summer complete with room, restaurant and spa makeovers. Little ones in tow? Take them to explore and see the wild peacocks at the historic 27-acre Leo Carrillo Ranch. For grown-up thrills, go for a K 1 Speed go-kart ride before picking up a growler at one of the area’s distinctive craft beer breweries.