Things to do and see in Southern California

Published Date: January 5, 2023

view of malibu beach
With year-round sunshine, iconic beaches and picturesque mountains, Southern California might just be paradise. When you add vibrant cities, world-class dining, nightlife and outdoor recreation, SoCal offers endless possibilities for visitors and locals alike. Comprising the lower third of the Golden State, Southern California includes Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura County, Orange County, Palm Springs and San Diego. If you’re making a list of things to do in Southern California, there’s one thing you should keep in mind: You won’t be able to fit it all into one trip. Here’s our list of what to do in SoCal to get you started.

World-renowned beaches

People from all over the country (and beyond) flock to Southern California for the perfect combination of sunny weather and beautiful beaches. Whether you prefer the peaceful coastline of Santa Barbara County, the world-famous Santa Monica Pier or the vintage SoCal vibe of San Diego’s Ocean Beach, you could easily spend a whole vacation just deciding which beach is your favorite. 

Year-round hiking

Thanks to the diversity of landscapes in Southern California, the region is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. A favorite is Ryan Mountain Trail in Joshua Tree National Park, located just east of Palm Springs. This three-mile out-and-back hike is a challenge, with 1,050 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile and a half. At the peak, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the park. A popular dog-friendly hike is Brush Canyon Trail up to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. This 1,050-foot climb takes you to the peak of Mount Lee. From there, you can see the Griffith Observatory, the Lake Hollywood Reservoir, the Santa Monica Mountains and Dodger Stadium.


In Southern California, you can get on or in the water almost any time of year, in many different ways.


Just because you’re at the beach, you don’t have to stay on the shore. You can take a ferry or a cruise from Long Beach to Catalina Island on a day trip. Catalina is just one of the offshore places to visit in Southern California — you can also sail from Oxnard to the Channel Islands in about an hour. 


Nothing says California quite like surf culture. Some of the best surfers in the world hail from these beaches. Throughout the region, you can watch surfers catching waves, with the most challenging swells often happening around Orange County’s Huntington Beach Pier, Windansea Beach in La Jolla and Surfrider Beach in Malibu. Want to try surfing for yourself? San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente, dubbed “Old Man’s Beach,” is a great place to learn how to surf. San Onofre offers an inclusive, beginner-friendly atmosphere and remains one of the friendliest surf communities in the nation.


A short drive north of San Diego, La Jolla Cove is a dream destination for kayakers of all skill levels. A 15-minute paddle out into the cove provides a glimpse into sea life that can’t be found near the shore, including sea turtles, seals and exotic fish.

Shopping, restaurants and nightlife

Southern California is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as legendary nightlife districts like Los Angeles’s famous Sunset Strip and San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.The region also has more than its share of high-end retailers. Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and La Jolla are all known for their exclusive boutiques, not to mention Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

A better way to see it all

One visit to Southern California is never enough. When you own a second home in Southern California, you can spend more time exploring. Pacaso co-ownership puts your SoCal vacation home within reach.

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Jen Lyons

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