This Small California Town Is One of the Most Beautiful Coastal Destinations in the State

A seaside adventure awaits, with adorable seals, charming cottages, and delicious wine.

California is a big state. We’re talking 163,696 square miles big. And its coastline stretches for some 840 miles, making it a place of endless adventure opportunities. It's also home to some of the most well-known destinations around the world, including Yosemite, Big Sur, Malibu, and San Diego. But, on any West Coast adventure, try not to overlook the smaller gems, like the gorgeous seaside community of Cambria. 

Tucked halfway between two of the state’s most popular cities — San Francisco and Los Angeles — Cambria is a breath of fresh air for those seeking quieter travel moments. Here’s what you need to know to plan a trip to this tiny slice of paradise. 

Landscape with Pacific Ocean beach, Cambria, California, USA

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What to Know Before You Go to Cambria

Cambria isn’t the place to visit for hustle and bustle. It’s a community of roughly 5,000 full-time residents. But what it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in relaxation opportunities. That includes soaking up the sun on a rugged shoreline while waiting for a migrating whale to swim by, renting a beach cruiser to meander through town, or visiting one of the wineries to sip and savor the day. It may not be the place to party, but it’s the place to go when you want to release some tension and feel your shoulders drop.

Best Things to Do in Cambria

Moonstone Beach

Coastline with boardwalk at Moonstone Beach in Cambria California

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If dramatic views are what you’re after, there’s no better place to be than Moonstone Beach. The shoreline is famed for its awe-inspiring vistas — massive rock formations included — which you can admire from both the top of its cliffside or while walking down to the sand. In the middle, check out the tide pools brimming with tiny aquatic life, and keep an eye on the horizon for a pod of whales swimming by. There’s also a one-mile boardwalk available for those wanting to see the beach from end to end.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Piedras Blancas
Northern Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas Rookery in Cambria, California.

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If you time your visit right, you may get to see the adorable (and noisy) elephant seals at Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery. Though it's located just north of Cambria, in San Simeon, it’s worth the drive, as you can witness thousands (we’re talking an estimated 17,000) of the animal come to rest on the beach for cycle breeding, birthing, and molting before moving on in the season to explore the wider ocean. According to Piedras Blancas Friends of the Elephant Seal, the number of seals here peaks three times during the year: late January, early May, and late October. Check out the organization’s live cam to see how many seals are there just before your visit. 

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, a 436-acre park with bluff and forest trails is viewed from one of its many vistas

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Squeeze in even more time in nature with a visit to Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, a 437-acre area home to several endangered species. The one-time working ranch is now a protected oasis that guests can explore every day of the year for free. Come hike the miles of trails along steep ocean bluffs, through verdant grasslands, and towering forests. 

Wine Tasting

Dusk in business district of Cambria, California

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There are several winery tasting rooms in Cambria, making it entirely possible to embark on your own walking vino tour in town. Visit Black Hand Cellars, located on Main Street, for a taste of its Sovereignty Reserve, then walk down to Moonstone Cellars on Cornwall Street for its merlot. Need a third? Check out Cutruzzola Vineyards, also located on Main Street, known for its pinot noir. 

Best Places to Stay in Cambria 

Cambria Pines Lodge

You'll find yourself just a short walk from Moonstone Beach with a stay at the Cambria Pines Lodge. The adorable rooms here come with personal fireplaces to cozy up at night, plus there's a curated garden and the Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant, which serves California cuisine alongside nightly live music.

Moonstone Cottages

Moonstone Cottages offers just three individually designed accommodations, making it a prime place for those seeking privacy and solitude. The cottages sit across from the beach, providing gorgeous views, and each room feels like you’re walking into a friend’s welcoming home. Rooms here also feature complimentary breakfast so you can start the day right.

Oceanpoint Ranch

For more ocean-view rooms, check out the aptly named Oceanpoint Ranch. Also located along Moonstone Beach, this property includes nine beautiful seaside acres that guests can walk throughout the day. The ranch underwent a renovation in 2019, but still maintains many original charms, including its vaulted wood ceilings and claw-foot tubs. 

How to Get to Cambria 

Reaching Cambria is both easy and fun. We recommend flying into either San Francisco or Los Angeles, then renting a car to make your way up Highway 1. Though a drive down this route will take you a lot longer, the views are worth it. For a quicker journey that will take less than two hours, fly from either city to the nearby San Luis Obispo airport.

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