The places to visit on the west coast are more numerous than we could ever hope to list.
Putting together a list of the best places to vacation on the west coast is an art unto itself; picking and choosing the best west coast attractions from a list of places with phenomenal potential.
The sheer variety of ecoregions is staggering, from sweeping vistas to plains blanketed with tall grasses, whispering in the breeze and stretching beyond the horizon as far as the eyes can see.
Massive canyons, carved over eons by the power of rushing water, huge forests, already ancient when the pyramids were built, and long stretches of coastline, sinuous and dazzling against the Pacific blue.
Here are the 22 best places to visit on the west coast of America.
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The Golden Gate Bridge is the pinnacle of the west coast and one of the first things anyone thinks about when it comes to the west coast and California specifically.
Aside from the sheer beauty of the surrounding area, San Fransisco is loaded with historical significance.
There's Alcatraz, the infamous prison of both reality and Hollywood movies, Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street, Haight Street, and the redwoods right outside the city.
If you've never seen the redwoods before, some of these trees are so massive you can drive a van through the center.
The Muir Woods, Redwoods Regional Park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park are all located near the city.
The best part is you can play with the seals at Fisherman's Wharf, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and see the redwoods on the same day.
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in San Francisco
Another California city makes the list of best places to visit on the west coast, and for many excellent reasons.
San Diego is a coastal city, which helps to boost it to the number one or two position on most lists.
San Diego also has excellent year-round weather.
Hangliding and surfing are enormous in San Diego. Whale watching is also fun if you have a boat or can rent one for the weekend.
Whales frequently move through the coastal areas as they migrate, making quite the show when they surface for a breath.
Mexican food in the area is as close to authentic Mexican as you can get in an American city, and the entire city is rife with some of the best Mexican restaurants around.Salvation Mountain is a fantastic destination just outside the city, and you should certainly put it on your list.
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in San Diego
If you love coffee, there are probably more independent coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, than in any other place on the planet.
One of the things that makes Portland one of the more interesting places to visit on the west coast is the interesting and sporadic vibe of the city's aesthetic.
Turn one corner and find yourself on a peaceful, waterside little nook.
Turn to the next corner and find yourself in a sea of red brick, with the buildings lining the red brick road all shades of red themselves.
Most of the streets are lined with food carts, where you'll find some of the best food in the state.
Indie foods are huge in Portland, and the Voodoo Doughnut should be on your destination list for its name alone.
There’s also the Bing Mi, and the BTW, both highly popular eateries in the city.
The city is so full of variety and looks that you could spend an entire week exploring every fascinating corner.
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Portland, OR
The one thing that is quintessentially Seattle is the Seattle Space Needle, a tall construct that stands high in the city sky.
It's best when viewed and visited at night, especially if you appreciate the firefly-like nightlife of Seattle from above.
Pike Place Street is one of the more popular Seattle destinations, mainly because only local business is allowed to operate there.
Pike Place Street is well-loved for its local fineries, food, and culture.
If you love museums, there are a ton of them throughout the city as well.
The city is loaded with sights and sounds, such as the Museum of Pop Culture, Historic Pioneer Square, the Seattle Center, and President Eisenhower’s Air Force One.
We could write an entire article on things to do throughout the city and still not cover everything.
Every so often, throughout America, you can still come across places where the world you know simply ends.
There’s nothing before you but the raw, untamed power of nature. It's as if it existed long before the first human laid eyes on it.
Yosemite National Park is one such place.
Like Yellowstone, one can do nothing but gape at its elemental majesty and consider how infinitesimally small we really are.
Towering cliffs, dotted with shrubbery and giving way to slim waterfalls that carved their way through the mountainside over thousands of years, is a sight to behold.
The lakes are cool and pristine, mirror images of the mighty rocks and trees above them.
You will find signs of people but only insofar as tiny, nearly untamed hiking trails.
We've endeavored to make as little of an impact as possible on places like Yosemite, and the result is a powerful and enduring adventure.
Lake Tahoe sits across two borders; you can reach it from either Nevada or California.
Take your pick! Either way, Lake Tahoe is easily one of the best vacation spots on the West Coast or, rather, inland from the west coast.
Like Yosemite, towing, snow-capped mountains encapsulate the lake, though these mountains are far more distant and majestic, almost a hazy dream brought to life as you paddle a SUP across the slick surface of the water.
The lake is open to all sorts of activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, camping, and hiking.
It's one of the best places in America to truly live off the grid, even if only for a day, two days, or as long as you have a mind to.
Also Read: The Best Things To Do in Lake Tahoe
There’s no arguing that Las Vegas is one of the best places to vacation on the west coast.
However, it's pretty different from many of the previous entries on the list. This is a veritable party in the wilderness of the desert.
They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
If you're looking for swirling neon lights, hours upon hours of gambling, premium casinos, and world-class entertainment, Vegas is humankind's attempt to stand strong against the inhospitable desert and build a neon empire.
As far as west coast travel destinations go, Vegas is on the pricey side.
But the expense is well worth it, with some of the world’s best casinos matched only by some of the best breakfast restaurants in the region.
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Las Vegas
In the world of college football, some would argue that Death Valley is the Louisiana State University Stadium.
Others would cry that the title belongs to Clemson University. The reality is it belongs to California.
Death Valley is far from a malevolent place. It's certainly hot, but that's a good reason to visit it at night.
There's another good reason to visit at night and, at the very least, bring a pair of binoculars, if not a telescope.
If you’ve ever seen the stars far from the ambient light of synthetic structures, it's a dazzling display.
In Death Valley, you’ll be forgiven for thinking someone transported you to another planet altogether.
The view is startling and majestic and will give you a newfound respect for how tiny our world is.
California spots make it on our list so often because so much of California is still raw and untamed, with beauty constrained in its natural environment.
If you're looking for places to go on the west coast, you would do well to mark Big Sur down.
Big Sur is probably one of the most beautiful beaches you can find without catching a plane ride to Hawaii, assuming you prefer rocks over sane.
The winding roads are butted against the Pacific, so even your trip into the area is full of breathtaking scenery.
This is one of those rare places in the US where the mountains run into the ocean, creating the saying "an unstoppable force against an immovable object".
Here, you get to see the power of rock and wave as they collide for the zillionth time over the centuries.
Sure, we mentioned it in the section on San Fransisco because it's right outside of San Fransisco and worth mentioning more than once.
Prepare to feel like the smallest living creature in the world for a day or two.
The redwoods are enormous, often blotting out the sun with their sheer height.
Lady Bird Johnson’s Grove, Big Tree, and the Chandelier Tree are all worth your time while you're in Redwood National Park.
The park is one of the best places to travel on the west coast thanks to its close relation to San Fransisco.
There are also many activities, especially in the nearby waters, such as kayaking, canoeing, hiking trails, and an interesting tidepool walk that will leave you speechless in wonder.
Well, it may not be the west coast per se, but it is on our list because this place is too important to pass up.
As far as the best vacations on the west coast go, you should put Zion National Park in your GPS and head that way.
It's literally the next best thing to the Grand Canyon, with its own unique aesthetic.
The sandstone cliffs and deep, red carvings within the earth are incredible sights on their own.
The number of hiking trails is extensive, so you can take all the sights over a few short days.
The hotels here are beautiful, just in case you aren’t rocking your own RV.
There are also a ton of guided tours and canyoneering events to take advantage of.
If exercise is your thing, you’ll get more than you might want while canyoneering.
Another gorgeous destination in Utah, Arches National Park has an applicable name since its home to more natural sandstone arches than any other place on the planet.
It's very similar to Zion National Park otherwise, just with those mysterious arches everywhere.
One thing is for sure: arches or no arches, sandstone has its own kind of beauty, and the air is infinitely clean in Arches.
The cool breezes that whip throughout the park, rubbing against the red walls of a hundred cliffside, will cool the sweat on your brow.
Located fewer than ten miles from Moab, Arches National Park is one of the most beautiful places on the west coast.
Well, close to the west coast, anyway.
The entrance fee is a little steep, at $30, so take full advantage of it and prepare for a day of adventure.
There are two places on earth where you can purchase and drink the finest vintage wines: Italy and Napa Valley, California.
Of course, some may not agree, but they can’t deny the incredible vintages that come out of this area.
Napa Valley is a wine and dine heaven for everyone.
Traveling there is one of the best things to do on the west coast if you love a laid-back lifestyle that comes with incredible food and fantastic wine.
Even if you’re only in town for a day.
Located 50 miles north and east of San Fransisco, Napa Valley is a tiny slice of paradise with beautiful rolling hills that stretch to the horizon.
The weather is almost always phenomenal, and did we mention the wine? You owe it to yourself to make the trip.
Also Read: The Best Weekend Trips for the Wine Lover
While not exactly “west coast,” what kind of people would we be if we failed to bring up this natural masterpiece in a list of the best places to visit on the west coast? The Grand Canyon is intrinsically linked to the word "epic".
Everything about it screams “gargantuan”.
The levels of beauty worth experiencing here are more than worthy of a ten-volume book series.
You’re not just restrained to sightseeing either.
The Grand Canyon plays host to hiking trails galore, whether you go to South, West, or North Rims.
There are also many smaller places to visit within the canyon, such as Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and the Grand Canyon Sidewalk.
The South Rim is the portion of the Grand Canyon you can access from the state of Arizona.
Monterey, California, is one of the best cities on the list of west coast attractions you could visit.
If you're looking for a small-town vibe with an epic, indeed extraordinary beaching experience, Monterey is where it's at.
Pebble Beach is the primary tourist destination for most out-of-town visitors, but Monterey has so much more to offer.
There are Lover’s Point, Asilomar, and Del Monte beaches as well.
The sands are not quite the sugar white of the Florida panhandle, but it's a fine sand that’s easy to walk.
Dennis the Menace Park is a blast, and Cannery Row is also an exciting destination.
There are plenty of boat tours, along with SUP, kayak, canoe, jet ski, parasailing, and skiing rentals, especially in the peak of the summer.
The natural part of California is vast and beautiful, but there's something about Oregon's parks and wilderness that are just primal and deeply resonating with all who visit.
Located in the Cascade Mountains, Crater Lake National Park is a premier destination on the west coast.
The lake itself was formed after a violent, traumatic eruption that was so huge it collapsed the very volcano that ushered it.
The resulting crater filled with water sometime later and is proof that even violent, destructive natural events can begat beauty and serenity.
Wizard Island is a fantastic destination at Crater Lake, along with the massive lodge visitors can opt to stay in.
The scenery is nothing short of incredible, and the park has hiking trails and many other outdoor activities that allow you to soak it all in.
It might be a fairly small space, only 369 miles², but Mount Rainier National Park is an incredible vacation destination.
Mount Rainier itself is the centerpiece of the park, towering over everything at 6,400’.
Mount Adams and Paradise Overlook also stand as stone sentinels, with Paradise Overlook stretching 5,400' into the sky.
If you're not afraid to put your hiking shoes on or grab a mountain bike, you can reach the peak and have a picnic on top of the world.
If you visit the park during the summer months, you can enjoy the serene beauty of endless sunflower meadows as they dance in the light breezes and the flashing sunlight.
To top it all off, the surrounding countryside is rife with vibrant greenery and shimmering waterfalls.
If you’re in the mood for quaint fishing villages nestled up against the Pacific Ocean, Astoria, Oregon, is a gleaming jewel of west coast attractions.
Besides, Astoria is where the Goonies was filmed, so it definitely has something going for it.
This quaint little town is packed to the brim with small shopping centers, diners, an exciting and cute downtown area, and plenty to do.
It's surprisingly peaceful, considering its history with Hollywood and its attraction from the tourism trade.
First and foremost, Astoria is a fishing town; you can smell the fish and sea as soon as you drive into the area.
There's a shipwreck you can visit just outside of town, in Fort Stevens State Park.
It's not as old as the pirate ship on the Goonies, but it was wrecked in 1906.
If you like the large, brick-red, clay tile roofing look, you’ll find it and a whole lot more in Santa Barbara, California.
State Street is one of the main attractions here, but the entire city is loaded with fine dining restaurants, coffee shops, various clothing stores, and boutiques.
It's a cozy, if large, nook located on the coast, offering a splendid view of the Pacific Ocean and distant mountains.
The Spanish-Coloquial architecture (clay tiling mentioned above) is unique and very fitting for this coastal paradise.
One of the more popular attractions in the city is the clock tower, where tourists can ascend to the top and take in a breathtaking view of the surrounding city, countryside, mountains, and the Pacific.
Not to mention the beach, which is a gorgeous slice of tropical heaven.
When most people think of rainforests, they think of regions in South America, Africa, and possibly even Mexico.
The last thing that comes to mind is a northwestern state like Washington.
Nevertheless, Olympic National Park is just that—a sprawling, temperate rainforest.
If hiking is a priority on your "things to do on the west coast" list, you'll find our heaven here.
Olympic Park is full of hiking trails, and every square inch of the trail is a setup for a marvelous view of the surrounding countryside and vegetation.
Natural-looking hiking trails are carved out of the rocky, rolling hills, leading into mountainous landscapes, alpines, and verdant greenery all around.
The sights and smells are fantastic.
The surrounding area is rife with history, excellent lodging, and plenty of fine dining.
Also Read: Most Beautiful Rainforests In The USA
South California should at least be on the secondary possibilities bucket list if not one of your primary destinations.
If you do head that way, do yourself a favor and stop in Anaheim, California.
Anaheim also happens to be home to Disney Land, in case you’re in the mood for some adrenaline roller coasters and themed rides.
The Great Wolf Lodge is also a popular destination in Anaheim, and it offers winding, lazy rivers, wave pools, water slides, and so much more.
On the perimeter of the city, you’ll find Knotts Berry Farms.
If you’re in the mood for some countryside flavor, they sell a ton of fresh vegetables and canned goods.
Adventure City is also an option, especially if you don't want to drop a lot of money on Disney.
If you have kids along for the ride, Adventure City was designed just for them, not for adults, however.
The point is Anaheim is one of the best west coast cities to visit for more reasons than we can put down in a single article.
We saved one of the most beautiful locations on the list for last. Cannon Beach is a phenomenal sight to take in.
A gorgeous, pristine beach surrounded by rocky, low mountains and hills, with just enough rocks to create frothy ocean waves as they breach the shoreline.
Whale watching is a fantastic activity to partake in and is quite common in the area.
Cannon Beach also offers many dining opportunities, especially if you appreciate good seafood.
The lodging is fantastic as well since everything is surrounded by dazzling imagery.
Some of the best attractions in the area include Haystack Rock and Ecola State Park.
The hiking and outdoor viewing opportunities are immense, so be sure to pack some of your best outdoor gear for the journey.
Also Read: The Best West Coast Beaches You Must Visit
It depends on what you're looking to do. Some parks are busy all year round but slow down throughout the coldest months. Along the beaches, the most suitable time to visit is early summer and just before the fall, when the tourism hiatus is not in full swing.
Some of the best west coast cities to visit include Anaheim, California; Astoria, Oregon; Santa Barbara, California; Monterey, California; and Cannon Beach, Oregon, especially if you love a mix of city life, scenery, and the occasional small-town vibes.
The San Juan Islands in Washington and the North Cascades National Park in Washington are two truly hidden gems that have to be seen to be believed. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Oregon is also an exceptional and criminally underrated area to visit.
It's hard to pick out a few since there are so many. Pismo Beach, in California, is a beautiful slice of paradise carved out against the Pacific Ocean and much quieter than some of the city options. Depoe Bay in Oregon is another stunning location that’s highly underrated.
There you have it, 22 of the best places to visit on the west coast. Of course, no one can hit all 22 in one swing, but you should definitely mark these down on your calendar or map and hit them up when you can. There is still a ton of pristine beauty on the west coast, and every trip is like discovering it for the first time.