"It's Criminally Underrated": Travelers Are Sharing The Most Beautiful And Unique Hidden Gems They've Encountered In The Golden State

One of my favorite things about living in California is how easy it is to roadtrip around and explore tons of diverse and interesting places. Recently, I asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share some of their favorite hidden gem destinations in my home state, and they had so many great suggestions. Here's what they had to say, plus a few of my own personal favorites:

1."CRIMINALLY Underrated: Half Moon Bay/Pacifica area. The entire drive is absolutely STUNNING, especially if you take the Skyline route. The woods and the fresh air, and the absolute vibe of a pit stop at Alice's Restaurant is a MUST."

Cliffside coastal hotel with a walking couple on the beach below

2."Crestline is very cool. It’s near Lake Arrowhead, just before Big Bear. Similar vibe, but it's nowhere near as crowded."

Tranquil lake scene with a wooden dock, trees on the side, ducks in the water, and a person in the distance

3."Monterey! Such an amazingly beautiful place, and the aquarium there is top-notch and right on the water."

Visitors observing jellyfish in a large aquarium display at an aquatic center

4."Solvang. It's a gorgeous drive and a great town."

Traditional windmill above European-style building against cloudy sky

5."Pacific Coast Highway. I know it is fairly popular, but it is hard to describe just how beautiful the drive is. A lot of neat small towns tucked away along the way, too."

Bixby Bridge on California's Pacific Coast Highway with ocean and coastal cliffs

6."Death Valley! It's so surreal and beautiful in its own way — Badwater basin, Artists Palette, sand dunes, super clear skies for stargazing! It really feels like you're on a different planet. Most people make the mistake of visiting when it's too hot, but November–February is *perfect*, and there are a bunch of ghost towns if you're road-tripping!"

Sign for Death Valley National Park beside a road with a passing vehicle

7."Point Lobos. It's very popular among locals and California natives, but not many people from out of state have heard of it. It’s amazing."

Coastal view with a natural rock arch over ocean waters, surrounded by wooded hills

8."The most underrated places to visit in California are the California Missions. There are over 20 from San Diego to Sonoma. By visiting you get to see beautiful architecture and learn about their rich history."

Historical mission building with a fountain in the foreground, reflecting on water

9.The Salton Sea, found in the Southern California desert, is technically an ecological disaster. But if you want to feel like you're visiting another planet, I can't recommend it enough. It can be very stinky and you'll be walking on sun-bleached fish bones, so wear shoes you don't care about and get ready to have a surreal experience.

Sign reading "PAVEMENT ENDS" next to a road transitioning into a natural landscape at dusk
Peter Unger / Getty Images

10.If you're visiting the Salton Sea, it's a short drive to one of my other favorite quirky destinations in California. Salvation Mountain is a one-of-a-kind piece of art created by Leonard Knight. Knight died in 2014, but a team of dedicated volunteers continues to maintain his work so future generations can enjoy it.

Salvation Mountain artistic landmark with religious and philosophical messages painted on a hill
Rj Sangosti / Denver Post via Getty Images

11."The Redwoods, specifically the Grove of Titans which is right outside Crescent City. Some of the tallest trees in the world are there, and it is absolutely breathtaking to stand among them."

Person walking on a forest trail surrounded by tall trees

12."Balboa Island, Crystal Cove, and Newport Beach each allow you to see the beautiful California coast."

View of a waterfront with boats, a Ferris wheel, and palm trees, depicting a leisure travel destination

13."Pinnacles National Park is so underrated. Although people are starting to catch on and it’s getting busy."

Scenic view of towering rock formations reflected in still water at a tranquil desert oasis

14."The Mission Inn in Downtown Riverside. It’s a gorgeous Spanish-style hotel built in the early 1900s. There are so many great photo ops amongst the Gothic architecture. They have an amazing Festival of Lights during the holiday season and even the prettiest gold-gilded chapel for weddings. I recommend Sunday brunch there as well!"

Marching band parades through a city street with onlookers, near buildings with 'Historic Riverside' mural

15."Hubby surprised me with a quick trip with a few days in Sausalito. We stayed at Inn Over Tides and our balcony hung over the water. Muir Woods walk early in the a.m. Vodka tasting at the Hanson Gallery. Great dining. Safe. Not too crowded in the spring. Great views right on the Bay. Then a few days in Carmel by the Sea. Had never even heard of it before but it was incredible. Lunch at Pebble Beach — impressive. Then the cute little town of Carmel. Cool shops, great dining. Beach is stellar. Carmel has a sense of calm. And no addresses. Check it out; it's only by street names!!!"

Scenic view of a coastal town with a pier, houses on a hillside, and calm waters

16."I’ve lived up and down the California coast and inland as well. But Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna Beach and the country towns like Jamul are things no one seems to talk about."

Palm trees and lush foliage overlook a tranquil sea at sunset

17."I think downtown Fullerton is super underrated since it’s so cute there and there’s [sic] so many options for bar hopping, comedy clubs, and more. I would also really recommend coming to see the super bloom in the spring if you are around town — it’s absolutely gorgeous. Tips from a born and raised SoCal girly."

Wooden walkway with handrails leading through a scenic area overlooking a town at twilight

18.Julian is a mountain town in San Diego County known for its apple orchards. It's an easy day trip out of San Diego proper, and I always feel like I'm living my Star's Hollow fantasy whenever I sit down in one of their cute little restaurants to order a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie.

Quaint street of Julian, California with shops, signage, parked cars, and a mountain backdrop
Peeterv / Getty Images

19."Sonoma County. I lived in Santa Rosa during high school and college. It’s so beautiful and there’s lots to do. It’s a great food and wine spot, and there are lots of hiking and biking opportunities and cool arts and culture events. It’s a good location because it’s also close to Bodega Bay, Napa, and San Francisco if you want to hit a couple of spots."

Vineyard rows with mustard flowers in bloom, cloudy skies above

Is there anything we missed? Tell me about your favorite California gems in the comments!