9 Magical Secret Spots and Hidden Gems in Southern California

Southern California is a place where you will find multiple off the beaten path. These hidden gems in Southern California are usually overlooked by tourists when they step foot in there. There are plenty of natural hot springs in California and other beauties that tourists often fail to notice in the first place.

However, it would be a great loss if you visit California and miss these undiscovered beauties. Some of such gems are in or near the main town whereas others are way off the usual path.

hidden gems in southern California

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If you are looking for such unpopular places in southern California, you have landed at the best place possible. This article is going to inform you all about the secret places to visit in Southern California that tourists tend to miss out on.

So, if you too are looking for some offbeat and hidden gems in the Bay Area or other parts of Southern California to spend a peaceful vacation, go ahead and give it a read. You will discover some of the most unique places to go to which are less of a tourist spot.

Best Hidden Gems in Southern California

1. Ojai Valley California

Location: A few miles up Highway 33, about 12 miles inland from Ventura and the coast.

How to Get to Ojai Valley:

The nearest airport to Ojai is Santa Barbara Airport, approximately 34.1 miles away. Some of the other nearby airports include Burbank(54.1 miles), Santa Ana(95.8 miles), Ontario/San Bernardino(98.2 miles), and Los Angeles(59.4 miles).

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • It is a year-round destination, although spring or late summer is considered to be the best time to visit.
  • Two nights is the perfect amount of time you can spend in Ojai.

The Ojai Valley is one of the smallest towns in Ventura County with not much more than 8000 residents. The city of Ojai is the hub of the valley and is definitely one of the best-hidden gems in Southern California.

Things to do in Ojai

There are plenty of hidden things to do in Southern California, but here are some you can do in Ojai:

  • Take a pottery class
  • Explore the downtown
  • Catch the pink moment
  • Chill down the poolside
  • Go olive tasting
  • Take a hike
  • Try a honey tasting
  • Go wine tasting
Hidden Gems in Southern California_Ojai Valley
Ojai Valley

2. Point Dume Malibu Coast

Location: Cliffside Dr & Birdview Ave which is located approximately 12 miles away from the Pacific Coast Highway. Malibu, CA.

How to Get to Point Dume Malibu Coast:

In order to get to the trailhead, you need to take PCH to Malibu and drive 19 miles northwest of the end of the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica. After that, turn left (south) at the light present on Heathercliff Road. Take the first left on Dume Drive and cover one mile to Sea Lion Place. Then, take the right and drive to the end of the street.

Once you reach Bird Avenue, take a left which will curve to the left behind the park and become the Cliffside drive.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • The best time to visit this place is considered to be from June to September because they are the warmest months. But if you visit from December to April you can see gray whales because that is the season for gray whale watching in Malibu.
  • Dume Cove has tide pools and a long stretch of sand where you can stroll. You can go for this if you want to extend your visit.
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Point Dume Malibu Coast is one of the most precious hidden gems in Southern California. This Preserve holds one of the best views in Southern California. If you visit the place on a clear day, you can even see the Malibu Coast to Santa Monica.

Things to do in Point Dume

  • Go for swimming
  • If you visit during the months of December to April, go for gray whale watching.
  • Enjoy surfing in the waters.
  • Go scuba diving.
Point Dume Malibu Coast
Point Dume Malibu Coast

3. UCR Botanic Gardens

Location: It is located in the foothills of the Box Springs Mountains present on the east side of the University of California, Riverside Campus.

How to Get to UCR Botanic Garden:

The nearest airport is Ontario Airport which is 18 mins away from Riverside. It is almost 56 mins away from Los Angeles.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • You can visit this location at any time of the year because the gardens are ever-changing and there is always a blooming season.
  • You can enjoy the scenic trails, multiple gardens, ponds, and a lot more here.  

It is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in California. If you are someone who appreciates nature and all of its botanical wonders, this will be amongst the best unique place to visit in SoCal. These paradisiacal gardens will also make a dreamy photoshoot backdrop.

Things to do in UCR Botanic Garden:

  • Go for a visit to the rose gardens because it is one of the most romantic hidden gems in Southern California for vacation.
  • Pay a visit to the Butterfly garden which displays a lot of flowering shrubs and supports the life cycle of butterflies and other pollinators.
secret places in southern california_UCR Botanical Gardens
UCR Botanic Gardens

4. Red Rock Trail

Location: Gibraltar Trail, Santa Barbara.

How to Get to Red Rock Pools:

It takes an hour to reach the Red Rock Pools from Santa Barbara.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • The ideal time to visit here is during the summer.
  • It is a one-day trip, so it works fine if you want a short trip to one of Southern California’s hidden places.

This is undoubtedly one of the besthidden gems in Southern California to go for a vacation. It is tucked away in a crescent-shaped bend along the Santa Ynez River. There is even a half-mile hike with a hill around 50 feet tall which eventually leads you to the Red Rock Pools.

Things to do in the Red Rock Pools:

  • Go for a short hike.
  • Go swimming.
  • Explore the graffiti on the walls.

Read Also: 10 Most Scenic Hiking Trails in Southern California

5. The Last Bookstore

Location: 453 South Spring Street, Los Angeles.

How to Get to The Last Bookstore:

The nearest bus stops to The Last Bookstore in Downtown are the Broadway or 5th and 5th-Broadway.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • The buy counter hours start from 10 am and continue till 5 pm for seven days a week.
  • You can visit this particular place at any time of the year.
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The Last Bookstore is one of the best-used bookstores and it is amongst the most beautiful hidden gems in Los Angeles. It is often overlooked by visitors. It is the best place for bibliophiles to enjoy the decadent smell of vintage books.

Things to do in the Last Bookstore:

  • Enjoy the view of the beautiful sculptures made using damaged copies.
  • Explore the hidden books all throughout the area.
  • Wander around and discover some of the best classics of California. That is what makes this one of the coolest places in Southern California for the book-lovers.
The Last Bookstore
The Last Bookstore

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6. Bunnyhenge

Location: 1333A Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach.

How to Get to Bunnyhenge:

It is installed in the park to the Civic Center. You need to turn north at the stoplight from Hwy 1 onto Avocado Ave. Then, drive approximately half a mile past the library and the Civic Center will be on your right.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • This place is open round the year.
  • It is a very delightful place for the children to go. Therefore, it is definitely a family-friendly placefor a short trip near Newport Beach.

Bunnyhenge is famous for a rabbit version of Stonehenge installed in the heart of Newport Beach. This goofy and absurd sculpture does make it one of the weirdest places in Southern California. It is a lesser know place in Orange County, so stopping by Bunnyhenge is a must.

Things to do in Bunny Henge:

  • Enjoy the aesthetic view of the bunny statues.
  • Explore the beach nearby.

Read Also: 15 Stunning Beaches You Must Visit in Southern California

7. Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

Location: Along the Central Coast of California, in northern Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo Counties.

How to Get to Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes:

Drive 2.8 miles from the intersection of Hwy 1 (Guadalupe Street) and Highway 166 (Main street), at the south end of Guadalupe. That will take you to the entrance gate of the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve parking lot.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • Winter is a pretty good time to visit if you want to see migrating waterfowl. Whereas, spring is the best time to view coastal dune plants in bloom and migrating shorebirds.
  • A voluntary donation for access to the park is necessary and is requested at the entrance gate.

This Southern California hidden gem is one of the largest dunes in California. Nobody would think this place to be less crowded because of its sheer size. But the treasures beneath the sand are what makes this destination so fascinating and complex at the same time. It is undoubtedly one of the prettiest places in Southern California.

Things to do in Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes:

  • Go for a hike.
  • Explore the sandy peaks and the treasures under the sand.
  • Enjoy the adjacent views of the ocean.
  • Explore wildlife with a travel binocular.
  • Enjoy the dramatic views of the Santa Maria River.
off the beaten path SoCal_Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes
Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes

8. Whale House

Location: 999 Andante Road, Santa Barbara.

How to Get to Whale house: 7.6 miles away from the University of California.

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Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • You need to book reservations before you visit the Whale House.
  • You can go for a short trip to this place all around the year.

It is one of the best-hidden getaways in California. The Whale House is nestled in Mission Canyon’s woods made up of undulating rows of cedar shingles. It is also one of the most astonishing homes in the U.S.

Things to do in the Whale House:

  • Go swimming in the pool.
  • Explore the mind-boggling interiors.
  • Enjoy a trip to the woods.

9. Bernardo Winery and Stores

Location: 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, San Diego, CA.

How to Get to Bernardo Winery and Stores: The winery is 30 minutes away from San Diego Airport.

Things to Know Before You Visit:

  • No reservation is necessary for shopping or visiting.
  • The winery is open from Wednesday to Sunday.

If you are looking for something offbeat in San Diego, this is the place. This winery has been making wine for a period of over 100 years. Along with the winery, there are beautiful little cottages. The winery is exceptionally beautiful and is even a historical place.

Things to do in Bernardo Winery and Stores

  • Go for wine tasting.
  • Enjoy the rustic charm of the winery grounds, gardens, and village shops.
  • Explore the historical beauties in every nook and corner of the place.
Bernardo Winery and Stores
Bernardo Winery and Stores

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Final Words:

California is home to some of the most popular cities in the US. But in addition to that, it holds a place for some of the underrated places in Southern California which the tourists often miss out on. But these fabulous destinations offer you enormously beautiful views along with being free from the hustle and bustle of the cities.

Thus, if you prefer quiet destinations, this off-the-beaten-path in Southern California would serve the best for you. All you need is to reserve your bookings!

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FAQ – Southern California Hidden Gems

1. What is the least visited place in Southern California?

A: The City of Emeryville is considered to be one of the most dangerous places in California. So, it is not much visited in comparison to others.

2. What is the quietest town in Southern California?

A: If you are looking for unusual Southern California attractions which are usually the quietest, you should go and visit the Eureka Valley and Inyo mountains. It is undoubtedly one of the besthidden gems in Southern California.

3. What is the most beautiful county in California?

A: California boasts the country’s most beautiful counties. Santa Clara, Ventura and Napa Counties are the most desirable places to live in America.

4. Where is a hidden gem location to live out your retirement in Southern California?

A: Some of the top listed best places to live in Southern California after your retirement are Visalia and San Jose.

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