If you’re in the mood for a beach holiday in the USA, then you’re probably facing a choice between California and Florida. Both are exceptionally beautiful locations with a lot to offer in terms of coastal flavour and city slicking. They face different oceans and are unique in their climate, culture and activities, so which one should you pick?
California experiences a seemingly neverending, warm climate, much like Florida, except the heat is dry and not humid, with little rain. The landscape is very diverse and there are hilly areas, mountains, valleys, wine farms, cliffs, beaches and almost a little of everything. If you’re into the buzz of city life, you’ll find it in some of the most iconic cities in the world, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
Getting around in California is fairly easy, especially if you’re in Los Angeles or San Francisco. You can catch trains and buses from and to almost anywhere and in San Francisco, you can also hop on and off the charming trolleys.
Travel to: California
- Capital: Sacramento
- Coast: Pacific Ocean
- Population: 39.25 million
- Popular tourist attractions: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz
California Food And Drink
- A trip to California wouldn’t be the same without Pink’s Hot Dogs. These hot dogs are world famous and available in so many variations it’ll make your head spin. Find them on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood.
- You’ll also have to make time for a breakfast burrito from Tacos Villa Corona in Los Angeles, a taste of Mexican that you will remember forever.
- For the health conscious, there are plenty of options that will tempt your taste buds. Try a superfood smoothie bowl from The Hive in Santa Monica, a really funky organic bar with a whole lot of character.
- You’ll definitely want to sample some of the local wine from Napa Valley. A wine tour will give you the opportunity to soak it all in without the worry of having to drive yourself.
I grew up in southern California, so I’ve been to lots of places in the Golden State! But one of my favorite places to explore is downtown L.A. It’s completely walkable and has so much cool stuff, from Grand Central Market to the Bradbury building to rooftop bars. And that’s not to mention all the fantastic restaurants (The Must is a must!) and cool shops (The Last Bookstore). Another great place to visit is La Jolla in San Diego, which has very pretty beaches and amazing sunsets. Oh, and my hometown, Riverside, has the Festival of Lights during the holiday season. It’s one of the biggest Christmas light displays in the world! – Jessica, Barcelona Blonde
California’s beaches are world renowned, even though the sea can be a tad cold. It’s a surfer’s paradise, so if that’s your vibe, then definitely make a trip to Southern California, where the surf rolls in perfectly. If you’re looking for that iconic surf destination, then visit ether Malibu Beach or Huntington Beach.
Other highlights in California would have to be:
- Walking, jogging, skateboarding or roller skating the beach promenades of Los Angeles, specifically Venice Boardwalk
- Explore the well-known hills of San Francisco and ride the trolleys up or down
- Picnicking in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and then marvelling at the intricacies of the Japanese Tea Garden
- Take a boat tour to Alcatraz
- Walk the hippie-ville streets of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco
- Hike to the Hollywood Hills
- Visit the Hollywood Museum for a taste of the history of Hollywood
- Visit La Jolla beach town in San Diego and take a walk to the cliffs and tidal pools
- Take a trip to Legoland in San Diego to embrace your inner child
While I’ve taken many trips around California, my most recent favorite was our road trip to the ghost town of Bodie. The tiny town of Bodie lies east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in one of the most desolate regions of California. Bodie has been left abandoned for the last 75 years but remains preserved with homes, stores and even a school house filled with personal belongings. What was once a booming mining town slowly declined into a desolate ghost town with the last of the population leaving in 1942. Bodie has since become a California State Park and is open to the public.
The best advice I can give to a first-time traveller in California is to select either Northern California or Southern California, but don’t try and see both on the same trip. Many people don’t realize it is a 6 hour drive from San Francisco to Los Angles. Your time will be better spent sightseeing, there’s so much to explore in both regions. – Gennifer, Gennifer Rose
The Central Coast is my favorite hidden gem It’s 4 hours north of LA and 4 hours south of San Francisco, making it the perfect midway point on a scenic road trip. Getting to the Central Coast is half the fun: from San Francisco, you’ll drive through stunning Big Sur and some of the most beautiful coastline in the world on Highway One. But once you’ve arrived, there’s so much to see and do! There’s Morro Bay, an adorable seaside coastal town that’s also a wildlife sanctuary and otters playing in its harbor; Paso Robles, the Central Coast’s wine country, filled with rolling hills and vineyards and amazing things to eat and drink; Pismo Beach, where you can ride dune buggys on its giant sand dunes and watch the most beautiful sunsets over the water; and San Luis Obispo, a college town where you’ll find plenty of nightlife! – Lia & Jeremy, Practical Wonderlust
Florida is the hotter and more humid state when compared to California, you might even want to call it tropical. Although Florida doesn’t have as much of a diverse landscape as the Golden State, it has miles of incredible beaches and life is very much focused on the coast. Florida is home to iconic cities too, especially the infamous Miami.
Florida doesn’t have a comprehensive public transport system, so it would be better to hire a car to get around. Once you’re mobile, there are loads of beaches to explore with warm water, decent snorkelling and wild, lush jungle alongside.
The highlight of visiting Florida was kayaking in the beautiful turquoise freshwater springs of Weeki Wachee River and snorkeling with manatees in Crystal River. Make time for nature. I know many people visit for the theme parks and of course the beaches. However, I would encourage visitors to plan at least one nature focused activity like visiting a state or national park. – Lauren, Outdoorsy Diva
- Capital: Tallahassee
- Coast: The Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west
- Population: 20.61 million
- Popular tourist attractions: Walt Disney World® Resort, Miami beaches
Travel to: Florida
Floridan Food And Drink
- Florida’s flavour and colour extend to its food and drinks where margaritas are a staple and much-loved beverage, frozen or stirred, and in a multitude of flavours. Go for delectable margaritas made from authentic ingredients at any Los Tacos branch in the area.
- The heat also makes for frozen desserts being dished out in abundance to cool you down. For epic ice cream surrounded by old-school memorabilia, head to Jaxson’s in Dania Beach.
- Cuban sandwiches are the “must-have” in Little Havana, Miami, and you’ll find the ones made fresh daily at Little Bread are an absolute treat!
- Get your fill of local oranges whenever and wherever you can while in Florida. They will be hands down the freshest you’ll ever taste.
By far, the best highlights of my trip to Florida were all of the water activities and being able to relax by the beach. Florida is a super laid back place, but there are a ton of activities to do too, so make sure you enjoy it to the fullest when visiting! – Ady, Verbal Gold
Florida’s attractions are definitely along the beachfront, but we can’t forget the wonderfully magical world of Disney! Orlando, Florida is home to Walt Disney World® Resort and the Magic Kingdom®, and if you have kids (or you’re a kid yourself) then this should be your number one stop on your Florida road trip. Rides, experiences and adventures abound, although it can get pricey, there are ways you can make it more affordable for yourself.
Travel to: Copper Canyon
Other highlights that you should explore in Florida:
- Dance the night away in a hot, sweaty and colourful nightclub in Miami, we recommend Ball & Chain for some salsa
- Enhance your grey matter by taking a trip to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami
- Experience the culture of Cuba in Little Havana in Miami
- Take a kayaking eco-tour through the Everglades from Shingle Creek Regional Park
- Visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Orlando® Resort
- Splash out at the Adventure Island water theme park in Tampa
- Travel back in time at Dinosaur World theme park in Tampa
- Take in the perfect beaches and quiet solitude of Key Biscayne
Disney World is a very special place for us. Even though we’ve visited nearly every Disney park in the world (even attended the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland), we feel like Disney World in Orlando will always be our favorite. The thing we love about Disney is that you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it – there’s so much for adults to do. And that’s especially true at Disney World because it’s so massive – I think that’s why we love it so much.
First-time travellers, do your research and especially check the weather during the time of year that you are visiting Florida. Summer is brutally hot and humid in Florida. Don’t over schedule your itinerary, so you have time to rest in the A/C and drink a ton of water. However, it definitely can get cold during the winter (and it’s a wet cold!) – so don’t always assume that January will be hot. Also, it in Florida quite often so bring your rain gear and prepare for flooded streets nearly every afternoon in the summer. Also, while Orlando is a tourist Mecca – don’t forget about southern Florida. Taking an airboat ride in the Everglades or driving across 7-mile bridge in the Florida Keys are experiences every visitor to Florida should have. – Josh & Liz, Peanuts or Pretzels
Going to Harry Potter World was an unforgettable experience – it was filled with magic and it brought back the nostalgic times of reading the Harry Potter series. If you’re traveling to Florida for the first time, I highly recommend bringing a poncho or an umbrella, even if you’re going in the summer! There tends to be random rains and if you’re outside, you don’t want to be caught unaware. – Sharon & Heesun, Me Want Travel
So after you’ve taken it all in, which would state is your number one choice? California or Florida?