Santa Barbara boasts all that makes California the beautiful state that it is. With its breezy town that touches the Pacific coast and being nestled next to rolling hills, it's no wonder Santa Barbara has been dubbed America's Riviera. A drive through this town means spectacular views along the Pacific Coast Highway and through the hills toward the wine region, but it's certainly not a drive-by kind of place. For a girls' getaway it's a definite must-stop for the laid-back surfer vibe, quaint city streets, some of the best seafood you'll find and of course some fabulous California wine.
Where to stay: Canary Hotel
Unpack your bags at the chic boutique Canary Hotel located in downtown Santa Barbara. With four-poster beds, French doors, Spanish-influence furniture and a Moroccan feel this is a small hotel with a world of class. Each room comes with a yoga mat and DVD, so you'll be perfectly Zen during your stay. For more information visit canarysantabarbara.com.
What to do: A trip through wine country
You simply can't visit Santa Barbara on a girls' getaway and pass up the chance to visit some local wineries. If you've seen the movie Sideways, then you already know that this area doesn't just produce Merlot, it has a long list of great wineries (over 200 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms) and wines from crisp Chardonnay to bold Syrah and everything in between. The area is not crowded, sophisticated, set in a beautiful landscape and absolutely not pretentious, making it perfect for wine aficionados and novices alike. It's also growing with sustainable wineries and a sustainable wine tour will show how much Californians take pride in wine. Plus, you might run into The Bachelor hottie Andrew Firestone, since his family owns a vineyard in the area. For more information visit sustainablevine.com.
Where to eat: Seagrass Restaurant
Enjoy the local cuisine at its best by dining at the lovely Seagrass Restaurant right off of State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. With fresh ingredients from the local fish and farmer's markets and the use of local wines, you get the authentic Santa Barbara food experience. For more information visit seagrassrestaurant.com.
For more information on Santa Barbara visit santabarbaraca.com.
LA is the hotspot of California with all the celebrities, fabulous shopping, even better food, buff bodies and a never-ending nightlife. How could you not stop here with the ladies? You can hit the standards -- Rodeo Drive and Robertson for shopping and perhaps a glimpse of Victoria Beckham or Jessica Alba, or you can head to the Grove (an outdoor shopping market that has been a fave celebrity haunt as of late).
Where to stay: The Sofitel LA
Get your slice of the A-list life by staying at the Sofitel in LA. Located across the street from the Beverly Centre you can easily get your shopping fix at the same time, but that's not all the hotel has to offer. Complete with the Stone Rose Lounge (designed by Rande Gerber) on the main floor and a fabulous restaurant, you might never want to leave LA's newest hotspot. For more information visit sofitel.com.
What to do: Visit the West Third Village
The West Third Street neighbourhood has been LA's best-kept secret over the past few years. Laid out with trendy shops, luxury hotels and high-end restaurants the area attracts LA's hipsters and celebs. Must-stop shops include one of a kind boutiques like Polkadots and Moonbeams -- both of which have vintage pieces and accessories from the 1920s through to the '60s, you'll be sure to spot a vintage one-of-a-kind piece that's to-die-for. For more information visit polkadotsandmoonbeams.com.
Where to eat: Simon LA
The Sofitel's restaurant, Simon LA, is headed by celebrity chef Kerry Simon (who also happens to be an Iron Chef winner) and has delectable eats from succulent seared steak to comfort foods. But the absolute best part of Simon LA is the desert menu. Try a platter of nostalgic classic American deserts, perfect for sharing with the girls (homemade mini Hostess cakes, caramel corn, mini chocolate chip cookies and cold milk, and mini doughnuts). Or order a giant pink cloud of cotton candy for the middle of your table so everyone can pick and share the fluffy sweet treat. For more information visit simonlarestaurant.com.
For more information on LA visit discoverlosangeles.com.
Catalina Island is a hidden gem off the California coast. Like a Caribbean island retreat just an hour ferry ride from Long Beach it is an ideal day trip for girlfriends looking to chill out and rejuvenate. The island (once owned by the famous Wrigley family) only has approximately 5,000 residents -- most of who get around via golf carts -- giving it a cool country club feel. It's quirkiness and charm will win you over instantly and its quiet disposition is a great break from the bustle of LA.
Where to stay: The Aurora Hotel & Spa
In such a quaint town like Avalon, you might be surprised to find this luxury hotel and spa with a sleek and contemporary feel. But it's the ideal spot for a group of friends to stay, relax and spa. Right in the middle of the small town of Avalon, any room will give a great view of the lights and harbour at night. For more information visit auroracatalina.com.
What to do: Jeep tour
You can rest on the beach in Avalon, or if you're a bit more adventurous you can book a jeep tour of the island. You'll learn about the history of the island and see all its uninhabited beauty. A stop for lunch at the island airport (called Airport in the Sky) at one of the highest peaks is a great place to relax under the sun. For more information visit catalinaconservancy.org.
Where to eat: Catalina Country Club
Any local restaurant will be a feast of delicious and fresh seafood, but to get the true country club vibe of the island you need to in fact dine at the Catalina Country Club. Posh and upscale, it's where the who's-who of Catalina dines and where you'll find some of the best high-end food on the island. For more information visit visitcatalinaisland.com/avalon/poin_countryClub.php.
For more information on Catalina Island visit catalina.com.
San Diego is the epitome of SoCal charm and attitude. But the easy-going surfer city has a lot more to offer than fab waves, buff surfers and Beach Boy songs. With an exciting nightlife, delicious food and soothing spas, San Diego is the best place to finish up a girls' getaway in Southern California.
Where to stay: Hard Rock Hotel
Rock out in this ultra-hip hotel at the foot of the happening Gaslamp Quarter. You'll be in the heart of the vibrant nightlife and with rock 'n' roll inspired rooms (with iconic rock photos and sayings throughout the hotel and rooms), and hotel staff dressed to look like roadies, you will be in full-party mode. Every room has and edge to it, but you can book themed suites, like the Black Eyed Peas suite, to really feel like a rock star. For more information visit hardrockhotelsd.com.
What to do: Hit the Gaslamp Quarter and get Zen
The Gaslamp Quarter is San Diego's urban hot spot where every street is filled with delectable dining options, chic boutiques, stylish hotels, hipster clubs and endless entertainment. You'll be hard pressed to not find something to do in this area that comes alive just after sundown. Since it's revitalization in the 1980s, the Gaslamp Quarter has become the place to be in San Diego, and the best spot to party with your friends downtown. For more information visit gaslamp.org.
After a night of partying rock 'n' roll style, nurture your senses by hitting up the world-class Rock Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego and try out their signature treatment -- the aptly titled Dream Weaver Massage. A rosewood, palmrosa and vanilla oil massage with Swedish, Hawaiian and Thai techniques will have you singing a dreamy tune. Or try the Amped-Up Sugar Scrub with lemon, cinnamon and eucalyptus that will exfoliate your skin so it's soft and glowing. For more information visit hardrockhotelsd.com.
If having the warm breeze in your hair is your idea of Zen, then don't pass up the chance to sail around the San Diego Bay. Sailing is engrained in the San Diego lifestyle and a trip around the bay will give spectacular views of the city. For more information visit sailusa11.com.
Where to eat: Croce's
In the hub of the Gaslamp Quarter you'll find Croce's -- a music lover's haven. Owned and operated by the late folk singer Jim Croce's wife, you'll want to be sure to book a table because this restaurant is a popular spot. Featuring live music every night, amazing seafood dishes along with contemporary American cuisine, if you don't do anything else in the Gaslamp Quarter, you must dine here and leave full (both appetite wise and musically). For more information visit croces.com.
For more information on San Diego please visit sandiego.org.
Photo by Justin Harrington