Central California Coastal Towns

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This is titled “Coastal Towns” but some are not near the coast but worth mentioning and even though I live in one of the most beautiful scenic places in the world I need to get out of here and visit other places.

The coastal towns of Central California from the bustling college town of Santa Barbara to the peaceful beach town of Cambria, discover what makes each town unique.

Explore local attractions and activities, from whale watching in Monterey Bay to wine tasting in Paso Robles. We will take a look at history of some of these towns, from their origins as Spanish colonial hubs to their current status as popular vacation spots.

Los Alamos: The Wild West Vibe

Los Alamos, California, is a small rural town located in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. It is known for its many local attractions and activities, as well as its rich history.

One of the most popular local attractions is the Los Alamos Historical Museum. This museum offers visitors a unique look at the town’s history, featuring exhibits on the area’s early settlers, the Rancho period, the World War II era, and the modern-day town.

Wind Through the Field
Photo by AJ Slobig on Unsplash Wind Through the Field

The museum is open to the public and offers a variety of educational programs, lectures, and special events. The Los Alamos Valley Wine Trail is another popular destination.

This scenic route takes visitors through several award-winning wineries in the area, offering the chance to taste some of the best local wines. The trail also features a number of art galleries, restaurants, and other attractions.

Los Alamos is also known for its outdoor activities. The Los Padres National Forest offers hiking, mountain biking, camping, and fishing opportunities. The Foxen Canyon Trail is a popular destination for hiking and horseback riding, while the Santa Ynez River provides a scenic backdrop for kayaking and canoeing.

The area also boasts several championship golf courses, offering unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape. Los Alamos is also home to several cultural attractions, including the Chumash Indian Museum and Library, as well as a variety of art galleries, performance venues, and museums. The nearby Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society offers visitors a window into the area’s history through exhibits,

Los Olivos: Wining and Dining

Los Olivos, California is a small town in the Santa Ynez Valley of northern Santa Barbara County. Located just east of the Santa Ynez River, the town is known for its vineyards, wineries, and rural charm. It is also home to a variety of attractions and activities, as well as a rich history.

Photo by AJ Slobig on Unsplash
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The town of Los Olivos was founded in 1887 by local rancher and entrepreneur, Andres Castillo. The town originally served as a stagecoach stop along the route to Santa Barbara. Today, the town has grown to become a popular destination for visitors, with a number of attractions and activities available.

For wine lovers, Los Olivos is home to many vineyards and wineries, including Foxen Winery, Roblar Winery, and the Los Olivos Wine Merchant. Visitors can also explore the town’s many tasting rooms, such as Solvang Brewing Company, Dragonette Cellars, and Fess Parker Winery.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking. For those interested in the town’s history, the Los Olivos Historical Museum is a great place to start. The museum features a variety of exhibits, including an early settler’s cabin and artifacts from the town’s past.

Visitors can also explore the nearby Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society, which has a collection of photographs and documents about the area’s history. Los Olivos is filled with restaurants, cafés, and shops to enjoy.

Popular spots include Root 246 for fine dining, Los Olivos Café for breakfast and lunch, and the Ballard Inn & Restaurant for a special night out. The nearby town of Buellton also offers plenty of options such as Industrial Eats and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

No matter what you’re looking for, Los Olivos is sure to provide a unique experience. With its charming landscape, friendly locals, and interesting history, Los Olivos is the perfect place to create lasting memories. Enjoy the town’s beauty and hospitality on your next visit!

San Benito County – Inland Central Coast Area Near Silicon Valley

San Benito County, California is a popular destination for tourists due to its stunning natural beauty, numerous recreational activities, and historically significant sites.

Roster Strutting
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Located in Central California, San Benito County is home to the Pinnacles National Park, San Benito Mountain Range, the San Benito River, and the San Benito Valley. For outdoor enthusiasts, San Benito County offers a variety of activities.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and camping in the Pinnacles National Park, as well as fishing and boating on the San Benito River. The San Benito Mountain Range provides ideal terrain for rock climbing, and the San Benito Valley is perfect for horseback riding.

Numerous parks and recreation areas are also available, including the San Benito County Park and the San Benito County Fairgrounds. San Benito County is also rich in history. The county is home to a number of historical sites, such as the San Benito County Historical Museum, the San Juan Bautista Historic District, and the San Benito County Courthouse.

Visitors can also explore the area’s missions, including the San Juan Bautista Mission and the San Benito Mission. San Benito County is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With a variety of activities and attractions, it’s the perfect place to explore and experience all that the area has to offer.

From its scenic beauty and historic landmarks, to its rich cultural heritage, this county is sure to provide something for everyone. So if you’re looking for a great getaway, come explore San Benito County! From its beautiful beaches and parks, to its vibrant cities and cultural attractions – there’s something for everyone.

The county is also home to an array of events, such as the Hollister Municipal Airport Fly-In, the Annual Chili Cook-off, the San Juan Bautista Festival, and the San Benito County Fair, just to name a few. No matter what your interests are; San Benito County has something for you!

From camping and hiking along the stunning coastline, to bird watching and horseback riding through the countryside, there’s no shortage of things to do here. Whether you’re looking for an adventure, a romantic getaway, or a quiet escape – this county has something for everyone. So come explore San Benito County and see why it’s the perfect destination for any traveler!

Ventura County – Central Coast Destinations One Hour North of LA

Ventura County, located along the southern coast of California, is a popular destination for visitors looking to enjoy the great outdoors. From the beaches and mountains to the charming towns and cities, Ventura County offers something for everyone.

Thornhill-Broome beach and campground, Ventura County, California
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The beaches of Ventura County offer a variety of activities, from surfing and swimming to fishing, kayaking, and beachcombing. Ventura County also has a number of state parks and nature reserves, including Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands, which are home to a variety of animals and plants.

Visitors can also explore the nearby Channel Islands National Park, which offers opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. History buffs will be amazed at the many historical sites and attractions in Ventura County.

The county is home to several California missions, including the San Buenaventura Mission, and the nearby town of Ojai has a rich Native American history. Visitors can also explore the county’s charming towns, such as Santa Paula and Fillmore, which have historic buildings, museums, and art galleries.

Ventura County also has a vibrant cultural scene, with a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. From the Ventura County Fair in August to the Ventura Music Festival in June, there’s something for everyone. The county also boasts an incredible selection of restaurants and breweries, so foodies will be in their element.

Finally, Ventura County is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With its mild climate and stunning coastal vistas, it’s the perfect place to appreciate nature.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is an incredible destination for both locals and visitors alike. With its stunning natural surroundings, Mediterranean climate, and rich cultural heritage, this charming coastal city offers a variety of activities and attractions for everyone.

Santa Barbara Harbor Views
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For outdoor enthusiasts, Santa Barbara offers a wide variety of activities and attractions. From surfing and swimming at its world-famous beaches, to hiking and biking through its rugged mountains, to kayaking and sailing along its scenic coastline, visitors can find a variety of ways to explore the beauty of Santa Barbara.

In addition, the city boasts a number of parks and gardens, including the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens, and the Stearns Wharf. For those interested in culture, Santa Barbara offers a variety of attractions.

The city is home to several museums, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Visitors can also enjoy exploring the city’s many architectural and historical sites, such as the Santa Barbara Mission and El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.

Santa Barbara’s rich history dates back to its founding by the Chumash Indians in the late 18th century. Today, the city celebrates its rich cultural heritage through its music and theater scenes. The Granada Theatre, which dates back to 1924, hosts performances from a variety of musical groups and plays throughout the year.

Santa Barbara is also known for its vibrant food scene. It is home to numerous restaurants, cafes, bars, and wineries that offer a wide selection of local and international cuisines. Visitors can sample freshly caught seafood at the local fish markets or try unique dishes like ceviche and tacos from the area’s many Mexican restaurants.

The city is also known for its stunning natural beauty, with stunning beaches and lush green hills surrounding it. Visitors can hike in Los Padres National Forest, walk along Stearns Wharf on Santa Barbara’s waterfront, or soak up the sun at Santa Barbara County’s numerous beaches. As night falls, visitors can enjoy a romantic stroll along Cabrillo Boulevard or take in a stunning sunset over the ocean.

Santa Ynez: Enjoy the Outdoors

Santa Ynez Valley, California is an idyllic destination in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, situated between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Several pumpkins placed beneath a tree in the shade at a pumpkin farm.
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This small valley is home to some of the most beautiful scenery and outdoor activities in the state. The Santa Ynez Valley is well-known for its wineries, some of the most well-known names in the wine industry can be found here.

Visitors can tour the vineyards and taste the local wines. The Santa Ynez Valley is also home to some of the best horse racing in the country, with several tracks located in the area.

The Santa Ynez Valley also offers plenty of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and more. There are several state parks and trails to explore, and the valley is a great spot for bird watching.

The area is also home to some of the best golf courses in the state, with several championship courses. The Santa Ynez Valley is a great place to explore the history of California.

There are several historical sites located in the area, including the historic Santa Ynez Mission, the town of Los Olivos, and the nearby Santa Ynez River.

There are also a number of wineries and tasting rooms located in the area. The Santa Ynez Valley is also home to several cultural events such as concerts, art shows, and festivals throughout the year.

The Santa Ynez Valley is also a great destination for food lovers, with a variety of farm-to-table restaurants located in the area. From award-winning restaurants to roadside taco stands, the Santa Ynez Valley offers something for everyone’s taste.

Shopping is also an option in the area, with local boutiques and galleries that offer unique gifts and souvenirs. The Santa Ynez Valley is a great place to relax and enjoy nature.

The area contains a number of parks and trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Another popular activity is wine tasting, which can be done at the wineries located throughout the Valley.

Avila Beach

Avila Beach, located on California’s Central Coast, is an idyllic destination for visitors looking to relax and take in the natural beauty of the area. With stunning ocean views, rolling hills, and a quaint downtown area, Avila Beach has something for everyone.

Surfing Avila Beach
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One of the town’s main attractions is Avila Beach Pier. At over 1,400 feet long, the pier is the longest wooden pier in California and offers spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding hills.

The pier is a popular spot for fishing, sightseeing, and whale watching. There are a variety of restaurants and shops located at the end of the pier, which makes it a great place to spend an afternoon. The town’s history dates back to the late 19th century, when it was founded as a fishing village.

Today, Avila Beach is known for its picturesque scenery, mild climate, and beautiful beaches. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as surfing, kayaking, and swimming.

There are also a number of hiking trails located in the area, making it a great spot for a day of exploration. Avila Beach is also home to a variety of festivals and events throughout the year.

The town’s annual Music on the Pier event showcases some of the best local bands and artists. There is also a craft fair each summer, as well as an annual art festival that celebrates creativity in the area.

Avila Beach is a great place for anyone looking for a relaxing getaway or an exciting day by the sea. Whether you’re looking to explore nature, try some new activities, or just take in the beautiful scenery, Avila Beach is sure to offer something for everyone. With its stunning views and diverse entertainment options, it’s no wonder why so many people call Avila Beach home.

San Luis Obispo (SLO) – Charming Towns in San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo is a beautiful town located in the Central Coast of California, known for its Mediterranean climate, stunning coastline views, and friendly atmosphere. It’s a great place for families, couples, and singles to explore and enjoy.

Daytime view of Madonna Mountain
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The town is known for its local attractions and activities. There are numerous hiking and biking trails, as well as golf courses, zoos, and aquariums. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, one of the missions established by Spanish missionaries, is a popular attraction in town.

The mission grounds have been used for many events and festivals, including a yearly outdoor concert series. The town also has a vibrant downtown area with many restaurants, shops, and galleries. The history of San Luis Obispo dates back to 1772, when the area was first settled by Spanish missionaries.

The original mission was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, but the mission church was rebuilt and still stands today. The city was officially established in 1777 and became an important port for trade between California and the rest of the world.

During the Mexican-American War, San Luis Obispo was the site of the Battle of San Luis Obispo in 1846. Today, San Luis Obispo is a vibrant city that offers its residents and visitors plenty of opportunities for entertainment, recreation, and relaxation.

The city has an assortment of outdoor activities to take advantage of, such as hiking, mountain biking, surfing, fishing, camping, and more. There are also numerous cultural attractions in the area including theaters and museums.

San Luis Obispo is also home to a number of higher education institutions, making it an ideal destination for students and professionals alike. In addition, the city has become increasingly popular with foodies due to its wide variety of restaurants and farmers’ markets. With so much to offer, San Luis Obispo is no doubt one of California’s most attractive and unique cities.

Morro Bay: the Central Coast’s Marine Wildlife Refuge

Morro Bay is a beautiful coastal town located in California’s Central Coast region. It is known for its stunning views of Morro Rock, a 581-foot extinct volcanic plug, and its diverse marine wildlife.

The Shot at Morro Bay
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The town is also home to a rich history of Native American tribes, Spanish and Mexican exploration, and American settlers. Morro Bay is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike who come to explore the area’s beaches and wildlife.

Visitors can enjoy the town’s many outdoor activities, such as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, whale watching, fishing, and birdwatching. The bay is also home to the Morro Bay National Estuary and Wildlife Refuge, a protected area that is home to a variety of birds, fish, and other wildlife.

Morro Bay is also known for its historical attractions, including Morro Rock, which was used by early Native American tribes as a place of spiritual ritual and worship.

The town’s history is also evidenced by the many old buildings and monuments, such as the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, the oldest mission in California, and the historic Embarcadero.

The town of Morro Bay is a great place to visit for its stunning natural beauty, outdoor activities, and historical attractions. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an exciting adventure, Morro Bay has something for everyone. From the beaches to the bay, there’s something special waiting to be discovered in this unique corner of California.

San Simeon

San Simeon, California is located in San Luis Obispo County, on the beautiful Central Coast of California. It is a small, unincorporated town located near the world-famous Hearst Castle, and is a popular tourist destination.

Elephant Seals Brutal Battle @ San Simeon
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One of the main draws of San Simeon is its proximity to Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark that was built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the early 20th century.

The castle is a sprawling estate that includes multiple buildings, swimming pools, a zoo, and gardens. Visitors can take guided tours of the property, which provide a fascinating look into the life of Hearst and the history of the estate.

San Simeon is also a great place for outdoor activities. The area is home to several state parks and beaches, providing excellent opportunities for camping, hiking, swimming, and whale watching.

The nearby Piedras Blancas Light Station is also a popular destination, as is the Cambria Historical Museum. History buffs will be interested to learn that San Simeon has a long and fascinating history.

The area was originally inhabited by the Chumash Native American tribe, who called the area “Humaliwo”. Later, Hearst purchased the land and converted it into a sprawling estate, which he used to entertain influential politicians and celebrities.

Today, the property is owned by the Hearst Corporation and is open to visitors year-round. For those looking for a unique experience while visiting San Simeon, there are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed.

From the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and its myriad of sea life to the majestic beauty of Hearst Castle, there is something for everyone. Outdoor activities such as kayaking, surfing, biking, and fishing can all be enjoyed along the coastline.

The town also hosts multiple festivals throughout the year, including art shows, music festivals, and wine tastings. There’s plenty to explore, whether you are there for a day or an extended stay.

Visitors can also take part in the castle’s “Behind the Scenes” tour, which offers access to the various grounds and gardens that make the estate unique.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a small town located in the Central Coast of California, in San Luis Obispo County. It is known for its hot springs, wineries, and its historic downtown. Paso Robles is a popular destination for wine enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and those looking for a relaxing getaway.

We were at Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles, it is a gorgeous winery with a sceneic view.
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One of the most popular attractions in Paso Robles is the downtown area. Here, visitors can explore the historic buildings, boutique shops, and restaurants. The downtown area is a great place to stroll, shop, and dine. Visitors can also take advantage of the many galleries, museums, and wineries in the area.

The hot springs of Paso Robles are also a popular attraction. For centuries, locals and visitors alike have come to relax in the area’s natural hot springs. In addition to its hot springs, Paso Robles is home to many wineries and vineyards, making it a great destination for wine enthusiasts.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Paso Robles offers a variety of activities, from biking and hiking trails to fishing and camping. The area is also home to several state parks, including the El Chorro Regional Park, which is a great place to take in the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an action-packed adventure, Paso Robles has something for everyone. This unique destination offers the perfect blend of culture and nature, making it one of California’s most beloved spots. So what are you waiting for? Come explore Paso Robles today!

Pismo Beach: the Central Coast Beach Getaway

Pismo Beach is a popular coastal town located along California’s central coast. It is known for its beautiful beaches, lively downtown, and a variety of attractions and activities.

tim-mossholder-Pismo Beach
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Pismo Beach is home to the world-famous Pismo Beach pier, which is a great spot for fishing, whale watching, and even surfing. There are also several local restaurants, shops and galleries located along the pier.

The town also features the historical Pismo Beach Lighthouse, which has been a landmark since the 1800’s. Pismo Beach also offers an array of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and beach-combing.

The town also has several parks and preserves, including the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, which is a popular destination for off-road enthusiasts. History buffs will enjoy exploring the history of Pismo Beach.

The town was first settled in the 1800s and was originally known as Shell Beach. During World War II, the Pismo Beach Army Air Field was used to train B-25 bomber pilots.

The town was also an important port for the Union Oil Company in the early 1900’s. Pismo Beach is a great destination for a fun-filled vacation or weekend getaway. With its beautiful beaches, historic sites, and outdoor activities, it’s a destination that shouldn’t be missed!

Big Sur

Big Sur, California is a small coastal town located along the stunning Big Sur coastline in Monterey County. This area is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, world-class surfing, and unique attractions.

ganapathy-kumar-Big Sur
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From ancient redwood forests to wildflower meadows, Big Sur is a nature lover’s paradise. One of Big Sur’s most popular attractions is its breathtaking coastline.

The Big Sur coastline stretches from Monterey Bay to the San Luis Obispo County line, and includes some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the world.

From rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, there is something for everyone along the Big Sur Coast. Visitors can explore the coastline by car, bike, or foot. Big Sur is also home to a variety of outdoor activities.

The area is popular for fishing, hiking, biking, and kayaking. There are also several state parks in the area, including Garrapata State Park and Point Sur Lighthouse State Historic Park.

The history of Big Sur is closely linked to its unique geography and climate. Native Americans have lived in the area for thousands of years, and the area was home to the Esselen people for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in the 1700s. Spanish missionaries arrived in the area in 1770, and the area was eventually settled by ranchers and farmers.

Today, Big Sur is a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world. From charming seaside towns to unspoiled beaches and wilderness areas, there is something for everyone in this spectacular region of California.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, you’ll find plenty of activities to enjoy in Big Sur. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most popular parks in the region and features a variety of camping options, miles of trails, and a wide range of outdoor activities.

The park is managed by California’s Department of Parks and Recreation and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding mountains. In addition to its beautiful natural attractions, Big Sur is home to a range of cultural activities, including art galleries, music festivals, antique stores, restaurants, wineries and breweries. The region also offers excellent opportunities for whale watching, kayaking, and fishing.


What’s considered Central Coast California?

The Central Coast of California refers to the coastal region of the state that lies between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It includes the counties of Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, as well as parts of San Benito and Ventura counties. The region is known for its beautiful beaches, scenic drives, and wine country. Some of the major cities in the Central Coast include Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo.

What cities are in the Central Coast of California?

The Central Coast of California includes several cities, some of the major ones include:

  • Santa Barbara
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Monterey
  • Pismo Beach
  • Morro Bay
  • Santa Cruz
  • Carmel
  • Paso Robles
  • Atascadero
  • San Simeon
  • Cambria
  • Solvang
  • Ventura
  • Oxnard
  • Santa Maria
  • Lompoc
  • San Juan Bautista
  • Hollister
  • King City

It’s worth noting that this list is not exhaustive and there are many other smaller towns and communities that also make up the Central Coast region of California.

Where should I go on the Central Coast of California?

The Central Coast of California is home to many beautiful and popular destinations. Some of the top places to visit include:

  • Pismo Beach: Known for its beach activities, such as surfing and beachcombing.
  • San Luis Obispo: A charming college town with a vibrant downtown area, great restaurants, and a variety of outdoor activities.
  • Morro Bay: A picturesque coastal town with a popular marina, a state park, and a natural rock formation called Morro Rock.
  • Big Sur: A scenic stretch of coastline with breathtaking views, hiking trails, and popular campgrounds.
  • Hearst Castle: A historic mansion and museum located in San Simeon that offers tours of the property and its gardens.

These are just a few examples of some of the many wonderful destinations that the Central Coast has to offer. Depending on your interests, you may also want to check out other nearby places like Montaña de Oro State Park, Avila Beach, and Cayucos.

Where is the best beach town to live on the central coast region?

The Central Coast of California is home to many beautiful and desirable beach towns, so it can be difficult to choose just one as the best. However, here are a few examples of beach towns on the Central Coast that are considered to be particularly desirable places to live:

  • Pismo Beach: Known for its relaxed atmosphere, great surf spots, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.
  • Avila Beach: A small, picturesque community known for its mild climate, charming downtown area, and excellent restaurants.
  • Morro Bay: A charming coastal town known for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, and friendly community.
  • Cambria: A picturesque coastal town known for its scenic views, art galleries, and unique shops.
  • Cayucos: A charming beach town known for its laid-back atmosphere, excellent surf spots, and friendly community.

Ultimately, the best beach town for you will depend on your personal preferences and priorities. You may want to consider factors such as cost of living, job opportunities, schools, and proximity to other amenities and destinations.

Conclusion to one of many Central California coastal towns posts.

With so many amazing towns to explore up and down the central coast of California, it’s hard to choose just one favorite. Do you have a favorite central coast city? Or is there another city that you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!


I'm JasonLee and have lived in Monterey County the majority of my life. I am fortunate to have experienced most of what I write on as a child, an adolescent, young adult to now (which is BTW old). My goal is having you the reader understand our beautiful area and hope to have you visit. Thanks for reading.