Best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA
Curious about the best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA? The United States of America is one of the largest countries in the world. It is located in North America and consists of 50 states. The sheer size and diversity of the U.S. make it a great travel destination. There is everything for everyone in the U.S.: World Class national parks, some of the world’s most breathtaking natural landscapes, stunning beaches, vibrant cities and charming coastal towns.
As the United States of America is very rich in sights and landmarks, it’s not too easy to choose only a few. To make this task easier, in this article we will focus on the West Coast only.
Here is a list of some of the best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA (here is also an article if you want to know some of the best places to visit on the East Coast of the USA)
7 best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA
Yosemite National Park, California
Welcoming around 4-5 million visitors per year, Yosemite National Park is California’s most visited national park, and one of the most visited national parks in the United States.
With an area of 3029 km2, it has varied terrain and it supports a diversity of animals and plants.
There’s an abundance of things to do in Yosemite, and this fact makes it one of the best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA.
The best way to experience the beauty of the wilderness of this national park is on foot. There are countless hiking routes both for beginners and those looking for a challenge.
Highlights of Yosemite National Park:
- Yosemite Valley — iconic glacial valley with towering cliffs;
- Half Dome — well-known granite dome with a distinct shape;
- Yosemite Falls — famous mountainside waterfalls;
- Glacier Point — iconic viewpoint, boasting superb views of several well-known landmarks in the national park;
- Tuolumne Meadows — a large subalpine meadow, especially beautiful in summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park is a protected area situated 130 miles East of Los Angeles.
The national park takes its name from the Joshua trees that grow there. Joshua trees are desert plants, native to the Mojave Desert, the driest desert in North America.
Joshua Tree National Park is known for its signature Joshua trees and lunar landscape with giant boulders and unique geologic formations.
The national park boasts numerous, well-maintained hiking trails and stunning campgrounds.
One of the most popular hikes in the area is the relatively easy and scenic Hidden Valley Nature Trail. The trail is surrounded by large boulders and hills and is only one mile (1.6 km) long. So, it’s suitable for most people.
Avid hikers will have plenty of options too, as there are a number of longer routes.
What else there is to see in Joshua Tree National Park?
Key’s View offers sweeping views of the desert, valley and the surrounding mountains.
Located not far from Key’s View, the Lost Horse Mine is a historic gold and silver mine in the Lost Horse Valley. It produced gold and silver which today would be worth approximately $5 million.
Cholla Cactus Garden is another fascinating sight in the national park, especially if you are interested in plants. This cactus-filled area has a loop walking trail.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California. It is the cultural, commercial, and financial centre of Northern California.
With an abundance of fascinating places to see, San Francisco is one of the best places to visit on the West Coast of the USA.
Do not miss:
- Golden Gate Bridge — one of the most famous bridges in the United States;
- Alcatraz Island — former maximum-security federal prison, now a museum and one of San Francisco’s major tourist attractions;
- Fisherman’s Wharf — waterfront neighbourhood and one of the busiest tourist spots in San Francisco. Restaurants and tourist attractions are plentiful there;
- Golden Gate Park — a large urban park with an area of 412 ha. The park contains a number of gardens, lakes, monuments and playgrounds;
- Union Square — the most visited neighbourhood in San Francisco. Here you’ll find cafes, bars, art galleries and high-end retail stores and boutiques.
Big Sur, California
Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon.
A part of California’s first scenic highway, Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), goes along the length of Big Sur. It is one of the world’s most stunning drives and one of the best things to do on the West Coast of the USA.
Stop along the way to explore Big Sur’s loveliest destinations: Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its charming downtown, while Monterey is home to the World Class Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Do not miss Bixby Creek Bridge — one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design and magnificent setting.
McWay Falls and McWay Cove are worth a visit, too. McWay Falls is a 24 m-high coastal waterfall, and McWay Cove features a sheltered beach.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, often known by its initials L.A., is the largest city in California.
Often called “the Entertainment Capital of the World”, Los Angeles boasts world-renowned attractions, great beaches, theme parks, and a plethora of museums.
The city is home to some of the world’s best-known landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and many more.
Visiting Los Angeles is one of the best things to do on the West Coast of the USA.
Seattle is a seaport city and the largest city in Washington.
Often called “the Emerald City”, Seattle boasts a green scenery, has a lot of trees and is surrounded by mountains covered with greens.
What you can do in this green city?
Visit Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. It is one of the oldest continuously operated farmers’ markets in the United States.
Stroll along the cobblestone streets in Pioneer Square, Seattle’s most famous historic neighbourhood.
The Space Needle offers breathtaking views of the city. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Rainer in the distance.
If you are a music fan, visit MoPOP — the Museum of Pop Culture, dedicated to contemporary popular culture.
When you have seen the city, head to Olympic National Park, an amazing UNESCO listed national park.
Visit Mount Rainier National Park on your way to Portland.
Portland is Oregon’s largest city.
While there’s quite a lot to see in the city of Portland, you’ll find even more beautiful sights outside the city. This is the coolest thing about Portland — it’s a city with national parks in every direction!
First, explore the city. Visit Portland’s trendy Pearl District and its shops, breweries and cafes.
Visit the Old Town of Portland. Go for a walk in the breathtakingly beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden.
If it’s the weekend, visit the Portland Saturday Market — a large outdoor arts and crafts market. It is the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the U.S.
Go for a walk in Portland’s Forest Park — one of the largest urban forest reserves in the United States.
When you’ve visited Portland’s famous landmarks, visit the national parks in the area.
Visit Mount Hood which is visible from Portland. Enjoy the magnificent views in the Crater Lake National Park. Marvel at stunning rock formations at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Heading to Seattle? Visit Mount Rainier National Park on your way to Seattle.
USA travel tips
- Citizens of many European countries don’t need a visa to travel to the U.S. but are required to obtain an electronic authorisation (ESTA).
- There is only one official ESTA website and that is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. The official fee is $14.00. All other sites offering this service are the third party, and they charge extra.
- Tipping is customary in the United States. A tip of 20 per cent on top of the bill is standard.
- The power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 120 V. Buy a travel adapter and converter to safely use your electronics.
- The climate of the West Coast varies considerably. The best time to visit depends on where you’re going. Keep in mind that temperature can vary greatly between destinations on the West Coast.
- You can use your credit or debit card to pay for services and food. Apple Pay is accepted, too. However, we suggest you take some cash with you, just in case.
- There are some cities and areas in the United States that you have to be careful in, but in general, it is very safe to travel in the U.S.