When you come to California, one thing you may notice as you make your way up or down the coast is that it’s a very colorful place. Not just with the array of lifestyles but also with the scenery. That stunning scenery is one of the reasons I love this state. It brightens my mood and makes me so happy to call California home! Keep reading to learn more about the most colorful places in California.
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The 11 Most Colorful Places in California
While the whole state brims with color, these 11 places are among the most colorful of all so be sure to check them out!
The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA
We can thank Mother Nature for the Flower Fields in Carlsbad. You’ll find this place in North San Diego County, where the rolling hills feature the most astounding natural display of color you’ll ever see. What’s there? Why, almost 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers! But you’ve got to come between early March through early May as that’s when they’re in bloom.
So, come check them out but be sure you follow the rules here – there’s no smoking or alcoholic beverages permitted. You also can’t bring pets, bicycles, or drones. And they ask that you do not step into the fields or pick any of the flowers. However, there are photo spots set up around the fields for your photo ops!
Capitola Village in Capitola, CA
Feel like you’re in Europe on the California coast! Capitola Village is full of interesting things to do with restaurants, cafes, wine tasting rooms, shops, and places to enjoy life. It’s especially popular during the summer when the Begonia Festival and the Art & Wine Festival are going on, though visiting any time of year will be fun too.
This quaint seaside village was once a tent camp on the shore of the Monterey Bay. It was once called Camp Capitola and the first guests were welcomed in 1874, making it the first beach resort in California. Soon afterward, the Victorian-style hotel of Hotel Capitola was born. While it burnt down in 1929, the original vibe still exists in the brightly-colored restaurants and shops tucked into the hillside. This place is great for shopping and dining when you’re in Santa Cruz.
Head to Esplanade Park and snap photos in front of the colorful sea wall lined with tiles. Watch the surfers, or get into the water yourself for some fun in the ocean. Get on a boat charter or take to the wharf for fishing. The flowers on the wharf railing provide more pops of color.
And of course, don’t forget to shop to take home unique finds that will forever remind you of your visit. As you wander through this historic area, you’ll also find plenty of delicious places to eat. The hardest part may be deciding which one to choose!
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA
The colorful Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk definitely looks as fun as it is! All those rides, games, attractions, and bright signs beckon here. Before you even walk in, those colors ignite your desire to have a good time. There are thrill rides plus the Fright Walk for anyone that likes to live on the edge. Rides for families and the little ones are available too. Games, mini-golf, laser tag, bowling, and more will keep your whole crew entertained. With shops and restaurants, you’ll be able to catch a break and refresh and refuel for your next adventure.
Painted Ladies and Victorian Houses in San Francisco, CA
Colorful Houses can be found all over the city of San Francisco. They have a bright and quirky charm that makes you wish you owned them. They have fun colors like pale pink, mint green, electric yellow, and neon blue. It’s neat to see a modern finish on these old Victorian and Edwardian home styles. Obviously, there’s no evil HOA here to dictate which colors can and can’t be used, and I love it!
Visit Alamo Square Park to see the Painted Ladies which are a set of beautifully painted houses standing shoulder to shoulder across the street from the park. You might also know them as the Full Houses houses from the opening credits of Full House. But the Tanners didn’t live in one of the Painted Ladies houses, but rather they “lived” in a house about a mile away located at 1709 Broadrick Street.
Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CA
Need a place to stay when you’re in San Luis Obispo? Make sure you try and score a room at the Madonna Inn. It features 110 rooms, each of them with its own individual theme. The entire inn is a colorful world of its own at every turn.
The Madonna Inn Copper Café is truly whimsical in design for your all-day dining while the Gold Rush Steak House offers an opulent yet enchantingly magical atmosphere. Even the bar offers stained glass windows that reflect the brilliance of the ever-changing outdoor light.
At the pool, the umbrellas and chairs are all bright and cheery in hue. With a luxurious day spa, colorful places from the pool to the waterfall, and hot pink athletic courts, you’re never going to forget your stay here.
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Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, CA
At the intersections of Ocean and Colorado in Santa Monica, you’ll find the famed Santa Monica Pier over the water. This cultural place is the perfect stop to soak in the unique pulse of the area and catch colorful sights. As you roam along the pier, you’ll see the colors of the ocean and the sun in the sky, all on the pier of its own colors as well.
This legendary place has been on the map since 1909 and has transformed with the times to stay relevant. Ride the Ferris wheel, shop, or eat along the way in the restaurants or from the food carts. This place has such a special feeling that you’ll practically FEEL the colors inside of you!
Light at Sensorio in Paso Robles, CA
Created by Bruce Munro, the famed Field of Light at Light at Sensorio invites you to walk through a gorgeous setting of 15 acres featuring fiber-optic illuminations of the landscape. There’s also the newest installation, the Light Towers, which offers illuminated wine bottles with morphing colors. All of it is solar-powered and creates a captivating and special beauty that you’ve simply got to see to believe.
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A self-guided Palm Springs Door Tour is something you can do all your own via car or bicycle. Riding through this neighborhood, you’ll see cheery-colored front doors. There’s the famed Pink Door and the Party Lions, plus beautiful garage doors and much more. The link I posted has a printable map to help lead the way.
One thing to know before you go is that you have to remember these are private homes and as such, you should only enjoy the beauty from the street. Please don’t get up on someone’s property and for those that have posted signs stating, “No Photography,” take note and simply admire with your eyes.
Another colorful place in Palm Springs is the Saguaro Hotel. The rooms all have colorful private balconies or patios that have options for pool, mountain, garden, city, or courtyard views. This pretty place is full of bright colors from the headboards on your bed to the technicolor walls of the hotel itself. The spa, gym, and pool will also color your world more beautifully. Even the on-site restaurant has colorful foods, perfect for those Insta-worthy shots to make everyone envious of your travels.
Salvation Mountain in Calipatria, CA
Leonard Knight created the vision known as Salvation Mountain. This hillside retreat in the desert can be found in Imperial County. What’s impressive is that it is fashioned from an array of things that most of us would call “junk.” That’s old tires, windows, car parts, bricks, and tons of paints in every color.
Together, it became a number of murals with Bible verses. Religious or not, you will find a beautiful hushed awe in this place, declared a national treasure by the Folk Art Society of America.
Chromatic Gate in Santa Barbara, CA
In Santa Barbara, the Chromatic Gate can be found at the edge of Cabrillo Ball Park. It stands at a height of 21 feet, creating what they call a rainbow arch, which was built in 1991. It features 6 colors, each one slightly taller than the other to create a beautiful gateway in the colors of the rainbow. Because of these rainbow colors, you’ve likely seen it on Instagram, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing it in person.
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Avalon on Catalina Island, CA
Avalon happens to be the only incorporated city you’ll find on Catalina. It spans around the stunning bay and has been a popular place for tourists to flock to for over 100 years. I expect visitors will be coming here for the next hundred years to see this colorful seaside stop. As soon as you step off the ferry boat you’re greeted with a turquoise Fish & Chips hut on the pier!
There are tons of hotels, spas, and restaurants here, all nestled into the coastline dotted with boats that don blues, yellows, and immaculate whites. The terracotta-colored roofs give it almost the look of Santorini’s famed beauty.
Aside from the colors, you’ll be captivated by this charming place much like the rich and famous always have with much to do by land or sea with golf courses and recreation. The main street, Crescent Avenue, which is called ‘Front Street’ by the locals, offers sights to behold including the Wrigley Fountain and Serpentine Wall, each adorned with Catalina tiles. The beaches, shops, and restaurants found here are also a stunning sight!
Then head to the Green Pier that juts out into the harbor, a perfect spot to get onto one of those colorful boats. The glass-bottom boat will give you a peek into the world under the water, bristling with vibrant sea life. Join a tour to explore the land or go your own way. This gorgeous city has something for everyone whether you’d like something more in the way of an eco-adventure or to see some museums.
The botanical gardens, marine preserve, and beach club all offer colorful experiences of their own. What I love about Avalon is that there are really so many ways to enjoy it. I recommend you snag a room and stay for at least a weekend to revel in the iconic beauty of this relaxed, upscale town on the water.
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As you can see from this list of the 11 most colorful places in California, you’ll be able to have some fantastic backdrops for your travel photos. California is such a unique place of beauty, one that embraces every hue of the rainbow that we love to call home.
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Golden State Getaways wants to acknowledge that we live, operate, gather, and benefit everyday on the traditional stolen lands of several Indigenous peoples and nations including the Tongva (Gabrieleno), Kizh (Gabrieleno), Chumash, Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, Awaswas, and Fernandeño Tataviam peoples who have stewarded the lands and waterways throughout their many generations in what is now the state of California.
I wanted to personally acknowledge these Indigenous people and nations and both their commitment and current contributions to the land with a donation to the American Indian College Fund because acknowledgment without action does not begin to address the systemic issues facing Indigenous people. If you feel as though you benefit from the land you’re living on or traveling to and you have the means, I kindly ask that you donate at least $1 to a Native-led organization such as the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund.