You might head to Los Angeles or San Diego for the theme parks or historic districts, but Southern California is a fantastic place for cool adventures. During our over 15 years of living in California, we spent most of our time enjoying the outdoors in Northern California. Still, we enjoyed many of the adventures the southern part of the state has to offer as well! Both in summer and winter, check the top outdoor activities in Southern California we recommend.

If you are looking for more California travel ideas, check out our California blog posts. And here for an itinerary and travel ideas along the Pacific Coast, or in the US West Coast, including the top national parks in California and Utah. For outdoor activities in Northern California, click here.

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Outdoor Activities in Southern California

Unique Things to Do in Southern California

The climate is typically hotter in that region of the state, so these great SoCal activities are available all through the year. Among all the different audacious activities in Southern California, here are what we believe are the other cool things to do. Be that as it may, make a point to see what you can do while visiting the area.

  • La Jolla Kayaking
  • Joshua Tree Hiking
  • Surfing in San Diego Surfing
  • Camping in the Mojave Desert
  • Walking by Sequoia National Park giant redwood trees
  • Trekking in Sequoia National Park or Kings Canyon National Park
  • Pacific Highway 1 road tripping
  • Dunes surfing in the Mojave Desert

Surfing in Southern California

San Diego is the most popular surfing place in South California. But north and south of the city also have cool beaches perfect for surfing.

  • San Diego: Tourmaline Beach, also called Tourmaline Surfing Park on the border of the Pacific Beach and La Jolla, is one of the most recommended surfing spots. Of notes are also Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Windansea Beach, and Scripps Beach
  • Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside north of San Diego: Swami’s Surf Beach is another famous surfing spot south of Encinitas, and Pier View South Beach by Oceanside
  • Towards Morro Bay: Pismo Beach (or Pismo Pier Beach), and Morro Rock City Beach
  • Malibu around Los Angeles is another top surfing name, with Topanga Beach, and Malibu Surfrider Beach.
Top Outdoor Activities in Southern California // California Surfing

California Surfing

Biking in Southern California

From biking along the ocean or cycling through vineyards, getting on two wheels in one of the fun things to do in Southern California.

  • Los Angeles Strand (Marvin Braude Bike Trail), a 22-mile ride from Will Rogers State Beach to Pacific Palisades in Torrance
  • Santa Barbara country, where you can enjoy bike riding and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country
  • Palomar Mountain around San Diego
  • Parsons Landing – Two Harbors trail on Santa Catalina Island, one of the incredible rides on the island off Los Angeles
  • San Diego Bayshore Bikeway that starts from Coronado Ferry Landing up to downtown San Diego
  • Cambria to Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo passing the famous Hearst Castle
Top Outdoor Activities in Southern California // Biking in Joshua National Park

Biking in Joshua National Park

Hiking in Southern California

The Sierra Nevada mountain range offers incredible hiking opportunities, and the list of trails could also be endless, including the famous John Muir Trail (JMT in the hiking world).

  • While Sequoia National Park is known for its giant redwood trees and provides easy hikes around the area, the park is also home to several stunning trails, including the impressive Mt. Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” states at 14,494′ (4418 meters). The nearby Kings Canyon National Park offers unbelievable trails through glacier type landscapes with blue lakes high in the rugged mountains while seeing fewer than his neighbor.
  • Joshua Tree is another impressive park where you can hike by the spiky Cholla Cactuses
  • Santa Monica Mountains are an unbelievable sight, the wild area so close to the sprawling urban settings of Los Angeles.
  • Channel Islands National Park with trails that criss-cross the islands
  • The Mojave Desert offers a different type of landscape, hiking on dunes and camping under the stars
  • Walking to the Hollywood sign, one of the fun things to do in Los Angeles
Top Outdoor Activities in Southern California // Hiking Black Beach in San Diego

Hiking Black Beach in San Diego

Kayaking in Southern California

With the state’s long coastline, it’s no surprise that kayaking is one of the must-do in California. But don’t forget the mountain lakes, which have the benefits of being tide-free compared to the Pacific Ocean.

  • Channel Islands National Park is again a favorite here, as you kayak by interesting rock formations and watch seabirds flying by. Watch for the tides.
  • La Jolla kayaking will take you to see hidden caves and a chance to see dolphins
  • Mammoth Lakes: June Lake, Lake Mary, and Lake George all offer scenic kayaking opportunities
Top Outdoor Activities in Southern California // San Diego Kayaking

San Diego Kayaking

Kiteboarding in Southern California

Again thanks to its extensive coastline and the recurring winds, California offers plenty of exciting kitesurfing spots.

  • Santa Barbara East Beach is one of the few beginner spots on the coast
  • San Diego Mission Bay is another good place to learn thanks to its shallow waters and long beach
  • Belmont Shores in Los Angeles are popular for beginners to advanced riders
  • Los Angeles Sunset Beach and Long Beach for advanced riders
  • Manhattan Beach and Rat Beach in Torrance are good for intermediate riders
  • Expert riders should only consider Cabrillo and Huntington Beach
Top Outdoor Activities in Southern California // California Kiteboarding

California Kiteboarding

Scuba-Diving in Southern California

While California is no Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef, there are nice diving spots along the coast. The cold water means marine life is quite diverse.

  • San Diego La Jolla Cove: Look for Leopard sharks in Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve, or search for nudibranch along La Jolla Shores’ canyon walls
  • Laguna Beach: Search for octopuses and sea urchins in Point Vicente State Marine Reserve
  • Avalon Underwater Dive Park and Santa Cruz Island
    in Channel Islands National Park
  • San Diego Wreck Alley let you dive the Yukon, California’s famous shipwreck.

Southern California White-Water Rafting

Northern California is home to a more significant number of rivers, but SoCal still offers white-water rafting opportunities.

  • The Kern River close to the Sequoia National Park in Southern California the ideal option

Winter Sports in South California

Northern California, especially around Lake Tahoe, is home to over ten ski resorts but enjoying the snow in winter is possible in SoCal:

  • Snowboarding and skiing in Mammoth Lakes

Have you ever done any of these activities in South California? What was your experience? Any other outdoor adventure you would like to share? Make sure to leave a comment in the Comment section!

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Top Outdoor Activities in Southern California // Huntington Pier Surfers at Sunset Los Angeles

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