California combines rolling landscapes of tidy vineyards with backdrops of golden hillocks and the many hues of the Pacific Ocean, making it a great place for adventurers! Scenic bike routes wind through small towns and meandering walking trails exist only a few hours from bustling cities. On this West Coast exploration, you’ll spot elephant seals lounging in Ano Nuevo State Park, gain behind the scenes access to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, horseback ride through the lush, rolling hills of Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez, and explore the Channel Islands by kayak. Welcome to the Golden State!
Your guide will meet you at your San Francisco hotel this morning, and together you’ll head south down the San Francisco Peninsula to kick-start your adventure. Arriving at Ano Nuevo State Park, meander the sandy trails on foot towards the Pacific Ocean and along a major bird migratory route. This natural preserve is one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal, and today we’ll have a chance to view these massive creatures in their natural environment. While the elephant seals haul out on land for breeding and molting, they can be observed here year-round. After stopping for lunch in Santa Cruz, we’ll continue on our way to Carmel Valley Ranch, your home for the next two nights. Upon arrival, we’ll "suit up" like a beekeeper and get up close and personal with approximately 60,000 Italian honey bees; or at least as close as you wish! These busy creatures diligently forage for the pollen and nectar in every flower at Carmel Valley Ranch, with a particular affinity for the hundreds of blossoms on each of the 7,000 dazzling lavender plants on property. In the early evening, we’ll meet for a cocktail and toast the start of a great trip before sitting down together for a succulent meal prepared with ingredients from The Ranch's Organic Garden at The Valley Kitchen.
This morning after breakfast, we’ll make our way to Monterey to voyage into the deep waters of the Monterey Bay Aquarium—one of the most acclaimed aquariums in the world! Upon arrival, our guide will lead us on a special access tour before the doors even open to the public. The experience will be tailored to your interests and you will have access to exclusive areas behind the scenes to see how the magic is created. Next, we’ll hop on bikes for a coastal ride around Pacific Grove, past the rugged coastline of Pebble Beach, exploring tide pools filled with starfish and other fascinating creatures along the way. If you would like to challenge yourself with a bit of elevation gain today, you can choose to follow the entire 17-mile drive loop—all the way up to the top of the Del Monte Forest and back down to sea level, ending in the small hamlet of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Back at the ranch, late afternoon, take the time to relax by the pool or enjoy a massage before heading into Carmel-by-theSea for dinner on your own. There are fantastic options depending on your mood. Perhaps you would enjoy an exquisite seafood extravaganza with an Asian twist lovingly prepared for you at Flying Fish Grill; alternatively, step into Casanova and be transported to France or Italy for the evening, enjoying locally sourced ingredients in a style that is both contemporary and rustic, not to mention meticulously presented. Other options exist; we will send you a list prior to your trip so we may secure a table for you in advance.
We’ll get an early start today and drive south for approximately three hours to the northern part of Santa Barbara County, which is known for its lush vineyards, rolling hills, beautiful farms, and vibrant little towns. Upon arrival, we will pull on our cowgirl and cowboy boots and head out to enjoy a private horseback adventure through the scenic Fess Parker Ranch and Vineyards. The experience will conclude with a gourmet picnic in the most scenic of locations. Later, you may choose to pedal the last miles into Los Olivos to the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa, where you can check in, relax and unwind before meeting up again this evening. Tonight, dinner is at Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café, where Cal-Med fare is paired with local wines in a casually elegant cafe setting.
This morning, after breakfast, we’ll hop on bikes and begin the day pedalling south from Los Olivos. Our morning loop ride around the Santa Ynez Valley takes us to nearby Solvang, a Danishsettled community that is complete with preserved aesthetic heritage including windmills, bakeries, and European flair. Grab a cappuccino and a pastry if you’d like before returning to the hotel, where you’ll have time to freshen up before heading south to the luxurious Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Unwind and take in the coastal breezes, perhaps enjoy a quick dip in the pool before venturing into Santa Barbara for the evening. The Old Mission Santa Barbara awaits with a special private docentled tour. You’ll enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Old Mission, the Mission system, Franciscan friars and Alta, California. Afterward, you will have a bit of time to stroll the boutiques and galleries of downtown Santa Barbara before having dinner on your own. The dining options are plentiful whether you are in the mood for a gastronomic extravaganza or a casual bistro. Our recommendations include Bouchon, Toma, as well as Finch & Fork; please let us know your preference. After a phenomenal evening on the town, be sure to get a good night’s rest, as tomorrow will be an amazing adventure!
After a hearty breakfast this morning, we’ll head down the coast to Ventura (30 min) to meet our local kayaking guide for a full day of exploring the nearby Channel Islands! After an hour-long ferry ride, you’ll have a chance to discover this coastal National Park on Santa Cruz Island, and paddle on top of kelp forests, through crystal clear waters and into sea caves filled with wildlife. Back on land, you can walk your sea legs off with a short hike to take in the 360-degree view of the Pacific Ocean. After a ferry ride back to the mainland, we will make our way back to the Biltmore, where you’ll have a chance to clean up and relax before meeting up again for the evening. Tonight, we will dine at the hotel’s oceanfront restaurant, where we’ll raise our glasses to toast a wonderful week together. After dinner this evening, you will bid your guide farewell before turning in for the night.
Today is yours to enjoy at your leisure. Depending on your departure plans, a private car and driver will chauffeur you to the Los Angeles International Airport (2 hrs) in time for your onward travels. If you wish to spend the morning enjoying the resort’s amenities prior to the noon checkout time, plan on a late-afternoon or evening flight. We hope you have enjoyed your California adventure!