Photograph by Design Pics Inc, Alamy
The Pacific Coast Highway—that storied ribbon of road that stretches 147 miles along the California coast from Carmel to Morro Bay—is one of the top motorcycle rides in the U.S. It's also, deservedly, been designated an All-American Road.
Photograph by David Clapp, Getty Images
A bright stop along the PCH is Santa Cruz, where an amusement park lights up the beach boardwalk at night.
Hearst Castle Gothic Study
Photograph courtesy ®Hearst Castle/State of CA/V. Garagliano©. All Rights Reserved.
Publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst commissioned his palatial home in the Santa Lucia Range in 1919. Visitors can explore the 115-room main house, guesthouses, and outdoor pool area. The Gothic Study, seen here, was part of Hearst's personal quarters.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Photograph by Robin Loznak, Corbis
A hammerhead shark enthralls children at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The million-gallon Open Sea exhibit is the aquarium's largest and features sea turtles, giant tuna, schools of sardines, and more.
Santa Ynez Mountains
Photograph by Brittany Marcoux, Getty Images
The ruins of a mansion known as Knapp's Castle provide a stunning view of the Santa Ynez Mountains in Santa Barbara County.
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego
Photograph by Russell Kord/Alamy
The Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma in San Diego offers an unparalleled view of San Diego Bay. The statue commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, leader of the first European expedition to set foot on what's now the U.S. West Coast.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Photograph by Sean Duan, Getty Images
McWay Falls plunge 100 feet into a cove at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur. This region of central California extends 90 miles south to San Simeon.
Photograph by Eye Ubiquitous/Alamy
Sunny Santa Barbara features five miles of beaches. The most popular is East Beach (pictured here), where volleyball players dive for impossible shots, in-line skaters zip along the bike path, and teens hang out at the snack bar.
Photograph by Doug Steakley
A male elephant seal bellows at Piedras Blancas, where the giant pinnipeds haul out to rest and breed. Females give birth at the rookery beginning in late December.
Photograph by SuperStock/Alamy
The green hills of Cambria in San Luis Obispo County support grazing herds of cattle. This area of central California has retained a rural feel, despite its proximity to towns and tourist attractions.
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
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