10 Awesome Hidden Gems in Southern California
Home to world-class cities like Los Angeles (the country’s second-most populous city) and San Diego (eighth on that list), sunny Southern California — otherwise known as SoCal — is an enormously bustling go-to destination for a good reason. Among the popular attractions and hidden gems in Southern California, you’ll find fabulous beaches galore in addition to unbelievable warm weather.
Whether you’re excited about the region’s deep roots in the entertainment industry or its long-standing history of classic surfer culture, there’s truly so much to love about this part of the country. Consider taking a drive along some of SoCal’s iconic coastal highways to catch amazing views of the stunning and varied landscape. But what if you’re looking to venture off the beaten path? We’ve found several standout SoCal hidden gems, so read on for our favorite spots.
Above all, what sets apart this standout among hidden gems in Southern California is its view. When you’re standing on the more than 1000-square-foot deck, you’ll feel as though you’re perched in a treehouse, gazing out at the city lights of El Cajon, which is close to San Diego. But in addition to the view, this space is also decorated in a unique yet classically SoCal fashion, with lots of beautiful earth tones and wood that perfectly complement the natural surroundings.
Speaking of amazing views, this funky apartment has them in spades, of the bay, downtown San Diego, and even an airplane tarmac — watching the planes take off from either of the bedrooms is sure to be the perfect combination of exciting and mesmerizing. The 100-year-old, Spanish-style building lends the space a great deal of historic character, from the vintage 1920s kitchen to the Art Deco-style bathroom.
These gardens are part of the campus of UC Riverside, but anyone can come to visit them. This 40-acre gathering of plants contains over 3,500 plant species, emphasizing those from dry, Mediterranean-type climates like those of California and the neighboring desert in the Southwest. In addition to the more manicured plant collections, there are more than 10 acres of native plant communities, such as annual grassland and coastal sage scrub. With so many diverse plants to be seen, this spot is worth a visit for those who appreciate nature and all its botanical wonders.
Our absolute favorite things about this cozy, inviting villa are the antique clawfoot tub and fountain shower, both located outdoors. But beyond these unique features, there’s so much more to love about this home. The bright blue-painted wall surrounding the whole backyard, the incredibly atmospheric lighting both inside and out, the exceptional privacy you’ll find in the middle of Silver Lake, and more. This oasis is by far one of our top hidden gems in Southern California.
We’ve shared quite a few spaces with gorgeous, private outdoor garden features that give the feel of an oasis in the city — are you noticing a SoCal trend yet? Despite being situated right in the heart of LA, this cabin is sheltered by nearly half an acre of trees (including some 100-foot pecan trees that provide much-needed shade). This is an absolutely charming space full of features that more than live up to the word “magical.”
Most people associate enormous redwood trees with Northern California, but there are also redwoods to be found in Southern California! Take a trip to Carbon Canyon Regional Park in the city of Brea, CA, to visit this true hidden gem: a 10-acre grove of coastal redwoods. Planted as recently as the 1970s, they may not be as big as the ones you’ll find in the northern part of the state, but they’re still quite impressive. Take advantage of the opportunity to see a very special species of tree that you won’t find in many other parts of the world.
This garden is a truly special place with an unbelievable variety of mature, 30-year-old cacti and tropical trees, as well as an array of flowering plants. We can’t think of a better place to gather with friends and family under cozy mood lighting and connect with one another next to the vintage outdoor fireplace. The hosts also recommend it for daytime events like workshops. Either way, the overall vibe of the space lends itself perfectly to meaningful human interactions and connection.
Here’s a quintessentially LA cool, two-story loft-penthouse smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. But it’s got a twist: greenery incorporated generously throughout that gives the feel of a lush garden. It’s designed for “classy gatherings,” as the hosts describe it, and that luxurious feel suffuses the entirety of the loft. Some of its many happy reviewers comment that it’s “nothing short of beautiful,” “exquisite,” “incredible,” and “a dream come true.” It’s certainly worth taking a look at the listing photos, at the very least, to get a sense of what this loft really has to offer.
Looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life without actually leaving L.A.? This 6,000-square-foot backyard will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the middle of the rainforest. It contains waterfalls, ponds, a treehouse, fire pits, atmospheric lighting, an immersive sound system, and lots more.
Located in Chula Vista’s quiet, welcoming Rancho Del Rey neighborhood, this is a fabulously unusual outdoor space that’s made extra dynamic by its multiple levels and layers. You and your guests will love discovering the outdoor kitchen, full bar, multiple fireplaces, waterfalls, and more, before you chill out in any of the four seating areas throughout. Bask in the soft lighting and overall delicious ambiance. As one reviewer pointed out, there’s even a putting green, so you can play golf if it strikes your fancy!