For some, summer vacation means sunning on a beach, and watching the waves with a cocktail in hand. For others—perhaps your family members—the perfect break means hitting the trails to mountain peaks. Most destinations make families choose between hills and shores. But these five destinations combine the best of both. Meet the Goldilocks of summer vacation destinations, with a little bit of water, a little bit of altitude, and a lot that goes just right.
1. Ventura County, California
Ojai and Ventura host the annual Mountains 2 Beach Marathon for good reason: Mountain hiking and the classic California coastline lie within, well, 26.2 miles of each other. Located northwest of Los Angeles, Ojai sits in a valley, and the village is dotted with art galleries, farmers markets, and high-desert hikes in the nearby Los Padres National Forest. Trails meander through scrubland, sometimes revealing cascading waterfalls, as along the Rose Valley Falls Trail, when the season is right. But for waves, visitors head downhill to the city of Ventura, a classic coastal town. Most beachgoers head to San Buenaventura State Park and take in the views along the iconic wooden Ventura Pier.
2. Astoria, Oregon
Fans of the film The Goonies will probably recognize Haystack Rock near Astoria, Oregon. Eli Duke
This charming coastal town sits at the estuary of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. It’s probably most famous as the filming location of the 1980s film The Goonies. Film fans will recognize Haystack Rock, a vertical rock formation right off the beach, which was featured in the movie and is an iconic view along the beach in Astoria. The Pacific’s waters are bracing, so you may not last long swimming or surfing here. Still, the Pacific Northwest’s beaches have a picturesque quality that can’t be found elsewhere. Hiking trails are just outside the village’s backdoor: The Cathedral Tree-Coxcomb Hill Trail, for example, starts at a 300-year-old Sitka spruce and climbs 164 stairs to take in views of the town, the Coastal Range, and the Pacific Ocean. Other routes lead to lighthouses, along the Columbia River, and through coastal rainforests.
3. The Big Island, Hawaii
Officially named Hawaii, the Big Island is one of the lesser visited in this archipelago, but it’s arguably the best for outdoorsy folks. While you can lounge on white sandy beaches, there’s so much more to do on the island. Its diverse terrain includes green sand at Papakolea and black sand at Punalu’u. The reefs just offshore at Hapuna Beach and Kahalu’u Beach Park are popular for snorkeling. The island is the biggest among the Hawaiian islands, and it continues to grow daily thanks to two active volcanoes that continue to shape its size and terrain. Hiking trails take visitors across coastal dunes, shrublands, thick rainforests, high alpine deserts, and, yes, along the active volcanoes. The Hilina Pali Trail, for example, takes a 7-mile route down the side of the Kilauea volcano.
4. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is a classic destination for those who love to play by the ocean. Rain0975
This southeastern Virginia town is as classic coastal as it gets. A three-mile boardwalk stretches along the oceanfront. The broad sandy shores beckon visitors for sandcastle building, sunning, and wading into the waves. This locale marks an important piece of United States history, too: First Landing State Park is where the Jamestown colonists arrived from England in 1607. Reaching the mountains from here requires a bit of a road trip, but the four-hour drive is well worth it to reach Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can head to the southern entrance at Rockfish Gap or the northern entrance at Front Royal, and follow the 150-mile Skyline Drive in between with multiple Appalachian Trail hikes jutting off this spine.
5. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
You don’t have to head to the coasts to get miles of shoreline. Lake Tahoe has 75 miles of shoreline with several sandy beaches at points between. Destinations like Sand Harbor Beach offer wide expanses of sand, freshwater swimming areas, and beach coves dedicated to snorkelers and SCUBA divers. Paddle sports are accessible on the lake, and you can rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards so you can get out on the water. You may even want to join a yoga SUP class. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the U.S., so the pine-studded hills of the Sierra Nevadas practically tumble into the waters. That means hiking is close at hand. The Rubicon Trail traces the shores of Emerald Bay and features incredible panoramic views, cliffs, coves, waterfalls, and even a lighthouse along the 13-mile round-trip outing. Destinations like these are sure to be crowd pleasers, whether you’re looking for mountains or beaches.
Written by Ashley M. Biggers for Matcha in partnership with Superfeet.