11 Ways to Enjoy California Ecotourism

Want to visit the Golden State but do it the green way, we have compiled 11 activities to discover California ecotourism, lower the carbon footprint and leave you with a guilt-free conscience.

Adventure Travel, Americas, Sustainable / Eco, Travel Destinations

Want to visit the Golden State but do it the green way, we have compiled 11 activities to discover California ecotourism, lower the carbon footprint and leave you with a guilt-free conscience.

Visit Lotusland in Montecito, California

California Ecotourism
California Ecotourism: Lotusland, Montecito

Recognised as one of the world’s best gardens, Lotusland is a stunning 37-acre estate once owned by the late Madame Ganna Walska. Visitors can tour Lotusland’s 25 gardens, each distinct with more than 3,000 different plants from around the world. Featuring a number of succulent gardens filled with palms and cacti, Lotusland promotes a more sustainable landscape, with many of the plant species able to consume less water by retaining it within their leaves and stems. www.visitcalifornia.co.uk

Clean the harbour in Huntington Beach, California
Travellers can grab a Duffy electric boat, kayak or paddle board and help Huntington Beach clean up its harbour. Every Sunday at 8:45am, ‘Help Your Habor’ welcomes visitors to clean up the ocean using zero emissions, by removing rubbish to protect the health and sustainability of important ecosystems. Visitors can learn first-hand about the need for improved biodegradability, packaging reduction and the impact this is currently having on marine life. This novel way of cleaning up the ocean is fun for everyone involved and aims to inspire others to join in and do the same. www.surfcityusa.com

Ocean-side eating in Santa Barbara, California

California Ecotourism
Santa Barbara -Blackbird – c. HotelCalifornianCourtesy

Visitors can rest assured that many of the meals served in Santa Barbara are sourced using eco-friendly efforts. Using fresh and locally caught seafood, Brophy Bros is known for its ocean-side clam bar serving tasty dishes which will leave diners with a guilt-free conscience. Uni (the Japanese name for sea urchin) is another popular dish served in a number of local restaurants, including the new star of Santa Barbara’s food scene, Blackbird, which is sourced straight from the Santa Barbara waters. www.santabarbaraca.com

Discover Bioluminescence in Tomales Bay, California
Visitors to Tomales Bay can explore the magic of summer bioluminescence in the cool Pacific Ocean waters with Point Reyes Outdoors. The adventure tour company offer an evening bioluminescence kayak tour, that launches from Nick’s Cove in the bay whilst the sun sets, and then after dark, heads along the coast in search of blooms of bioluminescent dinoflagellates, small organisms in the water that produce a burst of light when excited by motion. Tours start from $89 per person.www.visitcalifornia.co.uk

Hike around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite’s Tuolumne County, California

California Ecotourism
California Ecotourism: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

In the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park is a valley that John Muir once described as “a wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite.” Since Muir’s time, the Hetch Hetchy Valley has changed considerably after being dammed in 1923, with water then filling the valley to create a large blue reservoir. The trail surrounding the reservoir provides impressive views of up to three waterfalls, including the Wapama Falls, where travellers can brave a five-mile hike to view an impressive 200ft of cascading water. Hiking this picturesque trail of Hetch Hetchy Valley is a great way to explore a pocket of Yosemite National Park, with fewer crowds than the popular Valley Floor, whilst also being car-free. www.visittuolumne.com

Taste the farm-to-fork food in Sacramento, California
Known as America’s farm-to-fork capital, Sacramento sits among 1.5 million acres of farms and ranches that grow more than 160 crops for markets all around the world, including 96% of the country’s tomatoes from within 250 miles of Sacramento. The city’s restaurants make the most of this vast farmland to create fresh meals with a low carbon footprint. Visitors can join the Local Roots Food Tour to sample some of the finest menus in town whilst learning about the rich history and architecture of the city. The tour company’s Midtown Arts walking food tour will take travellers through Midtown Sacramento, past intriguing murals and into venues using farm-to-fork ingredients and farm-to-grass libations, for a taste of true Sacramento. www.visitsacramento.com

Scoot around the city in San Diego, California

san diego
Cycling in San Diego

Throughout downtown San Diego, dockless bikes and electric scooters are available to rent for as little as $1 a day to get around. With LimeBike, visitors can track down the nearest bike or scooter via an app and drop it off just about anywhere in the city. This flexible use of public transport provides a sustainable alternative to jumping in a car, enabling travellers to explore the city in an affordable and convenient way while eliminating their carbon footprint. www.sandiego.com

Travel the Pacific Surfliner with Amtrak in California
Visitors wishing to travel throughout the state need not worry about their carbon footprint, the Amtrak railway service, a much more energy efficient alternative to both driving and flying. There are a number of Amtrak routes through California, making the state accessible and travellers’ journeys care free. One of the most popular lines is the Pacific Surfliner route, which offers 29 stops between San Luis Obispo and San Diego via Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The track follows the stunning Southern California coastline for part of the route and in some parts sits metres from some of the state’s beautiful beaches. www.amtrak.com

Enjoy sustainable wine in Sonoma County, California

sonoma wine
California ecotourism: Sonoma Valley vineyards

In 2014, Sonoma County Winegrowers announced it would become the country’s first 100% certified sustainable wine region by 2019. This sustainability programme helps to preserve agriculture and multi-generational family farms (85% of Sonoma County’s vineyards are family owned and operated) that are dependent on a healthy environment to grow the best grapes that make their world famous wines. Visitors to Sonoma can enjoy the drinks of the region knowing that it has all been produced in an environmentally-friendly way. www.sonomacounty.com

Sustainable stay in Big Sur, California
Set within 160-acres of forested woodland on the Pacific coast, Ventana Big Sur resort is both inspired by and reflective of the majestic setting in Big Sur, and preserves the iconic landscape in which it sits. Sustainability is a way of life at Ventana, from a property-wide recycling programme for materials and water, to non-toxic and environmentally friendly cleaning products used throughout the resort. Visitors can relax for a sophisticated, eco-friendly stay in one of the luxury suites built within the woodland overlooking the ocean, or connect with nature whilst glamping in a luxury safari-style canvas tent with a wood-burning fire pit and s’mores kit. www.ventanabigsur.com.

Walking in West Hollywood, California

Walking in West Hollywood – Griffith Observatory

You might not think of LA, when you consider California ecotourism, but West Hollywood is one of the most walkable cities in California (at 1.9 m²). Travellers should ditch the car and lower their carbon footprint, getting around by foot. Bikes & Hikes LA, situated along Santa Monica Blvd, offers daily hiking tours to the Hollywood Sign, starting at Griffith Park and ending on Mount Hollywood. The hiking tour lasts two and a half hours, costing $42 per person, which includes an expert tour guide. Alternatively, visitors can join a private hiking tour throughout the wider LA area, including a beach tour, a famous landmark tour and a famous film location tour. www.visitwesthollywood.com

Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

Read more posts by Mark Bibby Jackson →

2 thoughts on “11 Ways to Enjoy California Ecotourism

  1. Hi,

    Just a quick ‘corrections corner’: the official nickname for California is the “Golden” state, in regards to our history with the gold rush in the mid 19th century, the way you can find our state flower blooming in fields in the spring, and yes our beautiful sunsets.

    The “Sunshine” state is the official nickname to Florida.

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