Getting away from it all and finding a holiday destination that hasn’t already been splashed across Instagram can be a challenge. For a peaceful getaway away from the crowds, see below 13 hidden gems and secret spots across the USA and Japan, from a secluded grove in Sonoma County, California to a remote valley in Setouchi, Japan.
Silver Lake – Mammoth Lakes, California
Snuggled up against the base of Carson Mountain, Silver Lake is home to the oldest fishing retreat in the region. This well-kept secret hideaway has been beloved of local families for generations. Folks from all over California and the West come throughout the year to enjoy 110 acres of the lake – popular with boaters, swimmer and kayakers.
Paso Robles – SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County), California
Although the third largest wine region in California – following Napa and Sonoma – few international travellers are familiar with the wine producing region of Paso Robles, a hidden gem located along the Central Coast in SLO CAL. The region is home to over 200 wineries – most of which are family owned and operated – often giving visitors the opportunity to meet the winemaker in person, with tastings for a minimal fee.
Mt. Diablo – Tri-Valley, California
The Bay Area’s highest mountain range, Mt. Diablo is often overlooked for the glitz and glamour of San Francisco, but is a natural escape worth the journey. Despite the mountain’s relatively low elevation, the rock peaks boast some of the best visibility in Western United States and on clear days, visitors are able to spot San Francisco to the west and Yosemite National Park to the east. In addition to its impressive views, Mt. Diablo’s ancient aquatic fossils and unique rock formations have mystified Native Americans, Western settlers and visitors for centuries.
Alki Beach – Seattle, Washington State
Seattle may not be known for its beaches but Alki Beach is a small, secluded stretch of sand in the west of the city that embodies Pacific Northwest charm. An ideal spot on a sunny day, visitors can sunbathe on the sand, play beach volleyball or try their hand at stand-up paddle boarding. A must-visit at the beach is Alki Spud Fish and Chips, which has been serving Seattleites freshly caught seafood since 1935.
Lizard’s Mouth – Santa Barbara, California
Lizard’s Mouth is an area of sandstone outcroppings way above Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Mountains. A brilliant way to discover jaw-dropping views during the golden hour, visitors can hop from stone to stone as they pick the perfect place to perch to watch the sunset over Santa Barbara. To get there, it’s a short hike over slightly slanted rock before arriving at a picturesque area of caves and boulders.
Central Park “Secret Garden” – Huntington Beach, California
Located behind the Huntington Beach Central Library, the Central Park “Secret Garden” is a serene place to enjoy nature. The garden was built to showcase drought tolerant plants and the Huntington Beach Tree Society has spent many hours restoring and reviving the once forgotten Secret Garden. The 350-acre oasis beckons birders, tree huggers, runners, and bicyclists alike.
Chautauqua Park – Boulder, Colorado
Just a 30 minute drive from state capital Denver, Boulder is a laidback region with boutique shops, farm-to-table restaurants and plenty of outdoor opportunities. Chautauqua Park is a vast space which has a number of hiking trails, some of which lead to the Flatirons mountains. Despite its proximity to Denver, the area is relatively quiet so visitors can hike freely and experience its beauty.
Horsetail Falls – South Lake Tahoe, California
While Lake Tahoe can become crowded in the summer months, those in the know head out for longer hikes to reach one of its quieter spots, such as Horsetail Falls. It’s at its fullest in spring/early summer once the snow melts from Desolation Wilderness. Crossing large granite boulders and walking beneath fragrant pines, the hike to Horsetail falls has something for everyone.
Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area – Dana Point, California
Surfing may be a popular pastime for outdoor enthusiasts in Dana Point but there is also lots to be discovered on land. The Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area is a beautiful stretch of land, with hiking trails lined with blooming flowers and views that stretch across the Pacific Ocean. The area is relatively quiet in comparison to Dana Point’s beaches.
Crystal Cove State Park – Newport Beach, California
One of Orange County’s best kept secrets, Crystal Cove State Park consists of 3.2 miles of idyllic coastline, 2,400 acres of backcountry and a one-of-a-kind Historic District with beachfront cottages dating back to the 1920s. Known locally as the Cove, in its early days the community was rustic and rugged, attracting tent campers who were happy to forego gas, electricity and running water. Today, that community spirit is preserved through a local association which runs free tours, vintage games, beachside chats and historic arts and crafts stalls.
Grove of the Old Trees – Sonoma County, California
With over 60 state and regional parks and wilderness preserves, Sonoma County is a natural destination for forest bathing. A LandPaths project, the Grove of the Old Trees is one of the best spots, tucked into the redwood-studded hills west of Occidental. Head out on the Bohemian Highway and take Coleman Valley Road to get to Fitzpatrick Lane, where this local secret is hidden. The short trail that loops in, around, and between seemingly untouched pockets of redwoods and sprawling ferns gives one a sense of being truly away from the “real world.”
Iya Valley – Setouchi
Located in the centre of Setouchi, Shikoku is home to Iya Valley. Beautiful and remote, the valley offers unforgettable views of jagged mountains and plunging landscapes and holds 800 years of history across one of the last three erected vine bridges maintained for the general public. Tactical in construction, these bridges were made out of pure vine so that they could easily be chopped when the enemy approached. These crossings are not for the faint hearted – the bridges sway and creak as travellers walk across.
Miyato Island – Miyagi
Miyagi is home to Matsushuima, one of the most scenic spots in Japan. Consisting of 260 islands, Miyato is the largest island, with four beaches and Otakamori mountain standing in the centre. Hike the short 15 minutes to the peak and enjoy a stunning panoramic ‘Grand View’ (one of the four major views of Matsushima) of the bay.