Things to do in
Central Valley, California

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Our most recommended things to do in Central Valley, California

Monterey Bay: Whale Watching Tour

1. Monterey Bay: Whale Watching Tour

The tour departs from Monterey Old Fisherman’s Wharf, where the boat sets sail into the harbor, home to breathtaking sea views. As the tour leaves the dock, catch a glimpse of the hundreds of Californian Sea Lions inside the harbor. Take advantage of the view and snap a photo to capture the memory. Upon leaving the harbor, the boat passes the historic Cannery Row and then enters the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Monterey is one of the world’s best locations for whale watching due to the deep submarine canyon close to shore. This is where the search for the wonders of the bay’s marine life begins. With whales spotted almost every day, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Keep your eyes peeled as you scan the water for the abundance of marine life that lives here. Search for feeding humpback whales, a variety of dolphin species, porpoises, blue whales, fin whales and more. As you sail, listen to the onboard biologist provide fascinating insight into the creatures of the bay, and what is done to protect them. During the summer/ fall season, the tour will focus on feeding whales that come to the bay to feast on small fish and krill. You can expect to see humpback whales daily but, you may also see blue whales, fin whales, gray whales (finishing migration), orcas and a variety of other dolphin species. During the winter season, the tour will focus on migrating whales. One of largest movements of mammals on earth happens just off the coast of Pacific Grove, CA – the south end of Monterey Bay. Gray whales pass by the coast, about a 30-minute ride from Monterey Harbor. Due to the short distance from the “gray whale super highway”, the trips can be shorter in duration for the winter time.

From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

2. From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

Escape the crowds of San Francisco on a full-day guided tour to Yosemite National Park. See highlights, including Yosemite Falls and Inspiration Point. Enjoy seamless travel in a bio-fueled mini-coach. Heading east across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge offers great views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. En route to the park the tour crosses through the Central Valley, where you will stop at a fruit stand for some local produce. Famous for its rich volcanic soil, the Central Valley is the largest agricultural region in the United States. The section the tour drives through is best known for specialty fruits and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cherries, and strawberries. After this quick rest stop, you will enter the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Continuing into the mountains brings you to California gold country and the gold rush town of Groveland before the tour winds its way into Yosemite National Park. On your 1.5-hour narrated coach tour of Yosemite's glaciated valley, you will see famous waterfalls and rock formations including Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. Continue on past El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome, and much more. During the tour you will see Yosemite Valley from a number of great vantage points, the best of which is perhaps Inspiration Point. After the tour, you will stop for the afternoon near the base of Yosemite Falls. If you have not already picked up picnic supplies, there are many options for getting lunch in the park. You will have 3-4 hours of free time to explore the valley as you choose. You can walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, check out the visitor center, visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, stop in at the Ahwahnee Hotel, rent a cruiser bike, or hike some of the trails that originate from the valley. Although you could easily spend 3 weeks in Yosemite, the 3 hours you get on your own is enough time to understand why Yosemite is one of America's most popular national parks.

From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park Full-Day Trip

3. From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park Full-Day Trip

Spend an active, fun-filled day learning why Yosemite is one of America’s most popular national parks. Hike through the park with an experienced guide and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature on this tour. Start off by making your way east from San Francisco and heading across the Bay Bridge. Continue toward the Sierras and into the mountains. Learn about California’s rich history as you pass through some of the first settlements built during the Gold Rush. Arrive in Yosemite National Park for a 2.5-mile round-trip hike to see the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, descending 400 feet into the grove, before turning around and trekking back up. Next, cruise into the famous Yosemite Valley to take in views of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and more. Capture breathtaking photos at Tunnel View and take in the eastern expanse of Yosemite Valley. Then, enjoy 1.5 hours of free time to explore on your own. You can meander down paved paths, hike around Yosemite Falls, engage further with the park’s history at the visitor’s center, or visit the Ansel Adams Gallery. In the late afternoon, you’ll depart for San Francisco, stopping for a short break before arriving back in the city. Arrive back at your hotel in the late evening to sleep off the day’s adventures.

Yosemite National Park: Valley Orientation Tour

4. Yosemite National Park: Valley Orientation Tour

Join an eco-friendly, small group guided tour and witness the stunning Yosemite National Park. Choose between three pickup locations covering hotels on Highway 41, 140 & 120. Then drive 30-60 minutes through Yosemite National Park to reach Yosemite Valley. On the way, your guide will explain the history and geology before stopping at El Capitan, the world’s largest granite monolith. Your guide will provide a park orientation and hiking briefing so you can wander around alone. Be dropped off either at Curry Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge in the park. During your 5 hours of free time, explore Yosemite either by hiking its most famous trails or biking your way around Yosemite Valley.  Marvel at views of Half Dome, a granite dome known for its distinct shape. Go for a swim in the nearby Merced River to cool down from Yosemite’s summer heat. Your expert guide can recommend the best trails and where to rent a bike.  After a day of exploration, meet your guide back at either Curry Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge to be dropped off back at your original point: Yosemite View Lodge.

From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

5. From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

Travel through the Great Central Valley into the Sierra Foothills where Forty-Niners panned for Gold. Follow the beautiful Merced River to the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Glaciers cut through these mountains forming spectacular granite monuments you will see throughout the park. Spend a total of 4 hours within the Yosemite National Park: 1-hour on a guided tour and 3 hours to explore on your own. There is the option of selecting a Chinese-speaking guide on certain days. Take advantage of the photo opportunities at: • El Capitan • Bridalveil Falls • Vernal Falls • Yosemite Falls • Cathedral Spires • Half Dome

Groveland: Yosemite National Park's Giant Sequoia Trees Tour

6. Groveland: Yosemite National Park's Giant Sequoia Trees Tour

Discover the towering granite cliffs and giant Sequoias of Yosemite National Park on this full-day tour. Learn about the history, geology and wildlife that make Yosemite Valley the jewel of the U.S. National Parks. Your tour begins with a pickup in Groveland, CA. Soon after entering Yosemite, you will experience the solitude of the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. You won’t doubt for a second that these are the largest living creatures on the planet. No picture does them justice, due to their immense height.  In winter, when conditions on the Tuolumne Grove trail are snow-covered or unsafe, the Giant Sequoias experience will be substituted with other attractions. Your heart will be racing as you enter Yosemite Valley and enjoy a stop at Inspiration Point, also known as Tunnel View. Take some selfies with El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls as your backdrop. During your free time in the valley, grab a bite to eat at the Valley Lodge food court, check out the souvenirs at the gift shop, take a quick hike around Sentinel Meadow, or see the towering Yosemite Falls.

Napa: Napa Valley History Guided Kayaking Tour

7. Napa: Napa Valley History Guided Kayaking Tour

Go beyond the stunning natural beauty of the Napa Valley as you listen to local history and tales from your guide on a tranquil kayaking tour on the Napa river. Enjoy using stable and high-quality kayaking equipment that suited for both beginners and advanced kayakers. Meet your guide at a conveniently-located spot that is close to downtown Napa and get set up with well maintained kayaking gear. Put on your life jacket and sett off down the river with your guide. Journey to the past as your guide gives you a run-down of local lore, including tales you’re not likely to read about in any guidebook. Learn about first settlers to Napa Valley and hear about Napa’s famed wineries and local businesses. Paddle at a leisurely pace through the waterways of the Napa Valley and meander past historic sites and learn about their significance. Find out about the first people in the Napa Valley and hear some Native names that are still used for places. Hear about Native culture. Uncover the history of the Napa earthquake and the historic buildings it damaged. Watch as your guide identifies birds and other animals along the Napa river. Look for beavers, otters, egrets, and minks. Have the chance to explore on your own after the first hour of the tour. Finish your tour at the centrally-located meeting point where it began.

Oakhurst: Yosemite Giant Sequoia Private Jeep Tour

8. Oakhurst: Yosemite Giant Sequoia Private Jeep Tour

Get ready to ride into the wilderness on a private Jeep tour through the Sierras. Your tour guide will drive you to see some of the Sierra’s most incredible scenery as you venture off into the forest to get to a Sequoia Grove. Crawl over granite plains, drive through dense woodland areas, and splash through creeks. Stop at Bass Lake Vista for a fantastic view of a local sporting lake. Next, head to a secluded Sequoia grove in the Sierra’s. Park up and get out, checking out old cabins from mining in the early 1900s as well as massive Sequoia stumps. This grove has a unique history as it was partially logged before the trees were protected. Then, you'll embark on a 1-mile round-trip hike to see the Bull Buck Tree, which reaches a staggering 270 feet tall and 80 feet around. It's one of the largest Sequoias on earth.

Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

9. Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

Experience the ultimate scenic drive between Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach on a self-guided tour in your vehicle. Take advantage of the flexibility to set your own pace, stopping to take in the many sights and views along the 17-Mile Drive. Start by downloading the app that will function as your personal guide, audio tour, and map all in one (download instructions received via email after booking), then begin your self-guided adventure. You'll embark on this scenic drive in downtown Monterey near the historic Fisherman's Wharf. Discover Cannery Row, the delightful waterfront street bordering Pacific Grove. Optionally, stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to get an up-close look at a large variety of sea creatures (entry not included). Take in the views from Point Joe, the rocky southwestern end of Spanish Bay, also known as the Restless Sea. Journey to Bird Rock and Seal Rock, and try to spot seals, sea lions, and local birds. Next, you'll continue through Crocker Grove to the Lone Cypress, which stands dramatically at the edge of a cliff against crashing waves. End your tour at the world-famous Pebble Beach, a paradise of pristine white sand and sensational coastal cliffs. The audio tour is curated by local guides and creative writers and is narrated by professional voice artists. Along with written descriptions, most tour stops have animated videos allowing you to visualize what you cannot see, such as snapshots from different centuries or building interiors.

Giant Sequoia Snowshoe & Yosemite Valley Tour

10. Giant Sequoia Snowshoe & Yosemite Valley Tour

Experience the best that winter in Yosemite National Park has to offer in just one day. Enjoy snow-topped Yosemite Valley and a picturesque snowshoe hike to the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias. Get picked up and go straight to Tunnel View, one of the best panoramas in all of Yosemite National Park. While here, grab some photos and take in the beauty of this glacially-carved valley in winter.  Next, travel to another area of the park to reach the trailhead to the Giant Sequoias. Once at the trailhead, it's time to layer up and strap on your snowshoes. If appropriate snow conditions do not exist, you will complete the hike in your regular hiking boots. On this 3-mile round-trip hike, make your way down the serene trail to reach the cluster of ancient Giant Sequoias. Find around 20 mature trees in one of Yosemite's most peaceful groves. Once you've worked up an appetite, enjoy your provided picnic lunch surrounded by the towering trees. Next, make the gradual uphill return of 600 feet elevation back to the trailhead. Change out of your layers, get comfortable, and relax on the scenic drive back to your hotel.

Frequently asked questions about Central Valley, California

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What people are saying about Central Valley, California

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 384 reviews

Skilled and friended driver-guide showed us the sights! While one can spend weeks in Yosemite, the day trip provided a lot of highlights that brings taste for more. The three hour free time was enough to walk to lower Yosemite falls, to the Ahwahnee and back, time to spare and relax and have some snacks. 10 out of 10 denstists would recommend!

It was an amazing experience all around. The staff was helpful friendly and polite. It was fun to be able to move about the boats to get a better look at the whales. It also helps that the day we set out were lucky enough to see plenty of animals.

Our guide Chable made the day a great experience. He interacted with everyone. He showed us the best spots to take pictures, explained what we were seeing and the history of Yosemite.

Fantastic trip the guys couldn’t have been any more helpful with their knowledge , would recommend

Absolutely a brilkiant dau seeing killer whales and then himpbacls