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

Discover a variety of whale species in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on this cruise from Monterey. Uncover one of the world’s best locations for whale watching due to its deep submarine canyon close to shore. With whales spotted almost every day, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Set sail from the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Catch a glimpse of the hundreds of Californian Sea Lions inside the harbor as the boat leaves the dock. Take advantage of the view and snap a photo to capture the memory. Pass the historic Cannery Row as you leave the harbor and enter the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Search for feeding humpback whales, a variety of dolphin species, porpoises, blue whales, and fin whales. Listen as the onboard biologist provides fascinating insights into the creatures of the bay and what is being 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. Spot humpback whales daily but keep an eye out for 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 at the south end of Monterey Bay where gray whales pass by. Return to your starting point at the end of your tour.

Napa: Napa Valley History Guided Kayaking Tour

2. 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.

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.

Oakhurst: Yosemite Giant Sequoia Private Jeep Tour

4. 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.

Yosemite National Park: Valley Orientation Tour

5. 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

6. 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

From San Francisco: Yosemite Park Guided Day Trip

7. 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.

Yosemite: Valley Hiking Tour from Oakhurst

8. Yosemite: Valley Hiking Tour from Oakhurst

Witness some of the most awe-inspiring views of nature on a full-day trip through Yosemite Valley with an expert guide. See the towering and famous El Capitan, revel in the majestic Half Dome, dine under the tallest waterfall in North America — Yosemite Falls — and hike along the Mist Trail. Meet your guide before heading straight to Yosemite National Park via the south entrance. Arrive at Tunnel View to witness the most well-known views in Yosemite Valley, El Capitan and Half Dome, and be awe-struck by their sheer grandeur and height. Follow the Merced River to Curry Village, where your guide will lead you on a 3-mile (5.4-kilometer) round-trip hike on the most famous trail in the Valley, the Mist Trail, to the Vernal Falls Footbridge. After the hike, head to Yosemite Village to enjoy a boxed lunch while taking in a spectacular view of Yosemite Falls. Next, stroll along the Valley Loop Trail to the Ahwahnee Hotel. See its fascinating design and architecture of this 1927 hotel, which puts it on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Walk back to Yosemite Village through the meadows before heading over to El Capitan Meadows for more stunning photos. Then, sit back and relax on the scenic drive back to Oakhurst.

Monterey: Electric Bike Rental with GPS Guided Tours

9. Monterey: Electric Bike Rental with GPS Guided Tours

Discover the best of Monterey at your own pace and enjoy an eco-friendly way to sightsee with this electric bike rental. Choose from 2 different GPS-guided tours: a scenic or historic tour, or follow your own route and create your own adventure. Choose from electric-assist or full throttle modes to help you see more of the area. You could visit the Great Tide Pools and get a close-up view of creatures hiding among the rocks. Explore Lover's Point area and beach, and let the sand fill in between your toes. Stop at the various turnouts along the coast to catch a glimpse of whales during migration. You can also bike to Asilomar State Beach and watch the surfers find their perfect wave. Find your way into Pebble Beach and marvel at the golf courses, the coastal drive, and the famous 17-Mile Drive.

Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

10. 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.

Frequently asked questions about Central Valley, California

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What people are saying about Central Valley, California

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 765 reviews

Yosemite was beautiful! Unbelievable beauty! The tour guide Alex was a good guide, was fun and informative. He took us to 2 different locations for photos, absolutely breathtaking. The only downside for this tour is that you only get 3 hours of exploration time for yourself, which may seem a lot but in reality is no where near enough given the size of the park. That’s not to say it’s the tour guides fault, the journey is roughly 4 hours. Overall a brilliant experience and would highly recommend

Absolutely fantastic trip. Isaiah the marine biologist was really knowledgeable and provided great commentary. The captain Danny and crew were very friendly. We got to see sea lions, dolphins, sea otters and the best display from humpback whales. One was breaching for over an hour right by our boat which was amazing ! Would 100% Recommend !

A great day pout. The guide was very informative of yosemite national park and also of any landmarks/areas on route to the park. The only down side was the AC on the bus want working on the way back but these things happen.

It was great! It was better than I expected and I will be back. The guys on the boat also were friendly and gave good information regarding the ocean animals.

The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and friendly.