UNDER 1 HOUR: Malibu – This 32-mile stretch of coastline just north of Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades lures out-of-towners seeking sun, surf, and sand. Book a room at the Malibu Beach Inn on Carbon Beach before heading to Mastro’s Ocean Club or Nobu Malibu for sensational steaks, seafood, and sushi. Refresh your wardrobe at John Varvatos, Ted Baker, and Vince at the Malibu Country Mart, and enjoy a Cuba libre or caipirinha at Rande Gerber’s Cafe Habana Malibu.
UNDER 2 HOURS: Pioneertown – Most travelers heading east on MO are Palm Springs-bound, but those desiring a slower pace-and access to Joshua Tree National Park-should go north on Twentynine Palms Highway to Pioneertown. In this 1880s-style frontier town, built by Hollywood legends Roy Rogers and Gene Autry in 1946 for film and television shoots, you’ll find the recently restored Pioneertown Motel, which offers rustic, desert-inspired accommodations. Enjoy live music and mesquite barbecue at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
UNDER 3 HOURS: Santa Ynez Valley – The Santa Ynez Valley, located in Santa Barbara County, gained national acclaim thanks to the 2004 film Sideways. The towns of Ballard, Buellton, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang have a number of vineyards, tasting rooms, restaurants, and tap rooms, such as Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, Carhartt Vineyard’s tasting room, S.Y. Kitchen, and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. Stay at The Landsby, located in downtown Solvang, or hit the links at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, a dude ranch with two 18-hole championship golf courses.
UNDER 4 HOURS: Imperial County – In the far southeast comer of California, bordering both Arizona and Mexico, lies Imperial County. The desert region is home to two unique places worth visiting: the Algodones Dunes, a.k.a. Imperial Sand Dunes or Glamis Dunes, and Salvation Mountain. California’s largest mass of sand dunes, which stretches 40-plusmiles, is a paradise for ATV riders, off readers, and, in some cases, motorcyclists from October through April. Salvation Mountain-a trippy outdoor art installation consisting of murals and carvings-was created by the late artist Leonard Knight as a “tribute to God.”
UNDER 5 HOURS: Pebble Beach – For 13 consecutive years, Golf Digest has ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links the greatest public golf course in America. The site of five U.S. Open Championships has been played by greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods. Relax between rounds at the intimate Casa Palmero at Pebble Beach or the recently renovated Bernardus Lodge & Spa in nearby Carmel Valley. Cruise the 17-Mile Drive en route to the new Moto Talbott motorcycle museum.