I Love You, California

Four favorite places, one state


With 163,696 square miles and 39.5 million people, the list of places to see and things to do in California is endless. Paly students and staff highlight their favorite places in the Golden State, from the remote central coast beaches to major cities.

Ashley Meyer – Cayucos

Paly junior Ashley Meyer has been visiting Cayucos, California with her family for as long as she can remember. Cayucos is a small coastal town in San Luis Obispo county, which appeals to Meyer as a vacation destination. 

“[Cayucos] feels like my own little home that isn’t Palo Alto,” Meyer said. “And since it’s so small, it feels like there’s a huge community around there.”

Her family visits Cayucos every year during Memorial Day weekend, giving Meyer a much needed break from a year of school.

“I always love building sand castles and playing on the beach with my family and being in the ocean,” Meyer said. “It’s a very nice way to relax before the school year ends.”

Meyer’s family has plenty of traditions in Cayucos that they have built over the years. 

“My family goes wine tasting since [Cayucos is] by the great grape vines,” Meyer said. “We always have a picnic at Avila beach one day . . . and go to the same sandwich place.” 

Meyer’s adventures in Cayucos have been an amazing experience with family, and she aspires to bring these memories to her future family someday.

“[Memorial Day weekend is] definitely my favorite weekend of the year because there’s so much tradition going there every single year,” Meyer said. “I hope when I’m older, I’ll be able to bring my future family and kids there and keep the tradition going.”

Mads Ernst- Ernst Family’s Secret Beach

When junior Madeleine Ernst and her family moved to California from North Carolina in 2012, they searched through guidebooks to find hikes and parks in the area. Through a hike in the Monterey area, Ernst and her family discovered a secluded beach that quickly became a special place to Ernst, in part because of the amazing scenery.

“The whole area around the beaches is grassy and there’s poppies everywhere,” Ernst said. “It’s also [on a] cliff overlooking the water that you get on most Californian beaches, or the northern Californian beaches.”

Twice a year, Ernst trekkes this hike, discovering more beaches in the area, each with unique aspects to explore.

“There’s five beaches [that] are close to each other, so you can also hike around all the beaches,” Ernst said. “Two of the beaches are completely full of seals.”

There are many things that keep Ernst and her family coming back to their secret beach, but for Ernst, the most special is the secrecy of the beach.

“It’s a beach that’s always to ourselves because it’s a long hike to get there,” Ernst said. “So there’s never anyone there, it’s just my family.”

Ms. Juan – San Diego

Though a popular tourist destination, San Diego is still a very special spot in California, especially to Paly math teacher Gabrielle Juan. Juan first visited San Diego on a family vacation and tries to visit at least once a year.

“[I like San Diego because of] the weather, the access to beaches and the waters are always warm,” Juan said. “People are super lowkey, chill and easygoing.” 

San Diego is known as a staple Southern California town for the beachy and warm atmosphere.

Besides visiting all the beach towns surrounding San Diego, as well as the city itself, visitors, including Juan, enjoy the Mexican food in the city. San Diego has many authentic Mexican restaurants throughout the city and suburbs due to its close proximity to Mexico. Juan looks forward to visiting one in particular each time she visits.

“I recommend Kings Tacos, hands down,” Juan said. “They’re delicious, you’ve got to try it. And they’re open until like 4 in the morning.”

Zach Crystal- San Francisco

Another popular spot in California, San Francisco, is known for its views and the Golden Gate Bridge. Freshman Zach Crystal has his own personal connection to the city. Because his dad works in the city, Zach and his family visited it frequently before the pandemic. 

“When we go there, we usually grab a bite, then I go back to my dad’s office and hang out with my brother,” Crystal said. 

Specifically, Crystal and his brother go to Pier 39 while visiting their dad. 

“[Pier 39] is where [my dad] brought us because he thought just being in his office all day might be a little boring,” Crystal said. “It’s pretty nice there and we could just hang out because they have good food.”

Pier 39 is a popular tourist attraction in San Francisco and is filled with many different restaurants as well as souvenir shops. Because it is on the water, the pier is known for its outstanding views of the San Francisco Bay. Living near San Francisco, Crystal has visited it throughout his life, but credits his family friends as the people that first brought him to the city.

“We have these friends, and my dad and the wife were very close friends when my dad worked in Palo Alto,” Crystal said. “The wife actually introduced [my dad] to my mom, so when they lived in San Francisco, we’d go to their place a lot and [hang] out.” 

Crystal recommends visiting all the classic sites in San Francisco, from the water to the Golden Gate Bridge.
“These places are beautiful,” Crystal said. “It’s nice to look at the water and it is so grand.”

Photo courtesy of Ashley Meyer