Beat-The-Heat Getaways

Have you ever actually tried frying an egg on the street? If you were as bored as I was growing up in the Sacramento burbs you probably gave it a try (FYI, it bubbles a bit when the egg hits the asphalt, but that’s about it). Dad was too cheap to buy an air conditioner, so my sisters and I would either stand under the swamp cooler (remember those?) in the hallway to cool down, or force our parents to take us somewhere with lots of water. Which makes me sort of a life-long connoisseur of creative ways to beat Nor Cal’s summer heat. Here are a few of my top tips…


A fantastic way to spend a warm summer day in Tahoe is hopping in a raft or inner tube and floating down the tame stretch of  Truckee River from Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City to the River Ranch Lodge a few miles downriver. The 2- to 3-hour outing is safe for the entire family, with only a few stretches of very small rapids. You can rent rafts from the Truckee River Raft Co., or just buy a cheapo raft or plastic inner tube at Target.

After you haul out at the River Ranch Lodge, sit at their beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the river and enjoy lunch or a cold beer. If you prefer a more exciting whitewater experience, Tributary Whitewater Tours offers daily excursions (in season) down the Truckee River amid Class 2 to 3-plus rapids. Lake Tahoe Hotel Deals!


Linking Bodega Bay and the nearby town of Jenner are the Sonoma Coast State Beaches, 16 miles of pristine sand and gravel beaches, tide pools, rocky bluffs, hiking trails, and one heck of a gorgeous drive along Highway 1. While all the beaches are pretty much the same—divine—the safest for kids is Doran Park Beach, located just south of Bodega Bay. When the water’s rough everywhere else, Doran is still calm enough for swimming.

Tide pool trekkers will want to head to Shell Beach, a small low-tide treasure trove 10 miles north of Bodega Bay near Jenner. But if all you want to do is get some sun on the sand, deciding which of the 14 beaches along Highway 1 looks the best will drive you nuts; just pick one and park.

If it’s foggy along the coast, go with Plan B: Johnson’s Beach, a popular riverside resort in downtown Guerneville that’s been the go-to weekend getaway for Sonoma County families since 1918 (FYI, no alcohol or dogs are allowed). You can also rent a kayak, canoe, inner tube, or paddleboat. The beach is open daily from mid-May to October. Sonoma Coast Hotel Deals!


Now here’s a summer getaway idea you probably haven’t considered: Driving up the coast to Gualala (about a 3 hour drive from San Francisco), renting a canoe or kayak, and paddling the gorgeous Gualala River. Imagine silently gliding through thousands of acres of private forest filled with wildlife, including osprey, herons, egrets, and river otters.

You can picnic on the sandy banks of the river and swim in the crystal clear water, which is about 70-74 degrees in summer. It’s a heavenly setting for safe, self-guided outdoor adventure for the whole family. Believe me, this is a getaway you will take year after year. You can rent canoes and kayaks in the town of Gualala at Adventure Rents. Gualala Hotel Deals!


No, I’m not crazy. You can do this. I’m living proof. I had never surfed in my life until I took a surfing class in Santa Cruz and within an hour I was standing up and surfing! It’s an amazing adrenaline rush, getting pushed by the wave as you stand on your longboard while the surfing instructor cheers you on.

Santa Cruz has the best longboarding waves in Nor Cal—small, safe, easy, and fun—and the friendly folks at Santa Cruz’s Club-Ed Surf School will show you a great time, teaching you how to paddle, read the waves, and stand up. It’s a fantastic way to stay in shape and an incredibly rewarding accomplishment. C’mon, give it a try this summer. Santa Cruz Hotel Deals!


I’ve actually received letters from readers about how much fun they had on this trip. Just north of Monterey on Highway 1 is Moss Landing, home of Captain Yohn Gideon’s Elkhorn Slough Safari. Friendly Cap’n Gideon loads guests onto his  27-foot pontoon boat, then embarks on a 2-hour journey of the Elkhorn Slough Wildlife Reserve. It’s not uncommon to see a raft of up to 50 otters sunning themselves, as well as harbor seals and hundreds of species of waterfowl and migratory shorebirds. An onboard naturalist answers questions, while Cap’n Gideon educates on the surroundings and hands out binoculars. Monterey Hotel Deals!


I can’t imagine a better way to spend a summer day in Lake Tahoe than relaxing on a beautiful sailing yacht, sipping a cold beer or chardonnay while soaking in the sunshine and incredible scenery. Sound good? Then call Tahoe Sailing Charters and join them on one of their scenic 2-hour afternoon or sunset cruises aboard the Tahoe Cruz, a sleek 50-foot Santa Cruz–class yacht with a 12-foot beam and plenty of elbowroom. Complimentary refreshments and snacks are included. The Tahoe Cruz sails daily from the Tahoe City Marina on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Lake Tahoe Hotel Deals!


Even if you’ve never paddled a boat in your life, just about anyone will have an amazing adventure paddling around the placid Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on stable sit-on-top kayaks. You don’t need a tour guide—just rent some sea kayaks in downtown Monterey and paddle out to the kelp forests along Cannery Row.

You’ll be amazed at how much wildlife surrounds you: harbor seals swimming next to you, sea lions lounging on the rocky shore, diving pelicans, and adorable sea otters playing in the kelp. I recommend renting kayaks (or taking a guided tour) from the friendly folks at Adventures by the Sea. Monterey Hotel Deals!

If you have your own tips on ways to beat the summer heat that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.

And for more insider tips on California activities and tours, California vacation spots, California tourist attractions, California vacation packages, and California hotels, explore, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.

– By Matthew Richard Poole

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on Jul 21, 2011