12 Top Romantic Getaways in California 1 The Dramatic Scenery of Big Sur. Coastline of Big Sur. 2 Carmel-by-the Sea: A Quaint and Upscale Seaside Resort. Carmel-by-the Sea. 3 Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara. 4 The Rolling Hills of Sonoma County. 5 Santa Catalina Island. 6 Rugged and Unspoiled Mendocino County. 7 The Russian River. 8 The Victorian Village of Ferndale.