When it comes to places in California that feel like one big outdoor playground, Ventura County, on the south end of the Central Coast, stands out as a sun- and wave-splashed surprise. The oceanfront region doesn’t get the same attention as Santa Barbara County to the north or Los Angeles County to the south, but that might only add to its charm.
“I love that I can surf, I can hike, I can do whatever I want outdoors,” says professional surfer and Ventura native Mary Osborne. “I love that I can walk into a restaurant and say hello to the owner. I love that it’s such a beautiful place. I love that it’s different from anywhere I’ve ever traveled.” Osborne stops, shakes her head, and laughs. “It’s my favorite place to come home to. So much fun.”
A simple truth, often overlooked: Life is short, and you can never have enough fun. San Francisco has fine dining. Los Angeles has glitz. Ventura County—with mountains basking beneath blue skies, waves licked by ocean breezes—has, well, fun.
But don’t listen to us—find out for yourself. Here’s a hit list of great ways to plan a visit to this under-the-radar charmer.