Pacific Coast States

The Pacific Coast Region of the United States is comprised of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. The pacific coast states are best described by splitting it into the northern and southern sections. The northern section is mountainous, cooler and gets much more rain and the southern section is known for deserts, warn weather and dry climate.

Not only are the climates and landscapes completely different between the northern and southern sections but the travel experiences between the two will also be completely different.

Pacific Northwest

Visiting the Pacific Northwest means seeing lush green old growth forests, snowcapped mountains, beautiful waterfalls, picturesque freshwater lakes and stunning scenery that are all uncrowded.

Some of the activities that are common in the Pacific Northwest are hiking in the mountains, taking a wine tour, kayaking and there is no better place to have coffee on a cold rainy day or any other day for that matter. Walks along the beach are best near sunset where you can watch the sun create silhouettes of the rocky coastline but make sure to bring a light jacket because it might be a little chilly after the sun sets.

Spotting wildlife can include Orca Whales, sea lions, Humpbacked Whales, Elk, Tufted Puffin, sea otters and Bald Eagles.

The best time to visit the Pacific Northwest is between mid-May and mid-October because the weather is warm and there is less rainfall.

Southern California

There are seemingly endless things to do in sunny Southern California but many first time visitors will want to visit some of the theme parks, people watch at Venice Beach Boardwalk, spend the day at one of the world famous beaches, walk along Hollywood Boulevard, window shop at Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive, tour a movie set, and star gazing (looking for movie stars) but expect most places to a little crowded.

Spotting wildlife can include the sea lions at La Jolla Cove but the best wildlife experience is at the world renowned San Diego Zoo.

While there is no bad time to visit Southern California, consider traveling between October and May because the daytime highs are pleasant and it never gets very cold.

The Pacific Coastal states is one of the most popular regions for tourism but the northern and southern sections are completely different. The climates are different, the landscapes are different, the activities are different and the experiences will be different.

Choose which experience is right for you and have fun!

Traditional Foods Pacific Coast Foods 

Like everything else on the pacific coast, the food is also different between the north and south. Basically, the food of each region is directly related to the natural food supply.

The Pacific Northwest is known for salmon and other seasonal migrations of fish, Puget Sound’s cool, clean water provide some of the finest shellfish habitat in the world and Dungeness Crabs are named after the port of Dungeness, Washington where they were first commercial harvested.

California is not known for any cuisine of its own but its food is derived from its large population of immigrants and from having an incredibly productive agricultural region. This combination has created its own Californian cuisine by modifying other cuisines brought by its immigrants and using fresh local ingredients.

Some traditional pacific coast foods that should be enjoyed during your travels along the western coast of the United States are:

Pacific Northwest

  • Salmon
  • Shellfish (clams, mussels and oysters)
  • Crabs
  • Clam chowder in a bread bowl
  • Coffee

Southern California

  • Fish Tacos
  • California Burrito
  • Avocado Toast
  • Cobb Salad
  • California Roll – it may be common everywhere but its origin is California

Clam chowder in a bread bowl and crab legs

Must See Attractions

My list of must see attractions in the pacific coast are a combination of nature sites, city tourist hot spots and entertainment. Most of the attractions in the northern portion of the region involve being in nature and most of the attractions in the southern portion of the region involve visiting popular place or events.

The list below are the places and events that I think are the best attractions in the pacific coast. This list does not include National Parks because there are so many great parks that I have created a complete section only for National Parks.

Two of my favorite non-national parks experiences in the pacific coast have been seeing Multnomah Falls and going to the Rose Parade. These are good examples of attractions that can be seen in the northern and southern region of the pacific coast.

Multnomah Falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in the world because of the pedestrian bridge that crosses above the lower falls. The first time I was a photo of this waterfall, I instantly put it on my list of places to see. When I was preparing for my trip to Oregon, I was surprised how easy this waterfall is to see as it is literally right off the Columbia River Highway. Its closeness to the highway doesn’t take away the feeling of seeing one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. 

I think that I have watch the Rose Parade on TV every year of my life. It has been one of my New Year’s Day traditions for as long as I can remember but seeing the parade in person is a memory that I will never forget. The floats are the main attraction and they are more beautiful in person than they are on TV and they are larger than I expected them to be. Seeing the parade may be my top experiences of visiting the pacific coast.

National Parks

National parks in the pacific coast region sometimes get overshadowed by many of the other attractions in the region but the pacific coast is loaded with spectacular national parks.

One of the things that I like the most about the national parks in the pacific coast is the diversity of nature that can be seen. The national parks in this region include majestic mountains, beautiful lakes, deserts, canyons and some unusual trees like the Joshua Trees and the massive Redwood and Sequoia Trees.

The list below are the national parks that are located within the pacific coast region of the United States.

All of the pacific coast national parks are wonderful but Redwood National Park and Sequoia National Park are the most memorable to me because of the massive trees. They are so big that they seem out of place in this world as they appear to be out of scale with everything else. It almost feels like they are leftover relics from the times when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I can still remember standing on the forest floor and looking up at the enormous tree trunks that seem to go on forever before the first branch appeared and thinking, “these trees are unbelievable”.

Joshua Tree and Mt. Rainier

I have never been disappointed in the time that I spend in nature! Normally, the places that I visit are prettier than I expected, seeing the magnitude of mountains and oceans humbles me, taking notice of the small life forms amazes me and sometimes I get an unexpected wildlife encounter that gives me the feeling of awe but most of all I just enjoy getting away from the city noises, breathing in the fresh air and clear my mind.

Places to See

(Click on the photo below for more information on each topic.)




I will be making more posts on things to do in the Pacific Coast Region of the United States, so check back later to see my future posts on the west coast.