Balboa Park Garden, San Diego

1549 El Prado, San Diego.

Balboa Park, with its views over the Pacific Ocean, was established in 1901. In 1915 the gardens hosted the Panama-California Exposition, adding a Japanese friendship garden. Another exhibition in 1935 led to more buildings and garden designs. Other theme gardens include Australian and Californian native plants, desert cacti, trees for health, roses and the Casa del Rey and Zoro gardens. Open daily, free entry.

Getty Villa, Malibu
17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.


The gardens at Getty Villa are based on those of ancient Romans. The open spaces include bronze sculptures, fountains, and lush plantings of trees, herbs, and flowers. Open Thursday to Monday (plus Wednesdays in July), free entry.

Hearst Castle Gardens, San Simeon
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon.

William Randolph Hearst wanted a luxurious garden displaying bountiful blooms throughout the year for his castle. Hundreds of thousands of annuals, bulbs and perennials are planted in a design inspired by gardens of Spanish and Portuguese villas. Look out for the marble Neptune statue by Charles Cassou. Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Hearst Castle entrance from US$25 adults.

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley
200 Centennial Drive #5045, Berkeley.

The non-profit research UC Botanical Garden has a diverse collection including many rare and endangered plants. The garden was established in 1890 and has more than 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world, cultivated by region, over 13ha. Open daily, except the first Tuesday of the month, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Adults US$10.

Elizabeth Gamble Gardens, Palo Alto
1431 Waverley St, Palo Alto.

A non-profit horticultural foundation south of San Francisco, Gamble Garden was the home and garden of Elizabeth Gamble (daughter of the founder of Proctor and Gamble). The property includes Arts & Crafts character gardens and a horticulture reference library. Open daily all year, free entry.

Further information: See for more on visiting California, or try the 'trip tuner' for more holiday inspiration.