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California’s beauty goes far beyond sandy beaches, palm trees, and boardwalks. The Golden State is also home to some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country.
From San Francisco to the warm shores of Encinitas, the best botanical gardens in California can be found up and down the coast, inland, and even in the desert.
Suppose you’re planning a visit and want to see some of the unique landscapes, coastal terrain, and native plants that cover the northern and southern parts of California. In that case, this post has everything you need to experience the best botanical gardens in the state.
- Best Botanical Gardens in California
- 1. Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens
- 2. South Coast Botanic Garden
- 3. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
- 4. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
- 5. San Diego Botanic Garden
- 6. Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
- 7. Balboa Park Botanical Building
- 8. Moorten Botanical Garden
- 9. Fullerton Arboretum
- 10. Conejo Valley Botanic Garden
- 11. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley
- 12. San Francisco Botanical Garden
- 13. Descanso Gardens
- 14. Conservatory of Flowers
- 15. California Botanic Garden
Best Botanical Gardens in California
1. Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens
Address: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108
The Huntington Library is home to sprawling gardens, exotic plants, a vegetable garden, koi ponds, and many more beautiful sights to explore during your visit. It’s the site of a famous library, art museum, and various research institutions.
At 130 acres, its massive size makes the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens the largest botanical garden in California. The gardens feature 16 themed areas and nearly 83,000 living plants.
On site, you will find a mausoleum, sculptures and fountains, lily ponds, a conservatory, a Chinese garden, and many other unique garden locations. The area is home to noteworthy orchids, cycads, and bonsai, among thousands of others.
The Huntington Library is undoubtedly one of the best botanical gardens in California. Its beauty and serenity have to be experienced to be appreciated. It gets our vote as the best California botanical garden, but there are plenty of others that are worth seeing.
For a nearby hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn Arcadia/Pasadena has an outdoor pool and fitness center and is pet-friendly.
See Related: Things to Do in Santa Monica, California
2. South Coast Botanic Garden
Address: 26300 Crenshaw Blvd, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274
Located in Palos Verdes, the South Coast Botanic Garden is 87 acres of garden in the Palos Verdes Hills, ten miles north of Los Angeles.
Developed on a sanitary landfill, the South Coast Botanic Garden is a refreshing urban oasis that is bursting with color and varied plants and wildlife, including incredible tropical butterflies in the SOAR butterfly garden and tarantulas in the Spider Pavilion.
The Garden is home to 12 flower shows a year, as well as lectures, classes, concerts, and weddings. Guests will see hundreds of California native plants that are drought-tolerant and provide a habitat and food for wildlife in the area.
The Desert Garden at South Coast Botanic Garden has cacti, euphorbia, aloes, and other succulents from the United States, Africa, Mexico, and South America.
Stroll by the lovely koi pond for a calming experience and enjoy the sight of the stone lanterns made from Okazaki stone over 200 years ago. The garden also features a Mediterranean garden and a beautiful rose garden with over 80 rose selections that provide year-round beauty.
The garden offers many classes available to the public, including wreath-making, night walks, and other seasonal events. With easy paved paths and a quaint picnic area, the South Coast Botanic Garden is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in California.
For a cheap and easy stay near the gardens, the Best Western Plus Redondo Beach Inn is near the beach, has an outdoor pool, and is walkable to many restaurants and nearby attractions.
See Related: Things to Do in Lancaster, California
3. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Address: 1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is 78 acres of a beautiful botanical garden and outdoor space with over 1,000 species of rare and indigenous plants.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden showcases the unique plant species of California’s native flora and topography. The garden features 11 sections of distinct ecosystems, including desert, meadow, redwood, canyon, island, and more.
The Island View garden provides guests with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, and Baja California. On Channel Island, many plant species are extinct on the mainland, fostering the amalgamation of new species and ancient lineages there.
Visit the Tea House to experience a recreation of the traditional Japanese gardens. Visit the Mission Dam that was established in 1806, the Blaksley Boulder that was moved to its location 12,000 years ago, and learn more about the plants and wildlife here at the Blaksley Library.
For a quaint and historic stay in Santa Barbara near the botanical garden, check out the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara.
See Related: Things to Do in Ojai, California
4. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Address: 18220 CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Located in Fort Bragg, California, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is located on 47 acres and includes canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and a closed-cone pine forest.
The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens aims to engage and enrich lives by conserving plants in harmony with the Northern California coastal ecosystems and through the preservation of public access to the coast.
The plants featured in the garden collection at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens include rhododendrons, heaths, heathers, conifers, and Mediterranean plants.
Explore the Coastal Bluff and Marine Zone, full of tough, low-growing plants that have adapted to the bog-like climate. You’ll see California poppies in the spring, along with the seaside wooly sunflower and the seaside daisy here.
Guests can wander through the closed-cone Pine Forest along Fern Canyon Creek. The ancient forest is home to bird and wildlife species, while the creek assists with local salmon restoration.
Don’t miss a stop at the Heritage Rose Garden if you’re visiting from May through August. This lovely space contains heirloom roses hybridized from the 1830s to the early 1900s. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens offers weekly tours for visitors — a trained garden steward will escort you through the gardens, explaining the rich history and diverse plant life.
Feeling like an outdoor adventure? The Mendocino Grove offers a luxurious tent for a camping experience you’ll never forget!
See Related: Things to Do in Graeagle, California
5. San Diego Botanic Garden
Address: 398 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024
The San Diego Botanic Garden is located in Encinitas, a beach town in Southern California near San Diego. It features 37 acres of bamboo groves, a desert garden, a tropical rainforest, native plants, Mediterranean climate landscapes, and subtropical fruit gardens.
This coastal California botanic garden has 4 miles of trails and ocean views and features over 5,000 plant species. There are 29 uniquely themed gardens on-site, including a spacious Children’s Garden area, a bamboo garden collection, along with a glass conservatory with plant chandeliers and rare tropical plants from all over the globe.
Explore the largest living collection of bamboo in North America at the San Diego Botanic Garden. With over 100 species within the collection, guests can experience many unique eco-friendly plants up close.
Guests can wander through international gardens, including the South African Garden, South American Garden, Mexican Garden, succulent gardens, and herb garden.
For other attractions in the gardens, try Tony’s Tree House, the mountain stream, the waterfall, and the miniature railroad. The San Diego Botanic Garden is easily one of the best botanical gardens in southern California. You’ll find plenty to see and do no matter your age!
For a luxurious coastal stay in Encinitas, check out the Inn at Moonlight Beach.
See Related: Best Day Trips from San Diego, California
6. Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Address: 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden contains 127 acres of outdoor space, containing an arboretum, botanical garden, and historical site in the hills near the San Gabriel Mountains.
Enjoy plant collections from all over the world, including rare and endangered species, peacocks, migratory birds, aquatic creatures, small reptiles, and mammals.
Visit the Aquatic Garden with gentle pools, water lilies, and shaded benches. It’s a serene location to enjoy the warm Los Angeles weather and peace and quiet. Celebration Garden offers landscaped gardens for inspiration and enjoyment. Crescent Farms showcases the beauty of drought-resilient landscapes and California plants.
Take in the beautiful designs of the Grace V. Kallam Gardens, with perennials, shrub borders, and flowering trees from all over Southern California. Stroll through the Tropical Green House and soak in the beauty of tropical plants and a few thousand orchids.
The botanical gardens house plants from all over the world, including Africa, Australia, Madagascar, and the Canary Islands. Plant species include aloe, magnolia, plumeria, and more.
For a comfortable stay near the Arboretum, try the Embassy Suites Arcadia-Pasadena.
See Related: Things to Do in Fairfield, California
7. Balboa Park Botanical Building
Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
The beautiful botanical gardens in Balboa Park are a must-see attraction in San Diego, California. The vibrant seasonal flower displays draw crowds from all over the world. The Botanical Building, its garden, and the adjacent lily pond were built for the 1915-16 Exhibition, making it a historical relic in Southern California.
The Balboa Park Botanical Building features over 2,100 bright and unique collections of cycads, ferns, orchids, other tropical plants, and palms. Balboa Park is also home to the famous Japanese friendship garden, a 12-acre Japanese garden in San Diego.
See Related: Things to Do in Turlock, California
8. Moorten Botanical Garden
Address: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264
Moorten Botanical Garden is located on 1 acre in Palm Springs, California. It’s a family-owned botanical garden that specializes in desert plants and cacti. Featuring 3,000 species, Moorten Botanical Garden has been open to the public since 1938 and shares the beauty and extraordinary varieties of desert plants with every visitor.
Guests will wander through exhibits dedicated to unique arid biomes, like the Baja California Peninsula, the South African-Succulent Karoo, the Mojave Desert, and Mexico-Gran Desierto de Altar. The gardens display agave, Bombax, South African aloe plants, rocks, crystals, fossils, and gold-mining relics.
Moorten Botanical Garden has a nursery on the compound where guests can purchase succulents, cacti, and other plants they love.
For an eclectic, modern stay in downtown Palm Springs near Moorten Botanical Garden, we suggest a stay at the Weekend Palm Springs.
See Related: Things to Do in Auburn, California
9. Fullerton Arboretum
Address: 1900 Associated Rd, Fullerton, CA 92831
The Fullerton Arboretum is a 26-acre botanical garden with a collection of plants from around the world and is located on the campus of California State University, Fullerton in Orange County.
Guests can adventure along a nature trail and witness a waterfall, streams, a lake, and a pond at the Fullerton Arboretum. The four collections on site are the Cultivated Collection, Mediterranean Collection, Desert Collection, and Woodlands Collection.
Visitors will see a wide assortment of fruit trees like banana, avocado, and orange, along with palm trees, a giant Ombu tree, cactus gardens, and turtles in the pond.
Fullerton Arboretum also features a nature center, a potting shed, a greenhouse, an outdoor classroom, and community gardens. The Fullerton Arboretum has plenty of walking paths and benches to avoid shade, and it is a great place to take a picnic and enjoy the great outdoors.
Keep your eyes peeled for unique wildlife, including alligator lizards, kingfishers, hawks, coyotes, and many species of insects and critters.
If you want to stay near campus, the Fullerton Marriott at California State University features spacious rooms, an outdoor pool, and fine dining.
See Related: Best Palm Springs Restaurants You Can’t Miss
10. Conejo Valley Botanic Garden
Address: 400 W Gainsborough Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Located in Thousand Oaks, Conejo Valley Botanic Garden consists of 15 hillside botanical gardens on 33 acres of beautiful outdoor space.
Visitors will enjoy beautiful views of the sweeping vistas, a rare fruit grove, a butterfly garden, an herb garden, a desert garden, a bird habitat, and the Australian garden at this memorable California botanic garden.
At the Australian garden, guests will enjoy views of plants from Brisbane to Perth, which thrive in similar environments to southern California plants. The bird habitat is home to local and migratory birds and a beautiful grape-covered arbor.
The Trail of Trees features 50 varieties of trees for the public to enjoy. You can’t miss a peak at the butterfly garden, where the entire life cycle of a butterfly can be experienced. The Desert Garden offers a panoramic view of Conejo Valley, desert trees, cacti, and succulents. The herb garden houses traditional, medicinal, and legendary herbs that are quite a sight.
Adjacent to the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is a children’s garden called Kids’ Adventure Garden which is open on Sundays.
For a pleasant stay in Thousands Oaks, the Palm Garden Hotel features a large outdoor space, comfortable rooms, and a great location.
See Related: Things to Do in Burbank, California
11. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley
Address: 200 Centennial Dr, Berkeley, CA 94720
The University of California Botanical Garden is a 34-acre botanical garden located on the University of California, Berkeley campus in Strawberry Canyon.
Known as the UC Botanical Garden, this outdoor haven features the most diverse landscapes in the world. UC Botanical Garden has over 10,000 types of plants, including many rare and endangered species. The garden has nine regions of plantings from South Africa to Australia and many California native plants.
The plant collections at UC Botanical Garden are awe-inspiring; visitors can wander for hours and still find new plants to admire. From rhododendrons from Asia and monkey puzzle trees from South America to Rufous Hummingbirds from Mexico, you’ll be amazed at all the plants and wildlife in the garden.
UC Botanical Gardens hosts special events throughout the year, including an annual Bug Day, plant sales, summer camps for kids, and holiday pop-up shops.
Are you looking to stay near UC Berkeley? Hotel Shattuck Plaza is an environmentally-friendly hotel with state-of-the-art rooms just two blocks from campus.
See Related: Things to Do in Ventura, California
12. San Francisco Botanical Garden
Address: 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
Located in the Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to over 9,000 plants native to Australia, California, Venezuela, Chile, New Zealand, and South Africa. The garden has 55 acres of walking paths, flowers, and streams where families, couples, and solo travelers can relax amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.
The San Francisco Botanical Garden has the world’s fourth most significant collection of Magnolia species for conservation purposes.
The Ancient Plants garden features non-extinct living plant groups, also known as living fossils. The Moon Garden is filled with beautiful plants and stone pagodas from Japan. The Children’s Garden offers story time, garden crafts, and bug hunts for the little ones. The Fragrance Garden is home to some of the world’s most delectable and unique-smelling plants.
The San Francisco Botanical Gardens offer stunning florals and many plants during every season of the year. Witness unique flora from New Zealand, South African proteas in the summer, and rhododendrons from Southeast Asia.
During a stay in San Francisco, enjoy a few hours away from the busy city at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park. Stop by the romantic Shakespeare Garden for a memorable picnic. It’s a place you won’t regret seeing! For the best botanical gardens in Northern California, San Francisco is hard to beat!
For a stroll to the gardens from where you’re staying, try the Stanyan Park Hotel.
See Related: Best Family Hotels in San Francisco, California
13. Descanso Gardens
Address: 1418 Descanso Dr, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Descanso Gardens is a 150-acre botanical garden located in La Cañada Flintridge in Los Angeles County.
Five acres of the Descanso Gardens are dedicated to its stunning rose garden, with over 1,600 roses growing there. Old garden roses and modern roses make up the space, and their beauty will take your breath away. The varieties of roses have adapted to become sustainable to California’s warm climate.
In the Japanese garden, you’ll cross an arched bridge, pass by koi ponds, and wander through a tea house that was built in 1966. The Japanese garden is one of their most popular spaces because of its lush green space, beautiful cherry trees, and raked-gravel garden.
You can’t visit Descanso Gardens in California without seeing the camellia garden, particularly if you’re there from early fall to springtime. The coastal live oak forest features trees that are centuries old and represent the natural Southern California coastal landscape.
From a stunning forest to native plants, a charming Japanese garden, and gorgeous roses, visitors will be amazed by all the plants and flowers they experience at Descanso Gardens in Southern California.
For an easy drive from Descanso Gardens, the rooms at Hotel Burbank are spacious and comfortable, and there’s a pool on-site.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara
14. Conservatory of Flowers
Address: 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118
The Conservatory of Flowers is a greenhouse and botanical garden that houses a collection of rare and exotic plants in San Francisco. The Conservatory of Flowers features five unique galleries: aquatic plants, highland tropics, lowland tropics, potted plants, and the West Gallery.
The Aquatic Plants Gallery is home to a Giant Water Lily, orchids, and carnivorous pitcher plants. The Highland Tropics exhibit features dense moss, engulfing rocks, tree ferns, and delicate orchids in its cool and humid climate.
The Lowland Tropics are steamy and feature coffee berries, cacao pods, tropical fruits, and Philodendron and cycads. You’ll find ferns from around the world in the West Gallery, including Antarctica and New Zealand.
The up-close and personal experience visitors will get at the Conservatory of Flowers is unmatched. Whether you’re local to San Francisco or from another part of the world, we know you’ll be in awe of everything you see here.
For a cozy stay near the Conservatory of Flowers, try Sunset Edwardian Bed and Breakfast.
See Related: Things to Do in Mariposa, California
15. California Botanic Garden
Address: 1500 N College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711
The California Botanic Garden is a botanical garden in Claremont, California, just south of the San Gabriel Mountains.
It’s the largest botanic garden dedicated to California-native plants. The garden promotes botany, conservation, and horticulture to educate the public and scientific community about California’s native flora.
As a living museum, the California Botanic Garden features over 22,000 California native plants, many of which are endangered species. Complete with a sage garden, sensory loop trail, majestic oak grove, palm oasis, and many more areas within the park, there’s something for everyone at California Botanic Garden.
The garden offers guided walks and tours for visitors who want a behind-the-scenes look at the garden and its many beautiful species.
For a relaxing stay in Claremont that’s centrally located and comfortable, try the DoubleTree by Hilton Claremont.
If exploring the botanical gardens in California is on your bucket list, don’t wait any longer! We’re confident this collection of must-see outdoor gardens will entertain, amaze, and inspire you. The beaches may attract you to California, but the lush botanical gardens will have you planning return trips for years to come.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.