Diverse, wacky, and unforgettable, California is larger than life. The boisterous cities seem bigger, redwood forests and snow-capped mountains loom taller, and sandy coastlines stretch longer than anywhere else.

If you love the outdoors, remote backpacking spots, and extreme sports, you could spend a month exploring California and never once enter the city limits of San Francisco or Los Angeles. If high art, nightlife, and gourmet restaurants top your list, you can stay entirely inside those cities, soaking in their infinitely variable culture. Hot-spot clubbing, award-winning plays, experimental art exhibits and splashy gallery openings, and some of the best cuisine in the country often coexist within the same six-block street.

The Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California.

The Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California. Photo © Dionigi Pozzi/123rf.

There’s no one true way to describe California, just as there’s no one true way to experience it. Southern California isn’t all surfers and movie stars, while Northern California is more than just expensive real estate and radical politics. Tiny coastal towns, sweeping farmlands, and forested mountain ranges all defy stereotypes—from oases of swimming pools in the desert to remote wineries nestled within rural mountains.

The pace of life is as diverse as everything else in the state. Fast moving and fast living are hallmarks of the Los Angeles basin, yet the quiet frenzy of the San Francisco Bay Area sometimes seems just as fast. Outside the major urban areas, the hectic speed diminishes. California’s numerous wine regions invite visitors to relax and slow that pace even further. Beyond the farms and vineyards, an even more venerable and variable pace emerges—that of nature. The gushing waterfalls of Yosemite, towering redwoods of Humboldt, bone-dry deserts of Death Valley, delicate native wildflowers along the coast… even the imperceptible crawl and occasional sudden jolt of the land itself all make up the unique rhythm of California.

To best discover what California has to offer, choose something that you want to fall in love with and pursue it here—whether your passion is organic wine, Gold Country ghost towns, Hollywood movie stars, or just lying on the beach. No matter who you are or what you’re into, you can make this place your own.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon California.