A weekend getaway with friends is always good for the soul. Fresh ocean air and a glimpse of a majestic gray whale made this trip unforgettable.

Celebrate Travel agents spent a fun-packed two days beach hopping, taking in as many must-sees as possible in a 35-hour span. And this traveler would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Our first stop after hopping off Delta at LAX, was Newport Beach, Balboa Village where we took a 3-hour VIP whale watching excursion. It did not disappoint! For under $60 per person we watched from our VIP-reserved area with provided binoculars, free drinks and window access to the captain and crew (who were awesome, by the way). We saw sea lions, dolphins and two beautiful gray whales in migration. One of these lovely gray beasts followed our boat for a bit, breaching five times before disappearing into the great blue. Simply breathtaking. I’m talking bucket-list memories.

After eating a wonderful meal at the Harborside Pavilion in Balboa Village, we headed to our hotel, the Kimpton Everly. This beautiful hotel is fresh and sleek. We enjoyed drinks and live music right onsite. The beds were super comfortable, and there’s fresh cucumber water in the lobby (it’s really good). Our bartender had a killer mohawk, so we couldn’t resist getting a photo or two.

Sunday morning we woke up early and headed to Malibu for brunch at Duke’s. It was exquisite. Coconut pancakes, island mimosas, key lime desserts, prime rib, fresh fish, fruit, veggies and amazing salads galore! The view was pristine. Our wait staff brought us dessert on-the-house, just because.

Then it was off to Santa Monica Pier. Wow! So beautiful. The atmosphere here is wonderful. As we walked up to the pier entrance street violinist, Kiev Morales, was playing. The sound was full and heavenly. I could have listened for hours.

We explored the pier and visited a shop or two. Taking in the view was magical. The variety of street performers made it fun and interesting. If you’re a people watcher, this is the place for you.

Our last stop before we headed back to LAX for the journey home was Venice Beach. This stretch is full of everything. Street vendors, shops, performers, starving artists, restaurants, dogs, roller skaters, bicyclers, skateboarders, basketball games, weightlifters and beach galore. It smells a hint like marijuana and there are homeless in tents and on the beach. But it was real and beautiful.

California, you did not disappoint. We soaked up your sunshine and filled our bellies with amazing seafood and fresh greens. The drinks were good but the company was the best. Cheers, until next time!

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