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How do we combine surfing (for sons) and sightseeing (for us) in California?
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Q My two sons, aged 15 and 17, are keen surfers and are desperate to go on holiday to California. My husband and I would like to go on a family holiday that combines surfing with sightseeing and scenery. We were thinking of going next Easter. Where would you suggest?

Q My two sons, aged 15 and 17, are keen surfers and are desperate to go on holiday to California. My husband and I would like to go on a family holiday that combines surfing with sightseeing and scenery. We were thinking of going next Easter. Where would you suggest?

R Allerhand, London

A Your sons have certainly got the right idea - the golden state of California lives up to its reputation as a surfers' paradise. From the dramatic rocky coastline of Big Sur, in the north, down to the wide beaches of Santa Monica in the south, the surf is most definitely up.

Easter can be a good time to visit (although it does fall quite early next year), with temperatures likely to be hovering around the early 20s. However, make sure your sons wear wetsuits, as sea temperatures can be chilly.

California also offers plenty of sightseeing possibilities. I would suggest driving along the spectacular Highway One from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which offers fantastic scenery as well as plenty of opportunities for your sons to ride the waves. You won't have to retrace your steps either, as you will be able to book an open jaw ticket, flying into San Francisco and out of Los Angeles or vice versa. A fly-drive package is your best option, although as your sons are over 12, they will be paying full adult fares.

Departing on 8 April 2004, a seven night fly-drive package will cost £468 per adult with Trailfinders (020-8937 6544, www.trailfinders.co.uk). This includes direct flights on United Airlines from London Heathrow to San Francisco, seven days car hire and the flight back home from Los Angeles.

A word on safety: many surf spots in California are not manned by lifeguards, unless it's a popular beach. If you are worried about your children's safety, stick to the beaches with lifeguards and surf within the flags.

Heading down Highway One, about an hour south of San Francisco is the town of Half Moon Bay. Although not a particularly scenic spot, your sons at least will enjoy the view. Half Moon Bay sends shivers down most surfers' backs - the waves often reach 30ft. It goes without saying, surfing here is strictly for the experts, but your sons will certainly want to watch the action.

An hour further south, is the beach town of Santa Cruz. Your sons will appreciate a stay here as it's where short-board surfing was invented. There are plenty of places to stay close to the waterfront, such as the Beach View Inn, (001 831 426 3575, www.beach-viewinn.com), which offers accommodation for two people from around $80 (£50) per night at Easter including breakfast. The hotel is within walking distance of Steamers Lane, a right-hand point break, which in surfer-speak means the waves break from left to right on a point, such as a cliff. You'll also be able to command a bird's-eye view of the action from the cliffs above.

They might also enjoy a trip to The Surfing Museum (001 831 420 6289, www.cruzio.com) housed in the lighthouse by Steamers Lane, which is open Monday to Thursday, noon-4pm. Admission is free.

Around the point at Cowell Beach, your sons will be able to brush up on their skills, or you could take the plunge yourselves with lessons offered by Club Ed (001 831 464 0177, www.club-ed.com). Private tuition costs $80 (£50) per hour and group classes for two hours cost $80 (£50) per person. It also hires out surfboards for $20 (£12) per day.

A few hours south of Santa Cruz, the densely populated coast makes way for 90 miles of dramatic, sparsely inhabited coastline, known as Big Sur. This is a wild and rugged place where the turbulent emerald ocean crashes into steep cliffs.

The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (001 831 667 2315, www.parks.ca.gov) offers walking trails and swimming holes along Big Sur River. It is open daily from dawn until dusk and entry costs $3 (£2) per vehicle. Camping in the park is a cheap option costing $12 (£7.50) per night per pitch. A walkway from the car-park leads to views of the McWay Creek waterfall, which spills into the ocean from the cliff above.

Accommodation at Big Sur is expensive and in high demand, so I'd advise you to book well in advance. The Big Sur River Inn Resort (001 831 667 2700, www.bigsurriverinn.com), two and a half miles north of the park and 25 miles south of Carmel, offers a selection of rustic log cabins overlooking the river, plus a heated swimming pool. A big room containing two double beds starts from around $100 (£66) per night.

A good stopping-off point 65 miles further south, en route to Santa Barbara, is Hearst Castle (001 916 414 8400, www.hearst-castle.org). Built by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s, this colossal mansion houses an opulent collection of art and furniture and occupies one of the best views on the West Coast. Tours operate daily from 8am-3.20pm and cost $18 (£12) per adult and $9 (£6) per youth (six-17). The museum is open daily, 9am-5pm, and is free.

From here, the coastline becomes less dramatic, with sandy beaches and sloping ochre cliffs. You'll also find some good surfing spots before reaching the manicured Spanish colonial-style town of Santa Barbara. Sand Pit and Leadbetter Point are just two of the surf spots around town. Rincon, near the border of Ventura County, is a celebrated surf spot known as the "Queen of the Coast", due to its long, right-hand point break. In town, the Best Western Pepper Tree Inn (001 805 687 5511, www.sbhotels.com) offers rooms with two queen-size beds for $150 (£93) per night.

After Santa Barbara, you can continue to the sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles and the celebrity-packed beachside communities of Malibu and Santa Monica. There will be plenty to keep you all occupied here before you and your sons, who at this stage will be bone fide surfer dudes, return home.

To receive brochures about visiting California call 0906 577 0032 (calls cost 1.50p per minute) and see www.visitcalifornia.com.

Send your family travel questions to SF Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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