Looking for the best weekend getaways in California? Our local’s guide to planning the perfect weekend in California has everything you need to know!
For visitors from all corners of the world and native Californians alike, the toughest part about planning a the perfect weekend in California is deciding where to visit. No need to request time off work or travel the globe, you can make your weekend a little bit sweeter with these 15 amazing California weekend getaways.
Table of Contents
Best Weekend Getaways in California
1. Santa Barbara
It’s not hard to see why some visit Santa Barbara and never want to leave. The coastal city is popular among high-class foodies and is a retreat for many celebrities, but the atmosphere is always laid back and easy going.
Walk along State Street or see the rose garden at the Santa Barbara Mansion, and check the “Funk Zone” — a community of cafes, boutique shops, wine tasting shops and art galleries — before heading to the pier. Want to fit in with the locals? Rent a bike.
Where to Stay in Santa Barbara
For a great budget accommodation option, check out the Coast Village Inn on Coast Village Road. The property is just a six minute walk from the beach, has a heated swimming pool, and offers free beach cruiser bicycles for your use.
For a mid-range option, try out the Marina Beach Motel. This cozy spot is a five minute walk from the beach and again, offers free bicycles for your stay.
If high-end is more your style, the Simpson House Inn is the place for you. Built in 1874, this Victorian-style Bed & Breakfast offers individually styled rooms, is surrounded by lush gardens, and offers gourmet breakfast and evening wine tastings.
Read more: Weekend Guide to Santa Barbara
2. Catalina Island
On Catalina Island it’s enough to spend your entire weekend lounging in a cabana on the beach, but there’s more to explore if you want to make the most of your time there! You can tour the Catalina Casino (actually not a casino), hike the Trans-Catalina Trail, and stroll through shops on Crescent Avenue.
Even with a little of LA’s glitz and glam carrying over onto the island, it’s also one of the Best Places to Camp in California!
Where to Stay on Catalina Island
For a budget accommodation option, check out the Hotel Catalina. This property is a 20-minute walk from the beach and features a courtyard patio, hot tub, and a fountain.
For a midrange option on Catalina, try out the boutique Aurora Hotel, just an eight minute walk from the Catalina Casino. Guests can enjoy a free continental breakfast, as well as a wine and cheese hour every Friday evening, and a mimosa bar on the weekends.
For a higher-end option, check out the Pavilion Hotel. This beachside hotel features landscaped gardens, a European-style breakfast, and a spa.
Set on the coast between Santa Barbara and Malibu is Ventura — the surfer’s sweet spot with friendly locals, live music, great bars and even better burritos. Ventura is known to be where the “truly” outdoorsy call home, so hit the surf or take in sunset views from Serra Cross Park.
Ventura is also a two-for-one destination, because you can day-trip to Channel Islands which is only a few miles off the coast! Check our our Ultimate Guide to California’s Channel Islands for the ins and outs of traveling to these islands.
Where to Stay in Ventura
For a budget accommodation option, try the Viking Motel. An easy twelve minute walk from the beach, this locally owned an operated motel is just a short distance from art galleries and shopping.
For a mid-range place, try out Wyndham Garden The Pierpont Inn. This inn is a five-minute walk to the beach and features a seasonal outdoor pool.
The Su Nido Inn is a perfect high-end option in Ventura. The inn features individually designed suites, and is just minutes from the Soule Park Golf Course and Ojai Valley Country Club.
This quaint village at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains is nicknamed the Danish Capital of America for good reason; this hidden gem is a head-to-toe replica of a Denmark town full of impressive Danish bakeries and eateries. A quiet getaway to Solvang is a great way to get an international experience without ever leaving the States!
Where to Stay in Solvang
For a budget accommodation option, check out Solvang Gardens Lodge. The property is located just a 5-minute walk from Presidio Winery Wine Tasting, Alisal River Golf Course and Solvang Village Square.
For more of a mid-range option, try the Hotel Corque. Just 5 minutes away from Old Mission Santa Ines, this boutique hotel features a restaurant, outdoor pool, and hot tub.
For a high-end accommodation option, check out Victorian Mansion At Los Alamos. This swanky mansion features six guest rooms individually decorated, including a pirate and Egyptian suite, as well as a free delicious breakfast delivered daily to each guest room.
5. Napa Valley
It’s no secret: everyone knows you go to Napa for the wine. A luxurious retreat in Northern California’s valley will nearly always include a wine tour of some sort, but I would also suggest venturing out and exploring the unique culinary venues like the CIA at Copia and Oxbow Public Market next door. Napa’s also known to have great spas, so treat yourself to an afternoon of pampering.
Where to Stay in Napa Valley
For a budget option, try 3 Palms Napa Valley Hotel & Suites. The property is within a 5 minute walk from the Napa Valley Opera House, features an outdoor pool, as well as a hot tub.
For a mid-range option in Napa, check out the Vino Bello Resort. The suites at the Vino Bello boast furnished patios or balconies, kitchenettes, and an underground cave spa.
For a luxury Napa option, try out the adults-only Candlelight Inn Napa Valley. This inn set in a 1929 English Tudor inn features a three-course gourmet breakfast, an outdoor pool, and a patio.
Read more: How to Visit Napa on a Budget
6. San Francisco
San Francisco has a culture of its own, quite unlike anything else in California. At any time of the year there’s an infinite list of festivals, concerts, and activities to check out, but famous landmarks like the Golden Gate, Painted Ladies, Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square are timeless sights that can only be enjoyed in SF.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
For a budget accommodation option for your weekend trip to San Francisco, try the Inn on Folsom. Featuring a lively bar & lounge onsite, the Inn on Folsom provides a free continental breakfast, modern decor, and shared bathrooms.
For a mid-range San Francisco option, check out Hotel Bijou. Located in the heart of San Francisco and just an eight minute walk from Union square, the Hotel Bijou is perfect for travelers interested in shopping, city trips, and great food.
For a more luxury option, check out Taj Campton Place. Just steps from Union Square, this modernized hotel offers in-room spa services, a 2 Michelin Star rated restaurant, and a 24-hour rooftop gym.
7. San Diego
Surf, sand, and sun — California’s southern-most city has everything you need for a perfect weekend away from home and this California weekend getaway post would not be complete without it! Skip the tourist traps and enjoy the city like the locals do! San Diego is all that it claims to be, so grab a beer from the nearest microbrewery and sink you toes into the sand.
And if you’re up for a road trip, just 45 minutes from northern San Diego is one of our all-time favorite coastal towns, Laguna Beach!
Where to Stay in San Diego
For a budget option in San Diego, check out Inn by the Sea, at La Jolla. An easy four minute walk from the beach, Inn by the Sea features an outdoor pool, and patios.
For a mid-range San Diego option, check out Hotel Indigo San Diego – Gaslamp Quarter. Overlooking Petco Park, this hotel features a restaurant and stunning views of the city.
For a more swanky San Diego option, try out Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego. Featuring a rooftop pool and bar, this luxury hotel is just seven minutes away from the Gaslamp district, and provides a complimentary evening wine hour.
8. Big Sur
Big Sur is the place you come to to get away from crowds and just take in the views around you. Its dense redwoods, rugged coastline and jaw-dropping mountain views make this every outdoor-enthusiast’s paradise, with plenty of ground to cover in a span of two days.
Where to Stay in Big Sur
For a Big Sur mid-range option, check out Contenta Inn. These accommodations feature a hot tub, heated outdoor pool, and private parking.
For a more luxury stay in Big Sur, try out Ventana Big Sur. This adult-only resort is situated on a hill overlooking Big Sur’s coastline, and it features two heated pools, private balconies or patios, and select rooms feature hot tubs.
9. Santa Cruz
While Santa Cruz’s Beach Boardwalk and Mystery Spot may draw in many, don’t let these be your sole reason for visiting. Spend an afternoon exploring downtown and make your way to the tide pools at Natural Bridges. For the person looking to make the most of their weekend who wants the beach, music, food, and fun activities — Santa Cruz checks off all the boxes!
Where to Stay in Santa Cruz
For a Santa Cruz budget option, check out the Seaway Inn. Just a one minute walk from the beach, the Seaway Inn features lovely ocean views and a fireplace.
For a more mid-range stay, check out the Beach Street Inn and Suites. Just two minutes from the beach, this inn features bicycles for hire, a courtyard area, and an outdoor pool.
For a more luxury Santa Cruz option, check out Casablanca Inn on the Beach. This property is mere steps from the beach and Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
10. Big Bear
Big Bear has been a popular getaway for Southern California residents for ages, offering a refreshing change in scenery from smoggy city life. The lake makes for fun boating outings in the summer, and the mountain resort is nothing short of a winter wonderland for skiers and snowboarders!
Where to Stay in Big Bear
For a budget-friendly option in Big Bear, head to Robinhood Resort. A simple property just 5 minutes from the lake, the property features a tavern with live entertainment.
For a mid-range stay, check out Noon Lodge at Mallard Bay. The cottages at this property feature a seasonal outdoor pool, BBQ facilities and 2 gas fire pits.
The sleepy seaside town just south of Monterey is Carmel, home to the renowned Pebble Beach golf course and famous for its white sand beaches and sea life. Carmel-by-the-Sea has foggy summers sunny winters, but this cozy and intimate destination makes for a great weekend vacation in any season.
Where to Stay in Carmel
For a great mid-range option, check out Candle Light Inn. Located in downtown Carmel, this inn offers an in-room breakfast and fresh baked cookies daily!
For a swankier Carmel option, check out L’Auberge Carmel, Relais & Chateaux. This luxury property is just a five minute from the beach and offers historic old-world charm.
LA’s sister town of Malibu leaves the glitz and glam of the elite in the city, and embraces the relaxed, beachy atmosphere of the low-key locals. You may casually run into a celebrity or two, but the beaches and scenic trails are what really make Malibu an awesome weekend escape.
Where to Stay in Malibu
For a good mid-range option, check out La Quinta Inn & Suites. This inn features a swimming pool and a free continental breakfast.
For a more luxurious Malibu stay, consider The Anza, a Calabasas Hotel. This hotel is about about 35 miles from the beach, and features an outdoor heated pool.
13. Palm Springs
The desert resort city of Palm Springs has plenty more to offer than just golfing and great spas. The Moorten desert botanical garden is proof that the Coachella Valley is has more flora than we realized, and the Living Desert Zoo gives you an African safari-like experience without even leaving the country.
If you’re looking for a short escape from the desert sun, visit the ultra-modern Palm Springs Art Museum!
Where to Stay in Palm Springs
For a budget Palm Springs stay, try out Delos Reyes Palm Springs. The hotel features an outdoor pool and a hot tub.
For a great mid-level option, check out Caliente Tropics. Built in the 1960’s, this Tiki-styled hotel features cabanas surrounding the expansive outdoor pool and large lawn area. The hotel offers modern furnishings, views of the distant mountains, and an on-site spa for guests.
For a more upscale stay, check out L’Horizon Resort & Spa. Offering a spa centre and hot tub, this adult only resort has an on-site restaurant, and pool bar.
14. Paso Robles
Paso Robles — just a short 30 minutes from San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach — is another wine destination, but has plenty to offer beer-lovers and families. Enjoy a guided tour of Firestone Walker Brewing Company, or take a drive up the coast to see the architecturally stunning Hearst Castle and its massive grounds overlooking the sea. This may be the only place (outside of a zoo) that you’ll spot zebras roaming free!
In a two-day visit, try to hit some of the great wineries in the area like the original JUSTIN Vineyards, Eberle Winery, disk golf at Castoro Cellars, and take in some live music at Vina Robles Vineyard.
Where to Stay in Paso Robles
For a budget-friendly experience check out The Inn on Spring. The hotel is just a four minute walk from Robles Intermodal Station, and Breakaway Wine Tasting Tours and Paso Robles Children’s Museum are within walking distance.
For a mid-range option, check out Farmhouse Motel. This motel is just a ten minute walk from downtown Paso Robles, and the building was granted a 2014 Beautification Award.
For a luxury option, try out Inn Paradiso. The inn features an outdoor pool and a large garden of fruit trees. The rooms are styled in mid-century furnishings and feature luxury linens.
Read more: How To Road Trip California On A Budget
15. South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe has white sand beaches surrounding the deep blue waters, and an unparalleled backdrop of the ever-snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains! While Tahoe remains a top winter destination for skiers and snowboarders, mild summer temperatures and a variety of entertainment options make this town a great weekend getaway for any season of the year.
Where to Stay in South Lake Tahoe
For a budget option, try out The Alder Inn features a seasonal outdoor pool and year-round hot tub. Additionally, it provides bicycles for your use.
For a great mid-range option, check out Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. The resort is just a two minute walk from the Heavenly Ski Resort Gondola and shopping in Heavenly Village. The hotel offers a complimentary breakfast buffet, indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
For a luxury option, try out The Landing Resort and Spa. The property sits just a few steps from the beach, a full service spa and salon, a rooftop terrace, a fitness center, a sauna, a steam room, and a swimming pool.
FAQs: California’s Best Weekend Getaways
California is beautiful year round, but the best time to visit depends on which destinations you want to explore and your ideal activities. Summer can be hot in some parts of the state, so this is a great time to visit the coastal towns.
Personally, I find that spring and fall are the ideal seasons for California exploration. During the spring, the state’s landscape is dotted with stunning wildflowers, while the fall offers warmer ocean temperatures. If you’re considering camping in the mountains, keep in mind that many of the campsites are typically open from May until mid-September.
For those interested in snow sports, winter is a great time to visit California. In addition, there’s a chance that you’ll experience some mild, 70-degree Fahrenheit days along the coast depending on the year.
The weather in Northern California tends to be more extreme than in the south, with summer temperatures that can surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, staying closer to the coast can provide some relief from the heat. It’s important to pack appropriately for winter visits, especially in mountainous areas, as temperatures can drop significantly.
While Southern California is known for its year-round pleasant temperatures, visitors to desert areas like Joshua Tree should prepare for intense heat in the summer and chilly conditions in the winter.
As with most coastal regions, cool winds can cause evenings to be a bit chilly throughout most seasons.
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