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! We’ve partnered with Bonwi, our favorite hotel booking site which gives back up to 35% in rewards, to bring you the 15 best weekend getaways in the Golden State — along with some amazing hotel deals!
No need to request time off work or travel the globe, you can make your weekend a little bit sweeter with these 15 amazing weekend getaways in California!
15 Best Weekend Getaways in California
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.
Read more: Weekend Guide to Santa Barbara
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!
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.
This quaint village at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains is nicknamed the Danish Capital of America f0r 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!
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.
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.
We booked our recent San Francisco weekend getaway through Bonwi and received 23% back!
Surf, sand, and sun — California’s southern-most city has everything you need for a perfect weekend away from home. 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.
Bonwi has tons of deals on hotels in San Diego too! Search the best rates here.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Read more: Rediscovering California’s Central Coast
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.
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!
We booked our upcoming weekend trip to Palm Springs on Bonwi and received 19% back!
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.
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.
Book Your Weekend Getaway
Bonwi offers accommodation options at all of the above destinations with rewards back ranging from 6% – 30%. So before you book your next California getaway, check Bonwi for the best rates and make sure to sign up through our link to receive your first $15 (1500 points) just for creating an account!