25 Easy Weekend Getaways From San Diego (By a Local)

Easy Weekend Getaways From San Diego (By a Local)

Looking for an easy weekend getaway from San Diego? In this post, we’ve curated the ultimate guide to the best weekend trips!

Whether you’re searching for coastal vibes, mountain retreats, or charming small towns, we’ve got the inside scoop on the ideal destinations to recharge and make the most of your precious weekends.

Best Weekend Getaways From San Diego

Santa Barbara

Distance from San Diego

If you’re thinking about driving from Santa Barbara to San Diego, you’re in for a scenic road trip! The most common route is taking the I-5 South, and that’s around 220 miles, which will take about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours. Try to plan your journey to avoid rush hours – early mornings or early afternoons might be your best bet to enjoy a smoother ride.

Since you’re driving along the coast, consider making a pit stop in Malibu or Santa Monica for some beach vibes and maybe a quick snack!

Beach Weekend Getaways From San Diego

Why Visit

This charming city has it all – from breathtaking beaches that’ll make your Instagram followers jealous to the nearby wine country. You can even hop on a whale-watching excursion for an unforgettable experience!

Santa Barbara is also well known for its culinary scene, so be sure to try the street tacos, the tri-tip sandwiches, and the fresh seafood.

Top Things to Do

  • Stearns Wharf: Stearns Wharf is one of the oldest working piers in California with panoramic views of the coastline and mountains. Be sure to check out the restaurants in the area for yummy seafood and the shops for souvenirs.
  • State Street: Take a leisurely stroll down State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, where you can explore boutique shops, art galleries, and grab a bite at a cafe. Don’t forget to check out the historic Arlington Theatre for its unique and captivating architecture.
  • Old Mission Santa Barbara: Visit Old Mission Santa Barbara to immerse yourself in the rich history and stunning Spanish colonial architecture.
  • Wine Tasting: Head to the Funk Zone, an artsy neighborhood near the beach to experience wine tasting at cool urban wineries and art galleries. Or take a small-group wine tour to private locations in Santa Barbara!
  • Santa Ynez Mountains: Go hiking in the Santa Ynez Mountains for breathtaking views. Trails like Inspiration Point or Seven Falls offer different levels of difficulty for every hiker.
  • Butterfly Beach: Spend a leisurely day at Butterfly Beach, known for its pristine shoreline.
  • Whale Watching: Depending on the time of year you visit, you may be able to spot gray whales, humpback whales, and more on a whale-watching tour in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Read more: 15 Cheap Weekend Getaways In California To Visit Now

Catalina Island

Distance from San Diego

Catalina Island is about 70 miles off the coast. The most common way to get there is to catch a ferry from either Dana Point or Long Beach. Drive up to one of these spots and hop on a ferry for a scenic ride to the island.

Check the ferry schedules and book your tickets in advance. Those ferries can fill up fast, and you wouldn’t want to miss out!

Why Visit

Catalina Island is a hidden gem just off the Southern California coast, and totally worth the trip! With its crystal-clear waters and the charming little town of Avalon, it’s the perfect escape. You can zip around on a golf cart, snorkel in the ocean, or just kick back with a drink overlooking the Pacific.

It’s also a great spot to camp in the summer. I’ve camped at Two Harbors Campground a couple of times and they were very memorable trips.

Catalina Island Harbor

Top Things to Do

  • Explore Avalon: Wander around the picturesque town of Avalon, filled with fun shops, restaurants, and waterfront views.
  • Zip Line Eco Tour: Experience an adrenaline rush with the Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour, featuring five zip lines and panoramic views of the island.
  • Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: Jump into the crystal-clear waters for some excellent snorkeling or scuba diving adventures.
  • Glass Bottom Boat Tour: Take a glass-bottom boat tour to explore the rich marine life without getting wet.
  • Visit the Catalina Casino: Explore the iconic Catalina Casino, known for its Art Deco architecture. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour or attend a movie in the historic theater.
  • Hike the Trans-Catalina Trail: If you’re into hiking, tackle the Trans-Catalina Trail for stunning views of the island.
  • Attend a Bison Expedition: Join a bison expedition to see Catalina’s herd of wild bison, a unique and unexpected sight on the island.
  • Take a Submarine Tour: This 45-minute semi-submarine tour allows you to view the marine life below the surface at Lovers’ Cove.

Read more: Channel Islands Camping Guide & Packing Tips

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from San Diego

Joshua Tree National Park is about 2 1/2 to 3 hours outside of San Diego and one of the best weekend trips from San Diego, in my opinion! For the best route, you’ll take I-15 North most of the way, then hop on the CA-62 East toward the park.

Be sure to fuel up before you hit the road – gas stations are a rare sight out on this desert route!

Why Visit

Joshua Tree National Park is an incredible park that you should definitely check out if you’re anywhere nearby. Whether you’re a nature buff, a rock climber, or just someone in need of a break from city life, Joshua Tree has you covered.

Joshua Trees at sunset

The hiking trails range from easy strolls to more challenging hikes, and the unique plants and rock formations are like nowhere else on Earth. This is also one of the best places in the United States for stargazing. It’s actually a certified Dark Sky Park, so don’t miss the chance to experience the night sky while you’re there.

Top Things to Do

  • Hiking Trails: Explore the hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks. Don’t miss the iconic trails like Hidden Valley and Barker Dam.
  • Rock Climbing: Joshua Tree is a mecca for rock climbers. The unique landscape provides endless opportunities for bouldering and rock climbing adventures.
  • Stargazing: Take in the night sky in this International Dark Sky Park.
  • Key Views: Head to Keys View for panoramic look at the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea, San Andreas Fault – you can see all the way to Mexico on a clear day!
  • Skull Rock: Check out Skull Rock, a rock formation that looks like, well, a skull. It’s a quirky roadside attraction you don’t want to miss.
  • Ranger Programs: Participate in ranger-led programs and guided walks to learn more about the park’s geology as well as the cool wildlife like bighorn sheep and coyotes.

Read more: Weekend In Joshua Tree: The Perfect 2-3 Day Itinerary

Las Vegas

Distance from San Diego

If you’re heading to Las Vegas for the weekend, you’re looking at a 4 to 5 hour drive on I-15 North. Start early to avoid traffic – you’re not the only one heading to Vegas this weekend!

If you want to make your drive a bit more interesting, consider taking the scenic route through the Mojave National Preserve.

City Weekend Getaways from San Diego - Las Vegas, Nevada

Why Visit

Why not visit Vegas? That’s the real question. From the iconic Vegas Strip to the world-class entertainment and the casinos, there’s something here for everyone.

This is an extravagant city, so expect top-notch shows, world-famous restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife in the city that never sleeps.

Top Things to Do

  • Explore the Strip: Take a stroll along the Strip to take in all the sights and enjoy some street performers showing off their talents.
  • Catch a Show: From concerts to Cirque du Soleil and Broadway-style productions, Vegas is famous for it’s show business.
  • Try Your Luck at the Casinos: Visit any of the casinos on or off the strip for a true taste of Vegas.
  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Escape the Strip for a while and explore the natural beauty of Red Rock Canyon, just a short drive from the city.
  • Fremont Street Experience: Head to historic Fremont Street for the Fremont Street Experience, a light show with live music and street performers.
  • Eiffel Tower Experience: Enjoy the views of the Strip from the Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris Las Vegas.
  • Helicopter Night Flight: This nighttime helicopter flight over the Las Vegas Strip is only $99 – a steal when it comes to Vegas prices!

Read more: 20 Best Places to Visit in California During Winter

Laguna Beach

Distance from San Diego

To get to Laguna Beach from San Diego is roughly a 1 to 2 hour drive, depending on traffic and your choice of route. The I-5 North is the most direct route, but consider hopping onto the Pacific Coast Highway through Orange County for those ocean views – it’s a bit longer but totally worth it.

Why Visit

Laguna Beach is a fantastic spot to visit for several reasons. The beautiful beaches, like Crescent Bay and Thousand Steps, are great for relaxing and swimming.

The town has a lively art scene with tons of galleries, and you can also explore nature at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which has scenic trails and great views.

Laguna Beach is one of my favorite weekend trips from San Diego and a few of my recommended hotels to stay at include: La Casa Del Camino, Laguna Beach House boutique hotel, and Montage Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach California sunset beach scene

Top Things to Do

  • Explore the Beaches: Spend a day at iconic beaches like Crescent Bay and Thousand Steps Beach for sunbathing, swimming, and beautiful scenery.
  • Art Galleries: Explore Laguna Beach’s art scene by visiting one of the town’s many galleries.
  • Laguna Coast Wilderness Park: Head for the scenic hiking trails at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
  • Heisler Park: Relax at Heisler Park, a beautiful oceanfront park with walking trails, gardens, and beautiful views of the Pacific.
  • Pageant of the Masters: If you visit during the summer, don’t miss the Pageant of the Masters, one of the most unique theatrical productions in the world.
  • Crystal Cove State Park: Explore Crystal Cove State Park, just north of Laguna, offering hiking trails and a historic district with beachside cottages.
  • Surfing and More: Try your hand at surfing (book a surf lesson here), paddleboarding, kayaking, scuba diving, or snorkeling in the Pacific waters.
  • Pacific Marine Mammal Center: Visit the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to learn about marine conservation efforts and see rehabilitated seals and sea lions.

Read more: 14 Best Hotels in Laguna Beach

Valle de Guadalupe

Distance from San Diego

For a Baja California adventure, take the 2-hour drive to Valle de Guadalupe just across the border. Head south on the I-5, cross the border at San Ysidro, and then hop onto the scenic Mexico 1D toll road. Keep your eyes peeled for signs pointing to Ensenada, and you’re on the right track.

Pro tip: Be sure to check the border wait times online before you go!

Weekend Trip to Valle De Guadalupe Mexico

Why Visit

Valle de Guadalupe is the heart of Mexican wine country, with award-winning wineries and tasting rooms. The food scene is vibrant here, too, with a big emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.

When looking for a place to stay, you’ll find everything from boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to glamping spots to make your weekend trip just perfect.

Top Things to Do

  • Wine Tasting: Explore the vineyards and attend wine tastings (book a tour here) at the numerous boutique wineries. Some popular ones include Casa Frida, Monte Xanic, and Viña de Frannes.
  • Indulge in Delicious Food: Visit renowned restaurants like Deckman’s en el Mogor, Corazón de Tierra, and Finca Altozano for farm-to-table experiences.
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride: Take in the gorgeous landscape with a hot air balloon ride over the valley and the vineyards.
  • Olive Oil Tasting: Check out the olive oil tastings at olive orchards like Olivos by Campera. Learn about the olive oil-making process and savor different varieties.
  • Spa and Wellness: Relax and rejuvenate at one of the valley’s spas, such as El Cielo Valle de Guadalupe Spa or Adobe Guadalupe’s Temazcal.
  • Visit La Lobera: Check out La Lobera, a natural rock formation that looks like a wolf’s head, and the stunning panoramic views of the valley.
  • Horseback Riding: Explore the vineyards on horseback for a leisurely and unique experience.
  • Sunset at Cuatro Cuatros: Catch the sunset over the Pacific at Cuatro Cuatros, a scenic spot with a bar.
  • ATV Adventure Tour: This guided ATV tour explores the backcountry and stops at a winery and lunch spot.

Big Bear Lake

Distance from San Diego

If you’re thinking about a mountain escape to Big Bear Lake from San Diego, you’re in for a scenic ride! It’s roughly a 2 to 3 hour drive and the classic route is to hop on the I-15 North and then transition to the CA-330 East, which will lead you up the mountains.

If you’re a fan of winding mountain roads and breathtaking views, consider taking the CA-38 East instead – it’s a bit longer, but super scenic.

Mountain Weekend Trip from San DIego - Big Bear, CA

Why Visit

This gorgeous area nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest is such a treat. In the summer take in the hiking and mountain biking and hit the water for fishing a kayaking. In the winter, hit the slopes or hang out in the village filled with cozy cabins and cute shops.

Top Things to Do

  • Outdoor Adventures: Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and zip-lining during the warmer months. You can also take advantage of the lake with boating, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
  • Skiing and Snowboarding: Hit the slopes at Big Bear Mountain Resort for skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
  • Scenic Drives: Explore the scenic surroundings with drives like the Rim of the World Scenic Byway.
  • Village Exploration: Wander around the adorable village for shopping, dining, and a cozy mountain-town atmosphere.
  • Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain: Check out the Alpine Slide, a bobsled-like ride, at Magic Mountain.
  • Snow Summit Sky Chair: Take the Snow Summit Sky Chair for breathtaking views and access to mountain biking trails.
  • Zoo: Visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo to see and learn about native wildlife.
  • Fishing: Try your hand at fishing with the abundance of trout and bass in the lake.
  • Off-Road Adventures: Head out on an off-road adventures with guided tours exploring the surrounding terrain.
  • Observatory: Head to the Big Bear Solar Observatory for stargazing and astronomy programs.

Santa Monica

Distance from San Diego

Santa Monica is a 2-3 hour coastal drive up the I-5 North and I-405 North. Brace yourself for that LA traffic!

Why Visit

If the iconic beaches aren’t enough, you’ll love the Santa Monica Pier and the buzzing downtown area. The dining scene is top-notch as well, so be sure to check out some of the trendy cafes or beachside restaurants.

Santa Monica harbor at sunset

Top Things to Do

  • Santa Monica Pier: Experience the iconic Santa Monica Pier with its amusement park rides, games, and the Pacific Park Ferris wheel. Don’t forget the classic carousel!
  • Santa Monica Beach: Enjoy a day of sun and surf at Santa Monica Beach. Play a game of beach volleyball for the classic SoCal experience, or take a bike ride along the oceanfront bike path.
  • Third Street Promenade: Explore the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only shopping and dining district. You’ll find a mix of trendy boutiques, shops, cafes, and street performers.
  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: If you’re into hiking and nature, head to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area for scenic trails and panoramic views.
  • Biking on the Strand: Rent a bike and cruise along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as “The Strand,” which stretches along the beachfront.
  • Annenberg Community Beach House: Visit the Annenberg Community Beach House for a unique experience with a pool and a splash pad.
  • Santa Monica Pier Aquarium: Explore the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, operated by Heal the Bay.

Sequoia National Park

Distance from San Diego

It takes roughly 6 to 7 hours to get to Sequoia National Park, depending on traffic and the route you take. The most common route is taking I-5 North through the Central Valley, then catching CA-99 North in Bakersfield.

Why Visit

This park is home to the world’s largest trees, the mighty sequoias. It’s also surrounded by alpine meadows, rugged peaks, and tree-covered slopes. Whether you’re into hiking, camping, or just taking a scenic drive, Sequoia has it all.

Sequoia National Park Weekend Trip from San Diego

Top Things to Do

  • Hike the Congress Trail: Take a scenic hike on the Congress Trail to explore the Giant Forest – standing in the shadow of General Sherman, the largest tree on the planet, is a humbling experience!
  • Visit Moro Rock: Climb Moro Rock for stunning panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Western Divide.
  • Explore Crystal Cave: Go on a guided tour of Crystal Cave to see the intricate marble formations.
  • Scenic Drive on Generals Highway: Enjoy a leisurely drive on Generals Highway, connecting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
  • Hike to Tokopah Falls: Hike to Tokopah Falls along the Tokopah Valley Trail, a beautiful trail that leads to a picturesque waterfall.
  • Crescent Meadow and Tharp’s Log: Wander through Crescent Meadow, a peaceful area with scenic surroundings, and explore Tharp’s Log, a historic cabin built inside a fallen sequoia.
  • Winter Recreation: Enjoy winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when the park is covered in snow.

San Francisco

Distance from San Diego

To get to San Francisco, you’ll take a 7 to 8 hour drive – mostly up the I-5 – or hop on a quick 1 1/2 hour flight (which is my preferred way to take a quick trip to San Francisco from San Diego).

If you choose to drive, I recommend planning your pit stops strategically. Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, and Monterey are all solid choices for a snack break or some sightseeing. Also, keep an eye on the gas gauge, especially on the more remote stretches.

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge aerial view

Why Visit

San Francisco is a city with a personality all its own, and there are countless reasons to drop by. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the hilly streets and the historic cable cars, this iconic California city is a must-see.

This city is a a foodie’s paradise and is full of eclectic neighborhood and sights that you won’t want to miss.

Top Things to Do

  • Golden Gate Bridge: Check out the Golden Gate Bridge from various viewpoints like Baker Beach, the Golden Gate Park, or take a walk or bike ride across the bridge itself.
  • Alcatraz Island: Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island (book your ticket here) and explore the infamous Alcatraz prison and learn about its history and notorious inmates.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf: Wander around Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoying fresh local seafood, and visit Pier 39 for the sea lions.
  • Cable Cars: Hop on a historic cable car for a ride through the city’s hilly streets, enjoying the iconic views.
  • Chinatown: Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Chinatown, with its bustling markets, authentic eateries, and colorful architecture.
  • The Painted Ladies: Admire the Painted Ladies, a row of Victorian houses, with the backdrop of the city skyline.
  • Museums: Visit world-class museums such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the de Young Museum.
  • Haight-Ashbury: Experience the counterculture spirit of Haight-Ashbury, known for its historic role in the 1960s hippie movement.
  • Visit Sausalito: Sausalito’s charming waterfront, artistic atmosphere, and stunning views of the San Francisco skyline make this a must-see when visiting. This popular half-day tour includes a visit to Sausalito in addition to exploring giant trees in Muir Woods.

Read more: The Complete Travel Guide To San Francisco In A Weekend and Where To Stay In San Francisco

Death Valley National Park

Distance from San Diego

Death Valley National Park is about 5 to 6 hours from San Diego. You’ll take the I-15 North and then the CA-127 North, which takes you right into the heart of Death Valley. Be sure to check your gas gauge and pack some water because, well, it’s a desert out there!

Why Visit

Death Valley National Park is a fantastic spot for a weekend getaway. The landscapes, from the salt flats to the towering sand dunes, create an otherworldly setting. Explore the lowest point in North America, take in the views from Zabriskie Point, and soak in the wonders of the desert.

During my weekend trip to Death Valley, I stayed at The Inn at Death Valley and this four-diamond historic resort was the perfect place to relax at the end of long days exploring the park.

colorful hills in Death Valley National Park

Top Things to Do

  • Badwater Basin: Visit Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and walk on the vast salt flats.
  • Zabriskie Point: Catch the sunrise or sunset at Zabriskie Point for stunning panoramic views.
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Explore the iconic Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, where the ever-shifting sands create patterns against the backdrop of the Panamint Mountains.
  • Artist’s Palette: Drive through Artist’s Drive to see Artist’s Palette, a colorful geological formation.
  • Dante’s View: Hike or drive to Dante’s View for the panoramic views of Death Valley and the Panamint Range.
  • Ubehebe Crater: Visit Ubehebe Crater, a massive volcanic crater, and hike around the rim.
  • Devil’s Golf Course: Explore Devil’s Golf Course, a salt pan with jagged formations, creating a landscape that resembles an unforgiving golf course.
  • Golden Canyon: Hike the Golden Canyon Trail, and extend the hike to the Red Cathedral or connect to the Gower Gulch Loop if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
  • Racetrack Playa: Venture to Racetrack Playa to see the mysterious moving rocks, leaving trails in the dry lakebed.

Idyllwild

Distance from San Diego

If you’re looking for a mountain escape from sunny San Diego, Idyllwild is just a 2-hour scenic drive away! The most common route will take you up the I-15 and then the CA-79 South near Temecula. Before you know it you’ll be winding your way up into the San Jacinto Mountains.

Why Visit

Idyllwild is a great place for a weekend getaway. It’s a peaceful mountain town with fresh air, towering trees, and gorgeous views. You can take easy strolls or challenging hikes in the great outdoors, and the town has cute shops, art spots, and cozy cafes.

This is also a very dog-friendly place, so take your fur kids along for the ride. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails and restaurants where they are welcome.

Top Things to Do

  • Hiking Trails: Explore the hiking trails that cater to various skill levels, including iconic paths like Devil’s Slide Trail and Tahquitz Peak.
  • Village Shopping: Stroll through the village and browse the unique shops, boutiques.
  • Outdoor Adventure: Try your hand at rock climbing or go mountain biking.
  • Idyllwild Nature Center: Visit the Idyllwild Nature Center to learn about the local plants and animals.
  • Humber Park: Begin your hiking adventures from Humber Park, a popular trailhead where you can access picturesque landscapes and Tahquitz Peak.
  • Idyllwild Arts Academy Events: Check for events hosted by the Idyllwild Arts Academy, where you can enjoy performances or workshops featuring talented students.
  • Scenic Drives: Take a scenic drive along routes like the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Distance from San Diego

The trip from San Diego to Anza-Borrego will take about 2 hours, straight out on the I-8 East. It’s a beautiful drive with mountains on one side and the desert on the other. Consider taking a quick pit stop in the town of Julian, which is known for its apple pies!

Why Visit

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a great weekend escape from San Diego. The vast desert landscapes, peaceful surroundings, and clear night skies make it perfect for a relaxing break. Whether you enjoy stargazing or hiking, the park is a serene spot to unwind and connect with the beauty of the desert.

weekend getaway in Anza Borrego sunset with view of the valley

Top Things to Do

  • Wildflower Viewing: Wildflower in the desert? That’s right; depending on the season, check out the stunning wildflower blooms that transform the desert into a colorful rainbow.
  • Stargazing: Enjoy unparalleled stargazing opportunities in the dark skies of the desert.
  • Slot Canyon Exploration: Venture into slot canyons like the popular Borrego Palm Canyon, trekking into narrow passages and discovering hidden oases.
  • Off-Roading Adventures: If you have a high-clearance vehicle, go on off-roading adventures to explore more remote and rugged areas of the park.
  • Borrego Springs Sculptures: Check out the metal sculptures scattered throughout the desert near Borrego Springs, an open-air art gallery created by artist Ricardo Breceda.
  • Camping Under the Stars: Campgrounds are available for those looking for a night under the starry skies.
  • Coyote Canyon Jeep Tours: Take a guided Jeep tour through Coyote Canyon for a chance to explore the region’s unique terrain and possibly spot wildlife.

Venice Beach

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego to Venice Beach takes about 2 to 3 hours, taking the 1-5 North to the 1-10 West.

Why Visit

Venice Beach is a must-visit with its vibrant boardwalk, colorful street performers, and iconic Muscle Beach – perfect for a relaxed day by the ocean. This is a great place for people watching or skating along the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

sunset overlooking Venice, California sign in downtown

Top Things to Do

  • Venice Beach Boardwalk: Take a stroll along the iconic boardwalk, where you’ll find street performers, vendors, and a lively atmosphere. The Venice Beach Freakshow and Muscle Beach Gym are notable attractions along the boardwalk.
  • Venice Canals: Explore the picturesque Venice Canals, a series of man-made waterways designed to mimic the canals of Venice, Italy.
  • Venice Beach Graffiti Walls: Head to the Venice Art Walls, a legal graffiti art space where where vibrant and ever-changing murals make for a dynamic outdoor art gallery.
  • Abbot Kinney Boulevard: This trendy street is known for its boutique shops, art galleries, and diverse dining options.
  • Venice Pier: Take a stroll along the Venice Pier for panoramic views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Enjoy the Beach: Whether you’re into sunbathing, swimming, or beach volleyball, there’s something for everyone.

San Luis Obispo

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego takes around 5 hours, but the scenic coastal route makes the drive itself worth the trip!

Why Visit

The charming downtown of San Luis Obispo offers a delightful mix of historic architecture, boutique shops, and locally-owned restaurants, making it a perfect destination for leisurely strolls and immersive cultural experiences. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore hiking trails, scenic drives, and pristine beaches, adding an extra layer of allure to this Central Coast gem.

Top Things to Do

  • Bubblegum Alley: Take a stroll down Higuera Street and visit Bubblegum Alley, a quirky and colorful alley where visitors have been sticking chewed gum to the walls for decades.
  • Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa: Explore the historic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, founded in 1772, for insight into the area’s history.
  • Madonna Inn: Experience the whimsical and unique Madonna Inn, known for its eclectic decor, themed rooms, and the famous pink dining room. Even if you’re not staying overnight, it’s worth a visit for a meal or to explore the quirky interior.
  • Montana de Oro State Park: With miles of hiking and biking trails, this park is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Wine Tasting in Edna Valley: Explore the nearby Edna Valley wine region, known for its vineyards and wineries.

Read more: San Luis Obispo Travel Guide

Palm Springs

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego typically takes around 2 1/2 to 3 hours, taking the I-15 North to the I-215 North, and then drive east on the I-10 East.

Why Visit

Palm Springs is a great destination for its sunny weather, interesting architecture, and famous hot springs. They have great upscale resorts here and the golfers will love hitting the links. The nearby canyons are a must-see for nature lovers, too!

Palm Springs Sign at sunset - California
Visiting the Palm Springs sign on our weekend trip from San Diego.

Top Things to Do

  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: Enjoy breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which ascends to the top of Mount San Jacinto. (Book your ticket here.)
  • Palm Springs Art Museum: Explore the Palm Springs Art Museum, featuring a diverse collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as Native American and Western art.
  • Indian Canyons: Hike or drive through the beautiful Indian Canyons, including Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon.
  • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens: This desert-themed zoo showcases animals and plants from arid environments around the world.
  • Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway: Take a tour of the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, also known as the Alexander Estate, where Elvis and Priscilla Presley spent their honeymoon. Tours provide a glimpse into the lifestyle of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Read more: 15 Best Weekend Getaways & Staycation Ideas In California

Paso Robles

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego to Paso Robles takes about 5 to 6 hours, and the most common route is to take the I-5 North and then transition to U.S. Route 101 North.

paso robles vineyard at sunset

Why Visit

For the wine-lover, Paso Robles is a great weekend getaway. Just a short drive from San Diego and you’ll be in gorgeous vineyards with all the wine-tastings you can handle. The drive is beautiful, too!

Top Things to Do

  • Downtown Paso Robles: Stroll through the charming downtown area, which features boutique shops, art galleries, and a variety of restaurants.
  • Wine Tasting: Paso Robles is renowned for its wineries and vineyards. Popular wineries include Tablas Creek Vineyard, Justin Vineyards & Winery, and Daou Vineyards & Winery. (Book a tour here.)
  • Hot Springs: Many resorts and spas in the area offer hot spring experiences, including Paso Robles Inn, Franklin Hot Springs, and River Oaks Hot Springs Spa.
  • Hiking and Outdoor Activities: Explore the natural beauty of the area by hiking in places like the Salinas River Walk or the Paso Robles Wine Country Trails.
  • Olive Oil Tasting: In addition to wine, Paso Robles is known for its olive oil. Visit local olive oil producers for tastings and learn about the olive oil production process.
  • Sensorio Paso Robles: A 15-acre light show on rolling hills with fiber-optic stemmed spheres that change colors.
sensorio light show paso robles california

Read more: The Most Beautiful Road Trips In California + Where To Stay

Newport Beach

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego is only 1 1/2 to 2 hours, making it perfect for a weekend trip. Just hop on the I-5 North; it’s a quick and easy drive!

Why Visit

Visit Newport Beach for its beautiful beaches, the lively Balboa Peninsula, and the iconic Newport Pier.

Top Things to Do

  • Newport Beach Pier: Take a stroll along the Newport Beach Pier, enjoying scenic views of the ocean and coastline.
  • Corona del Mar State Beach: This picturesque beach offers tide pools, cliffs, and excellent views.
  • Newport Beach Balboa Island Ferry: Enjoy a short ferry ride to Balboa Island for charming streets, boutique shops, and the iconic Balboa Bar, a chocolate-dipped ice cream treat.
  • Whale Watching: Join a whale watching cruise from Newport Beach to view and learn about native California marine life.
  • Surfing and Water Activities: Newport Beach is known for its excellent surfing conditions. You can find surf schools and rental shops for water activities like paddleboarding and kayaking.
  • Brunch Cruise: For a unique experience, enjoy a five-course brunch out on the water, complete with sparkling wine! (Book here.)

Temecula

Distance from San Diego

Located in Riverside County – and only about an hour’s drive from San Diego – Temecula is a perfect weekend getaway (or staycation).

Why Visit

I love Temecula for it’s charming Old Town with boutiques and restaurants as well as the wine country.

Top Things to Do

  • Wine Tasting: Temecula is famous for its wineries and it’s best to book a tour and let someone else do the driving. Popular wineries include Wilson Creek Winery, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa and Ponte Winery.
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride: Taking a sunrise hot air balloon flight over Temecula’s wine country is definitely one of the best (and most romantic) things to do when visiting!
  • Explore Old Town Temecula: Explore the historic Old Town, where you’ll find a mix of Western-style architecture and modern shops and restaurants.
  • Lake Skinner Recreation Area: Enjoy outdoor activities at Lake Skinner, a reservoir offering fishing, boating, picnicking, and hiking.

Mammoth Lakes

Distance from San Diego

About a 6 hour drive from San Diego, but still close enough for a weekend getaway. I have fond memories of my quick weekend trips to Mammoth so it’s definitely doable if you’re willing to drive up Friday night and get home late on Sunday.

Why Visit

Located in the Eastern Sierras, Mammoth Lakes is perfect for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and and hiking, fishing, and scenic gondola rides in the summer.

brown bear in mammoth lakes california

Top Things to Do

  • Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort: Enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain during the winter months. The snow here is much better than you’ll see in Big Bear (another hot spot for Southern Californians in the winter).
  • Mammoth Lakes Basin: A series of scenic lakes such as Lake Mary, Lake George, and Horseshoe Lake. It’s a great area for hiking, fishing, and picnicking.
  • Devils Postpile National Monument: Witness the unique hexagonal basalt columns. This spot is typically open from mid-June to mid-October, depending on snow conditions.
  • Hot Springs: Popular hot springs include Wild Willy’s Hot Springs and the Hilltop Hot Springs.
  • Mammoth Lakes Village: Stroll through this charming village, filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries.
  • Outdoor Adventures: Enjoy fishing, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking and camping during the summer months.

Ojai

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego to Ojai takes about 3 hours. It’s an easy journey on the I-5 North to State Route 126 (SR-126) West.

Why Visit

Ojai is an artistic community with beautiful views of the Topa Topa Mountains. In this small town you’ll find small local shops and restaurants that are a perfect departure from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Ojai California hiking

Top Things to Do

  • Downtown Ojai: Explore the Downtown Ojai, filled with boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Ojai Arcade, a historic Spanish-style arcade, is a popular spot.
  • Ojai Valley Museum: Learn about the history and culture of Ojai at the Ojai Valley Museum, featuring exhibits on the Chumash Native Americans, local pioneers, and Ojai’s development.
  • Ojai Farmers’ Market: If you’re in town on a Sunday morning, explore the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market for fresh produce and artisanal goods.
  • Hiking in Los Padres National Forest: Ojai is surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, offering numerous hiking trails. Popular trails include the Shelf Road Trail, Pratt Trail, and Rose Valley Falls.
  • Bart’s Books: Browse the outdoor bookstore, Bart’s Books, one of the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstores in the U.S.

Burbank

Distance from San Diego

Under normal traffic conditions, the drive from San Diego to Burbank can take around 2 to 3 hours by taking the I-5 North.

Why Visit

Burbank, the world’s media capital, is an ideal destination for entertainment enthusiasts. Home to major industry players like Warner Bros., the city offers entertaining tours for movie buffs and sitcom fans.

Beyond the entertainment scene, Burbank boasts scenic hiking trails, delectable dining, and serves as an excellent base for exploring other areas of Los Angeles.

warner bros studios friends set in burbank, ca
Scott and I visiting the Friends set at Warner Bros. Studios.

Top Things to Do

  • Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood: Explore the iconic Warner Bros. Studio for an immersive behind-the-scenes tour, featuring sets, soundstages, and exhibits from popular movies and TV shows.
  • Burbank Arts District: Discover the creative side of Burbank in the Arts District, where you can explore galleries, theaters, and studios showcasing local artists’ work.
  • Griffith Park: Just a few minutes away from Burbank is a sprawling urban oasis that seamlessly blends nature with recreation. This iconic park spans over 4,300 acres and offers an array of attractions, from scenic hiking trails to the renowned Griffith Observatory.
  • Universal Studios Tour: Universal Studios is right next to Burbank in Universal City, and they offer studio tours of King Kong in 3D, Jaws, and the eerie Bates Motel. Don’t miss the enchanting journey through Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Read more: The Ultimate Guide To Burbank, California

Dana Point

Distance from San Diego

After a quick 1 hour drive from San Diego, you’ll find yourself in Dana Point, nestled in Orange County.

Why Visit

Dana Point is a fantastic place to visit for its beautiful beaches, like Salt Creek and Doheny, perfect for sunbathing and surfing. The harbor is also great for whale watching.

Top Things to Do

  • Harbor Cruises and Sailing: Take a harbor cruise, sailing excursion, or whale watching trip right from the Dana Point Harbor.
  • Dana Point Lantern District: Wander through the Lantern District, Dana Point’s historic downtown area, filled with charming shops, galleries, and diverse dining options.
  • Capistrano Beach Park: Visit Capistrano Beach Park, a family-friendly beach with playgrounds, grassy areas, and volleyball courts.
  • Dana Point Farmers Market: If you’re in town on a Saturday, explore the Dana Point Farmers Market.

Julian

Distance from San Diego

The drive from San Diego is about 1 1/2 hours by taking the 1-5 North to the CA-78 East.

Why Visit

Julian is a cute mountain town known for its delicious apple pies, historic Main Street, and cozy small-town feel. It’s a great spot to escape the city, explore local shops, and enjoy some tasty treats.

Top Things to Do

  • Julian Historic District: Explore the Julian Historic District, where you can wander through the town’s quaint streets lined with historic buildings, local shops, and art galleries.
  • Apple Picking: Visit one of the local orchards to experience apple picking. Julian is renowned for its apple harvest, and many orchards allow visitors to pick their own apples during the season.
  • Julian Pie Company: Indulge in the famous apple pies at the Julian Pie Company. They offer a variety of delicious pies, including the classic apple pie.
  • Cedar Creek Falls: Cedar Creek Falls is a moderately challenging hike leading to a stunning waterfall oasis.

Napa Valley

Distance from San Diego

At 8 hours away from San Diego, this may be one of the furthest destinations, but it’s certainly a worthwhile one. To save time, I recommend taking a quick flight to San Francisco and renting a car to drive the remaining 2-3 hours.

Why Visit

Explore the lush vineyards, go to wine tastings, and take in the scenic countryside views in this famous region of California. If you’re looking for the ultimate Napa experience, Carneros Resort and Spa is my favorite place to stay in this region!

Top Things to Do

  • Wine Tasting: Napa Valley is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot. Some notable wineries include Robert Mondavi Winery, Beringer Vineyards, and Opus One.
  • Napa Valley Wine Train: Experience a scenic journey on the Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers gourmet meals and wine pairings as you travel through the picturesque landscape of the valley.
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride: Soar above the vineyards on a hot air balloon ride for a breathtaking aerial view of Napa Valley.
  • Culinary Experiences: The region is known for its farm-to-table cuisine, and many restaurants offer exceptional food pairings with local wines.
  • Spa Day: Relax and rejuvenate at one of Napa Valley’s luxurious spas. Many resorts and boutique hotels offer spa services amid serene surroundings.

Read more: Napa On A Budget: Where To Stay, Eat & Play

 
Plan Your Trip

After traveling consistently for over 13 years, we’ve come to trust and rely on a few websites to help us find the best deals on flights and accommodation.

Flights: Going is the first place we check when searching for cheap flights. If you sign up for their email alerts, you’ll receive flight deals at up to 90% off. I have traveled all over the world using their flight deals.

Accommodation: Booking.com offers savings on hotels, apartments, and villas in 80,000 destinations worldwide. You can browse hotel reviews and find the guaranteed best price on hotels for all budgets.

Travel Insurance: We never travel without a travel insurance policy because it’s not worth the risk! We use and trust Visitors Coverage, which we’ve used for the past 10 years.

Let us book your trip! Looking for a Travel Advisor to help you plan your trip? Contact us here for more information!

25 Easy Weekend Getaways From San Diego (By a Local)

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I’m also a member of other affiliate programs. For more info please read my Privacy Policy

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *