23 Epic Weekend Getaways from San Diego (Fun Mini Road Trips!)

Looking for cool weekend getaways from San Diego? You certainly won’t want for choice!

San Diego may be located at the southern end of California, but it is within driving distance of a variety of fun weekend road trip destinations.

From idyllic mountain resorts to charming wine country and laid-back beach towns to lively cities, we’ve rounded up the best San Diego weekend getaways.

Landscape at Big Sur

Many of these exciting destinations are within the Golden State, but a few San Diego weekend trips will take you into neighboring states, or even across the international border!

You’ll want to do some of the longer road trips on long weekends. We’ve indicated approximate driving times and distances, but based on your exact location and the time you travel, driving times may vary wildly, so plan accordingly.

Excited? Let’s get started on discovering the best road trip ideas for weekend getaways from San Diego!

Weekend Getaways from San Diego to Other Cities
Outdoors-Focused San Diego Weekend Getaways
Weekend Road Trips from San Diego to Small Mountain Towns
Wine Country Weekend Getaways from San Diego
Weekend Trips from San Diego to Cool Coastal Towns
Other Weekend Getaways from San Diego
Map of Weekend Getaways from San Diego

Weekend Getaways from San Diego to Other Cities

1. Santa Monica

Why go: Santa Monica is quintessential SoCal and makes for a super fun getaway from San Diego. With a sandy beach that goes on forever, and lots of sunny days, Santa Monica makes it easy to get out and enjoy the ocean breezes.

Ferris Wheel Santa Monica Pier California
Santa Monica’s iconic Ferris wheel at night

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Top things to do: Go beachcombing, kayaking, surfing, or swimming. Check out the Original Muscle Beach, where fitness fanatics perform acrobatic moves.

Bike the scenic 22-mile paved Marvin Braude Bike Trail, which starts in Santa Monica and ends at Torrance County Beach.

Enjoy the Venice Beach boardwalk, where you can watch the street performers. Walk Palisades Park in the evening for gorgeous water views and stay for a colorful west coast sunset. Snap a photo of the famous Ferris wheel after dark.

Equally fun to explore are Santa Monica’s farmers markets, bursting with fresh fruit, flowers, and goodies to eat.

Want a culture fix? Head to Bergamot, the old train station that now houses nearly three dozen galleries. Shoppers can browse brands and boutiques at Third Street Promenade or Montana Avenue.

And there’s a lively night scene in Santa Monica as well, with rooftop bars overlooking the ocean.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: Located in a historic district and painstakingly renovated, this charming beach cottage features two bedrooms and one bath, as well as a full kitchen. It is walking distance to the beach, shopping, and dining! Book a stay here!

Hotel: The Santa Monica Proper Hotel is located a mile from the Santa Monica Pier. Rooms are bright and well-appointed, and some rooms have balconies or garden terraces. The hotel will loan you e-bikes during your stay! Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Santa Monica: 134 miles, about 2 hours

2. Santa Barbara

Why go: Santa Barbara is stunning. With its red Mediterranean rooftops and its beautiful beaches, Santa Barbara is that perfect vacation spot, whether you are planning a romantic couples getaway, a solo jaunt, or a fun family trip.

The weather is wonderful year round too!

Beautiful Santa Barbara is one of the most popular San Diego weekend getaways!
Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean rooftops

Top things to do: Santa Barbara has something for everyone. If you enjoy museums and gardens, you will want to visit MOXI, the incredibly cool interactive museum, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, which focuses on native plants and has a wildflower meadow that looks stunning in the spring.

Enjoy historical sites? Santa Barbara’s mission is one of the prettiest in the state. And El Presidio, the old fort, is a fascinating visit. For both history and views, visit the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The views from its Clock Tower are made for Instagram!

Santa Barbara’s harbor is beautiful, and you can go on a kayak trip from the harbor. Take a bike ride alongside East Beach, or take in the sunset at Butterfly Beach.

And spend evenings in the lively walkable downtown, where you can browse the shops and galleries, go wine tasting in the Funk Zone, and eat at famed restaurants.

Any way you choose to spend your weekend in Santa Barbara, you will have a wonderful getaway!

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This two-bedroom, one bath condo is located at West Beach, just steps from the sand, walking distance to the harbor, Stearns Wharf, and the Funk Zone. The unit features a deck, with outdoor seating, overlooking a garden. Interiors are bright and well appointed. Book a stay here!

Hotel: The Santa Barbara Inn is located across the street from East Beach. The location is convenient to downtown as well. The hotel features Spanish architecture and a gorgeous outside sitting area and pool. Rooms are elegantly furnished. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Santa Barbara: 218 miles, about 3 hours and 20 minutes


Why go: The gracious city of Pasadena makes for a delightful weekend getaway from San Diego.

Downtown Pasadena is lively and walkable, with lots of eateries and cafes, and browse-worthy stores. In the evenings, watching street performers amps up the fun.

Pasadena City Hall with its gorgeous fountain
City Hall in Pasadena

Top things to do: The Huntington, in nearby San Marino, is worth a full day of your weekend trip. The complex is home to over a dozen themed gardens spread over 120 acres.

Stroll the extensive Desert Garden, admire the drum bridge in the Japanese Garden, smell the roses in the Rose Garden, and enjoy the large lake in the Chinese Garden.

The Huntington also boasts a fabulous art collection with paintings, sculptures, and china, as well as rare manuscripts including a Gutenberg Bible. The gardens make for a fabulous day outdoors.

Architecture buffs will enjoy touring Pasadena. The domed City Hall, with its center fountain, is gorgeous, but also don’t miss the Wrigley Mansion, Gamble House, and Millard House.

Art lovers will want to make time for the Norton Simon Museum, whose collection includes both European masterpieces and Southeast Asian art.

And foodies will find restaurants from every cuisine in Pasadena! Try the breads and pies at Old Sasoon Bakery, or Thai street food at Chim!

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This serene guesthouse set on a Spanish estate features one bedroom and one bath. Located in the heart of Pasadena with easy freeway access, the apartment has a sundeck with a view of the San Gabriel mountains and a full kitchen. Book a stay here!

Hotel: The Langham Huntington’s beautiful gardens are made for strolling. Rooms are spacious, with elegant traditional furnishings. The hotel is located at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains, with a gorgeous outdoor pool and full spa. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Pasadena: 129 miles, about 2 hours

Los Angeles

Why go: LA is so much fun if you stick to one or two areas of the sprawling city, to minimize sitting in traffic.

With gardens and museums, shopping and all things Hollywood, the City of Angels offers so much that you will find plenty to do, no matter how many times you visit!

Urban Light at LACMA in Los Angeles, California
The Urban Light installation at LACMA

Top things to do: If you enjoy the movies, you will want to spend some time in Hollywood. Visit the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and tour Paramount Pictures Studios, the only film studio left in Hollywood.

Love theme parks? Harry Potter fan? You can spend a whole day at Universal Studios!

You can also snap a photo of the iconic Hollywood sign from Hollywood & Highland Center, home to the Dolby Theater and lots of shops and restaurants.

Just a few miles west are the designer stores of Rodeo Drive, where you may spot a celebrity out shopping.

Whether you are a museum buff or not, you will want to visit LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), at least to ogle Urban Light, Levitated Mass, and other outdoor installations.

Also don’t miss the contemporary art at The Broad in downtown LA: its exterior is made for Instagram! Other fabulous museums: the Getty Museum, and the Getty Villa (the latter is one of our favorite LA spots).

A visit to the Griffith Observatory will reward you with magnificent views, even if you do not pay to see the shows in the planetarium. You can also hike to the Hollywood sign on a 3-mile trail that starts in the Observatory parking lot.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This spacious 2-bed, 2-bath home comes with an outdoor pool and jacuzzi, lush landscaping, and plenty of outdoor seating. Inside you will find a poolside queen suite and an upstairs king bed. Full kitchen and high-end furnishings. Book a stay here!

Hotel: The Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel, makes for a fabulous weekend escape. The historic hotel is right next door to Rodeo Drive. Rooms are spacious ans well-furnished, and some rooms have balconies. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Los Angeles: 124 miles, about 2 hours

Las Vegas

Why go: The entertainment capital of the world has much to offer, whether you want to enjoy the grand resorts, dine at celebrity chef restaurants, or take in some world-class shows.

But Las Vegas also offers great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, with several beautiful areas within easy driving distance.

Venetian Las Vegas
Shops at the Venetian in Las Vegas

Top things to do: Stroll Las Vegas Boulevard to view the fascinating resort facades. The walk is especially fun after dark, when all the resorts are lit up. This is one of the best things to do in Vegas, whether it’s your first visit or your tenth.

Watch the Bellagio fountain show and take a gondola ride at the Venetian. Ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris for great views over Vegas.

Browse the stores at Crystals City Center. Go see the Blue Man Group perform or enjoy the magic of O, the Cirque du Soleil extravaganza at the Bellagio.

Check out the quirky museums in Las Vegas: we loved our to the Neon Museum. Fremont Street is fun and lively too, with lots of street performers.

Spend a few hours enjoying the red rock formations at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservancy Area, or the red rocks at Valley of Fire State Park. Both parks are well worth the time.

Or visit Hoover Dam, a civil engineering masterpiece, and get out on the water at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Where to stay

Hotel: Vdara offers smoke free rooms and suites in the heart of all the action on Las Vegas Boulevard. Pick a fountain view suite to have a beautiful view of the Bellagio fountains from your room. Suites are spacious and well-appointed and bathrooms are large. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: Want to stay away from the Strip yet within easy driving distance? This spacious 2,500-square-foot home features three bedrooms and three baths, and has a pool and jacuzzi. The home is a few minutes drive from Las Vegas Boulevard. Interiors are well-appointed, and the home is located on a quiet street. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Las Vegas: 332 miles, about 5 hours


Who go: One of the most fun places to visit in the American Southwest, Scottsdale is famous for its resorts and golf courses, but also for its proximity to desert trails, museums, and great shopping and dining.

We’ve loved our getaways to Scottsdale and can’t wait to return!

Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix Arizona
The Desert Botanical Garden is a must-visit!

Top things to do: If you enjoy hiking, make the trek up to the top of Camelback Mountain for panoramic views. Or head to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, where a variety of hiking trails with beautiful views of desert flora await.

The Desert Botanical Garden is another fabulous place to get up close to the flora of the region and to see lots of birds.

Old Town Scottsdale makes for a great wander, with lots of historic architecture, unique shops and art galleries. Architecture buffs can visit Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is a fun stop for lovers of western history and culture.

Scottsdale has a plethora of great eateries, so bring your appetite! And allow for time to lounge by the pool at your resort while enjoying desert views, or book a pampering spa experience.

Where to stay

Hotel: Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows is an upscale resort located near Old Town Scottsdale, close to lots of shopping and dining. The hotel features an outdoor pool and hot tub. Rooms are well-appointed, and some rooms have mountain views. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia is located near Camelback Mountain in a scenic setting, not too far from Old Town Scottsdale. Rooms are beautifully appointed and feature balconies. The outdoor pool, with mountain views, is stunning. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Scottsdale: 364 miles, about 5 hours and 30 minutes

Palm Springs

Why go: The gateway to the California desert, Palm Springs is known for its fabulous resorts, spas, and golf courses. It is the ultimate relaxation destination, with lots of outdoor activities, but lots of art, museums, shopping, and dining as well.

If you enjoy scenic driving routes, arrive via scenic Highway 74, part of the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway.

Palm Springs, home to lots of resorts, is one of the most convenient weekend getaways from San Diego
A resort in Palm Springs, California

Top things to do: Take a tour of the city’s well-known mid-century modern architecture. Be whisked to the upper reaches of Mount San Jacinto on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for panoramic views of the desert floor.

Stroll Palm Canyon Boulevard with its fun shops and galleries and admire the walkway of the stars.

Head out into the desert on a Hummer tour, or hike nearby canyons. Soak in a hot spring pool at nearby Desert Hot Springs, visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert.

If you enjoy succulent gardens, tour Sunnylands, the desert garden in Rancho Mirage, or Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs.

Allow time for lounging by the pool to soak in the sunshine, to play a round of golf at one of many dozen courses in the area, book a spa experience, and plan dinner at one of the top eateries in town.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This modern home is located in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs, and features 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths, perfect for a small family or two couples. The home has a spacious great room, a full kitchen, and a fabulous outdoor space with a pool and mountain views. Book a stay here!

Hotel: The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel is a hip hotel with incredible mountain views and a location convenient to shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Rooms and suites are elegantly appointed. The rooftop pool and viewing deck are gorgeous. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Palm Springs: 139 miles, about 2 hours

San Diego Weekend Getaways into the Great Outdoors!

Joshua Tree National Park

Why go: If you want to do some hiking amidst jaw-dropping scenery in the day and stargaze at night, consider a nature-focused weekend trip from San Diego to Joshua Tree National Park.

The desert national park makes for a great escape from fall through spring. In spring, you may also see a superbloom of wildflowers!

Joshua Tree National Park is a great outdoors-focused weekend road trip from San Diego.
Joshua trees and boulders at Joshua Tree National Park

Top things to do: Bouldering and hiking are the most popular activities in Joshua Tree. There are Joshua Tree hikes for every skill level, from short and scenic nature trails to harder hikes that take you to mountain peaks and fan palm oases.

Don’t miss the scenic Hidden Valley Trail and the hike to Barker Dam. If you are up for a challenge, tackle the Ryan Mountain Trail to access the highest point in the park.

And while rock climbers can have a blast scaling the vertical rock faces in the park, amateurs can have fun scrambling up large boulders.

Drive through the park, stopping at major sights. Look for birds and wildlife, and snap photos of the beautiful scenery all around you.

At night, find a quiet spot and enjoy the millions of stars in the dark skies…plan your visit on a cloudless, moonless weekend for the best night sky watching.

Take in the panoramas from Keys View at sunset. Stroll the quirky town of Joshua Tree in the north of the park. Visit the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum: it’s an excellent outdoor museum north of Joshua Tree National Park.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This mid-century modern house is located between Joshua Tree town and the park. It features two bedrooms and two full bathrooms. The 1959 home has the original tiki and vintage interior features. The back patio has a large hot tub and a barbecue grill. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: Jumbo Rocks Cottage features 2 bedrooms and one bath, and it is located close to Joshua Tree town and the west entrance to the park. The home offers a cool soaking tub as well as a hot tub, and a back patio with loungers and a gas grill. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Joshua Tree: 164 miles, about 2 hours and 30 minutes

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Why go: In our opinion one of California’s most beautiful state parks, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers magnificent landscapes and epic hiking if you are looking for a nature-focused, active weekend away from San Diego.

Anza-Borrego makes for a great weekend trip from San Diego in the cooler months of the year.

Anza-Borrego State Park, California
Landscape at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Top things to do: There are more than 500 miles of roads in Anza-Borrego. Off-road exploration of the park is a fun thing to do if you rent a 4WD high-clearance vehicle for your weekend trip.

You can explore diverse terrains, from sand to rock and hilly to flat. Font’s Point is a great drive for sunset. You can also bike the dirt roads.

You will also find numerous hiking trails in Anza-Borrego State Park. Trails range from easy to strenuous. Many trailheads start off dirt roads, so you can combine off-road driving with hiking.

Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is easy and a must if you are a first-time visitor to the park. The payoff is a grove of palms and a year-round stream, and bighorn sheep sightings are common.

For more of a workout, try the moderate Slot Canyon hike near Borrego Mountain Wash, or the challenging Wind Caves trail which involves a steep climb but offers gorgeous views.

Spring is a great time to spend a weekend in Borrego Springs and the park. Wildflower bloom here can be spectacular, with carpets of pink, white and yellow.

And any time of year, stop to admire Ricardo Breceda’s huge sculptures of prehistoric creatures along Borrego Springs Road.

Where to stay

Hotel: La Casa del Zorro in Borrego Springs is a 10-minute drive from Anza-Borrego State Park. The beautiful resort features several outdoor pools and tennis courts. Rooms are spacious and have private balconies or patios. The resort offers 4-wheel desert tours. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: This spacious two-story condo features two bedroom and 3 bathrooms, and sleeps up to six guests. It is located in the heart of the town of Borrego Springs, with an open living space and access to a pool. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Borrego Springs: 85.6 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes

Death Valley National Park

Why go: Death Valley National Park’s spectacular desert vistas and expansive feel offer the opportunity to unplug and connect with nature.

The largest of California’s national parks, Death Valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest park in the country, but it’s a pleasant getaway in the winter, especially if you’re looking to flee the cold.

You can enjoy an active weekend exploring, or you can relax and soak in the silence and tranquility. Either way, you will have a fun weekend away!

Mesquite Sand Dunes Death Valley
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley NP

Top things to do: Death Valley National Park’s unmissable sights never get old, no matter how many times you visit. Drive through the park and take in the views at Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, and Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive.

Marvel at the enormity of the salt flats at Badwater Basin and play in the sand at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

If you enjoy hiking, try the moderate Mosaic Canyon hike. The marble and mosaic walls of the canyon are lovely, and the walk through the slot exciting. There are many other Death Valley hikes you can add to your itinerary.

To peek into the area’s past, visit some of the historical sites in the park, such as Harmony Borax Works, or the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. The Gold Rush ghost town of Rhyolite sits just outside the park.

Death Valley National Park is a Gold Star International Dark Skies Reserve, so plan on some stargazing if you visit when the skies are clear and there is no moon. Harmony Borax Works is a great night sky watching location.

Where to stay

Hotel: The Inn at Death Valley is a historic hotel located in Furnace Creek, close to major Death Valley attractions. The hotel offers rooms in the main building as well as standalone casitas. Not inexpensive, but definitely a fabulous option for your weekend getaway. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Also located in Furnace Creek, the Ranch at Death Valley is a comfortable and more affordable stay inside Death Valley National Park. Rooms are spacious, and onsite dining is available. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Death Valley National Park: 352 miles, about 5 hours and 30 minutes


Why go: Across the border in neighboring Arizona, the red rocks of Sedona are a photographer’s dream and an outdoor lover’s mecca. Plan a quick road trip from San Diego to Sedona to take in the spectacular scenery and savor the serene location.

Bell Rock Sedona Arizona
Sedona’s red rocks are enchanting!

Top things to do: Sedona does have its fair share of browseworthy galleries and shops, so you may want to stroll Gallery Row at some point during your weekend.

But spend the days exploring the fabulous setting of the resort town: you can hike, go mountain biking or horseback riding, or take a Pink Jeep tour. For the adventurous, hot air balloons and helicopter rides are also offered.

Sedona is known for its sacred vortexes. Plan a hike to one of the four most famous sites: Airport Mesa, Bell Rock, Boyton Canyon, or Cathedral Rock, to spend some time on introspection.

Cathedral Rock is one of Sedona’s most beautiful hikes, apart from its status as a vortex site.

Snap a photo (or three!) of the striking Chapel of the Holy Cross, built directly into Sedona’s red rocks. Visit the Palatki Heritage Site to view the rare pictographs. Enjoy a Sedona sunset from Airport Mesa.

Where to stay

Hotel: Sedona Rouge Hotel and Spa has a beautiful setting and offers brightly decorated modern rooms. The resort boasts a full-service spa, a rooftop bar, and a pool and jacuzzi. The onsite grill is well-reviewed. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Arabella Hotel Sedona is located near downtown Sedona and offers spacious rooms, some with beautiful views. The property features a seasonal outdoor pool and year-round hot tub, as well as a garden, and a private hiking trail with views. Breakfast is rated excellent. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Sedona: 460 miles, about 7 hours

Bishop, CA

Why go: The town of Bishop is little but it has a big backyard: it is the perfect base from which to explore California’s stunning Eastern Sierra.

If you love the outdoors, you will definitely want to plan a weekend getaway from San Diego to Bishop, CA! Fall is an especially spectacular time to visit.

Lake Sabrina in Bishop California
Lake Sabrina in the fall

Top things to do: Hiking, biking, and bouldering are popular outdoor activities around Bishop. The Buttermilk Boulders, just outside Bishop, are a famous bouldering site.

Explore Bishop Creek Canyon, with its many beautiful lakes and lush forests. Go boating or fishing in the lakes, or the creek.

The area between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes is known for hydrothermal activity and you will find several hot springs for relaxing soaks.

You can also visit the extremely scenic Hot Creek Geological Site, with its hot pools and steam vents, although you can’t get into the water here.

For a look at the oldest living trees on earth, drive to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Or drive up Whitney Portal Road into the upper reaches of the tallest mountain in the contiguous states.

You’ll find interesting historical sites around Bishop as well. Look for ancient petroglyphs in the Volcanic Tablelands north of town. Nearby Laws has a railroad museum.

South of town, Manzanar National Historic Site honors Japanese Americans that were incarcerated here during WWII and the Alabama Hills, west of the little town of Lone Pine, offer stunning scenery and the opportunity to tour movie locations.

Where to stay

Hotel: The Creekside Inn is conveniently located close to shopping and dining and offers a creekside patio with mountain views. The outdoor swimming pool and hot tub are seasonal. Rooms are spacious and beds rated super comfy. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Bishop CA: 354 miles, about 6 hours

Big Sur

Why go: One of the most spectacular coastlines on the planet, Big Sur makes for an incredible weekend trip from San Diego. With several beautiful state parks and a historic lighthouse, Big Sur is an exhilarating outdoor adventure almost any time of year.

Bixby Creek Bridge Big Sur California
Bixby Bridge is a much-photographed spot in Big Sur!

Top things to do: The Big Sur drive, in and of itself, is a super fun experience.

Hiking Big Sur is a great way to get out and explore the coastline: try the scenic ocean view trails in Point Lobos State Park or Garrapata State Park at the north end of Big Sur, or the hikes through tall redwoods in Limekiln State Park at the south end of Big Sur.

One of the most fun things to do in Big Sur is a visit to Pfeiffer Beach, for its purple sand and beautiful sea arch.

At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, picturesque McWay Falls offers a beautiful sight. You may also see California condors in the eucalyptus trees in the park.

There are numerous scenic overlooks all along the Big Sur coast. Bixby Creek Bridge is a must-stop for photos: the single arch bridge is perched on the very edge of the shore and makes a dramatic picture.

And take a guided tour of Point Sur Light Station if it fits in your itinerary: the lighthouse is beautiful and the views stunning.

A two-day Big Sur road trip is the perfect way to take in the sights along this magnificent coast.

Where to stay

Hotel: Splurge weekend? Consider a stay at Ventana Big Sur! The adult-only resort is located on a hill overlooking the Big Sur coastline and features beautiful rooms and an onsite restaurant. Book a stay here!

Hotel: You can also stay in Cambria, the charming coastal village south of Big Sur, and explore from there during the day. Moonstone Landing is an oceanfront property, with all rooms offering a full or partial ocean view. There is a hot tub, and the beach is just across the road. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Big Sur: 418 miles, about 7 hours and 15 minutes

Yosemite National Park

Why go: Yosemite National Park is California’s most beloved national park. With its gorgeous granite cliffs and waterfalls, Yosemite makes for a fabulous weekend trip from San Diego.

If you plan a trip for the off season, you may even be able to enjoy the park in relative quiet!

Half Dome Yosemite NP California
Half-Dome is one of Yosemite’s magnificent sights!

Top things to do: If you are a first-time visitor to Yosemite National Park, you will likely want to spend most of your weekend in Yosemite Valley, where the park’s most famous sights are located.

To see Yosemite’s waterfalls at their best, visit in the spring or early summer. But expect the park to be crowded at these times!

Visiting a couple of Yosemite’s great viewpoints is a must on any trip: Tunnel View and Glacier Point can be accessed by car, but Glacier Point is closed during the winter.

If you want a quieter trip, try exploring the lesser-visited (but still beautiful) portions of the park. Drive Tioga Pass Road, where you can hike and sightsee. Or visit the Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoias.

Another strategy for beating the crowds is to visit in the low seasons. Winter in Yosemite is super beautiful, and you can do snowshoe hikes or just enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Late fall and early spring are other times when you will find the park less crowded. Not everything is open, but Yosemite Valley is open all year.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This lovely apartment is situated inside Yosemite National Park, about a 30-minute drive from Yosemite Valley. The cozy one-bedroom apartment features a full kitchen, and spacious living and sleeping spaces. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: This beautiful home features three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a game room, a pool and hot tub, and mountain views. perfect for families or small groups! It is located between Mariposa and Oakhurst, with access to the Arch Rock Entrance and the South Entrance to Yosemite. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Yosemite National Park: 399 miles, about 6 hours and 30 minutes

Weekend Road Trips from San Diego to Small Mountain Towns

Big Bear Lake

Why go: Big Bear Lake, a mountain lake surrounded by the San Bernadino National Forest, is a beloved getaway destination in Southern California.

With its scenic setting and year-round offerings for recreation, Big Bear Lake definitely ranks as one of the top weekend getaways from San Diego!

Big Bear Lake California
Big Bear Lake in Southern California

Top things to do: Visit in the warm weather months to enjoy fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. Rent a boat and get out onto the water. From kayaks and canoes to pontoon boats, you can rent a variety of boats at Big Bear. You can even jet ski or wakeboard!

In the winter, enjoy some of the best downhill skiing and snowboarding in the state at Big Bear Mountain Resort. You can also enjoy tubing or snow play, or go for snowshoe hikes to enjoy the winter wonderland scenery.

The Village at Big Bear makes for a great wander any time of year. Browse the boutique shops for specialty gifts and antiques. Dine at a restaurant with a view. Relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Where to stay

Resort: WorldMark Big Bear Lake offers apartment units with full kitchens. The resort features a seasonal outdoor pool and hot tub, tennis courts, and barbecue facilities. WorldMark Resort is located close to dining and shopping. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: This beautiful cabin has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath, a jacuzzi, and a fireplace. The home is located in a quiet cul-de-sac, close to the lake, skiing, and the Village. A fully stocked kitchen allows you to cook should you so choose. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Big Bear Lake: 145 miles, about 3 hours


Why go: A charming little town famous for its apple orchards, Julian makes for a laid-back weekend trip from San Diego.

As a Gold Rush mining town, Julian also has a rich history worth exploring. And its beautiful setting offers lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation!

Apple picking in orchard
Apple picking is a popular fall activity in Julian!

Top things to do: Visit Julian in the fall to pick your own apples. It’s a fun activity for kids and adults alike! Or go panning for gold at an area mine: Julian Mining Company is located just outside town.

If you want to learn more about Julian’s history, don’t miss the Julian Pioneer Museum.

Julian’s Main Street is small and charming, with an Old West look and feel. You can browse the small shops for specialty gifts or antiques. You can even take a tour in a horse-drawn carriage!

And of course, when in Julian, you have to try the apple pie: Julian Pie Company and Mom’s Pie House are both on Main Street. you will also find cider here: both hard and regular.

If you are looking for outdoor activities, Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, close to Julian, offers hiking trails for all skill levels. Lake Cuyamaca offers boating and kayaking.

Visit Julian during the holidays to experience an old-world Christmas. You will feel the nip in the air, perhaps see snow on surrounding mountains, and enjoy strolling the town, all dressed up for Christmas.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This lovely cottage is located about 9 miles from the town. The one-bedroom, one-bath home features a deck with built-in splash pool and a fabulous view. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Quiet Mind Mountain Lodge, Retreat and Spa overlooks Lake Cuyamaca and features spacious suites with lake and mountain views. Enjoy the onsite spa, restaurant, and outdoor jacuzzi. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Julian: 60.6 miles, about 1 hour and 15 minutes


Why go: Located in the San Jacinto mountains, Idyllwild is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The tiny town offers the opportunity to slow down, relax, and savor the beauty of your surroundings.

Mount San Jacinto State Park Idyllwild California
Mount San Jacinto State Park offers hiking in the summer

Top things to do: Idyllwild is also the gateway to Mount San Jacinto State Park. Outdoor activities are popular in and around Idyllwild. Bring your mountain bikes and discover the many scenic rides here that range from easy to strenuous.

You can also go bouldering or rock climbing. Hikers can have their pick of beautiful trails of varying length and difficulty.

Every season in Idyllwild is beautiful: spring brings wildflowers, summers are warm and ideal for outdoor activities, fall brings beautiful leaf colors, and in winter, the town is a snow-covered wonderland.

If you love nature, you will want to visit in every season to enjoy the quiet beauty of the National Forest that surrounds the town.

The town features lovely art galleries and boutique shops. Idyllwild also has great restaurants, so bring your appetite!

Where to stay

Hotel: The Grand Idyllwild Lodge offers units with hardwood floors and full kitchenettes. Some units are air-conditioned, some have private patios or balconies, and some have separate sitting areas. The property has a sauna. Book a stay here!

Hotel: The Creekstone is a modern rustic-feel hotel with nine well-appointed rooms, seven of which feature fireplaces. The hotel offers free parking and free wifi. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Idyllwild: 113 miles, about 2 hours.

Wine Country Weekend Getaways from San Diego

Temecula Valley

Why go: If you are looking for a relaxing weekend getaway from San Diego, head to the Temecula Valley! SoCal’s wine country is beautiful and laid back, and you can do as much or as little as you want. And you don’t have to be oenophile to enjoy Temecula!

Temecula Valley Southern California
Go ballooning over the Temecula Valley

Top things to do: If you enjoy wine, plan a tour of some of the valley vineyards, where you can enjoy wine tasting with a view of the picturesque rolling hills and vineyards. You can even tour in a horse-drawn carriage!

Adventurous visitors can enjoy hot air ballooning for panoramic views over the vineyards and citrus orchards.

Old Town Temecula is a must-visit. Admire the historic architecture (City Hall is stunning!), go antiquing, dance to country music, browse the boutique stores, and eat at great restaurants, including Mexican at The Bank (because it is housed in the town’s original bank building!) or pizza at The Goat and Vine.

Go golfing at one of six area golf courses, enjoy horseback riding through the rolling countryside, or try you luck at the local casino. Temecula has lots of day spas and spa resorts, so work a pampering treatment into your weekend.

Where to stay

Vacation Rental: This lovely private studio is the perfect couples weekend retreat. The studio features a super comfy king bed and a full kitchen. The property is situated close to several wineries and has a private patio with outdoor seating and access to an outdoor pool. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: This beautiful vineyard retreat can accommodate up to 6 guests. The 3-bed, 3-bath property is perched on a hilltop, with gorgeous views of the countryside and the hot air balloons! Inside, you will find beautifully-appointed living and sleeping spaces and a chef’s kitchen. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Temecula: 58.5 miles, about 1 hour

Santa Ynez Valley

Why go: The charming towns of Santa Ynez Valley will charm you, and the scenic countryside, with its vineyards, orchards, and pastures, will captivate you.

If you are considering relaxing and romantic weekend getaways from San Diego, head to the Santa Ynez Valley!

Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley
Picturesque Solvang offers a bit of Europe in California!

Top things to do: Each of the towns in the Santa Ynez Valley has something fun and unique to offer, so you can’t go wrong exploring any of them. Solvang is known for its Danish architecture (and giant windmills!) and hard-to-resist bakeries. Los Olivos is home to boutique shops and galleries and tasting rooms.

Santa Ynez and Los Alamos are Wild West themed, complete with saloons and feed stores. In Buellton, you can taste moonshine at an award-winning distillery. Ballard has historic homes, and a little red schoolhouse (that has been open since 1883!).

Beyond the towns, you can drive the scenic countryside, tour area vineyards, do bike tours, or go boating on Lake Cachuma. Explore the outdoors on hiking trails.

Old Mission Santa Ines is a must-visit, and there are lots of fun little museums to tour if you enjoy local history and culture.

Where to stay

B&B: With its beautiful garden, the Ballard Inn & Restaurant makes for a super romantic Santa Ynez Valley stay. Each room in the inn is unique, and the onsite restaurant is famed for its wine country cuisine and charming ambience. Bikes are available for use during your stay. Book a stay here!

Vacation Rental: The guesthouse on Triple B Ranch is super spacious, with two bedrooms and one bath. Beautiful pastoral views and Santa Ynez Valley sunrises and sunsets will delight you. The secluded location is just a short drive from shopping and dining. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to the Santa Ynez Valley: 248 miles, about 3 hours and 45 minutes

Guadalupe River Valley

Why go: Across the international border in Baja California, Mexico, the Valle de Guadalupe is known for its vineyards and Baja Med cuisine. If you want to experience a weekend in Mexico’s beautiful wine country, remember to pack your passport! And rent a 4WD high clearance vehicle for the dirt roads in the valley.

Grape vines with bunches of grapes
Wine tasting is big in the Guadalupe Valley

Top things to do: There are several dozen wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, so put wine tastings on your weekend itinerary. From large wineries to boutique operations, you can tour some of the area’s best-known producers. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley as you sip!

Just like Napa Valley, the Valle de Guadalupe is just as well known as a culinary destination as it is a wine destination. Home to some of the best restaurants in Latin America, the valley has one Michelin-starred restaurant so far. Many restaurants have onsite gardens and offer farm to table cuisine.

Other than enjoying the food and wine, enjoy an ATV off-road tour, visit the Museum of the Vine and Wine, or book a spa day. Ensenada is about a 45-minute drive, if you also want to enjoy the beach on your weekend.

Where to stay

B&B: Terra del Valle has a beautiful location, with a view of the mountains. The rustic property is well-maintained and has lovely gardens. Each room comes with a patio or balcony. Breakfast is rated highly. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Mexico en la Piel features air-conditioned rooms with patios and mountain views, and a garden and terrace. Some rooms have separate sitting areas. Free parking and free wifi are offered and there is an onsite restaurant. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Valle de Guadalupe: 85.9 miles, about 1 hour and 45 minutes

Weekend Trips from San Diego to Cool Coastal Towns

San Luis Obispo

Why go: San Luis Obispo is not a beach town, but it is just a short drive from the ocean. Its lively walkable downtown, charming wine district, and great restaurants make San Luis Obispo a fun weekend getaway from San Diego.

Vineyards in San Luis Obispo California
Vineyards just outside San Luis Obispo

Top things to do: San Luis Obispo is one of those places that doesn’t have a long list of must-see sights but is attractive because of its fun vibe.

Wander the downtown streets, stopping to browse shops selling artisanal foods and olive oils, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and art galleries.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, located right in downtown, is a must-visit if you enjoy local history. There is a small museum, and gift shop, inside the mission.

Just outside town, the Edna Valley wine district makes for a scenic drive. Enjoy wine tastings with a view!

If you enjoy the outdoors, you will want to make the short drive to Montana de Oro State Park, located on the coast. The Bluff Trail at Montana de Oro is one of the most scenic (and easy!) nature trails in the area.

Bring your binoculars and look for otters and sea birds, and whales in the water!

The nearby beach towns of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, and the fishing villages of Morro Bay and Cayucos are fun places to spend a few hours by the ocean.

Where to stay

Hotel: Hotel San Luis Obispo is a contemporary hotel located in the heart of the action, close to shops and dining in downtown. The hotel features spacious, well-appointed rooms. Some rooms have a sitting area and balcony. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Madonna Inn is a luxury hotel with a unique ambience that has made it a landmark in SLO. The hotel offers an outdoor pool, two restaurants, a bakery, and two bars. Rooms feature premium bedding and custom furnishings. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to San Luis Obispo: 312 miles, about 4 hours and 45 minutes


Why go: With its beautiful architecture and European look and feel, the charming coastal village of Carmel-by-the-Sea is a terrific weekend getaway destination.

You will find great shopping, wine tasting, and dining here as well, and a sandy long beach for walking. If you are considering a romantic weekend getaway from San Diego, Carmel fits the bill perfectly!

Carmel Mission Basilica in Carmel by the Sea California
The Spanish mission in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Top things to do: Walking the pretty streets is one of the most fun things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Wear flats or wedge heels, though, because the pavement is not even.

Browse the many world-class art galleries and the boutique shops, and explore the secret courtyards and passageways.

Visit the Carmel Mission, an integral piece of Carmel’s history. Walk the gorgeous Carmel State Beach, or the scenic pathway above the beach.

Watch the birds at the mouth of the Carmel River on Carmel River State Beach: the pelicans look majestic as they take off or land. Enjoy world-class cuisine at the many eateries in the village, and tastings of local wines.

You can also explore nearby Monterey or do the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. Go wine tasting in Carmel Valley, or tour historic homes in Pacific Grove.

Want to spend some time outdoors? Head to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just south of Carmel, for scenic water-view hiking trails and the chance to spot birds, wildlife, and marine life.

Where to stay

Hotel: Carriage House Inn is located conveniently close to shopping and dining in Carmel Village and is under a 10-minute walk to Carmel Beach. Rooms are elegantly furnished and feature fireplaces. Some suites have 2-person spa baths. Breakfast is highly rated and free wine and hors d’oeuvres are offered each evening. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Tradewinds Carmel is located just a couple of blocks from shopping and dining in Carmel Village. The hotel garden features lovely water fountains and a fire pit. Rooms are spacious, with Asian-inspired decor. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Carmel, CA: 442 miles, about 7 hours

Other Weekend Getaways from San Diego

Catalina Island

Why go: Santa Catalina Island is one of the most romantic getaways in California. The island lies just a few miles off the shore of Southern California and is easily accessed by ferry from Dana Point.

Whether you are looking for adventure, or you just want to chill by the water, Santa Catalina delivers!

Catalina Island Southern California
A view of the harbor

Top things to do: Avalon and Two Harbors are the two towns on the island.

In Avalon, you will find beautiful resorts, great shopping and dining, and lots of land and ocean recreational opportunities. Two Harbors, on the western side, is more rustic and a paradise for outdoor lovers.

Take a Hummer tour to explore the interior of the island, and to see the island’s bison population.

Cruise from Avalon to Two Harbors on the open-air Cyclone. At Two Harbors, try some of the hiking trails for beautiful views and the chance to see wildlife.

Stroll the beautiful waterfront in Avalon and tour Catalina Casino, which isn’t a casino but a beautiful theater.

Enjoy a round of golf, go biking, or visit the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden.

You can enjoy tons of water activities as well, from kayaking and paddleboarding to jet skiing and scuba diving.

Allow time for a spa experience and for lounging on a beachfront terrace to watch the sun set!

Where to stay

Hotel: Historic Hotel Atwater is located by the beach in Avalon, near shopping and dining. Rooms are spacious and elegantly appointed, and beds super comfy. Bathrooms are beautiful, with luxurious showers. With your stay, you get access to the Descanso Beach Club. Book a stay here!

Hotel: Pavilion Hotel is a beachside hotel with landscaped tropical gardens and a lounge with fire pits and cabanas. Rooms are elegantly styled, with plush white linens and blue accents. Some rooms have patios. Book a stay here!

Driving distance and time

San Diego to Dana Point: 65.3 miles, about 1 hour, plus ferry time to Catalina Island, about 1 hour and 30 minutes

Map of Weekend Getaways from San Diego


If you want to base yourself in San Diego and just explore during the day, check out our round-up of the best day trips from San Diego!

And while you are in America’s Finest City, don’t forget to visit the stunning Cabrillo National Monument and the first Spanish mission in California, and discover the best Balboa Park gardens to visit!

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Discover the most epic weekend getaways from San Diego! From mountain towns to desert parks and fun cities to wine country, these are all the best places for short road trips from San Diego!


Dhara loves to explore her home state of California. With her husband Kishore, she has done numerous road trips in the state in every season. She hopes to share her love of the Golden State with you, and help you find your own exciting experiences here.

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