San Diego is my absolute favorite city in all of California. Not only is it considered the finest city in America, but it’s also famous for its convenient location, perfect weather, major league baseball team, relaxed vibe, nice people, 70 miles of beaches, and so much more.
I was raised here and currently live here, so with over 20 years of being a native San Diegan, I’ve got nothing but amazing things to say about this city.
One of the best things about living in San Diego is all the convenient weekend getaways from San Diego that are easily accessible to you. Within a few hours, you can drive to the most highly-sought after west coast cities in the country!
If you’re planning to visit any of these weekend destinations, be sure to book your tours and hotels in advance! Being the 2nd largest city in California, tourists from all over the world come here to see all that we have to offer, so be sure to save your spot!
Well with that said, I’m excited to share all my suggestions! Here are my top picks for your weekend getaways from San Diego! ☀️
- If you are in a hurry
- 1. Take a weekend trip to the City of Angels: Los Angeles
- 2. Unwind under the Joshua Tree stars for the weekend
- 3. Immerse yourself in nature at Big Bear Lake
- 4. Venture out to Sin City for the weekend
- 5. Relax at a Spanish-style Santa Barbara resort
- 6. Unplug at Death Valley National Park
- 7. Relax by a pool all weekend in Palm Springs
- 8. Marvel at the trees at Sequoia National Park
- 9. Sip on wine and watch butterflies in San Luis Obispo
- 10. Ride a hot air balloon and taste local wine in Temecula
- 11. Escape to a historical hotel on Santa Catalina Island
- 12. Go camping for the weekend at Yosemite National Park
- 13. Get lost at Mammoth Lakes for a winter weekend
- 14. Plan a weekend getaway staycation at Laguna Beach
- 15. Have a weekend filled with activities in Santa Monica
- FAQs about weekend getaways from San Diego
If you are in a hurry
Here are a few things I recommend booking in advance if you’re in a hurry:
- Ride a hot air balloon in Temecula
- See the Vegas night lights in the High Roller
- Enjoy the scenery on the aerial tramway in Palm Springs
Here’s a map for you to see where each weekend getaway destination is located:
under the stars
for nature lovers
for the weekend
by the pool
marvel at the trees
sip on wine
hot air balloon ride
1. Take a weekend trip to the City of Angels: Los Angeles
Los Angeles – otherwise known as the city of stars, the city of Angels, and the biggest city in all of California, is my #1 favorite weekend getaway from San Diego. Being only a 2-hour drive (without traffic) from San Diego, it’s the perfect getaway location!
I recommend checking out The Prospect Hollywood for the best stay in Los Angeles. It’s centrally located in Hollywood, a short drive from the infamous Hollywood Sign, Universal Studios Hollywood, and many more popular attractions in Los Angeles!
Here are a couple of things I recommend checking out while you’re here for the weekend:
- Horseback riding with views of the Hollywood Sign – An absolute must-do!! This is such a unique LA experience and a relaxing break from the city’s hustle and bustle
- Ride the “World’s Shortest Railway” Angel’s Flight Railway – Seen in dozens of Hollywood Movies, this railway takes you about 300 feet (91 meters)
NOTE: LA traffic is unpredictable and no joke – it’s taken me 2 hours to get to Downtown Los Angeles from San Diego before, and it’s also taken me 4 hours. It’s important to plan your tours and activities with that in mind!
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$400/night
2. Unwind under the Joshua Tree stars for the weekend
Joshua Tree National Park is just a short drive from San Diego, about 3.5 hours, 160 miles (257 km) away. The desert has a boatload of activities that are so much fun for the adventurous type of weekend or for those looking to relax for the weekend.
If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, I recommend booking a stay with an outdoor hot tub like this amazing VRBO! Relaxing in the jacuzzi late at night is my absolute favorite thing when staying in Joshua Tree – the stars are unreal!
If you’re looking for more hotel options, definitely check out our post on where to stay in Joshua Tree!
If you’re as interested in stargazing as I am, I recommend booking this tour for an in-depth look at the night sky. Besides stargazing, you’ll also be on the hunt for UFOs on this tour! (Joshua Tree is known for its mysteries and myth conspiracies – so worth checking out!)
TOUR PRICE: US$158/person
3. Immerse yourself in nature at Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is the ultimate San Diego weekend trip for nature lovers and if you enjoy winter sports or water sports. It’s a 3-hour drive from San Diego, about 150 miles (241 km) away, in the San Bernardino Mountains and San Bernardino National Forest.
For the ULTIMATE relaxing getaway, I recommend staying at a charming cabin tucked in an area away from the city, but still a short drive away from the lake and downtown area. This cabin is the perfect spot for couples, families, friends, or anyone just looking to get out of the city for the weekend.
Similar to Joshua Tree, the night sky is a sight to see here. The cabin offers an outdoor hot tub where you can unwind under the stars and a fireplace inside to snuggle next to in the wintertime, so you’ll love it!
PRO TIP: Wear the proper gear and bring chains for your car when you’re here during the winter! The road can get pretty treacherous if you’re not well-equipped.
NOTE: Big Bear Lake is always so packed all year round! I recommend booking your cabin in advance to ensure your weekend getaway goes smoothly.
CABIN PRICE: Cabin starts at US$150/night
4. Venture out to Sin City for the weekend
Las Vegas, AKA Sin City, is nightlife galore! If you’re looking for a fun weekend trip where you can spend the night strolling through the city streets, unwinding at an outdoor swimming pool and cabana after a day of winning (hopefully) at the casinos, or endless entertainment and live shows, this is the place for you.
Las Vegas is a 5.5-hour drive from San Diego, being 340 miles (547 km) away. 2 – 3 days is the perfect amount of time needed to explore this bright city.
I’ve been to Vegas many, many times growing up (I have family there so my Christmases looked a little different). One of my favorite places I had the privilege of staying at was the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino!
Not only is it conveniently located right on the Las Vegas Strip, but they have the best resort with real sand, cabanas to relax in, a lazy river, and a wave pool, perfect for kids to enjoy. I was a kid when I experienced this for the first time and it’s one of my favorite memories in Vegas!
Here are a couple of my favorite things I recommend checking out while you’re there for your weekend getaway:
- Buy a Fat Tuesday (they sell them on every corner), stroll down the Las Vegas Strip and admire all the night lights, and street performers, and take a ride on the world-famous High Roller!
- Walk through the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens! You can do this simple activity within an hour or so – stroll around the indoor gardens and take some photos!
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$150/person
5. Relax at a Spanish-style Santa Barbara resort
Santa Barbara is a 3.5-hour drive from San Diego, 215 miles (346 km) away. Santa Barbara is a huge city with so many things to do, so I recommend taking a few weekend trips here to get a grip on what the city offers.
Santa Barbara offers an excellent experience for wine connoisseurs! For your first weekend getaway to Santa Barbara, I recommend exploring the wine country surrounding the city, Santa Ynez Valley.
Cheshire Cat Inn & Cottages is the cutest boutique hotel for your stay, offering an English-style private patio, garden, and decor that will make you feel like you’re Alice in Wonderland. They even have an evening wine hour for wine tasting and morning coffee, which are great money-saving perks for couples or groups of friends to take advantage of!
PRO TIP: Don’t have a car to get to Santa Barbara? Take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train from San Diego to Santa Barbara for a stunning coastal route!
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$350/night for 2 adults
6. Unplug at Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a 5-hour drive from San Diego, 300 miles (483 km) away. The desert is the ideal weekend getaway if you want to unplug for a few days and relax without the distractions of social media, technology, the city lights, etc…
I recommend visiting in March and April to avoid the extreme heat! The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are an absolute must while you’re here, with picturesque rolling hills of sand (perfect for a photo shoot and sandboarding).
If you choose to hike through the dunes at any time throughout the year, DO NOT hike the dunes anytime past 10 AM! I only recommend hiking in the early morning, it gets dangerously hot during peak-sunny hours.
The best way to experience an unplugged weekend getaway in Death Valley National Park is by semi-committing to the experience in an airstream (don’t worry, it’s a smart airstream)!
This rental is an excellent choice for smaller parties of 2 visiting the desert. The rental comes with an outdoor fire pit, a mineral-filled hot spring pool, and scenic views of the mountains. Sounds like the perfect getaway, right?
AIRSTREAM PRICE: Rooms start at US$180/night
7. Relax by a pool all weekend in Palm Springs
Palm Springs is a 2.5-hour drive from San Diego, about 140 miles (225 km) away. It’s an incredibly popular location for Southern California locals to escape to for the weekend. There’s so much to do here, from a huge art scene to a variety of golf courses, wineries, excellent shopping, and delicious dining options.
I recommend staying at a hotel with a pool where you can truly relax. The Weekend Palm Springs is an excellent choice if you’re willing to splurge a bit and the Orbit In is a relatively cheaper option that I suggest if you’re working with a lower budget.
Here are a few things to do during your weekend getaway:
- Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – This is a scenic ride starting from the desert to the mountains. Watch nature transform as you head to the top and admire the beauty surrounding you! Just make sure to buy your tickets in advance!
- Go hiking along the San Jacinto Mountains – For a unique experience in Palm Springs!
- Visit Palm Springs Art Museum – If you’re interested in modern and contemporary art galleries, this is an excellent museum to explore!
TRAMWAY PRICE: US$30/person
8. Marvel at the trees at Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the country. It holds the largest trees (by volume) in the world, and it’s quite a sight to see.
The park is a 6-hour drive from San Diego, being 362 miles (583 km) away. This is quite a long drive so I recommend leaving as early as you can!
While you’re at Sequoia National Park, I recommend staying at this quiet spa & retreat! It’s the most ~zen~ little retreat that is sure to make you feel refreshed after a whole weekend here. You get the most perfect setting, quiet, surrounded by nature. I mean, what else can you ask for?!
The massive park might be overwhelming to explore when you only have a couple of days to explore. I suggest booking an audio tour that will take you to all the hotspots around the park. You don’t want to miss out on anything important!
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$180/night
9. Sip on wine and watch butterflies in San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is located on California’s central coast, a 5-hour drive and 310 miles (499 km) away from San Diego. It’s another wine country goldmine known for its historic architecture, vineyards, and farm-to-table lifestyle.
It’s another excellent weekend getaway because it takes you to a different environment that isn’t seen in San Diego. The city and beach life don’t exist here, but trading that in for farmland and wine for a weekend makes for a refreshing little getaway.
For the perfect first day, take a short drive to Pismo Beach, visit Monarch Butterfly Grove, and take a tour of the best of San Luis Obispo’s local wines!
This wine tour will conveniently pick you up from Pismo Beach and take you around to 4 different wineries (and no need to worry about driving here)! On the second day, take a drive to Mission San Luis Obispo to explore one of the town’s oldest and most important historic landmarks.
Quality Suites Downtown San Luis Obispo is an excellent hotel that offers complimentary breakfast and a free evening cocktail reception. I love and recommend taking advantage of perks like these because it does save you a pretty penny in the long run!
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$260/night
10. Ride a hot air balloon and taste local wine in Temecula
Temecula Valley is about an hour’s drive, 60 miles (97 km) away. It’s one of the easiest places to visit on this list given how close it is to Downtown San Diego. However, the vibe is a complete world of difference from being here!
The summer is really hot here (and almost unbearable), so I only recommend visiting in the fall, spring, or winter.
This is another inland wine country destination that prides itself on its local wines! I recommend booking this all-inclusive tour for the best experience. The tour guide will take you around the town for 5 hours for an outdoor wine-tasting adventure, trying out some of the most delicious wines in the area. No need for your car while you’re there!
Besides wine tasting, another amazing experience here is riding a hot air balloon! This one-of-a-kind experience is going to be a picture-perfect memory that you’ll never forget! You’ll find miles and miles of rolling hills and vineyards with a pilot pointing out landmarks along the way. Seriously hot air ballooning is THE best experience!
I recommend staying at this amazing villa near the major attractions and wineries! This option is in the heart of Temecula’s wine country, offering an outdoor jacuzzi, a full kitchen, and everything you need to make the villa your home for the weekend.
VILLA PRICE: Starting at US$126/night
11. Escape to a historical hotel on Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina Island is a stunning island off the coast, located a short ferry ride away from ports in Dana Point, San Pedro, and Long Beach. Dana Point is an hour’s drive (65 miles or 105 km) from San Diego. From there, the ferry ride to the island is about 1.5 hours.
The island is the most romantic weekend getaway on this list and is very popular among locals in San Diego as a weekend destination (or even a day trip). It’s known for its sandy beach, clear blue waters, outdoor activities, and wildlife, and has a charming coastal town feel.
For your weekend getaway, I recommend checking out The Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel. This hotel is beautifully decorated with rooms having scenic views, large balconies, and private entrances, great for couples. It was once a historical landmark built by an American author in 1926 as his vacation home. Today, it’s one of the island’s best-selling hotels!
Here are 2 experiences worth checking out while you’re spending the weekend in Catalina:
- Submerge in a 45-minute semi-submarine – See all sorts of sea life in this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
- Scenic tour of Avalon – You can never go wrong with a classic tour! This tour will take you around the island pointing out famous hotspots, historical landmarks, and more.
HACK: Don’t rent a golf cart! It’s much cheaper to take the Garibaldi bus as your mode of transportation.
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$400/night
12. Go camping for the weekend at Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is an excellent weekend getaway destination for anyone who just wants to immerse themselves in nature! Yosemite is about a 7-hour drive away from San Diego – making this trip the longest so far on this list. I’ve done this before so it’s attainable, but I recommend going as early as you can to make the most out of your time at the park.
The best way to experience Yosemite is through a camping trip. GoCamp is an amazing camper RV rental service that offers fully-equipped rental RVs making camping a breeze!
NOTE: Take a trip to the beautiful Muir Woods to see the tallest trees in the world while you’re at Yosemite National Park! They’re about an hour away from each other, making it easy to spend a day or 2 exploring both parks.
13. Get lost at Mammoth Lakes for a winter weekend
Mammoth Lakes, also known as Lake Mammoth, is a 6.5-hour drive away from San Diego, 396 miles (637 km) away. This is another longer trip but it’s worth the drive in the winter!
The Cinnamon Bear Inn is a great hotel right outside of downtown Mammoth and a walk away from all the major spots. There’s even an indoor lounge for guests who want to unwind with a board game… Now that’s a real getaway!
I recommend visiting in the winter because it’s a real-life winter wonderland here! San Diego doesn’t get snow, so places like Mammoth Lakes and Big Bear Lake are quite popular among locals when they want a snowy weekend getaway.
NOTE: The weather gets as low as 11°F (-12°C), so you want to be prepared with all the proper snow gear.
HOTEL PRICE: From US$150
14. Plan a weekend getaway staycation at Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is a shorter distance from San Diego, being a 1.5-hour drive and 80 miles (129 km) away. Laguna Beach is a cute little coastal town with hiking trails, miles of beaches, and parks on every corner.
SCP Seven4One Hotel is a boutique hotel sitting right on the beach offering stunning ocean views, a rooftop lounge for adults, and a few on-site dining options. This is great because if you’re looking for a little weekend getaway “staycation”, you don’t even have to leave your hotel!
In case you do want to leave your hotel, I 100% recommend this amazing surf lesson in Laguna Beach! Laguna Beach is pretty iconic for surfing, so this is a great place to start – you won’t regret it!
HOTEL PRICE: Rooms start at US$300/night
15. Have a weekend filled with activities in Santa Monica
Last but not least, Santa Monica! I had to add Santa Monica to my list here because it’s an easily accessible city for San Diegans to explore, being only a 2-hour drive (136 miles or 219 km) away. Being only a few hours, you can even make this a day trip from San Diego!
Santa Monica is best known for the Santa Monica Pier, beach, Venice Beach in walking distance with the Muscle Beach, skatepark, and so much more. There’s a long list of activities to do here and a weekend getaway might have to turn into a few different vacations to do everything here.
I recommend checking out Shutters On the Beach while you’re here! This GORGEOUS hotel offers the most incredible ocean views and the rooms are just divine – seriously well worth a weekend break! If you’re looking for luxury, this is the place to be!
This city can get pricey when planning a trip here, so make sure to book in advance to get the best deals.
HOTEL PRICE: From US$900
|🏞️ Best national park:||Sequoia National Park|
|💑 Best for couples:||Catalina Island|
|🕺 Nightlife:||Las Vegas|
|🎈 Must try activity:||Hot Air Balloon Ride in Temecula|
FAQs about weekend getaways from San Diego
❤️ What are the best weekend getaways from San Diego?
The best weekend trips from San Diego are Los Angeles and Las Vegas! They all offer SO many fun things to do, and you can go on this trip multiple times and still find new activities to do every single time.
⏳ What are the quickest weekend getaways from San Diego?
The quickest San Diego weekend getaways are Temecula and Palm Springs. They’re both a quick drive (within 1-2.5 hours) from San Diego.
💑 Which weekend getaways from San Diego are most romantic?
The most romantic weekend getaways from San Diego are Catalina Island and Sequoia National Park. Both destinations have beautiful, private, quant hotels that are ideal for couples.
💰 What are the cheapest weekend getaways from San Diego?
The cheapest weekend getaways from San Diego are Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Death Valley National Park because you’re not paying too much for entertainment and transportation when exploring the area.
Now that you know all the best weekend getaways from San Diego, I trust you’ll have the absolute best mini vacation (especially if you book ahead of time and get ahead of the game)!!
All of these destinations from America’s finest city are amazing and I love each one. If I had to pick my top 2 favorites, my favorite weekend trips would be Joshua Tree and Los Angeles!
I’ve had multiple weekend trips to both locations and I truly never get bored. They’re also both vastly different so I like to choose one for each mood I’m in – whether I’m looking for nature + stargazing or city lights + entertainment, both of these offer unique experiences that I absolutely love.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me and safe travels! Xo
(Oh, and leave me a comment below if you visit any of these places, I’d be happy to hear all about it!)
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