Though we might not always have the time to travel far and for weeks at a time, we all have 52 weekends in a year. This means you potentially have 52 weekend getaways!
To get you started, we put together 15 of the best weekend trips from San Diego. If you don’t have a full weekend, check out our list 15 Best Day Trips from San Diego. These day trip destinations also make perfect weekend getaways, but we decided to separate them out based on travel time. The following 15 are destinations where you need at least two days to make the trip worthwhile from San Diego. Are you ready for your next adventure? :)
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Last Updated: May 17, 2020
15 Best Weekend Trips from San Diego
- Catalina Island
- Big Bear
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Cruz Island
- Los Olivos
- Las Vegas
- San Luis Obispo
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
- Phoenix, AZ
- Death Valley National Park
- Hearst Castle
- Mammoth Lakes
- Yosemite National Park
1. CATALINA ISLAND
Distance: 2 hrs by car & 1 hr by ferry from Long Beach (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Catalina Island Casino, Catalina Island Conservancy, Garden to Sky Trail
What to Eat: Bluewater Grill, The Lobster Trap, Maggie’s Blue Rose
Close to 1 million people visit Catalina Island every year. You can take glass bottom boat tours, scuba dive, snorkel, or just relax on the beach. There are plenty of activities to fill a weekend. Also, if it’s your birthday, the ferry ride is free!
Distance: 147 mi / 2 hrs 40 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Big Bear Discovery Center, Boulder Bay Park, Big Bear Alpine Zoo
What to Eat: Teddy Bear Restaurant, Grizzly Manor Cafe, Tropicali
Big Bear Lake is Southern California’s largest recreation lake and provides a beautiful backdrop for a weekend getaway. During the summer you can fish, hike, camp, kayak, and more. If you visit during winter, you can ski or snowboard!
Distance: 206 mi / 3 hrs 15 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market, Ojai Meadows Preserve, Rose Valley Falls Trail
What to Eat: The Ojai Beverage Company, Nocciola, The Ranch House
Spanish architecture, fruit groves, and wineries make this a common getaway for South Californians.
4. Santa Barbara
Distance: 218 mi / 3 hrs 25 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Shoreline Park, Old Mission Santa Barbara, Stearns Wharf
What to Eat: Yoichi’s, Brophy Bros, Caruso’s
Beautiful mountains, rolling valleys, and picturesque beaches make for the perfect weekend getaway. Now add a great wine scene and you’re good to go. Keep yourself busy by getting outdoors, eating delicious food, or perusing the shops.
Distance: 3 hrs by car & 1 hr by ferry from Ventura (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Scorpion Beach, Smugglers Cove, Visitor Center
What to Eat: No food services on the island
Explore the beauty of the Channel Islands National Park on Santa Cruz Island. You can kayak, camp, hike, scuba dive, snorkel, and more! Keep your eye out for the island wildlife too.
6. Los Olivos
Distance: 252 mi / 4 hrs (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Wine Tasting, Gallery Los Olivos, Los Olivos General Store
What to Eat: Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe, Panino, BBQ in the Stix
This historic town is tucked away in the Santa Ynez Valley. Check out the amazing views of vineyards, lavender farms, browse through the art scene, go antique shopping, or join in on one of their fun festivals. Also, don’t forget to check out the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail!
Distance: 252 mi / 4 hrs (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Old Mission Santa Ines, Hans Christian Andersen Park, Nojoqui Falls Park
What to Eat: Succulent Cafe, Paula’s Pancake House, Copenhagen Sausage Garden
Solvang, which means ‘sunny field’ in Danish, lives up to its name. It’s also in the Santa Barbara County wine country. Besides tasting wines, you can take a ride on a horse-drawn trolley, go boutique-shopping, bike through town, and immerse yourself in the rich history in what is considered the Danish capitol of America.
We always thought Vegas was just the glitz and glamour of the strip, before we lived there, but there’s much more to explore than just the strip. You can hang out with the locals in Downtown Vegas or have an outdoor adventure at Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire.
You can check out our Ultimate Las Vegas Bucket List of 101 Things to Do to make most of your time there.
9. San Luis Obispo or SLO
Distance: 311 mi / 4 hrs 50 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Mission San Luis Obispo, Bubblegum Alley, Madonna Inn
What to Eat: Taste, Old San Luis BBQ, Goshi Japanese Restaurant
Hiking, biking, surfing, wine, farm-to-fork dining, and beaches are just a few of the reasons people visit SLO. Combine this with 315 days of sunshine and you’ll never want to leave.
Distance: 323 mi / 5 hrs 15 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: General Sherman, Moro Rock, Tunnel Log
What to Eat: Sierra Subs and Salads, Ol Buckaroo, Still Life Cafe
Immerse yourself in giant trees that feel like they’re straight from fairy tales. Camp, hike, or just take a scenic drive through the forest. Don’t forget to visit some of the largest trees in the world!
11. Phoenix, Arizona
Distance: 355 mi / 5 hr 10 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Desert Botanical Garden, Camelback Mountain, Musical Instrument Museum
What to Eat: Little Miss BBQ, Cocina Madrigal, Harumi Sushi
Where to Stay: Royal Palms Resort & Spa (luxury), Kimpton Hotel Palomar (mid-range), Hampton Inn Phoenix (budget), Search Airbnbs Nearby
Phoenix has beautiful weather and activities you can do year-round. Plus, if you love golf, it’a great place to hit the course.
Distance: 352 mi / 5 hr 20 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Artists Palette, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Badwater Basin
What to Eat: Timbisha Tacos, Panamint Springs Restaurant, Stovepipe Wells Restaurant
Where to Stay: The Inn at Death Valley (mid-range), The Ranch at Death Valley (mid-range), Death Valley Inn and RV Park (budget), Search Airbnbs Nearby
Death Valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America, but offers beautiful scenery and a variety of landscapes. Surrounded by mountains that still see snow, you’re able to see both extremes from one point. Just avoid going in the summer!
13. Hearst Castle
Distance: 354 mi / 5 hr 35 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Heart Castle Tour, Old San Simeon, Elephant Seals
What to Eat: Chief’s Galley Cafe, Camp Hill BBQ, Sebastian’s
Where to Stay: J Patrick House Bed & Breakfast (luxury), Moonstone Landing (mid-range), San Simeon Lodge (budget), Search Airbnbs Nearby
Tour this National and California Historical Landmark in central California, and spend the rest of the weekend exploring the surrounding area. Oh yea, did I mention that they have Zebras?
14. Mammoth Lakes
Distance: 422 mi / 6 hrs 25 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Rainbow Falls, Mammoth Mountain, Devils Postpile National Monument Monument
What to Eat: Toomey’s, The Stove Restaurant, John’s Pizza Works
Where to Stay: The Westin Monache Resort (luxury), Tamarack Lodge (mid-range), Sierra Lodge (budget), Search Airbnbs Nearby
Huge mountains, lakes, and deep valleys make this a popular getaway spot. The summer gives you endless places to explore and get outdoors, and the winter time brings skiing and snowboarding.
Distance: 430 mi / 7 hr 10 min (map)
Things You Can’t Miss: Glacier Point, Tunnel View, Half Dome
What to Eat: Village Grill, The Ahwahnee Dining Room, Curry Village Pavillion
Where to Stay: The Ahwahnee (luxury), Yosemite Large Loft Condos (mid-range), Tenaya Lodge (mid-range), Curry Village (budget), Search Airbnbs Nearby
This one is a farther drive but is included because the scenery makes it so worth the trip! Every time we’re in Yosemite, we feel refreshed and inspired. Waterfalls, granite mountains, HUGE Sequoias, and Half Dome makes for an amazing backdrop for a weekend getaway.
More Weekend Trip Ideas Under 7 Hours
- Tijuana, Mexico (20 mi / 35 min / map)
- Rosarito Beach, Mexico (37 mi / 55 min / map)
- Temecula, CA (59 mi / 1 hr / map)
- Ensenada, Mexico (84 mi / 2 hr 5 min / map)
- Anaheim, CA (97 mi / 1 hr 35 min / map)
- Riverside, CA (109 mi / 1 hr 45 min / map)
- Idyllwild, CA (111 mi / 2 hrs 5 min / map)
- Long Beach, CA (114 mi / 1 hr 45 min / map)
- Los Angeles, CA (120 mi / 1 hr 55 min / map)
- Palm Springs, CA (139 mi / 2 hrs 15 min / map)
- Malibu, CA (152 mi / 2 hrs 30 min / map)
- Joshua Tree National Park, CA (164 mi / 2 hrs 45 min / map)
- Lake Havasu City, Arizona (301 mi / 5 hrs 10 min / map)
- Phoenix, AZ (355 mi / 5 hrs 30 min / map)
- St. George, UT (449 mi / 6 hrs 50 min / map)
Map of Best Weekend Trips from San Diego
What is the best weekend getaway you’ve been on? Which of these have you visited?
See More Ideas for San Diego
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.