The Best Weekend Road Trip Destinations in California Any Time of Year
One of my favorite things about living in California is we have so many incredible travel destinations right in our own backyard. There is always more to explore. Whether you want to cruise down South on Highway One to Big Sur, relax in Carmel-by-the-sea, go oyster shucking in Tomales Bay, surf in San Diego, hike in Santa Barbara, or head over to wine country, there is SO much to see in California that your options are limitless.
Here are my favorite weekend getaways in California that are just a quick flight or a road trip away.
With chic poolside retro-California vibes, great golfing, and hot desert sunshine year round, not to mention some of the best shopping and dining you cna find, California’s Palm Springs is one of the hottest travel destinations (literally). Palm Springs is not only a perfect place to pack up and airbnb with friends or family for a month or so, it’s also a great weekend destination with girlfriends, or a romantic getaway with your loved one, and is also now considered one of the best bachelorette party destinations in the US, too, for its perfect mix of mellow, poolside days and fun nightlife.
Where to stay: the ultra-eclectic and chic Parker Palm Springs or in one of these airbnbs:
Just a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles is uber-trendy Joshua Tree, a haven for those seeking a secluded desert escape. There are so many things to do when traveling to Joshua Tree – from hiking in the National Park, to exploring Joshua Tree Village. And if you want to spend the night – check out my post on the best airbnb’s in Joshua Tree for a getaway.
Half Moon Bay
Only a one hour drive south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is a perfect weekend getaway, with its rolling hills, crashing waves, beautiful beach, rugged cliffs and coastal foggy mornings, you’ll feel as though you’ve woken up in a completely different country.
Where to Stay: The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. The hotel also features a beautiful spa, two golf courses (one designed by Arnold Palmer), incredible dining options (at the Conservatory and Navio), warm fire pits for roasting marshmallows as the sun goes down (yes, you can order s’mores kits -complete with house-made marshmallows, from room service), and unbeatable views everywhere you look. An escape to the Ritz Half Moon Bay is the perfect weekend getaway.
With wineries, beaches, great food and a vibrant downtown, Santa Barbara is a perfect romantic escape from the real world for a weekend.
Where to stay: Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara or Rosewood Miramar for luxury, or in an airbnb like these:
Sonoma County, Napa‘s laid-back little sister, is one of my absolute favorite places to travel in California. With a gorgeous coastline (that makes some of the best pinot noirs in the world!), redwood forests, hillsides of rolling vineyards, a small, farmtown vibe, Sonoma is a great destination any time of the year. In the Summer and Fall, you’ll catch harvest season, one of the most exciting and popular times to visit wine country in California, but in the Spring, you’ll have some of the most beautiful weather of the whole year, and in the winter, you’ll enjoy cozy fireplaces, romantic rainstorms, and amazing red wine.
Where to stay: Kenwood Inn & Spa or in an airbnb like the ones below.
Iconic Napa Valley is ALWAYS my choice of where to go in California for a romantic weekend getaway, a girls trip, or any road trip to visit my favorite wineries. With over 390 physical wineries, that produce over 1,000 brands of wine, Napa Valley is the king of California wine country. The scenery in Napa is almost as spectacular as the wines the region creates. Wine Spectator may have said it best when they said:
“Napa’s natural beauty puts it on the scale of a national treasure such as Yosemite, though with verdant vineyards taking the place of booming waterfalls.”
Where to stay: Las Alcobas Napa Valley for luxury, Villagio in Yountville for its prime location, or an airbnb
Carmel-by-the-sea and Pebble Beach
There may not be a more relaxed, beautiful seaside town in the world than Carmel-by-the-sea. I mean even its adorable name makes me want to pack up and move there for good. A weekend in Carmel means cozying up with your loved one, walking the beach on the crisp coastal mornings, and checking out Pebble Beach’s world-famous Golf Links (head to the restaurant on the 18th hole for lunch – one of my favorite things to do in town!). You can also head into Monterrey for the day and check out the Aquarium, or walk the town!
Where to Stay: L’Auberge Carmel , The Carmel Fireplace Inn, or The Carriage House Inn, or search Airbnb’s for Carmel-by-the-sea here!
Whether it’s for a cozy ski weekend in the winter, or a hot summer weekend spent on the lake, it’s hard to beat Lake Tahoe for a romantic weekend escape.
Where to stay in Tahoe: Edgewood Tahoe – recently ranked the #1 hotel in the US – right on the lake so a beautiful location in the summer, and right near a ton of ski resorts in the winter.
San Diego often gets overlooked in terms of California weekend destinations because it’s kind of a IFYKYK destination, an understated Southern California, Northern Mexico, paradise seemingly reserved for those with second homes or family in the area. Those who know the ropes and all the hot spots. But that’s what I’m here for! Whether you’ve been to SD one time or seven, San Diego is an ideal girls weekend destination or romantic getaway! In fact, check out my post on the ultimate weekend guide to La Jolla and you’ll see just how easy – and amazing, a weekend in SD can be.
Where to stay: Hotel La Valencia, or in an airbnb:
This beachy, hip, laid-back Southern California surf-town staple is one of my favorite places to travel in California, and one of the best places to spend the day in LA. With a killer food and drink scene, chic ocean views, and some of the best beaches around, Malibu is a can’t-miss on your California road trip, or just make this spot the whole destination!
Where to stay: Surfrider Malibu
Or in an airbnb:
From the mountains to the beach, to the trendy cafes and instagram-worthy views, to the bustling sidewalks and palm-lined streets, the City of Angels has it all, and is a great location for a weekend away.
Where to stay: The Beverly Hills Hotel for luxury, or the new hot spot Santa Monica Proper
Waking up in Big Sur is one of the most magical feelings in the world. The Santa Lucia Mountains jet up from the Pacific Ocean and create one of the most surreal, majestic parts of California, and the USA. You can spend your days hiking the coast, or driving along Highway One, soaking up all of the views on your way.
Where to Stay in Big Sur: Ventana Big Sur, or a cute airbnb like this one.
Check out these other related posts:
Where to stay in Joshua Tree : The Best Joshua Tree Airbnbs
The best trips to take in your twenties
The best girls trip destinations
The 10 best luxury resorts in the US
What to pack for a beach vacation
The best high-quality matching couples swimsuits
The best travel reward credit cards
The best villas with pools to stay in in Bali
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