Best Weekend Getaways in California

California offers a diverse array of destinations for a weekend getaway. From small towns to National Parks and beach resorts there is something for singles, couples and families alike. Find here somegreat suggestions for your weekend in California.

14 Amazing Weekend Trips in California

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Recommended by Lina from BucketListPlaces.com

Lassen Volcanic National Park began as two separate national monuments-Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument-designated by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1907. The Lassen Peak rules the landscape here and is the world’s largest plug dome volcano.

At 10,457 ft tall, Lassen Peak is officially an active volcano and signs of activity, though minor, are abundant in the park. The strongest reminder of the volcano’s might came as recently as 1914 when the last major eruption took place. Though in places its calm, serene and snow covered landscape often hide the real torrid volcanic action lying just below.

The park contains all four types of the world’s volcanoes-Cinder Cone, Shield, Composite, and Plug Dome.  This cold volcanic surrounding connects the visitor to all those that had passed through before them going back to the four native tribes, the Atsugewi, Yana, Yahi, and Maidu which frequented the area.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach

The Queen Mary in Long Beach- weekends in California
The Queen Mary in Long Beach

Recommended by Sarah from A Free Drink

The majestic and historic ocean liner, the Queen Mary is a perfect place for a weekend in California.   The Queen Mary was launched and made her maiden voyage from England to the States in 1936 and was known as the ultimate in luxurious transatlantic travel.    

The Queen Mary is now moored in Long Beach Harbour and is both a Historic Hotel of America and list on the National Register of historic places.

Step onto her historic decks and you’ll find all the glamour associated with luxurious 1930’s travel.  Staterooms have portholes and private bathrooms.  Sit on the deck enjoying a cocktail, or take advantage of the plethora of tours available to learn about her history.  

Tours include visiting the engine rooms, seeing the “below decks” experience, and the haunted encounter, where you can learn about all the myths and legends of this famous ocean liner.  For food and drinks, there are bars and restaurants, with the champagne Sunday brunch a clear winner!

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach - weekend getaway in California
Pismo Beach

Recommended by Disha Smith from Disha Discovers

There are so many fun weekend getaways in California and Pismo Beach is one of them. Located on California’s famous central coast, Pismo Beach is an idyllic beach town with so much to offer.

Pismo City Beach offers the ultimate beach relaxation spot. You can also hang out at the Pismo Beach Pier and look for marine life. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can do some fishing from here as well. Afterward, head over the pedestrian-only promenade.

Another fun thing to do is to explore Dinosaur Caves Park. This park offers picturesque views of the shoreline. If you’re into shopping, you can head to Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. A trip to Avila Hot Springs is also a must.

Lastly, while in Pismo Beach, make sure you try the local seafood. There are several places to get fish and chips. You’ll definitely want to try the famous clam chowder at Splash Cafe.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park- weekend getaways in California
Yosemite National Park

Recommended by Claudia Tavani, My Adventures Across The World

One of the best places for a getaway in California is Yosemite National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 thanks to its impressive biodiversity, is one of the best national parks in California for hiking – it has more than 1200 km of trails of varying difficulty levels. If you are looking for something challenging, opt for the Half Dome hike. The Mirror Lake Look, on the other hand, is easier.

Yosemite is a great place to admire wildlife, with many species of animals and birds.

Finally, one of the most impressive spots there is Yosemite Fall, , the fifth highest waterfall in the world with a height of 740 meters, whose top you can reach via yet another hike.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach in San Diego, California with the Crystal Pier.
Pacific Beach in San Diego, California with the Crystal Pier

Recommended by Jenessa Baird-Van Woerkom from Destination Daydreamer

Pacific Beach is a relaxed San Diego surfer-neighborhood perfect for a summer California getaway. Pacific Beach is home to Crystal Pier which is a perfect spot to walk above the ocean with fun views of the surfers catching the waves below. Plus there are even cottages on Crystal Pier you can book to sleep with the ocean crashing below you!

Enjoy biking or rollerblading on the beautiful, oceanfront Pacific Beach boardwalk either north to gorgeous La Jolla or south to Mission Bay. And experience an amazing, guided, morning yoga practice on a hill overlooking the ocean at Palisades Park with Namasteve Yoga. And for two streets full of cute shops to explore, head to Garnet Ave and Mission Blvd!

Make sure to get breakfast from the Pacific Beach classic: Kono’s Surfer Club Cafe. Try any of the ‘Kono’s Classics’ and enjoy your meal outside and across the boardwalk to watch the surfers while you eat. Then pick up lunch or dinner from Taco Surf PB for some awesome Mexican food from a chill surfer hangout!

Idyllwild

Idyllwild California weekend trip
Idyllwild

Recommended by Sharon Odegaard from Exploring Our World

The friendly mountain town of Idyllwild makes a perfect weekend getaway from city life as it’s just a two-hour drive from San Diego or Los Angeles. Set in a forest landscape and ringed by rocky mountains, Idyllwild offers the comforts of cabins and lodges and restaurants as a base for exploring the outdoors.

This mile-high retreat is located in the San Bernardino Forest. And just over the nearby San Jacinto Mountains is Palm Springs. Hiking trails range from easy to strenuous climbs.

The Idyllwild Regional Park boasts 200 acres of picnic area and five hiking trails. You can also mountain bike or challenge yourself on the rock-climbing courses.

When you’re ready to relax, head to Middle Ridge Winery downtown and sample the legendary pinto grigios. The proprietors love their guests and will make sure you enjoy your time at the winery.

The mayor of Idyllwild is a Golden Retriever, and the town welcomes all dogs. So, feel free to bring along your pooch. Then breathe in the pine-scented air, get out in nature, and wander through the charming downtown. You’re sure to feel refreshed and recharged after spending a weekend here.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park - weekend getaways in California
Death Valley National Park

Recommended by Neha from Travelmelodies

Death Valley, the name may sound scary, but unlike the name the place has natural beauty in the dry desert that is hard to find anywhere else. It is one of the largest national parks in the US and makes for a great weekend trip especially from Las Vegas and Los Angeles. 

The place is the lowest, driest and hottest place in the US apart from being the world’s hottest place. The temperatures can peak to 130 degree Fahrenheit in summer making it difficult. 

There is so much to see in Death Valley California but have to be mindful of the hot and dry weather. It is advised to carry water to keep yourself hydrated. Begin by visiting the Visitor Center and gathering the information and maps. Zabriskie Point is the closest point to the Visitor Center and popular for its rocky formations, especially at sunrise and sunset. Badwater Basin, Dante’s View, Artist’s Drive are a few must-visit spots to experience the varied landscape. 

Half Moon Bay

Beach and seaside cliffs at Half Moon Bay California
Beach and seaside cliffs at Half Moon Bay California

Recommended by Alisha Mansfield from Travel Today Work Tomorrow.

If you want to see the perfect example of an idyllic California beach town, look no farther than Half Moon Bay. A northern California favorite! Located a short drive from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. 

This cozy beach town offers numerous activities for any traveler to enjoy. One of the popular things to do is to walk or bike the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail. The trail stretches for four scenic miles along the beach and stunning pacific coast. 

A trip to Half Moon Bay is not complete without indulging in some delicious and fresh seafood. Enjoy a meal at one of our favorite restaurants Sam’s Chowder House, for a buttery lobster roll and oceanfront dining. 

For some of the best views in town, you must visit the Ritz Carlton. The luxurious hotel sits on a bluff providing panoramic views of the pacific ocean. Finish your day snuggled up around one of their fire pits, with a drink in hand, and catch the beautiful California sunset. 

Coronado Island, San Diego

Scenic walkway in Coronado at Ferry Landing
Scenic walkway in Coronado at Ferry Landing

Recommended by Jumana of Planet Hopper Girl

Coronado Island is a cute little island near the San Diego city, which is famous for open-air amusements and palm-lined streets making it a popular tourist destination in a San Diego vacation itinerary.

You can reach here by crossing the famous San Diego Coronado bridge that connects the island with the city. This is a very charming island with multiple beaches and parks, the major one being the bay view park giving a fantastic backdrop view of the San Diego city. 

Island offers multiple relaxation options including delicious seafood, lots of local shops, and outdoor activities in the sea in the awesome Californian weather. You can explore the island by taking a bike tour or riding on a segway. Paddleboarding and kayaking are popular activities in the bay as well, with lots of tour operators offering the service.

Coronado Ferry Landing is the most famous spot on the island. Downtown Coronado has multiple historic buildings and houses, and taking a stroll around this area enjoying local food adds to a relaxing weekend getaway in Coronado.

Malibu

Malibu - getaway trips in California
Malibu

Recommended by Nicole at The Abroad Blog

A weekend getaway in Malibu has to be on everyone’s California bucket list! Malibu is situated west of downtown Los Angeles and is probably most famous for its celebrity residents. However, there’s a lot to see in Malibu too! First, I recommend checking out Zuma Beach, one of Malibu’s most pristine beaches.

If you have a car, I also highly recommend cruising through some of the neighborhoods to see the stunning mansions located here. If you’re a fan of ABC’s The Bachelor, check out the Bachelor Mansion, located in the Malibu hills!

Lastly, here’s why you need to do a Malibu Wine Safari during your weekend getaway. Basically, you’ll board an open-air Jeep and drive through vineyards in the hills of Malibu, stopping for wine tastings at several locations. You’ll also be able to meet and feed multiple animals, including Justin Zebrier and Michelle, and Barack O’llama.

There’s also the very famous and Instagrammable meet & greet with Stanley the Giraffe! I couldn’t recommend this activity more for a birthday, bachelorette party, or girls’ weekend!

Big Sur

Scenic McWay Falls near Big Sur - weekend getaways in California
Scenic McWay Falls near Big Sur California

Recommended by Ellie of Ellie’s Travel Tips

In a state with countless gorgeous coastal destinations, Big Sur may just be the cream-of-the-crop. This 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline is located around 2 and a half hours south of San Francisco, a perfect weekend getaway on a Pacific Coast road trip.

When in Big Sur, you will want to spend the majority of your time outdoors. Check out the area’s breathtaking waterfalls surrounded by creeks, rivers, and steep cliffs. The best waterfall to see in Big Sur is McWay Falls found in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Another great way to get to know Big Sur is heading out on one of the city’s nature hikes. For a flat and easier trek, try the Jade Cove Trail—a 1.5-mile bluff trail bringing you through magnificent viewpoints of the neighboring ocean.

Finally, grab your camera and head over to the historic Bixby Bridge, one of California’s most popular photo spots.

Sonora

giant big Red Wood tree in Calaveras big trees state national park in California
giant big Red Wood tree in Calaveras big trees state national park in California

Recommended by Elaina Vieira of Mind Over Matter Travel

If you’re looking to step back in time to California’s Gold Rush Era, look no further than Sonora, CA. In the heart of the gold country, Sonora’s historical significance, charming attractions, and friendly locals make it the perfect weekend getaway.

This town offers several things to do with something for everyone! Do you love nature? Hike Dragoon Gulch trail or visit nearby Calaveras Big Tree State Park.

Are you a foodie? Find fresh produce at the farmer’s markets or indulge in one of the locally-owned eateries. Do you prefer a drink? Grab a beer at Sonora Brewing Co. or sample hard cider at Indigency Reserve.

Are you a history buff? Hop over to Columbia State Historic Park or Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Above all, don’t forget to take a stroll down Washington Street in Historic Downtown Sonora. Here, you’ll find antique shops, boutiques, saloons, restaurants, emporium stores, and the famous Red Church at the end of the road.

Santa Cruz

View of the beach in Santa Cruz, weekend trip ideas in California
View of the beach in Santa Cruz, California.

Recommended by Ale Leon of Sea Salt & Fog

Santa Cruz, California is tucked away on the central coast, with perfect cool weather, beautiful ocean views, and stunning redwood forests.

The town sits between the ocean and the mountains and makes an easy weekend getaway from San Francisco – which is less than an hour and a half drive away. The most well-known attraction in Santa Cruz is the Boardwalk, a beachfront, old-fashioned amusement park. This is a must-visit, especially in the summer. 

To see the best of the town, head over to West Cliff Drive. Here, you’ll be able to access surf spots, beaches, and people watch while walking along the cliffs that border the Pacific. 

For a change of scenery, head up to the forests. Big Basin State Park and the Forest of Nisene Marks are great local spots for hiking along the redwoods. 

Back in town, make sure you grab food at one of the local joints. Walnut Avenue Café is great for brunch. 

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park - Weekend Getaways in California
Joshua Tree National Park

Recommended by by Meg Atteberry of Fox in the Forest

Want to feel as though you’ve left the Earth altogether on your weekend getaway? A visit to Joshua Tree National Park will make you feel as though you’ve landed on another planet, which makes it the perfect California escapade if you’re in the mood for some seriously unique time in nature.

Joshua Tree is where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, creating a beautiful, other-worldly landscape where you’ll never run out of activities.

There are so many different ways to experience Joshua Tree’s desert magic, from hiking the trails that wind through the 800,000 acres of the park to a night spent camping under the stars or even a day spent horseback riding through its alluring landscapes.

If you’re in the mood for some serious adventure, you can also try your hand at the many incredible things to do in Joshua Tree for outdoor enthusiasts, including rock climbing and mountain biking!