The Best Weekend Getaways Near San Diego This Summer
Get out of town to take advantage of wine tasting, remote hiking, camping, and more.
Living in San Diego can feel like a permanent vacation, considering our perfect weather and practically endless number of restaurants, breweries, and cultural events that pop up every weekend. That said, sometimes you need a break from paradise to…well, visit other beautiful and sunny locales.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a more lengthy vacay, here are eight road trips with everything from wine tasting and stargazing to remote hiking and camping. And if you’re not looking to break up your routine in town, we’ve got you covered there too. As always, plan your weekend trips with safety in mind: pack a mask and hand sanitizer, remember to hydrate, bring plenty of sunscreen, pace yourself so you’ll return home with nothing more severe than a hangover, and double check your plans—you don’t want to arrive only to find your destination’s been closed.
Distance from San Diego: 65 miles to Dana Point; 112 miles to Long Beach; plus a one-hour ferry ride.
Catalina Island may seem like it’s just a stone’s throw from Los Angeles, but it’s a whole different world, starting with its charming town, Avalon, where the typical mode of transport is by golf cart. The first thing you need to do after getting off the ferry is to get your Wiki Wacked at Luau Larry’s, right on the main boardwalk. It’s not nearly as painful as it sounds—a Wiki Wacker is a fruity, rum-based cocktail that comes with a must-have straw hat you’ll see all over the island. Once you have the lay of the land (this is where the golf cart comes in), you’ll have your pick of water activities like scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, spearfishing and parasailing, or stay on land and go hiking, ziplining, off-roading, or visit the local roaming buffalo.
Yes, there is a herd of around 150 buffalo that call the island home, which is maintained by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Laze the day away at Descanso Beach, one of the few beaches where it’s legal to drink alcohol with your toes in the sand. If you’re spending a couple of days, be sure to make the trip to Catalina’s other town, Two Harbors. Just a short boat ride from Avalon, Two Harbors has just one restaurant (the burger is the right choice here), a tiny hotel, a campground, and a few rental kiosks for kayaks and snorkeling equipment. It’s a great place to relax, hike, and enjoy a change of scenery. Whatever you do, reserve your ferry ride on the Catalina Express in advance online, it books up fast, especially on weekends and holidays, and you don’t want to show up to a full ferry.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Catalina Island.
Driving distance from San Diego: Three hours to Ventura Harbor, then one to three hours on a ferry to one of the five islands.
Leaving San Diego to go on a beach getaway might seem a bit redundant, but if you’re going to venture to shorelines outside the city, you may as well go for the full monty at Channel Islands National Park.
With a topography and ecology that isn’t really reminiscent of anywhere else in the mainland United States, the five Channel Islands you can access are home to excellent hiking, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, camping, and whale watching. The islands are teeming with wildlife, and a trip to any of them is not only a chance to see thousands of seals and sea lions, but to also take a trip back in time, and see what Pacific islands look like when not exposed to overdevelopment. If you really want to feel like you’re at the end of the world, endure the stomach-churning three-hour ferry ride out to San Miguel Island, the westernmost and most wind-battered of all the islands.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Channel Islands.
Driving distance from San Diego: 40 minutes
Once just a blip on Interstate 5 between San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside has quietly grown into a full-fledged getaway destination in the last few years, while somehow avoiding becoming another gentrified beach town. Surf culture is embedded in O’side’s DNA, with “one of Southern California’s most consistent surf spots'' along its nearly four miles of coastline, according to the Encyclopedia of Surfing. The most popular surfing spots are at Oceanside Pier View South Beach and Oceanside Pier View North Beach, which is also popular with non-surfers for its wide swaths of sand and proximity to restaurants and shopping. Oceanside Harbor is another destination for water activities of all kinds—you’ll find deep sea fishing, whale watching, and sunset cocktail cruises here, as well as smooth, quiet waters for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, plus more beaches with great surfing conditions.
Thirsty travelers will want to check out O’Side Sips, a free, web-based passport program that currently features 29 locations serving up local beers, cocktails and spirits, wine, coffee and tea, and juices. The culinary scene is booming, with plate-sized pancakes at Beach Break Cafe; vegan fare at The Plot, the city’s only zero-waste restaurant; Balinese-inspired fusion fare at Dija Mara; and comfort food made with regional products, twenty taps of local beer, and a killer cocktail menu at Local Tap House. On Thursday evenings, head downtown to the Oceanside Sunset Market, an epic weekly food festival with more than 200 vendors over a four-block expanse that includes an international food court, a world market, live music, and an entire block of dessert stands.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Oceanside.
Driving distance from San Diego: 30 minutes
San Diego’s culinary scene continues to delight us with exciting restaurant concepts, but sometimes you need to shake things up a little. If you’ve been craving something just a little extra, you’re in luck, because with a passport, a 30-minute drive, and a border crossing, you’ll find a culturally diverse, homegrown food destination that rivals any up-and-coming neighborhood. From hip new pop-ups to gourmet sit-downs and a thriving craft beer industry, you’re in for an amazing experience in Tijuana.
A must-visit is Avenida Revolución in Zona Centro, where you’ll find several craft breweries within walking distance, including Telefonica Gastro Park, a central craft brewery, and Cervecería Lírica, surrounded by a variety of food stalls in a welcoming open space. On the other end of the spectrum, Javier Placencia’s Mision 19, gives you an upscale experience and offers both a regular menu that features everything from Pressed Suckling Pig to Risotto Arborio, and an equally thoughtful four-course prix fixe vegan tasting menu.
Where to stay: Find an AirBnb near Tijuana.
Driving distance from San Diego: 75 minutes
While some wine snobs may still scoff at the wines of Southern California in favor of the grapes of Napa or even Paso Robles, the vineyards of Temecula Valley have established a reputation over the last decade for producing fantastic syrahs and cabernets.
With more than 40 vineyards throughout the region, you can find something to satisfy any tasting desire, from lavish, over-the-top wine resorts like South Coast Winery to smaller, mom-and-pop operations like Doffo Winery (which just so happens to feature a fascinating collection of vintage motorcycles). For the easiest, most chill tour ever, hop aboard an authentic, fully-restored 1914 San Francisco cable car and enjoy gorgeous, open-air views of wine country without the hassle of driving. Temecula Cable Car Wine Tours offers a five-hour adventure to three local wineries that includes lunch, as well as private and seasonal tours.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Temecula.
Driving distance from San Diego: 75 minutes
If spending the equivalent of your monthly rent isn’t your idea of a good time, visit Julian, a family-friendly getaway that doesn’t involve endless standing in line or maxing out your credit card. A small, historic gold mining town in the mountains of the far eastern reaches of the county, Julian is most renowned for its apple harvesting season, but there’s plenty to do that’s not apple-adjacent, although if you really crave it, you can still buy a fresh apple pie from Julian Pie Company and Mom’s Pie House or enjoy some cider at Calico Cidery and Julian Hard Cider. Late July brings ‘Sip of Julian,’ featuring local growers and producers of wine, craft beer, specialty cocktails, in addition to delicious hard cider, sampling their hand-crafted beverages.
Julian is also popular with hikers, as a portion of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail cuts through the Cleveland National Forest just south of town. Three Sisters Falls is a highly trafficked trail that can be hiked year-round and features a waterfall among other natural sights. Visit the California Wolf Center for an awe-inspiring educational day among the wolves, or explore the night skies; Julian is a Dark Sky Community that takes active measures to avoid nighttime light pollution. Plan a visit around upcoming celestial events for an unparalleled look at the heavens.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Julian.
Driving distance from San Diego: Four hours
“Solvang” means “sunny field” in Danish, and one stroll through the town will help you understand why it's rightfully referred to as the Danish Capital of America. The small town in the Santa Ynez Valley was intentionally constructed to replicate traditional Danish architecture styles (you bet your butt there’s windmills), and has remained a tourist attraction for its fantastic bakeries, as well as its famed Danish Days folk celebration at the end of each September and Jule Fest during the holiday season.
But the quaint town is a great summer destination too, with less crowds and fairly mild weather. Splurge on a meal at renowned chef Lincoln Carlson’s Coast Range Restaurant or at chef Michael Cherney’s peasants FEAST (and grab some wine and picnic items to go from the adjacent peasants DELI & MARKET). Solvang is also home to more than a dozen tasting rooms, with Lucas & Lewellen (and its sister Toccata label), Crawford Family Wines, and Dana V. Wines representing popular options. This year, Solvang will join the first annual Santa Ynez Valley Pride from June 22 through June 26, including a welcoming party at Dana V Wines and a parade in Downtown Solvang on June 25.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Solvang.
Driving distance from San Diego: Six-and-a-half hours
True outdoor adventure lovers know that the Eastern Sierras are just as exciting to visit in the summer as they are in the winter. Trade your skis for a mountain bike and head to the Bike Park to enjoy over 80 miles of single-track terrain with plenty of jumps, pavers, and drops, plus a beginner-friendly Discovery Zone. In July, guided climbing adventures offer the opportunity to scale rugged cliffs on six different routes that progress in difficulty.
If you prefer a more lowkey getaway, you can still take the scenic gondola ride to the top of the 11,053-foot peak. Once you reach the top, snap a selfie with the summit sign, learn more about the mountain at the interpretive center, and grab lunch before you make your way back down. There are also a wealth of hiking trails, the Sierra Star golf course, and landmarks like Devils Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls, plus the Mammoth Lakes Basin where you can kayak, fish, and more.
The food scene on the mountain is nothing to scoff at, check out our dining guide for the best restaurants and bars in the area.
Where to stay: Find an Airbnb near Mammoth Lakes.