Updated December 2023
When it comes to California weekend getaways, there are several choices in the golden state. There are some incredible road trip destinations here in California that make for a wonderful weekend escape. Some of my favorite memories from the last few years are hopping in the car and exploring a new California destination.
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Whether it is southern or northern California, the options from outdoor escapes to city destinations are available in both. You can even road trip down the coast between the major destinations pending how much time you have. If you’re looking for a getaway that is just for the weekend, then any of these below will be a great fit.
For summer months, I love heading out to the coast to get some fresh air and time at the beach. Destinations like Southern California and Palm Springs, I’ll often save for the early fall when the weather has cooled off a bit. And then you have some destinations that are truly year-round like the city of San Francisco or even Yosemite National Park if you don’t mind a bit of snow. Either way, there is a lot to do in California.
Take a look at some of my top picks for epic weekend California getaways.
Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Weekend Getaways in California:
- Palm Springs (Staying at Korakia Pensione), for the best Southern California getaway
- Paso Robles (Staying at Geneseo Inn at Cass Winery), for the best Central California getaway
- Point Reyes (Staying at Nick’s Cove), for the best Northern California getaway
13 Epic Weekend California Getaways
1. San Francisco
One California weekend getaway that I love the most is to the city of San Francisco. After living there in the city for almost a decade, its truly one of the most amazing cities in California. The vibrance and proximity to nature are second to none. From incredible cuisine to be able to be out by the ocean in ten minutes, it always blows my mind. San Francisco is one of my favorites for a short weekend because two full days will give you a great introduction to the city. And you can always save something for the next trip. If you’re up for an early start, catching sunrise from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is something you’ll never forget.
San Francisco Hotel Recommendations
- 1 Hotel, for the best design hotel
- San Francisco Proper, for the best central hotel
- Fairmont San Francisco, for the best Nob Hill hotel
- Hotel Kabuki, for the best neighborhood hotel
Helpful San Francisco Guides to Plan Your Trip
- The Ultimate Local’s Travel Guide to San Francisco
- The best restaurants in San Francisco
- The best hotels in San Francisco
- My secret list of restaurants
- My favorite coffee shops.
- Some great photography locations in the city
2. Palm Springs
If there is one place that I’ve vacationed the most in California outside of the Northern California area, it’s Palm Springs. It’s an awesome ladies’ weekend getaway in California, so I’ve done quite a few trips here with friends. Personally, I love the slow pace in Palm Springs paired with incredible dining and stunning hotels. It’s an amazing spot to go for the weekend and relax poolside with friends.
Palm Springs Hotels Recommendations
- Korakia Pensione, for the best adults-only hotel
- The Kimpton Rowan, for the best downtown hotel
- Sparrows Lodge, for the best design-for-dollar hotel
Helpful Palm Springs Guides to Plan Your Trip
- 20 Best Restaurants In Palm Springs
- The Best Hotels in Palm Springs
- Hip Weekend Guide to Palm Springs
3. Yosemite National Park
When it comes to outdoor travel, Yosemite National Park is hard to beat. The picturesque valley is home to open lands perfect for hiking and exploring. It’s a very special part of California and drive out there is well worth the effort. If you’re able to snag a cabin in the park, it’s super helpful as you can cut down the drive time in and out of the park.
I love catching sunsets on either the valley floor or up from Glacier Point.
Yosemite Hotel Recommendations
- AutoCamp Yosemite National Park, for the best boutique hotel
- Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, for the best resort hotel
- Curry Village Cabins, for the best in-park cabin stay
Helpful Yosemite Guides to Plan Your Trip
4. Northern California — Gold Country
For great family weekend getaways in Northern California, there is so much to do nearby. I love destinations around Gold County for white water rafting and wine tasting. As you head further into the foothills, towns like Auburn, Grass Valley, and Nevada City are incredibly picturesque and close to nature.
I’d recommend exploring more of what is in this area for a weekend away.
Northern California Gold Country Hotel Recommendations
I adore the more recently opened Park Victorian Inn bed and breakfast that overlooks Auburn. You’d be centrally located to most sights in the foothills.
Helpful Gold Country Guides to Plan Your Trip
5. Santa Cruz
When it comes to the northern central coast of California, the most iconic destination is Santa Cruz. Known for its historic pier, quaint downtown, and great surf, Santa Cruz one of the most family-friendly beach towns for those looking for a weekend getaway. The area has a lot to do like hiking the mountains nearby and afternoons at the beach.
Santa Cruz Hotel Recommendations
6. Southern California — Los Angeles to Laguna Beach
There are so many popular weekend getaways in Southern California. Whether it’s a trip to LA to experience Beverly Hills or spend a day at Santa Monica, there is a lot to do there. My personal favorite area of Southern California is Laguna Beach as the beaches there are beautiful and the city itself has so much charm and wonderful art galleries and tasting rooms.
Los Angeles to Laguna Beach Hotel Recommendations
- Santa Monica Proper Hotel, for the best Santa Monica hotel
- Surf and Sand resort, for the best Laguna Beach hotel
Helpful Los Angeles to Laguna Beach Guides to Plan Your Trip
- The 20 Best Restaurants in Laguna Beach
- 19 Incredible Things to Do in Laguna Beach
- Southern California Road Trip Guide: Laguna Beach to Big Bear
7. San Diego
Another weekend getaway down south that is popular is San Diego. There is some beautiful resorts and golf courses along the coastline which makes it an awesome family getaway. The city of San Diego itself has changed a lot, with the downtown popping up with new restaurants and boutiques.
San Diego Hotel Recommendations
- Kimpton Hotel Palomar, for the best downtown hotel
- Fairmont Grand Del Mar, for the best luxury hotel
- Hotel del Coronado, for the best Coronado hotel
- Park Hyatt Aviara Resort & Spa, for the best Carlsbad hotel
8. San Luis Obispo
Known as a college town, San Luis Obispo is home to some great beach destinations in California. Most famed for Pismo Beach, the area is an awesome summer weekend getaway for those who want to make the drive. Downtown San Luis Obispo is lined with great restaurants and there is even local wineries nearby in the county.
San Luis Obispo Hotel Recommendations
- Madonna Inn, for the most unique hotel
- San Luis Creek Lodge, for the best downtown hotel
- Hotel San Luis Obispo, for the best modern hotel
Helpful San Luis Obispo Guides to Help Plan Your Trip
9. Paso Robles
One area for a romantic weekend in California that is often overlooked is Paso Robles. The wine from the Central California wine country region has been highly awarded over the last decade, so if you’re looking for a warm destination with access to great wine and food, this is it. If you’re looking for day trip options, consider Hearst Castle San Simeon and Morrow Bay State Parks are nearby and worth a visit.
Paso Robles Hotel Recommendations
- Geneseo Inn at Cass Winery, for the best design hotel
- Hotel Cheval, for the best luxury hotel
- The Piccolo, for the best downtown hotel
- Allegretto Vineyard Resort, for the best vineyard resort
Helpful Paso Robles Guides to Plan Your Trip
- The Design Lover’s Guide to a Central California Road Trip
- The 13 Best Paso Robles Hotels For All Budgets
10. The Marin and Sonoma Coast
I once took a solo weekend getaway up the coast from Marin through Sonoma. What I found was these beautiful towns and incredible hotels, all set on the wild coastline of Northern California. I fell in love with Point Reyes and the hiking out in the National Seashore. The rolling pastoral hills with dairy farms and local produce. Farm fresh restaurants and charming boutique hotels. All of it reminds me why I love this area of Northern California so much.
If you’re based in the Bay Area or in greater Sacramento region, this is an easy weekend getaway!
Marin and Sonoma Coast Hotel Recommendations
- Nick’s Cove, for a quaint waterfront cottage stay
- Timber Cove Resort, for a great stay further up the coast
Helpful Marin and Sonoma Coast Guides to Plan Your Trip
- The Weekend Guide to Point Reyes
- Three Night Road Trip Guide to Sonoma Coast
- Ultimate Northern California Road Trip Itinerary
- Best Hotels on Northern California Coast
11. Napa Valley
One of my favorite local romantic getaways in the Bay Area is to Napa Valley. It’s a quick drive out of the city (around an hour or so) and you’re in the heart of the wine region. This area is known for spa getaways where many hotels have onsite spas to enjoy after a day of wine tasting. The summer is particularly nice if you’re looking for a place to hang poolside. Napa Valley ranges from downtown Napa to Calistoga. I personally love the town of Yountville that is midway as you can pop into either side of the valley easily.
Napa Valley Hotel Recommendations
- Archer Hotel, for the best downtown hotel
- Carneros Resort & Spa, for the best resort hotel
- Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley, for the best family-friendly hotel
- Hotel Yountville, for the best located hotel
- Bardessono, for the best modern Yountville hotel
Helpful Napa Valley Guides to Plan Your Trip
- The Best Hotels in Napa Valley, California
- The 20 Best Restaurants in Napa Valley
- A Mid-Week Getaway: Napa Valley Guide
- How to Spend 24 Hours in Napa Valley
12. Lake Tahoe
One more weekend getaways in Northern California for either summer or winter is Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is famous for winter skiing but it also has awesome summer activities like hiking and boating. It’s a rare gem for being truly year-round for outdoor experiences, depending on what you want to do. I personally love the summer months, laying out by the lake and enjoying the mild temperatures.
Lake Tahoe Hotel Recommendations
- The Landing Resort, for the best lakefront relaxing hotel
- Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, for the best luxury hotel
- The Coachman Hotel, for the best South Lake hotel
- Basecamp Tahoe City, for the best North Lake hotel
Helpful Lake Tahoe Guides to Plan Your Trip
- A Quick Summer Guide to Lake Tahoe
- The Best Hotels and Cabins in Lake Tahoe
- The 18 Best Restaurants in South Lake Tahoe
- The 10 Best Resorts in South Lake Tahoe
13. Santa Barbara
The final spot on my weekend getaways list for California is Santa Barbara. It’s idyllic, quaint, and truly one of the most beautiful coastal cities in California. From pristine beaches to the nearby Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara feels like the best of all worlds.
Santa Barbara Hotel Recommendations
- El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel, for the best luxury hotel
- The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, for the best beachfront hotel
- Kimpton Canary, for the best downtown hotel
- Hotel Californian, for the best family-friendly hotel
Helpful Santa Barbara Guides to Plan Your Trip
- A Slow Road Trip Guide to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Ojai
- The 20 Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara
- 17 Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara
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