The 5 Best California Weekend Getaways


Raye was born in New England, grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, spent college out West, and presently publishes Hubs from the Pacific Northwest.

My Top 5 California Recommendations

With it's huge coastline, green mountains and beautiful deserts, California offers some of the best weekend getaways, and you don't even have to leave the state. Nearly all of these spots can be reached within a day's drive from just about anywhere in-state or a flight of two hours or less. This makes them perfect for when you want a quick break, or an extended long-weekend adventure.

I lived in California for 20 years, first in Santa Cruz and then in San Francisco. There is so much to see and do in California, I didn't even begin to come close in all those years of living there. (Fortunately I still go back from time to time and explore more!) The variety you can get from the deserts in the south to the dense forests in the north are amazing. And when you compare the coastal areas to the inland valleys, it often doesn't seem like you are even in the same state.

These are my five best suggestions for great weekend getaways in California. My recommendations include going to northern California hot springs, visiting Lake Tahoe, driving the Pacific Coast Highway, exploring Yosemite National Park and seeing San Diego. Each offers great scenery, good food and relaxing space, plus they all have lots to options for an entire family, or a couple just taking a break from their busy lives.

Lake Tahoe is known for its beautiful waters

Lake Tahoe is known for its beautiful waters

Lake Tahoe

Sitting right on the California/Nevada border is Lake Tahoe. No matter what time of year, this is a great destination for a vacation. Summer offers hiking, mountain biking, and all manner of water activities on the famously clear lake waters. Winter brings lots of snow and Tahoe becomes a top destination for skiers and snow-boarding enthusiasts alike. Nearby Truckee also offers skiing in winter, and summer visitors can enjoy rafting on the river.

The lake is divided by the California/Nevada border. This lets the south shore of Lake Tahoe host a wide variety of casino hotels, along with the usual lakeside cabins and ski chalets. A short and picturesque car drive over the mountains brings you to Reno, Nevada if you need a bigger dose of Lady Luck along with a more urban range of family amusements. This is a great day trip away during a longer stay at Tahoe.

You can easily drive to Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area or Northern California. For those who wish to fly in, you can choose the Lake Tahoe Airport or get one of the great travel deals to Reno, rent a car there and drive over to Tahoe. There are many hotels to stay at in the area or you might want to rent a vacation home or apartment for a more relaxed atmosphere and the option of being able to cook for yourselves!

Get Tahoe Info

Lovely natural hot springs

Lovely natural hot springs

California Hot Springs

California is only second to Nevada for having natural hot springs. From built wooden hot tubs to natural earth pools to Japanese-style sunken baths, the state of California offers a wide array of hot springs and hot tub experiences. Taking the waters for health and relaxation is a tradition that can be found in cultures throughout the world.

You'll find hot springs located in a variety of areas in California but especially in the northern portion of the state. The soaking experience can run the gamut from exclusive spa to laid-back retreat to remote wooded pools, depending on your preference and budget. Summer weekends are often the most crowded at these luscious wet spots, so be sure to investigate weekday getaway deals or make your weekend plans in advance.

At many hot springs, you can also enjoy outdoor recreations, group activities, healing treatments or bodywork, and healthy cuisine. By turning off the cell phone and putting away the laptop for a few days (try leaving it at home even!), it's possible to really get a lot of rest and relaxation in just two days. Bring along good shoes for hiking or pack the mountain bike if you'd really like to earn those evenings soaking in the tub.

Try These Hot Springs!

The Pacific Coast Highway, aka Highway 1

The Pacific Coast Highway, aka Highway 1

Pacific Coast Highway

Running like a ribbon along the Pacific edge of California, Highway 1 is a spectacular journey all its own! With mountains on one side and ocean on the other, it is both a peaceful and dramatic way to see the California coastline. Both day trips or extended weekends will allow for a lot of Pacific Coast Highway exploration.

Cropping up here and there along the route are lots of tiny towns, coastal retreats and seaside rest stops. Car camping is a fantastic way to explore the coast, especially in the summer months. For those who prefer more amenities, there are dozens of motels and B&Bs along the way.

Visiting the entire state from top to bottom is best done in three or four days, so consider slicing the coast into chunks and exploring areas a bit more than just passing through. Many quaint towns and wineries dot the coast and lovers of arts and antiques will find plenty of reasons to stop the car and look around for a while. Just for your information, if you are out and about during the week, you can often find hotel and motel rooms at a better rate than over the weekends with a touch less traffic...

Hwy 1 Guides

Yosemite is known for its many waterfalls

Yosemite is known for its many waterfalls

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has really become on icon for the image of the Western US. Increasing demand by visitors and increasing protections makes this a spot where you need to check ahead and make reservations to visit, but it's well worth your efforts. The beauty of this area isn't like anything else.

The park totals over 1100 acres in size, but the majority of the three million plus visitors each year actually only visit the approximately seven square miles that is the Yosemite Valley itself. Almost ninety percent of the park is designated as wilderness. In 1984, the site received World Heritage Site status.

Hikers and climbers will encounter some of the best rock in the West. Landscape photographers will find plenty of sights to capture in the rugged environment. The park is also a good location for birdwatching, stargazing, fishing and rafting. You can travel through by car, or by horseback. Going at the beginning of the park season in spring, or later in the fall may be less crowded then visiting during the height of the summer season. Travel in the park is restricted volume-wise due to environmental concerns so be sure to plan ahead and stay abreast of any park developments or changes. And be sure to note that staying at the local lodge for the winter holidays will take reservations several YEARS in advance.

City view from the harbor

City view from the harbor

San Diego

Sitting just north of the Mexican border in the southwestern corner of California lies the town of San Diego. Together with Tijuana, the area is considered to be the 21st largest metropolitan area in North America. The city has a rich Mexican influence along with the California beach culture.

If the beaches and harbor don't keep you busy, perhaps the golf courses are more your speed. There are some world-class theme parks and a zoo that will knock your socks off. And let's not forget to mention a great selection of museums, casinos and theater events.

It's coastal location and Mediterranean temperatures makes it a great destination year-round. Day trips into Mexico are easily-managed for those who wish to get some international flavor into their sojourns and the exchange rate makes shopping more lavish. And remember, anyone who is traveling to Mexico, even just a day-trip, requires a passport now!

CA Travel Feedback and Recommendations

David B Katague from Northern California and the Philippines on August 21, 2015:

Hi Rae, an excellent hub for places to see and visit in California. I am glad you include Sacramento in this hub. Again, just like to thank you on your recent comment on one of my hubs. Have a great day!

Hady Chahine from Manhattan Beach on May 19, 2014:

You highlight some great places to visit in California. Recently I visited the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort in Avila (north of San Luis Obispo) and it was very relaxing - well worth the money. I recommend dinner at the Olde Port Inn located on the pier in Avila, and then retire to the resort for well earned pampering.

Ashwini Maurya from India on February 17, 2014:

Yosemite National Park seems to be really adventurous. I am waiting to plan a trip there...

Thelma Alberts from Germany on October 10, 2013:

Beautiful place to visit. Great and informative hub. Thanks for sharing.

Samita Sharma from Chandigarh on October 10, 2013:

Fantastic hub! i never visit California but after read this hub i must visit here...

Megan Carroll from Boynton Beach, FL on September 05, 2013:

Fantastic hub! I LOVE Yosemite and cannot wait to visit again.

Natasha Pelati from South Africa on August 16, 2013:

It seems like there is a lot to go and see in California! Beautiful places and very interesting to know where to go and what to see! Great hub!

Chuck on February 26, 2013:

"Luscious wet spots", yea kinda wrong...

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on October 20, 2012:

Good stuff. Going on an emergency road trip tomorrow so this hub was a good help.

Doodlehead from Northern California on October 09, 2012:

I left and will never leave California again. This is it.

Nicole Paschal from Saint Petersburg, Florida on September 13, 2012:

Great article. I'm missing California now. I definitely want to return and the PCH!

securityproducts3 on September 03, 2012:

I've been to California multiple times, and your information is so spot on! I think you've sparked something inside me to start planning another trip to California real soon! Wonderful Hub

mismazda from a southern georgia peach on August 21, 2012:

Thanks for writing this Hub..I have always dreamed of visiting Cali...have not been there yet..but will one day. These are some great places to visit from readig your hub.One day I will be out there. voted up and interesting...

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on August 07, 2012:

What a great hub! California is an awesome vacations destination! Our plans for Mount Shasta are coming up soon. Love your information.

whowas on July 23, 2012:

Very nice hub. I have a friend who went out to California (I'm in the UK) and married a guy who owns a yacht! I exchange emails and we 'skype' sometimes but I've still not managed to get over there. However, your hub is making me think I really ought to make more effort.

I would especially love to explore the Yosemite National Park and visit the California Hot Springs. I think I might fall in love with it if i did, judging by the way that you describe it.

Great hub, really inspired me.

truthteller on July 14, 2012:

I love Cali...but as a 40 year resident you gotta be smart when you travel. Since nobody is discussing the "dark side", here are some tips: Southern California is awesome but has plenty plenty of traffic. San Diego is lovely, but can be a little racist (white folks will probably not notice this). Mexico has a border drug war going on, so be careful. Northern Cal is awesome nearly everywhere, but gets cold in winter. All tha said, It's still the most awesome place ever!

Nicoli Clause from United States of America on June 24, 2012:

Bldg an Architect 2 months ago Level 2 Commenter

I loved living in California for this very reason. You're always within driving distance of an awesome weekend vacation. :)

It is so true, I was stationed there for four years. Although I was in the desert, snowboarding was no more than an hour away. You have to love Cali for this reason, if there is a place you don't like drive 30 minutes away. I agree completely with Pacific Coast Hwy, it is absoloutly gorgeous... and very few cops so you can get places quickly.

cityalice on June 16, 2012:

Never been to Yosemite National Park, but it sounds worth checking out.

JRinFL from Naples, Florida on May 22, 2012:

As a former Bay Area resident, I appreciate how you constructed a newcomer's road trip down the Cali coast. It was very upbeat and didn't digress to frustrations that visitors are sure to see. Like south coast traffic! Thanks for a technically inspiring Hub, as well.

tipstoretireearly from New York on May 20, 2012:

I was lucky enough to live in Coronado (just outside San Diego) for a brief time. Unbelievably nice weather. Gorgeous bay views to the East and Pacific Ocean views to the West. Coronado Beach has wonderful views.

Bldg an Architect on April 07, 2012:

I loved living in California for this very reason. You're always within driving distance of an awesome weekend vacation. :)

Kelsey on February 26, 2012:

I live in San Diego, and agree it is a gem! I am so blessed to live somewhere that people love to visit.

cheaphotelsrooms from United Kingdom on February 01, 2012:

It was interesting to read your side of the story. I have enjoyed reading it. I have never been to most of these places but it seems that can be a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing it!

Myrtle Beach Golf from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on January 09, 2012:

What stands out in my mind is San Diego. It seems like a great place to experience a wide variety of things and really get a good feel for southern California. That being said, I'd love to visit some day. I wonder if there are any hot springs in San Diego. I've dipped into hot springs in Central America, and would like to revisit those rejuvenating feelings once more.

villasandhomes on January 03, 2012:

California is such a wonderful place to travel.

Thanks for sharing this.

CZCZCZ from Oregon on December 28, 2011:

California is such a wonderful place to travel. I love reading peoples op five favorite places to go in California and rarely are they the same due to all of the wonderful places and things to do. A favorite of mine not on the list to go to Clearlake California the largest natural freshwater lake in the State.

texasgirlfw on December 27, 2011:

Pacific coast highway, awesome.

cheapestinsurance from California, USA on December 17, 2011:

I LOVE CALIFORNIA. So glad I live here! Never been to the hot springs though. Can't wait to visit.

wanderlust9 on November 07, 2011:

Great Hub! San Diego makes the top of my list because of its Mexican influence and the fact that it is so close to Mexico. If you ever get bored you can hop into your car and be in a new country with a different culture in just a few hours. Just love it!

miraftab on November 01, 2011:

hmm I am waiting to visit California.. :P i was about to visit Hawaii and then was going to California but i missed the chance :((

Xenonlit on October 13, 2011:

This is a masterpiece, and I am always a sucker for a well done California getaway article!

shahnewaz from Dhaka on October 12, 2011:

California is really a wonderful state. now i want to visit california

mythicalstorm273 on October 06, 2011:

I was just visiting Cali about 2 months ago. My sister and brother-in-law live there and I was visiting. California really is one of the prettiest places I have ever visited! We did a lot of stuff and it was quite enjoyable, but it is always interesting to hear from a local's point of view about the different places. Very useful hub :-)

lapidus on October 04, 2011:

Great post.

I think California is the most beautiful place in the U.S.

htodd from United States on September 16, 2011:

California is a great place..nice

Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on September 01, 2011:

I love California, I have visited the state ten or eleven times over the past 20 years, and I am always drawn back there when planning my next vacation. While my co-workers all go to Mexico, I go to California and I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks for sharing this hub, some really good ideas for my next vacations! Voted Up and Awesome...

cowtowngirl77 on August 09, 2011:

I love California, and would give anything to go on a weekend vacation there, anywhere near there.

k9charlee on August 09, 2011:

I used to live in southern California and frequently drove the Pacific Coast Highway on the weekends. I also took the train to San Diego a few times to spend the weekend there. Even the train station is beautiful.

texasgirlfw on July 30, 2011:

California is so beautifu

angela gundry from Ventura , Ca on July 20, 2011:

I've lived in Cali my whole life but haven't explored the hot springs yet. I'll have to check them out!

BabyCheetah from Melbourne on July 12, 2011:

This is great. I'm going to visit in the next few months so good to know. I'll mainly be in San Diego but those hot springs sound good :)

SUSANJK from Florida on July 06, 2011:

In my opinion, anyplace in california is good for a vacation.

Carolina from Switzerland on June 30, 2011:

Thanks. Hope to visit California sooner or later.

applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on June 17, 2011:

i live in san diego and i have to say i love the city. i can't wait to one day take a road trip through pacific coast highway all the way north and see the beautiful cliffside and beach views.

Carolina from Switzerland on June 12, 2011:

Thanks for sharing. It is one of the places i want to visit sooner or later. Have to keep your list.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on June 06, 2011:

Great Hub! I was fortunate to live in California myself when I was just 16. Thats a long time ago now. But while there I got to see so many wonderful places all up and down the coast. I hear that Yosemite has changed quite a bit. Hwy 1 to me is one of the most beautiful highways in North America.

leeroper from UK on May 11, 2011:

San Diego, I’ve heard so many good things about the place, it was on my list of places to visit in Cali. Now I have Yosemite National Park and The Pacific Coast Highway to add to my list.

Web Gazelle from USA on April 09, 2011:

California seems to have an endless list of places to go and things to do. I have been to San Diego and I look forward to going again one day.

gajanis from Pakistan on March 25, 2011:

California is really wonderful.....thanks for sharing very good handy information.

Tiago Marcelo on March 17, 2011:

I'm planning on going to California in a few months. Thanks for the info.

indiatraveltouris on February 26, 2011:

California is really very beautiful place to be explored

jerrycorinadam from United State on February 15, 2011:

Looking forward to visit some of them very soon.

iQwest from San Francisco, CA on February 08, 2011:

Hi Relache - Lots of great information and destination spots. I'm spoiled having been born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area.

Unbelievably enough, I've never been to Yosemite, but spend quite a bit of time, when I have the opportunity, in South Lake Tahoe! I don't get down there much anymore, but I enjoy the Santa Barbara area, too!

The scenic views afforded to us courtesy of Highway 1 are unbelievable. I could go on and on, but will spare everyone!

Thank you again for this mini vacation getaway during the hustle and bustle of my day!

mecheshier on January 19, 2011:

Wonderful article!!!! Love the pics, ideas, and info! Thank You!

Writing_Wine from San Francisco Bay Area on January 14, 2011:

I never tire of the beauty of this fabulous state where I am so lucky to live! I haven't been to Yosemite. I think its high time for a visit. Great hub.

getgoingcanada on December 28, 2010:

California is the cultural and high-tech capital of the world. GREAT ARTICLE!

suejanet on December 27, 2010:

I just love California. Anyplace in California is perfect. I would go anywhere in the state and consider it a vacation. Great hub.

craigmissuea from USA on December 27, 2010:

These destinations appear to be fabulous. I wish to visit them very quickly in near future.

youngdubliner from Dublin, Ireland on December 09, 2010:

great page! :)

TahoeDoc from Lake Tahoe, California on December 09, 2010:

Glad to see you included Lake Tahoe. I live in South Lake Tahoe, CA and although I am biased, I think it's one of the most beautiful places I've been. The scenery is breathtaking and I feel lucky to live here! Thanks.

DavidLivingston on December 02, 2010:

A good travel information. Keep posting hubs like this. Very useful indeed.

BAustin on November 18, 2010:

Great Hub!!!!!!

California offers the best weekend getaways with it's expansive coastline, verdant mountains and exotic deserts. I am also planning to visit California, in couple of months. In this regard the text can prove immeasurably fruitful for me. Thanks a lot for sharing such a wonderful peace of text.

matthewjason on November 10, 2010:

i love California, Nd i will visit SAN DIEGO because i love it.

Thanx for making this hub.

Great creation and i will love to visit every spot in california!

Thanx for this hub again!Regards!:-)

Daniela Daljac from AUSTRALIA on November 06, 2010:

Very nice I like it, one day I can see my self there enjoying with my hubby!!! Thanks for info!!!

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on November 03, 2010:

I love California but you left out my favorite - Sausalito. The home of many an artist.

The history and the small town beauty are amazing. I love the floating homes - simple cottages with Americana charm. I am told that Otis Redding composed the hit 60s pop song Sitting By The Dock Of The Bay while living on a Sausalito houseboat in 1967.

Ingenira on September 28, 2010:

Great places for weekend indeed ! Great info !

John Wilsdon John000 on September 23, 2010:

THis was better than a triple AAA book. Thanks a million.

Good writing.

shoppingqueen on September 22, 2010:

Thank you so much for the ideas. I can't wait to visit San Francisco!

tasksgirl from Los Angeles, CA on September 16, 2010:

Awesome hub! I can't wait to take more trips out & around California! :)

alphonsians93 from Cebu Philippines on September 02, 2010:

Thank you for a wonderful hub and very inspiring.

MarianG on August 25, 2010:

Great! I live in the SF Bay Area and am always looking for short trips to take that are not too expensive. You've given me some great ideas! Thanks!

bobluisusa from Edison on August 03, 2010:

Great dear!

California is my dream place. you have really done a good work for the persons like me.

Thanks a lot !

bob luis

ramkkasturi from India on June 10, 2010:

It is interesting hub and nice to read about all the places I used to visit when I was living in SF and the peninsula. One great spot that I would recommend in the caramel beach and seventeen mile drive and Asilomar.Lovely place some are very peaceful beaches. Had good conference failities too. Hope they still have it going.

Ohma on April 25, 2010:

Relache I hope you will consider adding this Hub to the Hubtrails project. It is really great hub.

bad440 on April 10, 2010:

How about those guys out there

a cool place to go is sonoma I like to go watch the NHRA drags at infineon race way (old sears point raceway) when its in town and my girl likes it too. there are thrift stores if you like bargain hunting we have a great time,

cbris52 on March 19, 2010:

Great info here... I've never been out to California and I'm heading there in 2 weeks for a conference so I'm just surfing around to find some cool places to visit : ) your page and info have been most helpful. I really want to visit Lake Tahoe during my trip!

Michael Shane from Gadsden, Alabama on March 12, 2010:

I would love to see it all! Thanks!

febriedethan from Indonesia on January 21, 2010:

This is amazing and will be my tour guide page! Thank you for sharing this, have a great day.

rdelp on January 14, 2010:

I have never been to California but I know I need to get out there!

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on January 10, 2010:

relache, excellent hub. I want to do a similar one on Florida and came to get ideas. I was in Cali. many years ago and I was amazed at its diverse geography. we saw the redwood forest, SF, drove the PCH (beautiful), stopped in Carmel and watched the whales migrate. we were staying with some people who lived outside of LA. they let us stay in their cabin in the san bernadino mountains and we got snowed in. it was magic. we stayed in redlands and I remember experiencing the santa anna winds. you've written a great article and it brought back memories. it is a beautiful state.

Fresh_Flower from London on December 27, 2009:

Thanks, as an Englisman I've always wanted to visit the US, especially the pacific coast highway. Someday maybe

Kathleen Lewis from Southern Michigan on December 16, 2009:

Thanks for the ideas. A few years ago Husband and I went to Crescent City in Northern California and hiked the Redwoods. We hiked the 2.5 mile Damnation Creek Trail down to the ocean. It was spectacular!! The trail is well groomed and so scenic. Coming back up was tougher, but still great. We also went to Stout Grove and hiked through the Redwoods. Great trip for anyone.

selfprofit on November 17, 2009:

Very interesting. California is beautiful place.

Jennifer Richards on November 16, 2009:


Can we get a chance to play casino there


Navy Jobs Source on November 11, 2009:

I loved visiting Yosemite National Park. It was very beautiful and it takes your breath away especially watching the sunrise and sunset. I think I may have to take that drive down the Pacific Highway very soon. I have heard some real neat places that people have stopped at along the way that you would never even know about unless someone told you about them specifically.

Cara Noelle Guzman from Sacramento, CA on November 10, 2009:

Thank you for this information! I am a California native, and am always looking for new things to do. Your article was not only great personal opinions but I like that you had links to find out more specifics. Thank you!!

Kaya Cassan from United States on October 17, 2009:

Thanks! I am planning a trip to Cali and your hub was very helpful.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on October 07, 2009:

My sister lives in LA, and next time I visit I would like to take the time to travel around California some more. My brother lived in Reno for a while and spent time in Tahoe, but I have never been there.

I do love San Diego, but not too fond of Tijuana

Sylvia Van Velzer from Hawaii on September 04, 2009:

My husband took me to Mendocino 30 years ago and it was unforgettable. We love California and visit many friends as much as we can. I enjoyed this hub very much.

kiwi91 from USA on September 03, 2009:

I love California, I'd live there if I could. Yosemite and Route 1 are two of my favorite spots. A trip to CA isn't complete without a drive along Big Sur.

trish on September 01, 2009:

Hi, my husband and I are hiring a car from San Fran and driving along Route 1 to San Diego. would love some info on what way to break up our 3 day/night journey.. Thanks

Yangtze on August 27, 2009:

great guidance, i will be in California next months

MikeNV from Henderson, NV on August 23, 2009:

Yosemite can get really crowded. Tahoe can have really bad weather. Both beautiful places though. For me Hwy 1 is something you must do in your life. And I like the LaJolla Area of San Diego a lot.

Crazdwriter on August 19, 2009:

I loved all of the places you picked and have been to all except the hot springs. I'll have to do that while my husband and I live here in Cali for the time being, him military and all. And I have lived in CA all my life too except for one year lol. It's nice to meet more Cali ppl :)

creativeMind from Cochin on August 18, 2009:

good. you explained in detail.

NaomiR from New York on August 08, 2009:

We just came back from CA and did two of the things on your list: Yosemite and the Pacific Highway. We also loved Sequoia Nat'l Park. Next time, we'll have to check out the hot springs. I've never even heard about those.

jgrider on August 02, 2009:

Great ideas! I think that one of the marvelous things about living in CA is the variety of vacation spots at our disposal for short trips. Many choices are available to most Californians and tourists even for day trips. It you don't like where you are, drive a couple of hours and you can be somewhere totally different!

Irie Rafting on July 01, 2009:

Thank you for including Lake Tahoe on this list. So many people overlook this place. I suggest river rafting in the Truckee area, especially multi day trips on the American is amazing.

Erick Smart on May 13, 2009:

There is so much to do in California it is hard to decide sometimes what to do. I always love the Hwy 1 and Big Sur. Yosemite is a must do but so are the redwoods. Mono lake is really cool. I actually even like the desert over on the border with Arizona.

Wanderlust from New York City on April 10, 2009:

I love California and agree with all your suggestions. But I would add Napa Valley to the list - a great weekend getaway. Charming B&Bs, vineyards and wineries, great restaurants!

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