California Road Trip Ideas for a Quick Weekend Getaway

From gastronomic to celebrity concentrated cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, to passing through the Big Sur shoreline, a good old California road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway will please both city and nature lovers alike.

So it’s time to hop on your car (or rent out a campervan!) as you go on a trip of a lifetime. To help you navigate, we’ve put together some of the best California road trip ideas if you’re planning a quick weekend getaway.

So, brace yourself. It’s going to be one long, epic ride!

Big Sur

Nestled in between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia mountains, this narrow cliffside two-lane road of Highway1 through the Big Sur is one of the most scenic drives in the state. You can pass by it only if you drive along Route 1, located south of the bay area. However, there are times that the road is closed, so keep that in mind.

You can also pass by several lovely towns along the way. For instance, you can plan a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium or play golf at Pebble Beach.

Things to do in Big Sur: Aside from the famous Bixby Bridge, check out Pfeiffer State Beach, a beautiful black sand beach that’s tucked away from the crowd, and is definitely worth the hike.

Also, drop by the marvelous 80-foot waterfall that plummets from the beautiful granite cliffs. If you’re lucky, you can even witness the beautiful patches of deep purple sand.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the home of the famous Rodeo Drive and Universal Studios, and the City of Angels is hip and beautiful.

Things to do in Los Angeles: Drive by the famous Hollywood Sign the iconic symbol of the city. Sitting on the hills high above the city, you can take several hiking trails that lead to the sign and rewards you with sweeping panoramic views. You can either take the Mount Hollywood Hiking Trail, the Wonder View Trail, or the Aileen Getty Ridge Trail.


Ojai is famous for its wine-tasting and lovely small-town atmosphere. Plus it’s convenient to go here from LA. The scenic road from LA to Ojai takes about two hours.

Coming from LA, drive up the coast to Malibu seafood where you can enjoy one of the best tasting fried, grilled, and seafood by the beach. You can also drop by Ventura County and see some excellent places along the way, like going on a tour of Mission San Buenaventura, otherwise known as the “Mission By the Sea.”

Things to do in Ojai: Ojai is an ideal place to visit if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and escape in a charming Southern Californian oasis.

While you’re there, you can enjoy fun outdoor activities like hiking and horse-back riding. Also, don’t forget to drop by at their delectable tasting local restaurants like The Nest and Azu. Don’t leave without tasting their local wines as well.

San Francisco

Famous for its iconic Golden Bridge, hilly streets, and hippy culture, the Golden State is one uniquely creative city.

Things to do in San Francisco: If you have a lot of spare time before starting your road trip, then why not spend a couple of days exploring the city before you head south?

Although there are a lot of things that you can do in San Francisco, stop by Chinatown, the biggest Chinatown outside Asia, spend your mornings strolling along the Golden Gate Park, ride cable cars, and drop by one of the cities best neighborhoods ‒ the Mission District.

Also make sure that you drive through the San Francisco Bay on the Golden Bridge, and marvel at the breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is just an hour south of San Francisco. Its streets downtown is filled with vintage boutiques, vegan restaurants, vibrant graffiti, and a lot of avid skateboarders cruising down the street. Overall, this coastal city exudes a youthful, “surf-city” atmosphere.

If you want to go somewhere where you can stretch your legs after a long drive, take a quick stroll at the Santa Cruz Wharf, a pier that stretches out to the Monterey Bay.

Things to do in Santa Cruz: Get your caffeine fix and play beach volleyball with the locals at  Main Beach. During the summer season, the Main Beach is one of the most crowded beaches in Santa Cruz mostly because of its games, amusement park rides, restrooms, and a wide variety of food options.

Stroll along the boardwalk at check out the Santa Cruz’s amusement park. The admission here is free and is fully operational since 1907. It’s also only the main amusement park in the whole West Coast.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is also famously known to be the “American Riviera” and it’s easy to understand why. It has a post community on the state’s central coast. It’s well-known for its stucco buildings and red-painted tile roofs, along with its ritzy shopping and dining areas, the local wine scene, and the glamorous hotels.

Things to do in Santa Barbara: Even if you’re just passing by, you’ll feel like a celebrity in Santa Barbara. Take a stroll down State Street, where you’d find hundreds of shops and restaurants with lots of local art, which makes as excellent souvenirs. Check out the top things to do in Santa Barbara.


Malibu is a place where most A-list Hollywood actors built their homes. It’s another picturesque, and high-end city along Highway 101.

Things to do in Malibu: Although the city’s natural wonders are stunning, the estates and mansions that line across the coast can also be fun to check out. If the weather’s lovely, drop by Zuma Beach where you can swim, surf, laze by the beach, and even sight celebrities!

Over to You

So there you have it. Those are some road trip ideas that will guide you if you’re heading for a quick California getaway. So make sure that you prepare your playlist, pack up the car, as you head off to a road trip of a lifetime.

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