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Fun Road Trips From San Diego To Go On Now

Fun Road Trips From San Diego To Go On Now

No matter how close or far, a road trip from San Diego is the answer to all your travel prayers.


6 min read

July 26, 2021

Wrapping up an incredible weekend getaway in San Diego? Nothing beats the impending wanderlust hovering like a cloud above your head like going on a good old-fashioned road trip. Fill up your tank, gather your essentials, and pick a destination. No matter how close or far, a road trip from San Diego is the answer to all your travel prayers.

The Best Road Trips From San Diego

Whether you’re California dreamin’ or you left your heart in San Francisco, there's something romantic and wild about driving from San Diego.

San Diego to San Francisco Road Trip

Starting off grand with an adventure that requires major commitment and road navigation expertise, the San Diego to San Francisco road trip is the real deal. Depending on how long or little time you have—a week to 10 days being the perfect amount of time to put aside—this road trip from San Diego can look very different. The ride from San Diego to S.F. takes about eight hours if you keep driving nonstop; it stretches just a little over 500 miles in total. But, you should absolutely not just aim to get to the destination in this case.

The fastest way up is through the Central Valley of California, which albeit is shorter, isn’t as scenic. On the other hand, driving along the coast is richer in interesting stops and panoramic vistas. 

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Assuming you’ve already spent enough time shopping, dining, and splashing around San Diego, we’re going to move swiftly on to the next stop along the way: Los Angeles. Make the most of your short trip with our guide to spending one day in L.A. and you’ll have all the must-do activities covered. Next up along one of the best road trips from San Diego is Santa Barbara. Among the many things this upscale SoCal city is known for, you should definitely check out historic Spanish Mission buildings, golf courses, upscale dining spots, beaches, and hidden gems. Unwind as you surf, paddleboard, sail, and bike before you get ready to hit the road again.

Pismo Beach is the winter home of the monarch butterfly that comes to stay annually from October to February.

Driving just about two hours north along the coast will get your Pismo Beach. While you should definitely stop here to take in the ocean vistas, don’t stay too long—drive 20 more minutes to get to San Luis Obispo. Home to even more hidden gems and tourist attractions, SLO is an awesome pitstop on the way to Big Sur, another one of the dreamiest spots along the Central Coast.

Despite the fact that there are many places to stop and admire while driving along Big Sur, limit yourself to a hike or two maximum to get back on the road before the sun sets. Since you’ll be driving along the coast, you’ll get your fair share of sweeping sea views regardless anyway. Stay at a cool Big Sur cabin and you’ll wake up to unparalleled views and enough energy to cover the remaining leg of your San Diego to San Francisco road trip.

Brace yourself for a drive all the way up to Santa Cruz and you’ll be rewarded with a full day of can’t-miss things to do. Check out this NorCal city’s beaches and surf to your heart’s content—you’re almost there. Between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, you have the option to stop at Half Moon Bay. Grab lunch on Main Street and check in at a charming seaside hotel; you’re a 30-minute drive from S.F. and all the must-see attractions it has to offer.

Driving to Yosemite National Park is a glorious journey. Explore fun itineraries originating in major travel hubs and winding their ways to Yosemite.

San Diego to Yosemite Road Trip

Is a San Diego to San Francisco road trip a little too intense for you? There are many other fun options for road trips from San Diego heading up north that are far more toned down. One such option—if you don’t mind staying away from the coast—is the San Diego to Yosemite road trip.

If you want a straightforward drive to Yosemite National Park, consider taking Interstate 5 through Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park. The drive will be fairly short but will still give you access to the forests and parks along the way—imagine all the gorgeous hikes!

However, if you’d prefer a desert drive and would like to see the Sierras up close, consider driving up Highway 395. You'll follow the highway past forests, national parks, the famous Death Valley, as well as its surrounding little desert towns. But, due to the extreme hot weather conditions in the desert, this trip is perhaps better reserved for the cooler months. 

Once you wrap up your San Diego to Yosemite road trip, consider spending a few days exploring the park. After all, the trails, campsites, and unbelievable waterfalls deserve all the time and attention you can give them in the short span of time you have.

Making a Pacific Coast Highway road trip is a popular bucket list experience for good reason. This is your chance for a journey of a lifetime!

Pacific Coast Highway San Diego

Are you one of those people whose favorite part of a road trip is driving? Then cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego is the ultimate adventure for you. The entire length of the highway is a whopping 656 miles, but it’s definitely up to you whether you want to complete it partially or completely—make it a San Diego to Big Sur road trip if you will.

Known as one of the most scenic drives in California, a trip along the PCH is a quintessential experience you can’t do without. If you plan on finishing the trip in five days or less, these are all the stops you should add to your itinerary. While the official start of the PCH road is in Orange County, you can absolutely start further south in San Diego and head up north from there.

From end-to-end, the Pacific Coast Highway is 1,675 miles long from Olympia, Washington to San Diego, California.

At the “official” start of your journey in the OC, check out the famous Dana Point and Huntington Beach. Then, drive about two hours to Santa Monica and spend the rest of your day exploring the pier and taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane. On the second day of your trip along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego, you’ll drive through Malibu, Ventura, and Santa Barbara before probably crashing overnight at San Luis Obispo.

Day three is all about the Central Coast—it’s filled with hotspots such as San Simeon, Big Sur, and Santa Cruz. On the last day of your incredible trip, you’ll officially fully be in NorCal territory. San Francisco, Point Reyes, and Mendocino will mark the end of your trip along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego, and you’ll feel like a brand new person afterwards.

A Southern California trip isn't complete without visiting the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles and the laidback beaches of San Diego.

San Diego to L.A. Road Trip

The shortest road trip from San Diego on the list, the drive to Los Angeles is strictly SoCal and unbelievably fun. About two hours and 15 minutes in total, this trip can be more about the beginning and end of your journey compared to the other three road trips mentioned.

Make the sunny seaside neighborhood of La Jolla the first stop on your trip. Dotted with multi-million dollar homes and overlooking stunning cliffside and ocean views, this seaside escape will put you in the right mood for the rest of the trip. Next up is the idyllic beach town of Encinitas. Explore beaches, stop for a tasty lunch break, and fight the urge to stay forever—you don’t want to miss all the other cool stops on the list. You’ll reach the charming seaside city of Carlsbad in North San Diego County in no time; consider stopping here for another hour or two here. 

The second half of your San Diego to L.A. road trip will start at Orange County, and our first stop of choice is Dana Point. A lovely place to wander around and explore, Dana Point is a great place to get out and stretch your legs or discover a new water activity, whether that’s paddleboarding or kayaking. The next obvious stops are at Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. Before you know it you’ll be driving past Huntington Beach, and Los Angeles will be a stone’s throw away.

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