There’s plenty to see and do in San Diego, but if you’re itching to explore more of Southern California I’m here to guide your way. With day trips from San Diego, you’ll discover everything from wine country to national parks and even a bit of Old Mexico. Ready to see where the open road can take you? Let’s go!
1) Temecula Wine Country
If you love wine (and really, who doesn’t?) day trips from San Diego to Temecula Wine Country will be right up your alley. Located in Riverside County about an hour from San Diego, wine aficionados can sample award-winning wines in over 50 varieties from wineries like Briar Rose Winery, Europa Village and Longshadow Ranch Vineyard & Winery.
Whites, reds and blends are served in Temecula Wine Country, so every one is sure to find a flavor to suit their palate. Tasting rooms are generally open daily, from 10am-5pm. Sample fees apply to samples. With almost 40 wineries creating Temecula Wine Country, the rolling vineyards of the area are able to create an intimate experience for expert tasters and novices alike.
2) Borrego Springs
Looking to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city behind? At Borrego Springs you can do just that as this laid back desert community, located in northeast San Diego County, there are no stop lights and strictly mom and pop-style shops. The slower pace of life can be deeper explored at the nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As California’s largest state park, this sprawling oasis is framed by rugged mountains, and offers scenic drives, hikes and even 4×4 tours.
From late February through March, you can find blossoms on the desert floor, which is a lovely sight to behold. Adding to the unique landscape are large, metal sculptures of prehistoric animals. Built by Ricardo Breceda, these are popular tourist attractions and totally Instagram-worthy.
3) Los Angeles
With Los Angeles just two hours from San Diego, it’s easy to day trip to Hollywood. If you only have one day to spend in Los Angeles, I recommend venturing to Griffith Observatory for stunning views of downtown Los Angeles as well as the Hollywood sign. Visitors can also look through telescopes, explore exhibits, and see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Add a quick stop to Hollywood Boulevard to your tour, then cruise on down to Santa Monica from endless ocean views and a little seaside fun on the pier.
Be sure to grab a bite to eat at Blue Plate Taco. Located right across the street from the Santa Monica Pier, the restaurant has a beachy vibe and tasty Mexican dishes as well as some of the best margaritas I’ve ever had.
4) Catalina Island
You’re right at the coast, so why not visit an island—specifically Catalina Island. Drive to charming Dana Point for one of the best day trips from San Diego. Here, you can catch a ferry to the island. Catalina Express offers 30 departures daily. However, it’s still best to make a reservation as seats fill up fast!
The trip to Catalina Island takes about an hour, but the time is broken up by sightings of sea life such as sea lions. Once at the Island, take time to explore the quaint streets, shops and scenery that has made Catalina Island famous. Land and ocean adventures are available in both Avalon and Two Harbors, the main entry points for the island. Glass bottom boat tours, dolphin excursions and zipline eco tours are some of my favorite activities, and dining at The Lobster Trap is a must.
5) Joshua Tree National Park
For day trips from San Diego, you can’t beat the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Traveling here takes some time, about 2.5 hours, but the vast scenery of the Park is well worth the trip. Visitors are treated to a vast combination of desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, which are characterized by rugged rock formations and stark desert landscapes. Named for the region’s twisted, bristled Joshua trees, the park offers easy walks, strenuous hikes and excellent star-gazing. Must-see spots include Skull Rock and Keys View to the quieter areas around Cottonwood Spring and Black Rock Canyon.
Tijuana is just a hop, skip and jump away from San Diego. Located right across the Mexico border, visitors can take a trip to Tijuana solo-style or for added convenience book a group tour. Tijuana has long been known as a shopper’s paradise (be prepared to haggle on prices), with the Zona Rio area being the most popular shopping district. Tour the Zona Centro historic district, home to Avenida Revolución, the main tourist thoroughfare, as well as Rosarito Beach, a relaxing Mexican hot-spot. Even though Tijuana is right across the border from San Diego, you will need your passport for this day trip.
Are you ready for a road trip? With these day trips from San Diego, you can navigate to the best sights surrounding San Diego. As a result, you can easily discover more of this popular vacation destination.
Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting San Diego to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.