Vibrant L.A. is packed full of incredible things to do like hiking up to the Hollywood sign, hanging out at cool beach promenades, and touring your favorite studios. But — there are also some incredible day trips from Los Angeles that give you a better sense of life in California along with tons of gorgeous scenery along the way. Here are 5 of the best day trips from Los Angeles.
A short drive along the coastline will bring you to the small and vibrant beach town of Malibu — just outside of Los Angeles. Known for its incredible beaches, surfing, hiking, and seaside lifestyle, Malibu is one of the best day trips from Los Angeles (and we definitely aren’t biased).
Cruise along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. Check out the Malibu Pier and also enjoy lunch there at the tasty Malibu Farm. Then, hang out at Zuma Beach, one of L.A. county’s largest and most popular beaches, and make time for some scenic walking like at Point Dume.
About two and a half hours away from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree is easily one of the most beautiful places to see California. The area boasts a massive national park, desert culture, and eclectic towns, all while nestled in the wilderness of the Mojave Desert.
Explore the iconic Skull Rock formation, Coachella Valley Reserve with picturesque walking trails, and gorgeous Joshua trees. Plus, if you stick around until the sun goes down, you can expect some superb stargazing and a chance to see the Milky Way.
Check out our handy guide to visiting Joshua Tree.
Palm Springs is an icon of California’s desert, which is why it’s one of the best day trips from Los Angeles. In just two hours you’ll be surrounded by ultra-fancy resorts, celebrity homes, and chic-desert vibes.
Grab brunch (or lunch) at Cheeky’s and check out the gorgeous Indian Canyons for nature, hiking trails, and phenomenal views. There are also a few museums to check out, such as the Palm Springs Art Museum. When you’re finished, lay by the pool at a fancy resort. Palm Springs is definitely the L.A. getaway we all need!
Leave the city for the city with a trip down south to San Diego. In just two hours by car, you’ll be in California’s second largest city known for its year-round lovely warm weather and pleasant beaches.
You’ll also be able to soak up glorious coastline views, Spanish architecture, as well as parks and museums along the way. Plus, San Diego has a completely different energy from L.A., so it’s definitely worth checking out, even if just for the day.
Ventura just under two hours north and you’ll be in beautiful Santa Barbara. Full of long sandy beaches and a stunning coastline, Santa Barbara is the ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. And, if you have the time, we highly recommend glamping in Santa Barbara.
Visit East Beach located just off State Street, Santa Barbara’s main area for shopping and dining. Also, you must see Stearns Wharf, the oldest working pier in California. There are also parks, trails, and plenty of shops to check out along the way.
What are your favorite day trips from Los Angeles? Check out more travel guides on Malibu Reflections.
Christa Adams is a writer, photographer, and sustainable traveler based in Barcelona. She's been traveling solo since 2014 has a passion for the outdoors, coffee culture, and exploring quaint European towns. Follow her adventures at www.thespiritedexplorer.com.