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13 Best Day Trips from San Diego 2023

Need a break and looking for adventure ? Maybe you are in dire need of a weekend getaway? Check out the best day trips from San Diego here!

San Diego is an ideal base to visit the many towns, cities, beaches, national parks and historic and artistic attractions  of Southern California.

Miles and miles of shoreline and mountains are dotted with quaint towns and other attractions just waiting to be explored.

The close proximity to Mexico also makes a trip across the border super accessible.

Here is a list of top places to take a day trip to from San Diego:

13 Best Day Trips from San Diego


Known for its beaches and the family favorite LEGOLAND California, this town is located just 45 minutes outside of San Diego and is a must visit!

Carlsbad tops our list of best day trips from San Diego because the beaches have long stretches of beautiful golden sands where you can try your hand at surfing, kayaking, scuba diving or windsurfing.

Carlsbad is also home to three stunning lagoons that are bountiful in wildlife spotting and over 50 miles of hiking trails to explore too. If you have kids, LEGOLAND is a must.

The amusement park is filled with incredible life-size LEGO creations and models and offers shows and includes an aquarium which is always a mesmerizing experience for the kids.



Tijuana or “the corner of Mexico” is just 20 miles south of San Diego and across the border and gives you the opportunity to experience Mexican culture for a day or a weekend without having to plan a long trip.

Filled with historical architecture such as Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, la Plaza Santa Cecilia, and the El Foro Palacio Jai Alai concert hall, it is a must see for anyone interested in the history of the area and of course the Spanish influence.

Of course one cannot visit Mexico without checking out their food, with a special mention to their street food vendors- traditional tacos, burritos and other eats to die for!

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3.Valle de Guadalupe

A two-hour car journey will transport you to the Valle de Guadalupe, the wine region of Mexico.

This picturesque valley is filled with a bevvy of restaurants and wineries that are headed up by innovative chefs and wine producers making this an attractive destination for foodies the world over.

With fresh produce used to make food that combines Mexican, Mediterranean and Oriental influences, wine that is often limited release and some of the best olive oils in the world; this is a no-brainer day trip to make.



Also south of the border, this little slice of heaven is great to visit in all seasons. In the warmer months think margaritas at the waterfront whilst being serenaded by a mariachi band or you could go shopping for beautifully vibrant clothes and accessories at the Avenida Lopez Mateos.

Winter is whale season and Californian grey whales migrate to this area at this time of year so a whale watching tour is a must if you are here in the winter.

A visit to the world’s largest underwater blowhole, La Bufadora is also a sight to behold.

5.Rosarito Beach

This Mexican resort town is located between Tijana and Esenada, just an hour away from San Diego.

For the art aficionado there are plenty of art galleries around filled with local art as well as some boutique stores featuring handmade furniture, carpentry and metal work.

There are several craft markets around here too and of course, tons of great food to deep-dive into.

6.San Juan Capistrano


If you are a bit of a history buff, this Mission founded in 1776 and is known as the “Jewel of the Missions” is the place to go.

You can do a self-guided audio tour of the grounds which includes serene gardens, the museum rooms and their exhibits filled with historical artefacts.

There are also several chapels and churches of note that you can visit in the area that have stunning architecture.

There is also the famous Los Rio Historic District where you can get a glimpse of the original colonial adobe homes. 

7.Salton Sea State Recreation Area

In the Sonoran Desert in southeastern California, there is a huge inland saline lake, known as the Salton Sea, which is bordered by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.

The sea attracts a multitude of wildlife, in particular birds. There are over 375 recorded bird species that make a home here, excluding migratory birds.

There are also hiking trails and a campsite but you can also have an afternoon picnic with your family at the lakeside if you prefer a more tranquil activity. 

8.Borrego Springs

Borrego,Springs,,Ca,Usa,which is one of the Best Day Trips from San Diego

Keeping in the realm of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, there are the Borrego Springs which are situated in its heart.

This is a favorite hiking joint because there are miles and miles of desert trails that can be explored (either alone or guided) and if you are not into hiking but prefer a faster-paced activity, you can always go biking.

Other activities here include bird watching, stargazing and meandering through the desert gardens- throughout which you will find scatterings of huge sculptures that draw in the imagination.

Definitely a priority to put on the list day or night to visit. 

9.Joshua Tree National Park

Of course this list would not be complete without mentioning the famed Joshua Tree National Park.

Spend the day looking at the Joshua Trees or bouldering in the Hidden Valley, you will not regret visiting one of the most unique landscapes in the world.

The geological features of the rocky outcrops are compelling to look at and nature lovers enjoy camping out here, spending their days meandering through the park or doing more strenuous hikes. It is a great way to spend a day or weekend.

Although, be sure you pack in a lot of water and sensible shoes.

10.La Jolla

La,Jolla,Shores,In,La,Jolla,San,Diego,,Southern,California, which is one of the Best Day Trips from San Diego

If you are keen for a snorkeling adventure, then you only have to travel less than half an hour from downtown San Diego to get to La Jolla. La Jolla presents its visitors with miles of beaches and is part of the La Jolla Ecological Preserve which houses beautiful reefs, kelp beds and caves to explore. 

11.Mount Palomar Observatory

An hour and a half away on the summit of Mount Palomar in the Cleveland National Forest is the Observatory which houses the world’s largest telescope; the 200-inch Hale Telescope.

Whether you are an avid astronomer or just want to show the kids the stars, there are presentations and guided tours to educate you on the heavens above. It has a really interesting museum and has a picnicking facility on the grounds. 


The historic town of Julian lies in the Cuyamaca Mountains, east of San Diego. The town is rich in history dating back to the Gold Rush of the 1870s.

If you decide to go back in time and visit Julian, a tour of one of the gold mines, where you are led deep into the mines and told about the history of the mines and the Gold Rush, is an absolute must. Also, the apple pies from the orchards are a winner too. 

13.Lake Poway

Lake,Poway,San,Diego which is one of the Best Day Trips from San Diego

Just a half hour away from the city will take you to the Lake Poway Recreational Area. Here, you can rent all manner of boats and spend hours exploring the lake or try your hand at fishing for trout.

There are several hiking and cycling trails available and if you really want to try something different, there is always the archery range. 

To be honest, there is so much on offer in and around San Diego that you will be spoilt for choice when planning a day trip out. A few special mentions to the following that are also great destinations for day trips:

  • Temecula Valley
  • San Clemente
  • Disneyland
  • Laguna Beach
  • Palomar mountain
  • Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
  • Idyllwild

Wherever you choose to go, be rest assured that you will be surrounded by beauty at every turn!

Well, there you have it, all the options for the best day trips from San Diego! Hopefully that helped, but if you want more info, we found you a video below.

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