6 Best Day Trips From San Diego

With the desert, mountains, ocean and some very unique places close by, San Diego is the best spot to get a taste of everything.

Bobby Dyer
Adam Berkecz 8XYUZBJS9iQ Unsplash


Make a day of it, San Diego has 9 well-known beaches down the coastline that are all different and beautiful in their own unique way. Whether you are looking for the hippie vibe of Ocean Beach, the pristine sands of Torrey Pines, some seal watching on La Jolla, or just an excuse to lounge in the sun, with this much diversity there is a beach for everyone.


It’s not a well-known fact that Califonia has waterfalls, but if you venture 60 miles north of San Diego you will find trails both hidden and well known to explore. Depending on the time of year you go there will be roaring rapids or still, dried up gorges. Regardless, it is a wonderful day trip out of the city and into the wilderness. A local favorite is a lookout point called Potato Chip Rock. It is exactly what it sounds like, you can sit on a thin rock that sticks out and perches you over the mountains and makes you feel as though you are flying in the air.


A three-hour drive outside of the city will take you into the California desert to experience the notorious Joshua Tree National Park. Here you can soak up the desert sun and explore the vast sparseness of the desert terrain where cactus plants, rock formations and the infamous twisted shaped Joshua Tree abound. If weather permits, spend a night under the desert sky to enjoy the breathtaking stars that only a removed desert can provide.


Get your mountain fix by taking a three-hour drive north from San Diego to a destination all its own.  This mountain destination has many adventures to offer and may require you to stay a night.  From skiing/snowboarding to hiking and exploring the mountain town, you may have to book a night at the Big Bear Mountain Hostel to partake in some warming up by the fire with fellow mountaineers and hot chocolate after a day on the slopes.


San Diego is an opportunity to have a two-nation vacation. Why? Because the Mexican border is 17 miles from Downtown San Diego. From Tijuana to Ensenada there are diverse options South of the Border. You can enjoy the freshest seafood by buying it on the beach from a docked boat, enjoy great surfing and 100 different wineries to explore in Valle de Guadalupe. There is also great art and ceramic crafts in Rosarito if you are looking for some fantastic souvenirs for friends or yourself.


Los Angeles is a two-hour drive from San Diego, making it the perfect distance to see all the sights and heading back to before traffic gets too terrible. Hit the famous sights: Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Park (which is the home to the Hollywood sign), Hollywood Blvd., Venice Beach, and Beverly Hills. Los Angeles is a spread-out city so make sure to plan out your route so you get to see the highlights of this massive place.


Stay at ITH Adventure Hostel,

Beach Bungalow or Big Bear Mountain Hostel

to get the most out of your

Southern California explorations!

Cofounder of ITH Hostels. I love traveling, hosting, gardening, golfing, fishing, and sailing.