The Best Day Trips From San Diego

Make no mistake — San Diego is an unbeatable vacation destination. Our famously fantastic weather, endless beaches, and world-renowned attractions draw more than 35 million visitors per year. That said, one of the things that makes San Diego so special is that it’s surrounded by some of the most spectacular neighboring communities of any city in America. Laid-back beach towns, quaint mountain villages, vast desert, and even vineyards are all just down the road from here. Ready for adventure? Let’s take a look at some of the best not-too-far-away day trips from San Diego.

La Jolla (2.5 miles from the hotel)


When you close your eyes and think of a charming seaside village, you probably imagine lots of ocean, endless sunshine, and breathtaking views. Quiet streets perfect for boutique shopping, upscale cafés, and elegant art. And — though you may not realize it yet — you’re thinking of La Jolla. La Jolla is only 2.5 miles up the coast from Pacific Terrace, and it has a unique ambience all its own. Visitors will discover top-rated restaurants, as well as outdoor adventures like exploring sea caves on a kayak, catching the seals and sea lions frolicking in the surf, and hiking at the Torrey Pines Reserve. Simply put, it’s an experience not to be missed. 

Tijuana (23 miles away)

(Photo: @gautamkrishnan)

Just 23 miles south of Pacific Terrace, the vibrant Mexican city of Tijuana makes for an exciting sojourn. Incredible music, fantastic food, and dynamic culture await those who seek a south-of-the-border experience. Whether you’re interested in checking out the stunning Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the public park at Plaza Santa Cecilia, or the colorful shopping and dining at Avenida Revolución, be sure to bring your passport — and your sense of adventure.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park (34 miles away)

(Photo: @sdzsafaripark)

As a sister property to the metro’s San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido offers visitors a wildlife experience not to be missed. At just over 1,800 acres, the park is one of the largest free-range animal habitats in the world. Visitors here enjoy a true safari experience as they observe over 2,600 different animals across 300 species, all thriving in an environment much as they would occupy in the wild. Bring your camera!

Julian (60 miles away)

(Photo: @julianpiecompany)

Julian may only be an hour’s drive away from San Diego, but it truly feels like another world. Nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains, Julian began its life as a gold-rush town, and many of the historic structures from the time have been preserved — today serving as shops, restaurants, and B&Bs. The Eagle Mining Company offers tours of a decommissioned gold mine, and horse-drawn carriages still offer spins through town. While here, don’t skip sampling some of the best apple pie you’ll ever try, courtesy of the Julian Pie Company.  

San Juan Capistrano (62 miles away)

San Juan Capistrano city in Southern California

(Photo: @cali_gal88)

One of the loveliest areas in Southern California lies just an hour north of Pacific Terrace. As one of the oldest cities in the state, San Juan Capistrano is known for some truly marvelous scenery and architecture. The most famous — the Catholic Mission San Juan Capistrano — was founded in the same year as America itself: 1776. In addition to an abundance of both human-crafted and natural beauty, the city is also renowned for its eponymous flock of cliff swallows. This migratory flock returns to its home in the rocky cliff faces of the region every year in mid-March, and the event is commemorated with an annual parade.

Borrego Springs (88 miles away)


Borrego Springs is situated approximately 2 hours northeast of San Diego and offers visitors an endless array of fascinating things to see and do. Surrounded by the scenic Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, this area offers mild year-round temperatures perfect for the hiking, golfing, horseback riding, and tennis many visitors drop in for. The desert is also dotted with some magnificent public art. The area’s most popular attraction, however, occurs in the spring months, when mountain rains often result in an explosive superbloom of desert flora, including dandelions, sunflowers, verbena, heliotrope, primrose, and other vibrant botanical beauties.

Idyllwild-Pine Cove (113 miles away)

(Photo: @goidyllwild)

San Diego is a glittering city filled with soaring architecture, urban bustle, and metropolitan energy. Idyllwild…isn’t. At just over 100 miles from San Diego, this breathtaking hideaway tucked away in the San Jacinto Mountains offers not just vast natural beauty, but no end of ways to enjoy it. Hiking, mountain biking, camping, and some of the best rock climbing in the state all await intrepid explorers here. And when you’ve had your fill of outdoor adventure, you’ll also discover some exceptional dining and shopping options back at base camp.

Santa Monica (130 miles away)

(Photo: @magnetiv)

As a coastal suburb of Los Angeles, Santa Monica lies just a few hours up the coast from San Diego. The city offers visitors a wide range of reasons to visit, including the pedestrian-only shopping and dining thoroughfare Third Street Promenade, the arts and entertainment opportunities in Mid-City, and the classic boardwalk amusements of the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. The beach here is also worth the trip all by itself.

Joshua Tree National Park (166 miles away)

(Photo: @cedricletsch)

Joshua Tree lies due east of Los Angeles in the Palm Springs high desert region, and it offers a nature experience unlike any other you’ll ever encounter. The distinctively spiky, gnarled trees that sprout from the arid landscape of the park are immediately recognizable and undeniably otherworldly. Hiking in the park is also a true escape from the ordinary. And despite the dry conditions, Joshua Tree also experiences a brilliantly colorful superbloom of native flora every spring.

The Perfect Stay 

Need a convenient home base from which to launch all of your daily journeys? Pacific Terrace hotel is just steps from the ocean and offers guests a host of amazing amenities like private balconies, in-room massage services, a heated pool and hot tub, and 24-hour fitness center. Take a look at our SPECIAL OFFERS page, select the San Diego travel deal that’s right for you, and set out on an adventure for the ages!