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.

With 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..

Let’s take a look at some of the best not-too-far-away day trips from San Diego

La Jolla

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 2½  miles up the coast from Pacific Terrace, and it has a luxurious ambience all its own. Visitors will discover top-rated restaurants, as well as outdoor adventures ranging from exploring sea caves on a kayak, to catching the seals and sea lions frolicking in the surf, to hiking at the Torrey Pines Reserve. Simply put, it’s an experience not to be missed.


At just 23 miles south of Pacific Terrace, the vibrant Mexican city of Tijuana makes for an exciting day trip. 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 markets,  world-class souvenir hunting and dining at Avenida Revolución, be sure to bring your passport — and your sense of adventure.


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

One of the loveliest areas in Southern California lies just 61 miles north of Pacific Terrace. It’s a beautiful coastal trek whether traveling by car or the Pacific Surfliner train. Outstanding antique shops and restaurants are within walking distance of the train station, and the city also features lush botanical gardens, art galleries and internationally inspired cuisine. 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 — a migratory flock that returns to its home in the rocky cliff faces of the region every year in mid-March. This event is commemorated with an annual parade.”

Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs is situated 85 miles 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. But the area’s most popular attraction 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

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 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.