From strolling along the beach and sipping wine at a winery to exploring the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, there are a bounty of weekend getaway possibilities within a few hours’ drive of Santa Ana, California. No matter the type of weekend adventure you’re looking for, you can find the perfect California vacation rental nearby. Settle into a condo with an ocean view in Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach; find a mountain cabin on the shores of Big Bear Lake; or absorb the local culture with a rental in Palm Springs. To help you decide where to take off for the weekend, check out the seven best getaway spots accessible from Santa Ana.
1. Palm Springs
Located in the Sonoran Desert, about two hours east of Santa Ana, Palm Springs offers enough variety of indoor and outdoor activities to fill numerous weekend trips. Head into nature with a hike in nearby Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Wander downtown to enjoy local cuisine at favorites such as Purple Palm Restaurant and HooDoo Patio Restaurant and Bar. If you love art visit one of the many art galleries in town, including the Desert Art Center and Elena Bulatova Fine Art. Enjoy the warm desert climate with a visit to Knott’s Soak City water park, or take in some culture at the Palm Springs Art Museum. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens offers up-close views of animals and plants, while the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers inspiring views of town and desert canyon vistas.
2. Santa Catalina Island
Settle into island life for the weekend with a getaway on Santa Catalina Island. A short flight or scenic ferry ride takes you to the island from several ports in the Los Angeles metro area. Once on the island, enjoy activities such as zip lining at Zip Line Eco Tour, hiking on the Trans-Catalina Trail, or letting your stress melt away at Island Spa Catalina. There are also sandy beaches to explore. Crescent Beach in Avalon is one of the most popular and most easily accessible beaches, while Little Harbor has a long stretch of beach best reached by the Safari Bus.
Located about half way between Santa Ana and San Diego, Carlsbad is an ideal spot for a family or romantic weekend away. Kids love the Legoland theme park, while nature lovers enjoy visiting Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, which features 50 acres of colorful blooms. Hikers and birdwatchers alike find tranquility at Buena Vista Lagoon and Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Carlsbad State Beach makes a great spot for a picnic, sunbathing, or a dip in the ocean. Downtown offers plentiful dining options, including Swami’s Cafe Carlsbad and Bluewater Grill.
4. Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach – about three and a half hours drive northwest of Santa Ana – features long stretches of sandy beach perfect for walking, surfing, relaxing, or playing volleyball. The town and surrounding areas are also home to numerous wineries and tasting rooms. Sample some of the best local wines at Monarch Grove Winery Tasting Room, or pick up a bottle to drink back at your vacation rental at Tastes of the Valleys wine shop. If you visit during the cooler months, the Monarch Butterfly Grove provides a unique opportunity to see butterflies by the thousands, along with impressive groves of eucalyptus trees. Dinosaur Caves Park is a favorite with kids, while Avila Hot Springs is a great place to unwind as you soak in heated pools.
5. Santa Barbara
Set along the coast at the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is a small city full of culture, shopping, and ample opportunities to relax. Explore the area’s history with a visit to Mission Santa Barbara, which was founded in 1786. Enjoy the beauty of nature with a stroll through the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or Lotusland garden, which feature native Californian and exotic plants. The city is also a good jumping off point for exploring the hiking trails of Los Padres National Forest. Santa Barbara is about two and a half hours northwest of Santa Ana. Fill up on the local fare by following the Santa Barbara Taco Trail, which traces its way through many of the city’s Mexican restaurants and taco trucks, including Lilly’s Taqueria and Super Cuca’s Taqueria.
6. Big Bear Lake
In less than two hours, you can leave the bustle of the Los Angeles area behind you and settle into a mountain vacation rental in Big Bear Lake. If your weekend out of town is during the winter, bring your skis for a day on the slopes at Bear Mountain. You can also fish in the lake all year around, with trout biting even during the depth of winter. Stop by the Big Bear Lodge for a massage or other spa treatment, then check enjoy some local brews at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. If your dog joins your vacation for some hiking, you can take him along to dinner at Evergreen Restaurant, where pets are welcome.
About two hours up the coast from Santa Ana lies the oceanside town of Ventura. Known for its pier and promenade – which is a great place to fish, play, and watch the sunset – the town offers multiple beaches ideal for beachcombers and surfers alike. Surfers Point Beach has a lagoon that is a favorite of various bird species, so bring your birding binoculars along. Search for whales, or visit the Channel Islands with a tour from Island Packers. Top off your day with a walking tour of Ventura’s best eateries with Ventura Food Tours.
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