5 Weekend Trips and Getaways From Los Angeles

Palm Springs is a relaxing desert retreat with a mid-century vibe
Palm Springs is a relaxing desert retreat with a mid-century vibe | © Robin Smith / Getty Images
Los Angeles has its fair share of nature, but sometimes a hike up Runyon Canyon isn’t enough of an escape. Luckily, the city is surrounded by California’s show-stopping landscapes and soothing small towns. Head out towards palm-dotted desert, craggy coastline and life-affirming mountains, all of which can be found within driving distance of the City of Angels.

Palm Springs

This desert playground has so much more to offer beyond being the home of Coachella. When the festival stages are packed away and the worldwide revelers have headed home, the city is a peaceful destination. New restaurants seemingly pop up every week, and its palm-lined avenues are full of glamorous hotels and mid-century homes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Slim Aarons photograph (stay in this one, said to have been built in 1948 for the head of a major Hollywood studio). Long a favorite with LA dwellers looking for an escape, this is one place where your best bet is to follow the crowd.

ToursPalm Springs Indian Canyons Bike and Hike
From $110 per person
3 hours 30 minutes
5 (5)

Explore the Indian Canyons that surround Palm Springs on this guided half-day tour. You’ll cover the 17-kilometer loop on bike and foot, on a route that takes you through dramatic desertscapes and lush oases. Along the way you’ll be provided with extensive information about the region’s history, including an insight into the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, whose ancestral home is in the region. The terrain can be challenging in parts, but you’ll be rewarded at the end with an ice-cream stop at a boutique creamery.

San Luis Obispo

Life in this inland town runs at a sleepy pace, with a dash of liveliness thanks to the students of the CalPoly University. Its proximity to popular spots such as Pismo Beach make it the perfect base for those wanting to explore the coast without dealing with the heaving coastal towns. With an abundance of Spanish-Colonial architecture and a lively food scene to boot, it’s easy to see why this town makes an attractive weekend getaway. If you need a place to stay, this spacious, ocean-view home is nestled between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.

ToursTaste of SLO – Uptown Mojo Walking Food Tour
From $104 per person
3 hours
Experience the upbeat and intriguing uptown Mojo area of San Luis Obispo by tasting your way through five unique restaurants. You’ll get to feast on home-made lasagna, local fish tacos, mimosas, Mexican elote off the cob, local beer, chocolate shakes and cocktails – to name just a few. The tour includes the costs of all food and alcoholic drinks, so you won’t be hit with any surprise expenses and can instead focus on enjoying this incredible culinary adventure. Wear comfortable shoes (and roomy clothes).

La Jolla

Spanish settlers named this town ‘The Jewel’ when they arrived in the 1700s. Now, with its much-loved surf breaks and collection of incredible restaurants, it continues to live up to the moniker. While this is an affluent town – the mansion-dotted cliff sides should give that away – there is still a laid-back beachside vibe, which you can make the most of by staying in the quaint coastal cottages that lie a short walk from the ocean.

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ToursLa Jolla Sea Caves Kayak Tour
From $35 per person
2 hours
4.4 (10)

Enjoy the sublime coastal scenery and spot abundant marine life during this kayaking trip in La Jolla’s sea caves and ecological reserve. Paddle along with your expert guide and observe the numerous species of birds, dolphins, sea lions and even orcas that inhabit the area. You’ll be able to drift among the reserve’s sprawling kelp forests and, if conditions permit, venture inside the sea caves that dot the rocky coastline. Perfect for both experienced kayakers and beginners, this is a delightful few hours on the ocean.

Yosemite National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Yosemite is a jaw-dropping and otherworldly place that must be seen in person. Towering sequoias, shimmering lakes and world-famous hiking trails are all overlooked by neck-craning mountains – standing among it all, the magnitude of Mother Nature feels overwhelming. Get a head start on the day trippers by staying in one of the homely cabins that fringe the edge of this majestic national park.

ClassAnsel Adams’ Legacy Photography Class
From $104 per person
4 hours
5 (3)
Inspired by the work of Ansel Adams, this small-group tour takes you on a photography trip through Yosemite. Your guide a professional photographer at Yosemite National Park’s The Ansel Adams Gallery will lead a hands-on workshop that helps participants to improve their skills with digital cameras. You’ll also learn about the life and work of Ansel Adams, who is celebrated for his magnificent black-and-white photographs, many of which were captured in Yosemite. Your guide will also help you get to grips with setting ISO, aperture and shutter speed levels while taking you to a number of famous sites within the park, where you can put what you’ve learned into practice.

Monterey Bay

You may recognize Monterey Bay as the setting of Big Little Lies, where the sweeping cliffs and white-sand beaches were the backdrop to small town murder and intrigue. The reality of Monterey Bay is much less noir, drawing you in with its incredible coastline, down-to-earth vibe and storybook forests where you can sleep among redwoods.

ToursElectric Bike Tour and Drive, Monterey Bay Coastal Recrail
From $79 per person
150 to 210 minutes
5 (10)
This electric bike tour allows you to cover more ground than on a push bike, taking you along the scenic 17-Mile Drive that runs through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. Taking it slow so that riders can get used to the bikes, there will be plenty of educational stops and photo opportunities, including at Lovers Point Park, The Kissing Rock and the John Denver Memorial. Your guide will fill you in on the history of both the area and the notable points that you stop at, as well as talking you through the topography of the area and any wildlife you encounter along the way.