Popular Day Trips in Los Angeles
5 best day trips from Los Angeles
1. Day trip to Palm Springs
Located on the western edge of the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs serves as a popular desert escape from Los Angeles. With an up-and-coming art scene and near-perfect weather throughout the year, visitors can take in the sun while hiking in Indian Canyons or explore neighborhoods of mid-century modernist homes built for legendary stars like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Lucille Ball. For those seeking adventure, ride up Mount San Jacinto on its aerial tramway or visit Painted Canyon for rock climbing.
How far is Palm Springs from Los Angeles?
At about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, the journey to Palm Springs is just under two hours by car. If you don’t have a set of wheels handy, a chartered bus from downtown Los Angeles will get you there in the same amount of time.
2. Day trip to the Channel Islands
Just off the California Coast, the eight small Channel Islands are an archipelago of relaxing and romantic sandy beaches, where you can have a fine dinner with a view of the glinting blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. Check out Santa Catalina Island’s Avalon, a popular destination for its unique cultural history and gourmet California cuisine. Or head to the shore of Isthmus Cove and take advantage of excellent hiking, incredible snorkeling, and relaxing safari boat tours. Discover why this is called the “Galapagos of North America" for yourself when you set off in a dinghy or kayak on an eco-tour of the Natural Park.
How far are the Channel Islands from Los Angeles?
An hour’s high-speed ferry ride from Long Beach or San Pedro harbors, which can be reached by car, bus or a train from Union Station in under an hour from downtown Los Angeles.
3. Day trip to Santa Monica
This walkable, bike-friendly beach town to the west of Los Angeles is the definition of a California coastal community. Santa Monica’s golden sands, clean waters, and iconic Santa Monica Pier makes this a popular day trip destination. The Pacific Park amusement park, Looff Hippodrome, and must-visit Santa Monica Pier Aquarium can all be found right next door to the original Muscle Beach. Whether you take an oceanfront stroll, take a bike tour, go surfing, swimming, or paddleboarding, there’s no shortage of things to do in Santa Monica. Be sure to visit Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, an open-air shopping district full of foodie hotspots, just blocks from the water.
How far is Santa Monica from Los Angeles?
At only 8 miles (13. kilometers) from LAX and 15 miles (24 kilometers) from downtown Los Angeles, you can reach Santa Monica by car in under half an hour. The bus from downtown takes about an hour.
4. Day trip to Santa Barbara
Nestled between the central California coast and the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is an upscale getaway famed for its colonial red-tile roofs and white stucco downtown. The city also has some of the most inviting sandy beaches, including Refugio Beach, a popular place for kayaking. Wine tours and paddle boarding in Santa Barbara Harbor are popular things to do on a day trip to the city. State Street offers a selection of designer shops, trend-setting restaurants, and local winery tours. For a bit of history, stop at the Spanish Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1786.
How far is Santa Barbara from Los Angeles?
Located 90 miles (144 kilometers) north of Los Angeles along Highway 101, a trip to Santa Barbara makes for a scenic, Sunday drive. The train from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles takes two and a half hours, and some limited bus options take about the same time.
5. Day trip to San Diego
Known as “America’s Finest City," this harbor makes for a worthy day trip just to see its pristine stretches of white sand beaches and the world-famous San Diego Zoo inside Balboa Park. San Diego’s sunny weather is unmatched, making a perfect port of call for cruising the harbor, boarding a whale-watching boat tour, or launching your guided bus tour of Baja. Spot rare birds at San Diego’s Mission Bay Park, the largest aquatic park in the U.S. Discover San Diego’s popular downtown and Gaslamp District by scooter for yourself or join a walking tour to learn about the city’s history and culture.
How far is San Diego from Los Angeles?
About 120 miles away, just a two-hour drive along I-5 S to the southernmost part of California where it meets the Baja Peninsula. Trains leave Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, arriving in under three hours, and the bus will take four hours.
Los Angeles Day Trip FAQ
What transportation options are best for my day trip from Los Angeles?
• Los Angeles day trips by train
Union Station, a gorgeous Art Deco meets Mission Revival train station in downtown Los Angeles, acts as a transport hub connecting all of Southern California by regional rails, making it possible to visit cities like San Diego and Santa Barbara without a car. The LA Expo Line connects Santa Monica to Los Angeles. To get to the Channel Islands, take the high-speed ferry from San Pedro or Long Beach, which can both be reached by train from downtown Los Angeles.
• Los Angeles day trips by bus
Greyhound and various coach buses and tour buses are available to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Palm Springs. Use the high-speed ferry at San Pedro or Long Beach to get to the Channel Islands. Local buses are also an easy and inexpensive option for traveling to Santa Monica.
• Los Angeles day trips by car
Renting a car is an ideal way to explore outside of Los Angeles because you get to set your own pace, and in most cases, is the fastest option for traveling. Follow the Interstate 5 South to San Diego. Take Interstate 5 North to reach Santa Barbara. Drive west to get to either Santa Monica or one of the ferries located at San Pedro or Long Beach to get to Catalina Island. Head east on I-10 to get to Palm Springs.
Should I take a guided tour for my day trip?
When looking to get off the beaten path or simply make the most of your time, a guided tour of your day trip is a great solution. It provides an experience you simply couldn’t get on your own.
What should I pack for my day trip?
Because most day trips from Los Angeles are in Southern California, dressing for warm, sunny weather and carrying a good sunscreen is always a good decision. But keep a light jacket or windbreaker on hand to go along with your sunglasses, beach towel and swim trunks just in case things get breezy.
Other Sightseeing Options in Los Angeles
Want to discover all there is to do in Los Angeles? Click here for a full list.