Visitors to San Diego have an abundance of great options for day trips.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, or something in between, the region around San Diego has something for everyone.
These awesome day trip ideas will keep you busy all day long.
So get ready to pack your bags and explore some of the best attractions Southern California has to offer!
Here are 24 recommended day trips from San Diego!
1. Spend a Day at the World-famous San Diego Zoo
Travel time from San Diego to San Diego Zoo:
(11 minutes) 2.4 miles
A day at the San Diego Zoo is a wonderful day trip for animal lovers of all ages.
The San Diego zoo is home to over 3,700 animals across 800 species, making it one of the largest zoos in the world.
The zoo’s spacious grounds are divided into different habitats, allowing visitors to see animals from all over the world in their natural habitats.
In addition to seeing some of the world’s most iconic animals, the San Diego Zoo also offers educational opportunities, such as behind-the-scenes tours and animal enrichment programs.
A day at the San Diego Zoo is sure to be a day to remember!
2. Take a Boat Tour of Coronado Island
Distance from San Diego to Coronado Island:
(Approx. 16 minutes) 6.7 miles
Looking for a fun day trip? Why not head to Coronado Island and take a boat tour!
This beautiful island is just a short boat ride from San Diego, and it’s the perfect place to spend a day exploring.
There are plenty of boat tours to choose from, so you can find one that suits your interests.
Whether you want to learn about the history of the island or just enjoy the scenic views, a boat tour of Coronado Island is sure to be a day to remember.
So what are you waiting for? Book your tour today!
3. Hike the Torrey Pines State Reserve
Travel time from San Diego to Torry pines:
(24 minutes) 17.4 miles
The Torrey Pines State Reserve is a day hike that is perfect for those who love nature.
The reserve is located in the San Diego area and is home to a variety of different plants and animals.
The hike itself is not too difficult, but there are some areas that are more challenging than others.
The reserve is best hiked in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler.
However, the reserve can be hiked year-round if you are willing to brave the heat.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as there is little shade on the trail.
With its beautiful views and diverse wildlife, the Torrey Pines State Reserve is a hike that should not be missed.
4. Enjoy the Spectacular Views at La Jolla Cove
Travel time from San Diego to La Jolla Cove:
(22 minutes) 15.4 miles
La Jolla is a beautiful seaside village in San Diego that offers stunning views, amazing shops, and plenty of delicious places to eat.
The glittering ocean water and pounding waves at La Jolla Cove are nothing less than magnificent.
The cove is also home to a variety of marine life, making it a great spot for snorkeling or just observing from the shore.
After taking in the sights at La Jolla Cove, be sure to explore the rest of this charming village.
There are plenty of boutique shops to browse and art galleries to explore.
And when you get hungry, there are plenty of great options for dining, whether you want fresh seafood or a gourmet burger.
A day trip to La Jolla is the perfect way to relax and enjoy some of the best that Southern California has to offer.
5. Head to the Del Mar Racetrack
Travel time from San Diego to Del Mar Racetrack:
(26 minutes) 21.7 miles
The Del Mar Racetrack is the perfect place for a day trip.
There’s no need to dress up, and there’s plenty of food and drink available.
Plus, it’s a great way to spend a summer day.
The track is open from mid-July through early September, and racing takes place Wednesday through Sunday.
During the races, you can place bets on the outcomes. Or you can just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. Either way, it’s sure to be a fun day out.
6. Relax and Enjoy Nature at the San Elijo Lagoon
Travel time from San Diego to San Elijo Lagoon:
(30 minutes) 23.8 miles
Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life? Then look no further than the San Elijo Lagoon.
This nature preserve is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Take a morning trip and watch the sunrise over the water. Then explore the hiking trails, keeping an eye out for native plants and animals.
And don’t forget to stop by the Visitors Center to learn more about this special place.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway, the San Elijo Lagoon is the perfect place to reconnect with nature.
7. Go Fishing on Lake Poway
Travel time from San Diego to Lake Poway:
(37 minutes) 28.5 miles
Just a short drive from San Diego, Lake Poway is a great destination for a day of fishing.
The lake is stocked with bass, trout, and catfish, making it a perfect spot for anglers of all skill levels.
In addition, the scenic surroundings and peaceful atmosphere make it an ideal place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
So whether you’re looking for a challenging fishing experience or a peaceful day in nature, head to Lake Poway for a day of fun.
8. Visit the San Diego Safari Park
Travel time from San Diego to San Diego Safari Park:
(39 minutes) 32.5 miles
Are you hunting for a fun day trip destination? Check out the San Diego Safari Park!
Located just 30 minutes outside of downtown San Diego, the Safari Park is home to over 3,500 animals from more than 650 species.
You can explore the park via tram, foot, or even by zip line!
In addition to seeing exotic animals up close, the Safari Park also offers a variety of educational opportunities.
Guided tours are available, and there are also several hands-on exhibits.
The Safari Park is a great way to learn about the animal kingdom while also enjoying a day of fun in the sun!
9. Visit the Gorgeous Sandy Beaches at Carlsbad
Travel time from San Diego to Carlsbad:
(38 minutes) 35.3 miles
Carlsbad is one of the most beautiful places in California to visit.
The sandy beaches are ideal for a relaxing day, and the mild weather allows you to enjoy the outdoors all year.
In addition, Carlsbad is home to a number of scenic trails and parks, making it a great place to get some exercise.
And if you’re looking for some fun nightlife, Carlsbad has a vibrant downtown area with plenty of bars and clubs to keep you entertained.
So whether you’re looking for a day of rest and relaxation or a night on the town, Carlsbad has something to offer everyone.
10. Day Trip to Legoland California
Travel time from San Diego to Legoland California:
(40 minutes) 34.2 miles
A day trip to Legoland California is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
This unique theme park is devoted to all things Lego, and it offers a wide variety of attractions and activities to keep everyone entertained.
From roller coasters and water rides to live shows and interactive exhibits, Legoland has something for everyone.
And with so many iconic landmarks made out of Lego bricks, there’s always something new to see.
A day at Legoland is the perfect way to explore your creativity, have some fun, and spend time with the whole family.
11. Hike the Iron Mountain Trail
Travel time from San Diego to Iron Mountain:
(40 minutes) 30.4 miles
Looking for a fun day trip from San Diego? Then look no further than the Iron Mountain Trail!
This scenic hike features beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and is the perfect way to get some fresh air and exercise.
The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, making it suitable for all skill levels.
And best of all, it’s only a short drive from San Diego.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your sunscreen and water bottle, and head on out to the Iron Mountain Trail!
12. Visit the Mission San Luis Rey
Travel time from San Diego to Mission San Luis Rey:
(45 minutes) 42.7 miles
Mission San Luis Rey is a beautiful place to spend the day.
The grounds are well-kept, and there’s plenty of history to learn about.
The mission was founded in 1798, and the buildings are a good example of Spanish Colonial architecture.
The church is especially impressive, with its tall bell tower and intricate stonework.
There are also several gardens on the property, including a peaceful courtyard with a fountain.
You can take a self-guided tour of the mission, or attend one of the guided tours that are offered throughout the day.
There’s also a museum on site, which contains artifacts from the mission’s history.
Mission San Luis Rey is a great place to spend a day if you’re looking for a mix of culture and relaxation.
13. Have Fun at the Oceanside Pier
Travel time from San Diego to Oceanside Pier:
(45 minutes) 39.3 miles
The Oceanside Pier is a must-do day trip from San Diego.
With its charming shops, restaurants, and stunning views, the pier is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
And don’t forget to bring your camera! The pier is also a great place to catch some waves.
So whether you’re looking for a day of relaxation or adventure, the Oceanside Pier is sure to please.
14. Morning Trip to Tijuana
Travel time from San Diego to Tijuana:
(50 minutes) 32.6 miles
If you’re scanning for an exciting day trip from San Diego, Tijuana is the place to go!
Just a short drive from the border, this vibrant city is full of culture, cuisine, and history.
Start your day with a delicious breakfast of freshly made churros – a Tijuana staple. Then, explore the city’s many museums and art galleries.
Be sure to stop by the famous Dr. Azteca Statue, which overlooks the whole city.
In the afternoon, enjoy some traditional Mexican cuisine for lunch before doing some shopping at one of the many markets.
End your day with a refreshing margarita while taking in the sights and sounds of this fascinating city.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Tijuana has something for everyone!
15. Explore the Julian Mining Town
Travel time from San Diego to Julian Mining Town:
(1 hour and 23 minutes) 61.1 miles
If you’re looking for a trip that’s a little bit off the beaten path, Julian Mining Town is the perfect destination.
Just a short drive from San Diego, this former mining town offers a glimpse into the state’s history.
Today, Julian is home to a number of antique stores, galleries, and restaurants.
The town also hosts annual events like the Apple Days Festival and the Julian Music Festival.
Whether you’re looking to explore Julian’s past or present, there’s something for everyone in this charming town.
16. Mount Palomar Observatory: The Center of Astronomical Research
Travel time from San Diego to Mount Palomar Observatory:
(1 hour and 30 minutes) 64.7 miles
Consider heading to Mount Palomar Observatory for a fun day trip from San Diego.
Located in the Cleveland National Forest, the observatory offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
You can take a tour of the facility, which houses one of the world’s largest telescopes, or simply enjoy the scenic hiking trails.
On clear days, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.
Whether you’re an astronomy buff or just looking for a beautiful place to explore, Mount Palomar Observatory is definitely worth a visit.
17. Take a Hike in the Agua Tibia Wilderness
Travel time from San Diego to Agua Tibia Wilderness:
(1 hour and 35 minutes) 75.8 miles
Just a short drive from San Diego, the Agua Tibia Wilderness is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
With its dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and towering redwoods, the Agua Tibia Wilderness offers hikers a chance to experience the best of California’s natural beauty.
The Agua Tibia Wilderness is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life, and hikers can often spot deer, squirrels, and even bobcats along the trail.
With its scenic views and abundant wildlife, the Agua Tibia Wilderness is a must-visit for any nature lover.
18. Check Out Disneyland
Travel time from San Diego to Disneyland:
(2 hours) 95.2 miles
For many people, a visit to Disneyland is the perfect way to spend a day.
And for those who live in or near San Diego, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of this world-famous theme park.
Just a 2 hour drive away, Disneyland is easy to get to and offers a wide variety of attractions and activities for everyone in the family.
From thrilling rides to informative shows and parades, there’s something for everyone at Disneyland.
And with so many different things to see and do, you’re sure to have a great time no matter how long you stay.
So if you’re looking for a fun-filled day trip from San Diego, be sure to check out Disneyland.
19. Explore the Anza-Borrego Desert
Travel time from San Diego to Anza-Borrego Desert:
(1 hour 45 minutes) 70.1 miles
For those looking to escape the busy city life, a day trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the perfect solution.
Located just a few hours east of San Diego, the park offers stunning desert vistas, miles of hiking trails, and the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife.
You can also enjoy a number of ranger-led programs, including nature walks and stargazing events.
Best of all, the park is open year-round, making it the perfect place to enjoy a day in nature no matter what time of year it is.
So whether you’re looking for a winter escape or a summer adventure, a trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is sure to please.
20. Visit Idyllwild to Enjoy the Stunning Mountain Scenery
Travel time from San Diego to Idyllwild :
(2 hours and 8 minutes) 113 miles
Looking for a day trip destination that will take your breath away? Then head to Idyllwild, where you can enjoy the stunning mountain scenery.
Located just a few hours from San Diego, Idyllwild is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
There are plenty of hiking trails to explore, as well as quaint shops and restaurants.
In the evening, you can stargaze in one of the darkest skies in Southern California.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Idyllwild for a day or two of fun in the mountains!
21. Take a Morning Drive to Los Angeles
Travel time from San Diego to Los Angeles:
(2 hours and 10 minutes) 120 miles
If you’re looking for a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of San Diego, consider taking a morning trip to Los Angeles.
While it may seem like a daunting task to make the journey up the coast, it’s actually quite easy to do.
And, best of all, you’ll get to experience all that Los Angeles has to offer without having to deal with the crowds.
The best way to get to Los Angeles from San Diego is by car. Simply take the I-5 north, and you’ll be there in no time.
Once you arrive, be sure to check out some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, head over to Venice Beach for a day of sun and sand.
No matter what you decide to do, a morning trip from San Diego to Los Angeles is sure to be a fun and memorable experience.
22. Day Trip to Catalina Island
Travel time from San Diego to Catalina Island:
(2 hours and 25 minutes) 115 miles
Just a short ferry ride from San Diego, Catalina Island is the perfect destination for a day trip.
With its Mediterranean-style buildings, quaint shops, and beautiful beaches, the island has a distinctly European feel.
You can explore the island’s many hiking trails, visit the Catalina Island Museum, or take a glass-bottom boat tour of the nearby reefs.
In the evening, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy, as well as live music and entertainment.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an adventurous day out, Catalina Island is sure to disappoint.
23. Check Out the Fascinating Joshua Tree National Park
Travel time from San Diego to Joshua Tree National Park:
(2 hours and 44 minutes) 164 miles
Just a short drive from San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park is a fun day trip for the whole family.
With its unique landscape of towering Joshua trees and rocky cliffs, the park offers something for everyone.
Hiking, picnicking, and stargazing are just a few of the activities that can be enjoyed in the park.
In addition, Joshua Tree is home to a variety of wildlife, including desert tortoises and bighorn sheep.
Whether you’re looking for an adventurous hike or a relaxing stroll through the desert, Joshua Tree National Park is sure to please.
24. Drive to Palm Springs Desert Oasis
Travel time from San Diego to Palm Springs:
(2 hours and 45 minutes) 164 miles
San Diego is a great place to live, work, and play.
But sometimes you just need to get away from it all for a day or two.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway, consider taking a day trip to Palm Springs.
Just a short drive from San Diego, Palm Springs is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some sunny weather.
The town is home to numerous golf courses, spas, and resorts, making it a popular destination for travelers from all over the world.
In addition, Palm Springs is also home to a number of art galleries, museums, and historical sites.
So whether you’re looking to hit the links or explore some of California’s history, Palm Springs is sure to have something for everyone.