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The best weekend getaways in California for fun in the sun

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There’s no shortage of beautiful spots to explore in California, the state that is blessed with warm weather for much of the year and over 284 days of sunshine. Whether you’re planning to hit the beach, take a tour of some of the area’s world-famous wineries, or spend time exploring the vibrant cities, there’s so much to see and do in the Golden State. And the best way to experience all the West Coast has to offer? Hopping in the car and taking off on a California weekend getaway.  

If you don’t happen to have your own set of wheels, don’t panic – there are lots of SIXT car rental branches in California where you can pick up the perfect vehicle for your next weekend trip. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or the ideal spot for a family-friendly holiday, there’s something for everyone. Read on to discover the very best weekend getaways in California.  

  1. Big Sur: One of the best weekend getaways in California for nature lovers
  2. Palm Springs: One of the best weekend trips in California for architecture buffs 
  3. Yosemite National Park: One of the best California weekend getaways for the whole family
  4. Los Angeles: One of the best weekend getaways in California for celeb spotting
  5. Napa Valley: One of the best weekend trips in California for wine lovers
  6. Catalina Island: One of the best California weekend getaways for beach lovers
  7. Laguna Beach: One of the best weekend getaways in California for art aficionados
  8. Lake Tahoe: One of the best weekend trips in California for outdoor sports fanatics
  9. Santa Barbara: One of the best CA weekend getaways for those who like the finer things in life

1. Big Sur: One of the best weekend getaways in California for nature lovers 

  • Do not miss: The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park 
  • Best period to visit: September to November 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 2-hour drive from San Jose Airport 

When you think of a California road trip, the first image that comes to mind is usually the dramatic stretch of coastline around Big Sur, with its crashing waves and windswept beaches. One of the best ways to experience the area’s awesome beauty is from the car as you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, and there are plenty of pullouts along the way where you can stop and take in those sweeping ocean views. 

Nature lovers will enjoy admiring the redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park before heading to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where you can hike to McWay Falls, the picturesque waterfall that tumbles straight into the ocean.  

As for picking up your set of wheels, SIXT has several car rental locations in Northern California to choose from. Those flying into the area can pick up a vehicle from the SIXT branch at San Jose Airport

2. Palm Springs: One of the best weekend trips in California for architecture buffs 

  • Do not miss:  House of Tomorrow and Palm Springs Art Museum 
  • Best period to visit: Late December to April 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 2-hour drive from LAX 

A visit to Palm Springs almost feels like stepping back in time thanks to the fact that the city is home to the largest concentration of mid-century modern architecture in the world. Driving around, you can spot architectural marvels like the 1960s House of Tomorrow, which Elvis and Priscilla Presley rented as their honeymoon hideaway, and the Kaufmann Desert House, which was built in 1946 and quickly became one of the finest examples of high Modernist style in America. 

Culture lovers, meanwhile, should head to the Palm Springs Art Museum where they can spot works by Andy Warhol and Picasso. Or, make the most of the desert heat by lounging beside an outdoor pool and admiring the palm trees. No wonder the city is always listed as one of the best weekend getaways in California.   

The best place to pick up your vehicle is from SIXT in LAX, where there’s a wide variety to choose from. Get a Mini Cooper or Ford convertible and enjoy the sunny days a little more.  

3. Yosemite National Park: One of the best California weekend getaways for the whole family  

  • Do not miss:  Half Dome 
  • Best period to visit: May and September
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 3 hours from Mission District 

Looking for a weekend destination that’s going to satisfy the whole family? Look no further – we’ve found it. Yosemite National Park ticks all the boxes when it comes to a weekend getaway in California that will appeal to little and big kids alike. There’s no shortage of family-friendly activities here, from fishing and hiking to splashing about in the creeks and rivers

There are also plenty of driving tours that will allow you to enjoy truly spellbinding views – the best is from Tunnel View, where you can see Half Dome, Bridal Falls and El Capitan, as well as the park’s sweeping valley. Just make sure not to come during peak season in the middle of summer, as the park can be unbearably overrun by tourists. The best times to come are either in spring or fall, when the crowds have thinned out a bit but the weather is still warm.  

One of the best places to pick up a rental car is from SIXT’s Mission District branch in San Francisco. Make sure you choose a larger model, like a BMW or Chevrolet SUV, to have plenty of room to fit you, the kids, and all your vacation gear.  

4. Los Angeles: One of the best weekend getaways in California for celeb spotting 

  • Do not miss:  Venice Beach and The Pacific Wheel 
  • Best period to visit: March-May and September-November 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 50 minutes from LAX via I-105 E and I-110 N 

A trip to LA is a must for anyone visiting the Golden State, and while a weekend is never long enough to experience all this vibrant city has to offer, it’s a great starting point for getting to know the City of Angels. Start off with an early morning hike to the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park before taking a tour of the A-list mansions in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air (keep your eyes peeled, you never know who you might spot here). 

For seaside fun, head to Venice Beach, where you can watch the skaters do jaw-dropping tricks in the oceanfront skate park before soaking up the coastal views from the top of the Pacific Wheel on Santa Monica Pier. The Pacific Wheel is the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel.  

If you’re planning a trip to Beverly Hills, you need to make sure you fit in with the locals. SIXT’s LAX branch has plenty of luxury vehicles to choose from, including convertible BMWs. Browse through the range of top models to make sure you arrive in style. 

5. Napa Valley: One of the best weekend trips in California for wine lovers 

  • Do not miss:  The Napa Valley Wine Train winery tour 
  • Best period to visit: August – October 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 1.5 hours from San Francisco Airport 

Northern California’s wine region is famous the world over, and for good reason. This is one of the loveliest spots to come to for a romantic getaway in California, where you can stay in some of the state’s finest luxury hotels, drink great wine and enjoy wonderful farm-to-table cuisine in some of California’s top restaurants like Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, which is regularly voted one of the best in the world. 

There are dozens of great wineries to visit, but our top pick would have to be Inglenook, which is owned by acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola and dates back to 1879. One of the most charming ways to explore the valley is aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, which goes from winery to winery and offers fantastic views from its observation dining car.  

Pick up your vehicle from the SIXT branch at San Francisco Airport, where you’ll have a full fleet to choose from. Make sure you book your ideal car online before your arrival, so you can make sure it will be available and waiting for you.  

6. Catalina Island: One of the best California weekend getaways for beach lovers 

  • Do not miss:  The Catalina Island Zip Line 
  • Best period to visit: September – December 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: Around 40 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles 

If you’re looking for Mediterranean vibes in the heart of Southern California, this is the place to visit. Charming Catalina, the most picturesque of California’s Channel Islands, was once a favorite spot for stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne. They came for the renowned Art Deco Catalina Casino and for peaceful Two Harbors, where they could relax at the beach club and lounge beside the sparkling turquoise waters. 

The beach is just a short boat ride away from the island’s main hub of Avalon. Come to explore the island’s natural beauty – keep an eye out for bald eagles, foxes, deer, and roaming bison, which were originally brought over by a film crew in the 1920s and have now gone native. Or, book a thrilling ride on the Catalina Island Zip Line, which offers fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean below.  

The island is blissfully quiet thanks in large part to the fact that very few cars are allowed on it. So, after you’ve picked up your wheels from the SIXT branch in Downtown Los Angeles and driven to Long Beach, you’ll need to leave your vehicle and hop on the high-speed Catalina Express catamaran, which takes about an hour.  

7. Laguna Beach: One of the best weekend getaways in California for art aficionados  

  • Do not miss: The art galleries 
  • Best period to visit: April-June and September-October 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: Around 1 hour and 20 minutes from San Diego Airport 

Orange County might be better known for its beachside towns of Huntington and Newport, but one of the top picks is the lesser-developed Laguna Beach, which remains one of the prettiest in the area. Originally created as an artist’s colony in 1927, the city is still home to lots of first-class art galleries as well as popular art festivals in the summer, including the Sawdust Art Festival in June and the Pageant of the Masters in July. 

But art isn’t the only thing on offer here – this is also a great spot to go whale watching, take part in a spot of mountain biking, go hiking in the verdant hills, or hit the waves on your surfboard. No wonder it’s regarded as one of the best places for a relaxed weekend getaway in California.   

It’s important to choose the right car for your weekend trip – for a visit to Laguna Beach, you’ll want to pick something roomy to make sure you have space for all your beach gear, like a Chevrolet SUV. Head to the SIXT branch at San Diego Airport, to pick up your car.  

8. Lake Tahoe: One of the best weekend trips in California for outdoor sports fanatics 

  • Do not miss:  Sand Harbor State Park 
  • Best period to visit: April-May and September-November
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 3.5 hours from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco 

South Lake Tahoe is a great spot to visit all year round, especially for those who love to take part in outdoor sports. During the colder months, it transforms into a snowy winter wonderland, with ski resorts dotted all around the lake’s shores. There’s plenty of fun for the whole family during this season, with everything from skiing and snowboarding to sledding and tubing on offer. 

When the weather warms up, the area turns into a summer paradise. Families splash about in the lake’s crystal-clear waters and book up water activities, from kayaking and paddle boarding in Emerald Bay State Park to lounging on the pristine beach at Sand Harbor State Park.  

You’ll be spending plenty of time in the car driving to and from Lake Tahoe’s most popular spots, so you’ll want to make sure you choose one of the more luxurious vehicles for this road trip. Why not go for one of the elite BMW SUVs, which you can pick up from the SIXT branch at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco?  

9. Santa Barbara: One of the best California weekend getaways for those who like the finer things in life 

  • Do not miss: The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art 
  • Best period to visit: March-May and September-November 
  • Drive time from the closest SIXT branch: 2 hours from Downtown LA branch 

Often referred to as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is where California’s most glamorous characters come to let their hair down. Just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, it’s famous as a haven for Hollywood A-listers – Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex all have mansions in the wealthy neighborhood of Montecito. As well as being a playground for the rich and famous, Santa Barbara is also a great spot for a California weekend getaway for anyone no matter what time of year it is, thanks to the So-Cal city’s temperate climate. 

Come to admire the Spanish Colonial heritage at the picturesque County Courthouse and the Old Mission, take a sunset stroll along one of the many beaches, learn about California’s native plants at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and get your culture fix at the recently revamped Santa Barbara Museum of Art.  

Make sure you fit in with the locals by arriving in a premium car – you can choose from a whole range of luxury BMW SUVs at SIXT’s Downtown LA branch.  


Now that you know some of the best weekend getaways in California, it’s time to choose the one that you like the sound of the most. There are so many great options, whether you’re looking for beachside frolics, big city thrills, or an opportunity to get back to nature. Behind the wheel of a SIXT rental car, you’ll be able to explore the very best that the Golden State has to offer in a few short hours. So, pack your bags and get booking!  

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