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There is no place in the world quite like California for a road trip. While Los Angeles offers enough to see and do to fill any vacation, why not add a day or two to your trip for jaunts to nearby gems? Here’s where we recommend.

Santa Monica

Distance from LAX: 13 kilometres
Dream with the waves, rise with the sun in Santa Monica. About a 20-minute drive will take you from downtown Los Angeles to California’s beloved beach town and its perpetually warm shores. Wander around the iconic Santa Monica Pier, surf or swim off the beach, hike in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area or discover 8 vibrant neighbourhoods teeming with amazing restaurants and farmers’ markets.
Santa Monica boardwalk-Promenade à Santa Monica

Huntington Beach, Orange County

Distance from LAX: About 57 kilometres
Nicknamed Surf City, USA, Huntington Beach is the place to catch a wave, hosting countless World Surf League contests every year. USA Today even named it the Best California Beach for its 10 miles of uninterrupted sandy shores. For grown-up fun beyond the beach, follow the Surf City USA Barrel Trail to discover all the area’s craft breweries and distilleries. Endless activities await families too—from hiking to boat tours and surf lessons for all ages.
Surf Huntington Beach

Santa Barbara

Distance from LAX: About 150 kilometres
Explore the so-called American Riviera when you hit the road for a scenic drive from LA to Santa Barbara. Bordered by mountains, it offers something for all travellers: splendid beaches, picturesque Spanish-influenced architecture, and a wine scene that rivals that of Napa and Sonoma. Don’t miss Stearns Wharf, Arroyo Burro Beach, and the city’s Urban Wine Trail.

Pro-tip: Go between November and April for prime whale-watching!
Santa Barbara

Palm Springs

Distance from LAX: About 190 kilometres
Once a hideaway for Hollywood stars needing a break, Palm Springs still brings sophistication to the wild desert landscapes that surround it. Just over 2 hours from LA by car, this Californian gem is a must-see for architecture buffs—the style used here even has its own name: Desert Modernism. Learn all about its history and Palm Springs’ past at the Palm Springs Historical Society.
Palm Springs


Distance from LAX: About 55 kilometres
Yes, Anaheim is a charming city for foodies and sports enthusiasts (home to the NHL’s Mighty Ducks!), but it’s main draw for Canadian travellers has to do with a certain famous mouse. This is where you’ll find Walt Disney’s first amusement park: the Disneyland Resort. Take in over 60 magical attractions across 9 fantastical lands, including the iconic Fantasyland and the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

San Diego

Distance from LAX: About 200 kilometres
Welcome to sunny San Diego: a big city with laidback beachy vibes. Its proximity to the Mexican border has blessed the city with some of the best cuisine in the Golden State—Sample Cali Baja classics like fish tacos. While the city shines outdoors, the 17 museums and countless galleries in Balboa Park (the “cultural heart of San Diego”) will satisfy all travellers who love the arts and culture scenes that thrive by the coast.
Balboa Park San Diego

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from LAX: About 280 kilometres
California is not just about waterfront winding roads. It’s also about insane desert scenery speckled with unique trees and wildlife. In this legendary park, the Colorado Desert meets the Mojave Desert and the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Respect the natural environment, don’t miss the sunset, and look out for desert bighorns, bobcats, hawks, eagles, 15 species of cacti and blooming wildflowers in the spring.
Joshua Tree National Park

What’s Next

Look at all our California destinations for more trip ideas and options! Add a car rental to you booking for whichever Los Angeles day trip you choose. And, last but not least, load up our California playlist for the ultimate road trip soundtrack.