Weekend Trips From Los Angeles: 5 Hours Or Less

Window seat view on a plane of Downtown Los Angeles

Weekend trips from Los Angeles are much needed when you live with traffic and chaos right outside your door. One of the best things about LA is how easy it is to have that change of pace since it’s a hub to so many places and home to one of the busiest airports in the world; LAX. 

Whether you’re thinking of going on a road trip or boarding a flight, I have listed destinations below, both within California, the US and Internationally that can be reached within 5 hours. Allowing you to have more time to relax and enjoy your long weekend. Plan your escape from LA and comment below where you’re going next!

Weekend Trips From Los Angeles: National Parks

Yosemite National Park 

Yosemite National Park in California with a view of pine trees and a waterfall.

Photo by Jairo Gonzalez

Calling all adventure seekers to hop into their car and road trip down to Yosemite National Park to feast your eyes on the tall sequoias, waterfalls, valleys and wildlife. Great for anyone looking to go camping or just enjoy the great outdoors. It is one of the most visited National Parks in the US so make sure to plan accordingly and get those hiking shoes ready!

Drive Time:
4 hours 44 minutes

Best time to visit:
May – September 

Big Bear, CA

Houses line the lake in Big Bear, CA.

Photo by Mattia Bericchia

Gather your travel crew because in less than 2.5 hours you will be in the mountains of Big Bear, California! You can visit in the winter and be welcomed by snow and hot chocolate. Or you can visit in the spring and go for a swim in the lake. Growing up I would go tubing in the winter on the slopes and it’s one of my favorite memories.

Drive Time:
2 hours 23 minutes

Best time to visit:
Year round, depending on what you like to do. Snow in the winter months. Hikes, fishing, and/or swimming in the spring & summer.

Joshua Tree National Park 

Desert plants and rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park.

Photo by Josh McCausland

Known mostly to California natives, Joshua Tree can be the trip you want it to be. It can be relaxing by the pool and star gazing at night to hiking and photography. There are many unique and fun Airbnb’s to stay at or you can opt for camping.  So much can be done in this monochromatic desert. 

Drive Time:
3 hours 36 minutes

Best time to visit:
Most comfortable weather is in the spring or fall months.

Weekend Trip From Los Angeles: Beaches

La Jolla, San Diego

La Jolla Cove in San Diego with beach goers on the sand.

Photo by Jeffrey Eisen

The scenic La Jolla neighborhood can be a long weekend road trip on its own or just a day trip if you want to combine it with another San Diego city. The ombre blue waters of La Jolla and the chic seaside town are what make it what it is. There are so many water activities to do and it’s a family friendly beach town too!

Drive Time:
2 hours 58 minutes

Best time to visit:
July – October

Santa Barbara, CA

Photo by Zoi Palla

Known for their wineries, beautiful beaches and Spanish inspired architecture, Santa Barbara is the more relaxed and put together sister of LA. A long weekend here will let you reset for the week ahead. Their restaurants are some of the best in California and so are their wines! 

Drive Time:
1 hours 57 minutes

Best time to visit:
May – September

8. Ensenada, Baja California (México) 

Ensenada beach in Baja, California with a straw hut in the middle of the sand.

Photo by Menaxen Leven

This is one of my favorite road trips from LA. A long weekend in Ensenada is a must, they have some of the best lobster I’ve ever had. If you’re a seafood aficionado then I recommend any of the beachfront restaurants, they all serve a similar menu. You can also enjoy water sports and wine country (Valle de Guadalupe) only 45 more minutes south. 

1. You will need a Passport.
2. International data plan for your phone (I forgot last time I went and never made it to my hotel).
3. You will need to make sure you feel safe/confident about driving your car, once you go through the border the streets aren’t always paved.

Drive Time:
3 hours 10 minutes

Best time to visit:
July – October

Weekend Trip From Los Angeles: Towns

Solvang, CA

Large windmill in the town of Solvang, CA.

Photo by Nanbo Wang

Just a 2.5 hr drive from LA, you can feel like you’re walking the streets of Europe when you visit Solvang. Stay at a charming bed and breakfast and indulge in Danish pastries or go shopping at Little Denmark. You’ll feel like you’re in Copenhagen when in reality, you’re in SoCal!

Drive Time:
2 hours 32 minutes

Best time to visit:
April – May

Note: This Danish inspired town can also be combined with a Santa Barbara weekend trip.

Weekend Trips From Los Angeles: Deserts

Palm Springs

Body of water in Palm Springs Desert with a backdrop of mountains.

Photo by Robert Ruggiero

The lined palm trees on the streets and the colossal mountains with the photogenic  windmills is, of course, Palm Springs. There is so much to do aside from lounging and having a pool day. You can get on the aerial tram for a birds eye view of the desert, bike the Indian Canyons or visit the cabazon dinosaurs if you’re traveling with kids (or if you’re a kid at heart). 

Drive Time:
2 hours 15 minutes

Best time to visit:
Most comfortable weather is in the spring or fall months.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Casinos in Las Vegas lighting up the sky on the strip.

Photo by Matthias Mullie

The city of lights and it’s not Paris, but the vibrant and sleepless city of Las Vegas. In less than 2 hours you can be eating at one of the many buffets, enjoying a Cirque du Soleil show or walking down the strip. There’s also a lot of desert activities like ATV tours, horseback riding and hikes to enjoy time away from the hustle and bustle. 

Flight Time:
1 hours 15 minutes

Best time to visit:
March – May 
September – November Summers can be brutal, reaching triple digits

Short Flights from Los Angeles: West Coast

San Francisco, California 

Red bridge also known as the Golden State Bridge suspended over a body of water.

Known for its Golden Gate Bridge (which isn’t gold), its steep streets and cold summers, San Francisco is so close to LA if you decide to fly there. I was in SF for a long weekend last summer and got to do so much in this trendy coastal city. It’s pedestrian friendly city, unlike LA where everyone has a car. I enjoyed a Ghirardelli’s ice cream while on the pier watching the boats sail by. 

Flight Time:
1 hours 25 minutes

Best time to visit:
September – November

Seattle, Washington

The entrance to Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Just north of California is the coffee capital of the US, Seattle. It’s mostly cold and rainy, but visiting in the summer months will give you a higher chance of sun. Explore the famous Pike Place Market where you can walk the aisles and pick up a craft, lunch or coffee from the first ever Starbucks! Visit the iconic Space Needle at sunset and watch the city turn to night in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. 

Flight Time:
2 hours 55 minutes 

Best time to visit:
Mid May – Early October

Short Flights from Los Angeles: Central US

Austin, Texas

People paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake in Austin.

Photo by Max Miner

Ah the great city of Austin, home to some of the best restaurants, lake activities and nightlife. I love visiting Austin and kayaking on Lady Bird Lake and being a tourist of the state capitol. It’s such a young city and you can do a mix of nature and city, which is great. There’s so much to do and the people are so warm and welcoming. Southern hospitality is real y’all!

Flight Time:
2 hours 55 minutes

Best time to visit:
September – November 
March – May

Nashville, Tennessee

Photo by Lauren Forando

If you love country music, neon lights and a food scene then hop on that flight to Nashville! After checking into your hotel, explore the downtown and be welcomed by live music and a lively crowd. One of my favorite things to do in Nashville is to hop on one of the many unique party buses to explore the city. There are music and art museums you can visit and beautiful state parks.

Flight Time:
3 hours 55 minutes 

Best time to visit:
April – October

Denver, Colorado

Views of mountains in Denver.

Photo by Connor Betts

Home to some of the most scenic views, Denver is the perfect place for those who want to spend a weekend outdoors either camping or connecting with nature. Hike up to Emerald Lake or the red rock formations at Garden of the Gods. You can also split your time and explore the city by visiting the Botanical gardens, the zoo and the downtown. 

Flight Time:
2 hours 20 minutes 

Best time to visit:
April through May 
September through October

Short Flights from Los Angeles: Mexico   

Mexico City, Mexico

Motorcyclists going through the streets of Polanco.

One of my favorite long weekend getaways is to Mexico City. There are so many things to do, the food is delicious and the coffee scene is better than LA (I hate to say). My favorite neighborhoods are Roma Norte and Polanco, where young professionals and chic people line the streets. The city is filled with Spanish influence from the architecture of the homes to the shops. Mexico City is budget friendly even though it’s an international trip. Get your passport ready and make your way down south!

Flight Time:
3 hours 40 minutes 

Best time to visit:
March – May

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Boats on the Sea of Cortez in Cabo San Lucas.

Photo by Brendan Stephens

Looking for a beach vacation and ultimate R&R then Cabo San Lucas is where you need to book your next long weekend too! There’s great weather almost all year with the exception of the rainy season (August-September). There are so many luxury hotels to choose from and day trips you can take if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s a unique destination where the desert and ocean meet. You’re guaranteed to be recharged when you head back to LA. 

Flight Time:
2 hours 25 minutes

Best time to visit:
October – July 

Short Flights From Los Angeles: Canada

Vancouver, Canada

Views of a lake in Vancouver.

Photo by Kyle Thacker

On the list, is the dynamic city of Vancouver! One of the best places to travel to if you want a mix of nature and city. You can start off in the city by exploring the pristine Butchart Gardens then going downtown to take a bike tour of all the highlights in the city.

Moving on to exploring the scenic views of Vancouver. You can go on a whale watching safari, walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge, paddle board in Deep Cove and so much more. Definetely a must since its only a 3 hour flight!

Flight Time:
3 hours 

Best time to visit:
March to May 
September to November

Short Flights From Los Angeles: Central America

Guatemala City, Guatemala

The town of Cayala in Guatemala City.

Photo by Alejandro Alas

Who knew you could go all the way down to Guatemala City for a trip in just under 5 hours? The green and lush country of Guatemala is the perfect escape when you want to go on a cultural trip that’s not far from home. Attend a weaving workshop and learn how to create a beautiful traditional scarf, prepare chocolate desserts with locals, take a night tour of Pacaya Volcano or go on a day trip to the colorful town of Antigua. It’s a great trip if you have kids and want to expose them to a new culture and ways of living. 

Flight Time:
4 hours 50 minutes 

Best time to visit:
November – April

Belize City, Belize

Colorful chairs on the sand in Belize with views of the water.

Photo by Meritt Thomas

Ending our weekend trips from Los Angeles article with the often overlooked, but incredibly beautiful Belize! Explore the Central American country and get ready to indulge in some fun in the sun while cave tubing, snorkel the Hol Chan Marine Reserve where you’ll see sharks, sea turtles and fish or go on a day trip to see the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve. If you’re feeling extra adventurous then explore the neighboring island of Ambergris Bay and hop on a water taxi! This is definitely doable if you plan accordingly and follow an itinerary for a packed long weekend trip!

Flight Time:
4 hours 35 minutes 

Best time to visit:
January – May

Tips for your Weekend Trips From Los Angeles

  1. Plan ahead for the best rates when it comes to hotels & flights
  2. Leave early on a Friday and return late on Sunday to make the most of your time
  3. Stick to a rough itinerary, but allow for spontaneity to happen incase you see something you want to do
  4. Pack only the essentials so you don’t spend time & money on waiting for your baggage or paying for checked bag fees
  5. Choose direct flights to make the most of your time (Pro Tip: Purchasing Monday – Wednesday will give you the best rates)
View of the Ocean while driving down  PCH.

The options of destinations for your weekend trips from Los Angeles are many, from a local Cali road trip to San Diego to as far as Guatemala City and all in less than 5 hours. You will no longer need to have an entire week to fit in an international city vacation. I recommend booking your activities ahead of time and creating a rough itinerary to follow if you want to squeeze in a variety of locations in that city.

10 thoughts on “Weekend Trips From Los Angeles: 5 Hours Or Less”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *