7 Best California Girls' Weekend Getaways

As much as I love my solitude, I wouldn't be who I am without my girlfriends. The women who have helped shape me and who continue to be my biggest cheerleaders hold a very special place in my life, and in my travels. Each year, we make it a point to have an adventure together at least once. When planning a girlfriend weekend getaway, it can be tough to find something to satisfy everyone, particularly if you have a varied friend group like I do. If you’re the one doing the planning, there can be pressure to pick the perfect place. Naturally, you want everyone to be happy! 

That’s why I love sunny California. There are multiple airports to fly into, and there’s so much variety. As a native Californian, I know all the best cities for a great girlfriend weekend getaway; all from firsthand experience. 

Whether your preference is the outdoors, the beach or the city, these California gems are sure to suit your girlfriend weekend getaway desires: 

Santa Barbara

My girlfriends and I are big fans of Santa Barbara, mostly because we met there during our university days.. However, even those with no sentimental connection to the city will find it easy to love its world-class beaches, incredible shopping and camping. It’s a natural choice to come back to again and again. Additionally, Santa Barbara benefits from a perpetual spring-like climate so it’s never too hot and never too cold.

For beach lovers, I recommend heading to Butterfly Beach, regularly voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. For a chance to enjoy the sun and also some shopping, I’d recommend State Street. There’s a great mix of high-end department stores as well as smaller boutique shops. If you prefer hiking, Montecito has plenty of trails of varying lengths. I love the Cold Spring trail and Montecito Peak.

Stay: Though Santa Barbara can cost a pretty penny, it doesn’t have to! My girlfriends and I usually like to rent a house in Goleta, just a stone’s throw north of Santa Barbara and close to the airport. For the more outdoorsy types, I absolutely love the El Capitan campground. It’s on a cliff over the ocean and I see dolphins every single time I stay there. My friends and I have made many beautiful memories there.

Getting There: Santa Barbara has its own municipal airport (SBA), which is small and easy to fly into and there’s an Alamo Rent A Car location there for your convenience.

Santa Barbara Image by Egor Shitikov from Pixabay


San Diego

If you’re still interested in something coastal, but perhaps a bit bigger than Santa Barbara, San Diego has some of the best weather in the country, in my opinion, and has more flight options.

Through the years, my girlfriends and I have enjoyed the nightlife of Pacific Beach, the gorgeous sunsets on the coast in La Jolla, the quaint and beautiful Coronado Island and a Padres or Chargers game from time to time! Given that San Diego is California’s third largest city, you can count on there being all kinds of festivals and street fairs depending on when you go, as well. If you girls want to try something new, there are surf lessons, like at San Diego Surf School or San Diego Surf Lessons, available all along the coast.

Stay: If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, Pacific Beach caters to a younger crowd. For cities that are more laid back, I prefer Ocean Beach or Encinitas up the coast. Bonus: Encinitas is home to the gorgeous and free Self-Reflection Gardens.

Getting There: San Diego international Airport (SAN) is your best option for getting to San Diego. You can pick up your rental car here, right from the airport.

San Diego Image by dfsym from Pixabay


San Francisco & Oakland

The San Francisco Bay area is one of the most popular and well-loved destinations in California.

For the perfect photo opportunity, head to the Painted Ladies: The iconic row of townhomes painted in different colors at Alamo Square on Steiner and Hayes Streets. There’s a grassy area across from the homes that is perfect for a photo session or a picnic. I also love the Presidio for a little hike, beginning or ending at Baker Beach for a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re looking for a more alternative setting, I’m a big fan of Oakland for live music and especially Ecstatic Dance, a dance party to dynamic world music, on Sunday’s.

Stay: There are plenty of Airbnb options all throughout the city and since San Francisco is not too spread out, you’re never too far from all of the exciting activities. I also love staying in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland.

Getting There: Both San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK) are great airports to fly into to kickstart your adventure. I would select the airport based on which part of the Bay you plan to see more of. 

San Francisco San Francisco


Joshua Tree National Park

For a more natural getaway, I absolutely love Joshua Tree. Each year when it’s not a full moon, my girlfriends and I plan a camping trip to see the Perseid’s meteor shower, and Joshua Tree is the perfect place to watch. Even if it’s not August when you plan to go (which is when the meteor shower happens), if you love stargazing and have a deep appreciation for sunrises and sunsets, you’ll love Joshua Tree. There’s a nice energy to Joshua Tree that is perfect for spiritual types. I love to come here with my friends who enjoy hiking or are willing to dip their toe in. Enjoy some gentle hikes like the Cholla cactus garden and Barker Dam hikes or drive through the park at dusk to see the Joshua trees become silhouettes at sunset. Keep in mind this is a desert and can get incredibly hot during the day with temperatures plummeting after dark.

Stay: If you’re on a budget and want to be outdoorsy, there are plenty of campgrounds all throughout Joshua Tree. I can also recommend the 29 Palms Inn, which is close to the southern entrance and has a great restaurant (same name as the hotel).

Getting There: The closest airport is Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), or you can pick up your rental car from LAX and drive about three and a half hours to the park.

Joshua Tree Joshua Tree


Big Sur

There are few places in the world that I love more than Big Sur. It’s hard to find a more beautiful, rugged stretch of coastline; not to mention, Big Sur is home to the incredible California Coastal Redwood trees – some of the tallest trees in the world. Two of my favorite things to do here are hiking and driving along the coast, and stopping at viewpoints like the Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls (my favorite) and Point Lobos. It’s also worth visiting Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Andrew Molera State Parks to take a walk through the Redwood trees, and Limekiln State Park where there is a waterfall.

Stay: There’s a wide range of available lodging in Big Sur, including budget camping options at campgrounds at the State Parks and Limekiln. Be sure to book any of these options ahead of time, as Big Sur is a popular destination, particularly in the summer!

Getting There: There are quite a few airport options located within a few hours from Big Sur, such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which are perfect if you want to make multiple stops up or down the coast.

Big Sur Big Sur


Humboldt County

Lovingly referred to as the ‘Lost Coast’ of California, Humboldt County is one of my absolute favorite areas because it still flies way under the radar compared to almost everywhere else in California with similar beauty. Here, you truly can have beaches like Mad River or Moonstone all to yourself at sunset, and you have almost limitless options for hikes through the Redwood trees. If you’re an oyster lover, the Humboldt Bay has its own Kumamoto oysters and at happy hour you can get them for as low as $1.50 at Abruzzi in Arcata!

My suggestion for your first day of a girlfriend weekend getaway in Humboldt County is to drive along the coast and stop at beaches all along the way. I’d suggest reserving the second day for walking through the redwoods. Here’s a nice resource for trails. Even your less outdoorsy girlfriends can certainly appreciate the world’s tallest trees!

Stay: Arcata and Humboldt are both great cities to stay in with plenty of options. There’s also camping nearby in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, but keep in mind this temperate part of California can be wet in the winter months.

Getting There: Arcata Airport (ACV) is convenient to fly into and is a short 10-minute drive to Humboldt in your rental car.

Humboldt County Humboldt County


Lake Tahoe

Straddling the line between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe has some of the best skiing in the state during the winter months. And for those who enjoy swimming during the summer, the crystal-clear water of Lake Tahoe provides a nice alternative to the typically cold water along the California coast. For water activities like swimming, SUP, and kayaking, check out Emerald Bay. If you’re more interested in going for a hike, Mt. Tallac is one of the best for gorgeous views over Tahoe.

Stay: Depending on time of year, staying near a ski resort like Alpine Meadows could make sense, whether at the resort or a vacation rental. To save some money, the Fallen Leaf campground is a lovely alternative in the warmer months.

Getting There: Fly into Reno Tahoe International Airport and pick up your rental car. Within about a 30-minute drive you’ll start to see the lake.

Lake Tahoe Lake Tahoe

I hope this list give you some food for thought for your next girlfriend weekend getaway. Of course, there are always the other California favorites like Hollywood or Silverlake in the Los Angeles area, or Yosemite for those who love to hike, but I hope this list offers some options that you might not have thought of or heard of before. Enjoy the Golden State with your girlfriends!

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About the Author

Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over five years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.