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6 Can’t-Miss Road Trips From Santa Monica

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

A quick 90-minute drive from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara, the perfect place for a getaway. Santa Barbara is famous for its stunning beaches and scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Spend a weekend tasting wine, kayaking, biking, visiting art galleries, and lounging on the beach. 

There are endless things to do and see here, and your trip can be as relaxing or action-packed as you please. Head to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to glimpse the ongoing American art exhibitions and ever-changing displays of photos, sculptures, paintings, and more. View the Old West’s mode of transport and artifacts by heading to the Carriage and Western Art Museum. If you prefer to spend your day by the ocean, head to Leadbetter Beach to surf, sunbathe, jog, and delight in the salty Pacific breeze. 

Given the array of attractions to enjoy in Santa Barbara, the only concrete aspect you’ll need to arrange is a place to stay. The Belmond Hotel El Elcanto is an ideal place to stay for luxurious amenities, as it offers a fitness studio, spa, lavish accommodations, and dining options. Alternatively, book your stay at the family-owned and operated Harbour House Inn. Here, you’ll relax in boutique studios with all the bells and whistles, all just a short walk from West Beach.  

Make Santa Barbara your next road trip destination if you appreciate beach day trips, regional art and culture, and sightseeing.
Make Santa Barbara your next road trip
La Serena Villas pool, Credit: the lost two

Palm Springs

Two hours away from Santa Monica, Palm Springs offers visitors a plethora of high-living resorts and hotels. If you need a romantic escape from everyday life filled with poolside leisure and spa treatments, Palm Springs is your best bet. 

If just you and your honey are traveling, stay at the 21+-only La Serena Villas to unwind in the Whispers Spa. Have some cocktails on the rooftop lounge and luxuriate in your secluded villa, complete with a private patio, romantic claw foot tub, and fire pit. Book a casita in La Quinta Resort & Club for an extravagant and intimate retreat featuring fireplaces and secluded patios. The resort also offers upgraded rooms with private hot tubs, kitchens, or poolside locations.

In addition to decked-out resorts and hotels, there are several tourist attractions to enjoy during your stay. Stop by the Moorten Botanical Garden to walk inside the arboretum, which features desert trees, plants, and cacti from around the world. If you want nothing more than relaxation on your vacation, take a break with a combined body and foot massage at Palm Springs Beautiful Spa Massage

Spend a healing vacation basking in the desert sun, getting spa treatments, and just resting in Palm Springs.


Temecula is a tourist and resort destination a mere three hours from Santa Monica. If you’re looking for a retreat centered around tasting wine and enjoying fabulous resort accommodations, Temecula is the ideal spot for you. 

Winos are welcome to visit Temecula’s many wineries. Try a cellar tour or tasting session and delight in the family-friendly Grape Stomp and Harvest Festival at Callaway Vineyard & Winery. Get a thorough introduction to Temecula’s best wines, sipping various selections on vineyard patios overlooking the California vines of Vindemia. Stop by Ponte Winery’s tasting room before feasting at its beautiful restaurant. If you simply cannot choose which winery to visit, opt for a wine tour

For your stay, consider booking a room in Temecula Valley’s most charming hotel, Temecula Creek Inn. The inn offers 300 acres of gorgeous natural scenery, spacious suites, farm-to-table dining options, handcrafted cocktails, and scenic views. Golf enthusiasts adore the 27-hole course, which boasts majestic mountain vistas and year-round sunshine - perfect for teeing off and hitting the green. In addition to a fantastic golf course, the hotel features a swimming pool, a hot tub, rooms with incredible views, free WiFi, 65-inch TVs, and more.

Order some exquisite room service, play a few rounds of golf, and enjoy the luxurious property amenities of Temecula Creek Inn.
Big Bear Lake, Credit: Joshua Chun

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is a quaint and charming town about three hours from Santa Monica. Although small, it has an outsized fan club due to its year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, from hiking and water sports to skiing and ziplining.

Big Bear tourists can hike the forest during summer, go on an epic mountain bike adventure with panoramic views, and get an adrenaline rush while water skiing. Let the Big Bear Watersports School instruct and provide you with all the necessities for fun in the sun while they drive the boat.

Learn about Big Bear’s gold mining history by visiting Gold Rush Mining Adventures, where you’ll get to excavate raw materials, pan for gold, and crack open your own geode! There are endless activities to cherish in Big Bear Lake no matter the season - winter brings snow tubing, ice skating, snowboarding, and more. 

Staying at Big Bear Mountain Resort means summer mountain biking, hiking, and family-friendly basecamp recreational pursuits while enjoying world-class skiing and snowboarding in winter. Enjoy golfing at the Bear Mountain Golf Course, zip-lines, and bungee trampolines. Or, opt for a lift and lunch package to get the most out of your Snow Summit day trip. If you prefer to stay in a lodge separate from all of the action, choose from many resort cabin options. You can opt to stay by the village, where there are plenty of shops and eateries, or you can enjoy a lakeside cabin.

Idyllwild-Pine Cove

Escape from the city hustle and bustle with a tranquil vacation nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. Idyllwild-Pine Cone is a beautiful and rustic town that will make you feel as though you’ve traveled to a different world - even when you’ve traveled less than four hours from Santa Monica! This charming, unincorporated community is the ideal place to vanish from your busy Santa Monica life for a few days.

Explore Idyllwild park and the Idyllwild Nature Center via a guided tour or roam the trails yourself with your dog or horse. Here you can also fish, camp, picnic, hike, or just bask in nature’s glory. If you plan a visit in April, be sure to stop by the Alpenglow Lilac Gardens to view hundreds of different lilacs from around the world. Spend the afternoon in the tasting room, savor some live music, and view artworks from the Idyllwild Collection at Middle Ridge Winery

Get the full mountain life experience by staying at the Strawberry Creek Inn bed and breakfast. Here, you’ll enjoy peaceful luxuries and simple pleasures in a welcoming setting. Breakfasts are included with your stay and feature farm-fresh eggs harvested from organically-fed hens living onsite! If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, the staff is more than happy to tailor their menu for you.

Additional Inn amenities include plush robes, a sunny courtyard deck, and a gazebo overlooking Strawberry Creek. The Inn’s rooms come with romantic canopy beds, whirlpool tubs, wood-burning fireplaces, and modern amenities. The Strawberry Creek Inn is a genuine treasure that will have you feeling relaxed and right at home, but there are also several other hotels in Idyllwild should the Inn be unavailable.

No matter where you stay or what you do, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy your holiday in the mountains of Idyllwild-Pine Cove.
Idyllwild-Pine Cove
Credit: Engin Akyurt


Two hours away from Santa Monica is Ojai, a small town that offers vacationers a picturesque valley among mountainous surroundings. With several wellness spas and wineries, Ojai provides a relaxing break from everyday life.

Ojai’s outdoor recreation includes horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, golfing, and tennis playing. Visit the Ojai Olive Oil family-owned farm to learn how olives are grown and how extra-virgin olive oil is extracted, blended, and bottled. Explore the area’s abundance of wine via the tasting room of The Ojai Vineyard, where over 300 wines are offered. Melt away your troubles with a rejuvenating spa experience at The Day Spa of Ojai. Here, you can enjoy a deluxe European facial, Ojai salt glow body treatment, or a deep tissue massage.

Book your stay at the Ojai Valley Inn for an all-inclusive vacation. The inn offers a broad selection of rooms and suites, which feature everything from fireplaces and breakfast nooks to private outdoor lounging areas and cozy fireplaces. Ojai Valley Inn offers a premier championship golf course, a full-service spa, and various packages, including the Summer Midweek Escape, Fall Family Fun, Fall Spa Getaway, and more.

Located inside the Inn, visit Spa Ojai to enjoy multiple fitness and wellness classes, including yoga, meditation, TRX, spinning, hiking, and body conditioning. After class, unwind with some nail therapy, skin treatments, and massage therapy.

If you’re ready to make a move to Santa Monica and further explore the endless gifts of Southern California, contact the Santa Monica real estate agent team Homes by Price + Hou. Scott Price + Janice Hou will effortlessly handle all of your luxury Westside real estate needs.

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