Cookie Statement

This website uses cookies to ensure users get the best experience on our website. LEARN MORE

Beach Breaks

Hit the Road for 5 Fun-filled Days in Southern California

Enjoy the journey without breaking the bank

The Vacationeer
Beach along the coast of California near San Diego

California is full of picturesque road trip possibilities, from cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway to driving through Death Valley National Park. Load your vacation crew into a car and hit the road to see what California offers.

Southern California is a beloved destination due to its year-round Mediterranean climate and rare inclement weather. This five-day trip itinerary includes national parks, beaches and Southern California’s most iconic cities. Each leg is under a three-hour drive, so spend less time driving and more time soaking in SoCal’s sights.

A hiking trail with a view of the Los Angeles, California skyline 

Day 1: Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California, is the center of all things Hollywood. No road trip is complete without a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard to spot your favorite celebrities’ stars. Or, if you’re up for the challenge, hike to the iconic Hollywood Sign via Mt. Hollywood Trail, a moderately difficult hike with spectacular views of the city.

L.A. has more than just red carpet glamour, however. The Getty Center has art from medieval to modern days and gorgeous gardens perfect for a picnic. The museum is free, but reserve your spot in advance. If your group can’t decide how to spend the day, Griffith Park has attractions to appeal to all ages. Explore the skies at Griffith Observatory, ride the merry-go-round with your young travelers or visit the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

Then drive forty-five minutes from L.A. to Santa Monica, and enjoy the beach and bustling pier, where you can enjoy rides, fun food options and views of the bay. When you’re ready to hit the hay, use your Hilton Honors™ Points to stay within Hilton’s portfolio of brands. 

A sign that reads "Palm Springs" with palm trees and bougainvillea 

Day 2: Palm Springs

The next day, head to Palm Springs, California. You can kick back and relax or find your next outdoor adventure in this desert paradise. Find the “palm” in “Palm Springs” at the Coachella Valley Preserve, a sanctuary of palms, creosote bush, desert lavender and unique animals, like the fringe-toed lizard and desert pupfish.

For another oasis in the Sonoran Desert, visit the Indian Canyons. Within the Indian Canyons, hike to Tahquitz Canyon for a 60-foot waterfall and learn about the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians who called Palm Springs home. The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument offers plenty of places to meander through flora and fauna along the Ed Hastey Garden Trail and the Randall Henderson Loop Trail.

If you prefer the great indoors, beat the heat and explore the Palm Springs Art Museum for various modern and contemporary art. Admission is free Thursday evenings and on select Sunday afternoons throughout the summer. Find some vintage gems at Palm Springs’ antiquing scene, or check out Village Fest, a street fair with art, crafts, food and more held every Thursday night in downtown Palm Springs. Then take your new treasures back to Hilton Grand Vacations Palm Desert and unwind in one of the resort’s outdoor pools or hot tubs.

Joshua trees at sunset at the Joshua Tree National Park in California 

Day 3: Joshua Tree National Park

For the full California experience, stop at one of nine stunning national parks. Head to Joshua Tree National Park, an hour away from Palm Springs, for an otherworldly outdoor experience.

Lace up your hiking shoes and head to Split Rock as one of your first hikes. The trail is a flat, 2-mile loop with unique rock formations and plenty of yucca and Joshua trees. Cholla Cactus Garden is beautiful day or night, from nearly 10 acres of teddybear cholla and expansive skies that are perfect for star gazing. Spot petroglyphs and wildlife like rabbits and bighorn sheep on the Barker Dam Trail, or take a short hike and rock scrambling to Arch Rock for a picture-perfect photo opportunity.

If you’re interested in relics of the past, check out Lost Horse Mine and Wall Street Mill from California’s gold mining era. Or take the guided tour of Keys Ranch to learn about the individuals who ranched, mined and survived in the Mojave Desert.

Before you go, read these seven insider tips to make the most of your national park road trip in California.

Stretch of beach near Carlsbad, California 

Day 4: Carlsbad

Check in to MarBrisa, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club, in Carlsbad, California, for the next leg of your journey. After a day of hiking in the desert, relax and recuperate under sunny skies at MarBrisa’s sparkling pools or South Carlsbad State Beach.

Prefer to visit local museums? Carlsbad has you covered with two free options. See miniature wonders at the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum, from working merry-go-rounds and airplanes to dollhouses and ship models. Then head to the GIA Museum for glittering gems and crystals, and take a guided tour of precious stones and how they’re analyzed.

If you’re in Carlsbad from March to May, don’t miss the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch for a chance to stretch your legs among brightly colored flowers. Or, depending on the season, pick strawberries or pumpkins from Carlsbad Strawberry Company.

If you’re craving more time in Carlsbad, check out this three-day itinerary for an adventure-filled getaway.

Rugged coastline of Point Loma near San Diego, California 

Day 5: San Diego

Finish your road trip through Southern California in San Diego. While this city is known for attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park, you can fill your day with various low-cost attractions.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve protects 1,500 acres of land along the coast of Southern California. The reserve offers beautiful trails, scenic overlooks and unspoiled beaches. Stop by the Visitor Center to learn about the wildlife that calls this reserve home, including the rare Torrey pine, mule deer and migratory birds.

Pack a picnic for La Jolla Cove to spot sea lions and seals sunning themselves near beautiful blue water. Then take a self-guided tour of La Jolla’s colorful array of murals. For more beach fun, head to Pacific Beach after exploring the boardwalk. End the day at Point Loma for panoramic views of San Diego, a lighthouse with a fascinating history and the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Read “5 Best American Road Trip Routes, No Flight Needed” for more road trip ideas.

HGV Newsletter Sign Up

The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

Popular Articles