10 incredible destinations under an 8-hour flight from California (2022)

Home to stunning landscapes, beautiful national parks, and one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, there’s a reason they call the West Coast of the United States the best coast. As a California girl, I wholeheartedly agree.

I’ve always considered myself to be incredibly lucky to call Los Angeles home. We have great weather (I didn’t buy my first winter coat until 2017) and can access both the beach and the mountains in just a couple of hours.

One of the coolest things about living in California is that when I’m itching to explore another country, I have plenty of options at my fingertips that are just a short plane ride away. Whether you’re looking to experience a season that’s non-existent in California (I’m looking at you, fall leaves) or head to a tropical jungle, here are 10 destinations you can fly to in under 8 hours:


Beachside ruins in Tulum, Mexico

Native Californians are somewhat familiar with Mexican culture, but there’s certainly more to the country than the food we’ve come to love. Each region is wildly different, making Mexico a place where adventures of all kind never end.

The colorful architecture of San Miguel de Allende, the leather markets of León, the street food of Mexico City and the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen are just a few of Mexico’s many highlights. Although many Californians escape to Mexico for its pristine beaches, there are plenty of unique experiences to be had all over the country. Case in point: the lake of seven colors in Bacalar and the cenotes of Tulum.

So, forget what you think you know about Mexican food, culture or language. Mexico is vibrant and surprising, and will leave you wondering, like me, why it took you so long to visit.

Flights: Flights from both Los Angeles and San Francisco to Mexico City are around 4 hours.
Recommended trip: Playa Del Carmen to Mexico City (9 days)


Costa Rica

Exploring Monteverde, Costa Rica

Protected rainforest, jungle zip lining and plenty of dormant volcanoes, all against an eco-touristic backdrop; welcome to Costa Rica, where pura vida is more than just a tagline – it’s a lifestyle.

Costa Rica is easily one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central America, and with good reason. This is where life runs only at one pace: relaxed. Splash your way through hot springs in La Fortuna, zip line through Monteverde’s Cloud Forest, and drink freshly brewed coffee at one of the many coffee plantations. Costa Rica is tranquil, delightful, and just a little bit wild, and the perfect destination for anyone who takes relaxation seriously.

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Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to San Jose are less than 6 hours and 7.5 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Best of Costa Rica (9 days)



Glacier trek in Jasper National Park, Canada

It took me more than two decades of living in Los Angeles to travel to Canada, and my only disappointment is that I didn’t visit sooner. Canada is every outdoor lover’s dream destination, thanks to breathtaking national parks, spectacular fjords, and (probably) more hiking trails than people.

The great outdoors alone is enough reason to visit, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s an excellent city break destination as well. Head to French-speaking Québec for a taste of Europe in North America, Toronto for cosmopolitan vibes and foodie greatness, or Vancouver for all the nature you could ever want and more. No matter where you go in Canada, you’ll be surprised and delighted by what it has to offer. This includes the politeness of the people!

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Vancouver are 3 hours and just 2.5 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: (11 days)



Spotting waterfalls in San Ignacio, Belize

For world-class diving, impressive Mayan ruins, and fusion food that will delight your taste buds, look no further than Belize, a little-known country in Central America that packs a big punch. Nestled between Mexico and Guatemala with a Caribbean coast, Belize is the perfect tropical destination.

The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world. That, combined with the famous Blue Hole and plenty of water activities, makes it a no-brainer for your adventurous bucket list. How best to visit these sites and make the most of the coast? Spend some time on the paradisaical island of Caye Caulker. (And treat yourself to lobster and ceviche aplenty!)

Belize doesn’t just have an impressive coast. It also boasts tropical jungles, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and more.

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Belize City are just 5 hours and 7 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Land of Belize (8 days)

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El Salvador

Pretty as pie Suchitoto, El Salvador

Often overlooked by travelers, El Salvador is arguably Central America’s most underrated destination, thanks to decades of bad press. But don’t let the headlines fool you: El Salvador’s gorgeous beaches, colorful towns, and fascinating preserved ruins impress even the most experienced travelers.

Don’t miss the opportunity to witness El Salvador’s most famous drive, Ruta de las Flores – a 22-mile winding road through colorful villages and coffee plantations. And DO visit the charming cultural capital of Suchitoto. El Tunco is another popular place to visit, where you can relax by the sea or even take a surf lesson or two. Hammocks, surfboards, and sandy beaches? Yes, please.

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to San Salvador are 5 hours and 5.5 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Best of El Salvador (8 days)



Hiking in Ometepe, Nicagarua

Nicaragua has it all: colorful colonial buildings, volcanic landscapes, remote islands and pristine beaches. Often overlooked in favor of its popular neighbor Costa Rica, the ”land of lakes and volcanoes” overflows with adventure.

Don’t miss the gorgeous colors and colonial architecture of Granada. Or, if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, try your hand at volcano boarding outside of León. And if that doesn’t give you your volcano fix, head to the island of Ometepe, which is set between two majestic volcanoes. Hike them, or take it slow at one of the islands’s swimming holes, waterfalls or many beaches.

Nicaragua is where nature, history, and architecture tell fascinating tales. A revolutionary past, two of the oldest colonial towns in Central America, and plenty of unique and rich landscapes and wildlife make Nicaragua a destination not to be missed.

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Managua are less than 7 hours and 7 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Best of Nicaragua (9 days)


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Spellbinding Antigua, Guatemala

Where else can you experience magnificent ruins, colorful colonial cities, indigenous markets and an extraordinary lake surrounded by volcanoes in just one week? Welcome to Guatemala, where tradition and history come alive.

Antiguais one of the prettiest citiesin Central America, and the old colonial buildings have been restored to their former glory. While here, you’ll find no shortage of history, culture, craft and coffee. You won’t want to miss visiting the glorious Lake Atitlan, formed in a massive volcanic crater, either. And let’s not forget about Tikal, one of the region’s most magnificent Maya ruins, which is worth at least a day of your time.

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Guatemala City are around 5 hours and less than 7 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Guatemala Experience (9 days)



Tropical Coiba Island, Panama

Not only is Panama the connector between Central and South America, it’s also famed for the Panama Canal, the extraordinary body of water connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The marvels don’t end there. Panama City is Central America’s most glamorous capital, a fusion of history and modernity. Visitors may be surprised to learn that the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) is just 10 minutes from the glitzy, modern city. The landscape changes rapidly upon arrival to Boquete, located just a few hours from the capital. This town in the highlands is famous for its coffee plantations and surrounding waterfalls and hot springs. And then there’s the many islands with white-sand beaches… Panama truly has something for everyone.

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Panama City are around 6.5 hours and 7.5 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Costa Rica to Panama (8 days)


The Bahamas

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The beautiful waters of the Bahamas

Located just 50 miles off the coast of Florida, The Bahamas and its Caribbean neighbors suffer from their reputations as cruise stopover destinations. But The Bahamas is so much more than that, thanks to stunning beaches, cool cultural activities, and spectacular dive sites.

Foodies will delight in the Fish Fry, Nassau’s version of a family barbecue. Local restaurants cook up delicacies such as conch, snapper, chicken wings and more against a backdrop of reggae DJs and Bahamian bands.

Divers can’t miss the half-mile long Bimini Road, a strangely symmetrical underwater dive site. And, if you’d really like to see everything The Bahamas has to offer, join a sailing excursion and explore the different islands for yourself – there are over 700!

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Nassau are just under 7 hours and 7.5 hours from San Francisco.
Recommended trip: Bahamas Sailing Adventure (7 days)



Colorful Cartagena, Colombia

Lush jungles, colorful cities, tantalizing food, and sizzling salsa – welcome to Colombia, South America’s alluring gem. A country on the up, a country you can’t help but fall for.

As large as it is diverse, it’s hard to visit Colombia without taking literally months to explore all it has to offer. Prepare to be captivated by the ever-changing city of Medellin, intrigued by the mysterious Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), and awe-inspired by Caño Cristales, an eco-park with some seriously breathtaking nature. And don’t leave without visiting the Cocora Valley, the country’s coffee region, and Tayrona National Park, home to some of Colombia’s most picturesque beaches.

Colombia may be the furthest of the options, but the distance doesn’t make it any less appealing.

Flights: Flights from Los Angeles to Bogotá are 7.5 hours (and 9 hours from San Francisco).
Recommended trip: Explore Colombia (10 days)

Ready to stop dreaming and start planning? Check out Intrepid’s top trips in over 100 countries.

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(Costa Rica image courtesy of Sally, the author. All images courtesy of Intrepid Travel.)



Where do LA people go for vacation? ›

Quick weekend getaways from LA include Catalina Island, Palm Springs, Ojai, Laguna Beach, Encinitas, Solvang, Mammoth Lakes, Carlsbad, Malibu, Santa Barbara, La Jolla, Newport Beach, Oxnard, Paso Robles and other unique towns in California.

What can you do in 4 days in California? ›

A perfect Pacific Coast Highway 4 day itinerary: 16 stops you...
  1. Start in Malibu. ...
  2. Check out the Malibu Sandhills. ...
  3. Overnight in Santa Barbara. ...
  4. Head inland to Solvang. ...
  5. Onto San Luis Obispo. ...
  6. Be amazed by the opulent Hearst Castle. ...
  7. Sunset at Elephant Seal Vista Point. ...
  8. Overnight in Cambria.
3 Apr 2018

How can you see California in a week? ›

One Week in California Itinerary
  1. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  2. See San Francisco Bay.
  3. Ride the cable car.
  4. See the views at Twin Peaks.
  5. Visit Alcatraz.
  6. Relax at Golden Gate Park.
  7. Visit Fisherman's Wharf.
  8. See the sea lions at Pier 39.
28 Mar 2022

How do I plan a trip to California? ›

So definitely bring a jacket. And be ready for any type of weather when you visit our next

Where is the cheapest place to travel? ›

  1. Thailand. There's a reason why Thailand remains so popular with backpackers – it's got idyllic islands , a rich culture, beach-huts aplenty, tantalising cuisine and adventures galore , and all available at often staggeringly low prices. ...
  2. South Africa. ...
  3. Vietnam. ...
  4. Uruguay. ...
  5. Cuba. ...
  6. Prague, Czech Republic. ...
  7. Greece. ...
  8. Guatemala.

Where is the safest place to stay in LA? ›

Los Angeles' safest neighborhoods tend to be the most affluent ones of Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Hermosa Beach and West Hollywood. Most touristy areas are safe, especially during the day, but standard precautions apply at night.

How long drive from San Francisco to Yosemite? ›

Yosemite is about 170 miles away from San Francisco and about a 4-hour drive. So, we recommend starting your day as early as 5 AM or 6 AM to have full experience in the park.

How many days should you spend in California? ›

How Many Days You Should Spend in California? Five days in California is enough to see major attractions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We recommend spending at least ten days in the state, as you can visit additional places like Big Sur and Lake Tahoe, as well as major national parks like Yosemite.

How many days do you need in San Francisco? ›

Most visitors find three days in San Francisco is a good amount of time to get a solid introduction to the city. However, if you have a week it's highly recommended you take a few San Francisco day trips. For example, to the Wine Country or vibrant cities like Oakland and Berkeley, which are across the Bay.

How can I spend 7 days in California? ›

  1. Day 1: Animal Love in San Diego.
  2. Day 2: Salvation Mountain, Joshua Tree National Park and San Bernardino Forest.
  3. Day 3: Checking out the City of Angels.
  4. Day 4: Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park.
  5. Day 5: Exploring the Hills of Napa.
  6. Day 6: All the Eats in San Francisco.
  7. Day 7: Return to LA on the Pacific Coast Highway.
14 Aug 2022

How many days should I spend in Cali Colombia? ›

A great trip to Colombia requires at least five days to get a taste of one big city and its surrounding areas. The more days you can add the more opportunities to explore different pockets of the country - eight or nine days is enough for two or three regions.

How many days do you need for a California road trip? ›

You could definitely do a great California road trip in 7 days, but ideally I'd give yourself at least 10 days. We did this particular route over multiple visits. One time, we did a Pacific Coast Highway road trip from San Francisco down to San Diego over four weeks.

How many days does it take to drive from New York to California? ›

At a standard driving speed and with a few overnight stops, you should be able to make the full drive in about six to seven days.

How can I spend 2 weeks in America? ›

  1. Itinerary #1: The East Coast. Day 1-3: New York City. Day 4: Philadelphia. ...
  2. Itinerary #2: The West Coast. Days 1-3: San Francisco. Day 4: Monterey. ...
  3. Itinerary #3: California & Las Vegas. Days 1-3: Los Angeles. ...
  4. Itinerary #4: The Rocky Mountains. Day 1: Salt Lake City. ...
  5. Itinerary #5: Florida. Day 1: Miami. ...
  6. Explore the USA!

Where is the cheapest warm place to vacation? ›

9 Cheap & Warm Places To Spend The Winter Holidays
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. ...
  • Roatan, Honduras. Roatan, Honduras. ...
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico. Credit: Bigstockphoto.com. ...
  • Thailand. Thailand. ...
  • Bali, Indonesia. Credit: Bigstock.com. ...
  • Cartagena, Colombia. Cartagena, Colombia. ...
  • Jamaica. ...
  • Canary Islands, Spain.

What is the cheapest country to visit from the US? ›

Mexico. Unsurprisingly, Mexico makes the list of the cheapest places to travel in 2022. The country has long ranked as an affordable and easy-to-reach destination for many Americans; reasonably priced direct flights are abundant.

Where is the cheapest place to travel in the US? ›

10 Insanely Cheap Places to Travel in the USA on a Budget

Which part of Los Angeles is the best to live in? ›

Manhattan Beach is a bougie beach town, with organic fine dining and luxurious shops. Hermosa serves surfer vibes and boozy brunches. Redondo offers fun for the whole family on the long, sandy beach and horseshoe-shaped pier. The beach cities are among the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles County for family life.

Can you do LA without car? ›

If getting a car isn't an option you want to entertain, you can still choose to travel using the public transportation of Los Angeles, take a bike or a scooter, or a simple stroll down the LA streets if you feel like inner-city hiking!

Is West LA a safe area? ›

West Los Angeles has a below average violent crime rate and a high property crime rate for Los Angeles.

Why is Glacier Point closed in 2022? ›

Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic in 2022 to rehabilitate and improve the road. The only access to Glacier Point will be via the Four Mile, Panorama, and Pohono Trails, all of which are strenuous hikes. There will be 30-minute delays in 2023.

Should I go to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park? ›

Yosemite is where you want to go if your goal is to see towering granite and awe-inspiring waterfalls. While there are large sequoia trees in some parts of Yosemite, they aren't as prominent. If walking (and even driving) among the giants is your end goal, head over to Sequoia National Park.

How far apart are Sequoia and Yosemite? ›

The direct drive from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park to Yosemite National Park is 215 mi (346 km), and should have a drive time of 5 hrs 53 mins in normal traffic.

Is food expensive in California? ›

How much should you plan to spend on food in California? The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that California's average annual non-restaurant food cost per person is $3,630. That equates to $302.50 per person, per month. The average family of four could end up spending $1,210 per month on groceries.

How many days is enough in Vegas? ›

To make one's trip to Las Vegas one really needs at least a long weekend there. But even one night can be worth it - but five days is the best. Las Vegas is one of the most touristic cities in the United States and of the whole world.

Why are California hotels so expensive? ›

The reasons for rising hotel rates: Land costs are expensive. The economy is good. Californians are competing with tourists from around the world for a limited number of affordable rooms. And it's illegal under state law for the government to set hotel rates.

What are the best months to visit San Francisco? ›

The best time to visit San Francisco is from September to November. Believe it or not, fall offers some of the city's warmest temperatures year-round, not to mention fewer crowds than summer. Spring is another good time to visit thanks to its mild temperatures and lack of rain (compared to other parts of California).

Can you drink tap water in San Fran? ›

Our city's drinking water is rigorously tested, safe, delicious, and inexpensive. Choose tap over bottled water at home and on the go with our free outdoor water bottle refilling stations throughout the city.

Is Alcatraz worth seeing? ›


There are many specialised tours for an additional fee but included in the standard ticket and the most popular is the Cell House Audio Tour, an award-winning immersive experience you enjoy at your own pace.

Is California expensive to visit? ›

In total, expect your average California trip cost to be about $95-155 per person per day if you want to visit on a budget. While there are certainly ways that you can cut down on costs and not spend that much, this is the budget to stick to if you want to cut costs in some ways and splurge in others.

How many days should I stay in Los Angeles? ›

Let me start by saying that LA is a HUGE city and the landmarks are spread apart from each other. Ideally, you should try to spend 5-7 days here if you don't want to be rushed and want to see everything.

What's the best time to visit Colombia? ›

Recommended time to visit: Colombia is considered a year-round destination, but the months of December - March and June - September are regarded as the best times to visit.

How long should I spend in Costa Rica? ›

We recommend spending 10 days to two weeks in Costa Rica, as this timeframe will give you enough time to cover all the major highlights while also including time for traveling from one destination to another. A two-week Costa Rica itinerary will guarantee you see everything the country has to offer.

Is 10 days in Colombia enough? ›

10 days in Colombia is enough time to see all the best bits – if you do it right. Failure to plan ahead, however, will see you wasting half of your time there. Colombia is a massive country and, while there's lots to see, you do need to plan your Colombia travel route well to make the most of it.

What is the prettiest part of the Pacific Coast Highway? ›

The Golden Gate Bridge

Perhaps one of the most iconic views along the whole highway – San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is as visually stunning as the views one gets from the bridge itself. Before you head across, come off the highway to get some of the best views and see the best San Francisco sights of the area.

Is it better to drive north or south on Pacific Coast Highway? ›

It's best to travel from north to south as you'll be on the right side of the road for uninterrupted views and to pull over to take photographs. Parking in cities can be expensive. It's better to leave your rental vehicle and use public transport. Plan in plenty of stops along the way.

Is it better to drive up or down the California coast? ›

Many travelers question, Is it better to drive up or down the California coast? We think the best route on California State Route 1 is from north to south – which is why we recommend the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles via the Pacific Coast Highway.

Can you do LA without car? ›

If getting a car isn't an option you want to entertain, you can still choose to travel using the public transportation of Los Angeles, take a bike or a scooter, or a simple stroll down the LA streets if you feel like inner-city hiking!

Is it better to stay in downtown LA or Hollywood? ›

A city's downtown is often the most central location. But while Downtown LA has the best access to public transport, staying in Hollywood arguably puts you in a better position. From your chosen hotel, you can head slightly east into the city or the other direction, to West Hollywood and the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

How many days do you need in Los Angeles? ›

Let me start by saying that LA is a HUGE city and the landmarks are spread apart from each other. Ideally, you should try to spend 5-7 days here if you don't want to be rushed and want to see everything.

Which LA beach is the best? ›

1. Santa Monica. With clean, super-wide, soft, sandy beaches; an amusement pier; a beachfront boardwalk; and some seriously good restaurants, Santa Monica offers the best overall beach experience in Los Angeles. It's also one of the best beach areas in Southern California.

Can you live in LA and not drive? ›

If you don't have to commute, and are comfortable staying close to your home most of the time, then neighborhoods like West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silverlake, Santa Monica, and, increasingly, downtown LA are very livable and pleasant without a car. You can walk or bike to most everything you would need.

What is the cheapest way to get around LA? ›

The Los Angeles Metro is affordable, relatively easy to use, and services most of Los Angeles County and its top attractions. The public transit system consists of Metro Buses, DASH Buses, and Metro Rail Trains. To ride these buses, trains, and subways, we recommend purchasing a reusable TAP Card.

Is Los Angeles a safe city? ›

The high crime rates MIGHT alarm you, but in comparison to other big cities in the US, Los Angeles has “the largest decline in crime of any major American city” – according to the FBI. It's the country's 5th safest large city. It's a melting pot of a city: 70% of its population is non-white, most of which are Hispanic.

What is the most visited place in LA? ›

1: Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is the most popular filming location in LA. You may recognize the palm tree-lined street of Hollywood Boulevard. It is one of the most popular places to go in Los Angeles.

Is North Hollywood a good area? ›

North Hollywood has an above average violent crime rate and an above average property crime rate for Los Angeles.

Is it safe to stay in downtown LA? ›

Safety: Like many cities on the West Coast, LA struggles with homelessness. This is especially true in downtown LA, where areas like Skid Row are filled with tents. Still, DTLA is fairly safe, especially during the day.

How far is LA from Disney? ›

Disneyland is located in Anaheim, Calif., roughly 26 miles from Los Angeles. What's the best way to get from Los Angeles to Disneyland? Before rush hour, car is the best way as it only takes 30 minutes. But during rush hour traffic, consider the train or bus.

What month is the best to visit California? ›

We tend to visit California in the summer, but have now had a holiday to the state at many other times of the year. General advice is that the best time of the year to visit is in the spring during April and the fall in September or October, as it won't be as crowded but the weather will still be very pleasant.

What should you not miss in LA? ›

Things You Can't Miss In LA
  • Golden Hour At Griffith Observatory. ...
  • Mural Hunting Around The City. ...
  • Wander Down Abbot Kinney In Venice. ...
  • Sunset In Santa Monica. ...
  • Hike Runyon Canyon. ...
  • Wander Around The Venice Canals. ...
  • Head To LACMA. ...
  • Visit The Museum Of Ice Cream (If it's still there and you can get your hands on some tickets)
22 May 2017

What beach in Los Angeles has the clearest water? ›

Pull up to La Jolla Cove on any given day and you'll quickly realize that this beauty is no secret, as it's one of the most popular Southern California beaches. Boasting some of the clearest water in California, this bustling beach with gorgeous blue water and pristine sand is located at 1100 Coast Blvd in La Jolla.

What beach was Baywatch filmed on? ›

The ever-popular 12-year long TV series, Baywatch, was filmed at spots along the Santa Monica Beach during the first 10 years of the show, which makes it one of the most well-known beaches in California.


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