California coastal vibes, pastel pink front doors and hot desert retreat on San Diego & Palm Springs holidays
Watch the sun dip behind the desert as you sink into your Palm Springs hotel pool. Or, perched on the Sunset Cliffs of San Diego, it’s Champagne picnics as the Pacific Ocean turns a darker shade of blue. Luring you just two hours outside of Los Angeles, San Diego & Palm Springs holidays are grown-up California spring break style out on the ocean, cruising palm-lined millionaire mansions or stumbling upon high-end restaurants locals try to keep a secret.
Coachella Festival has put Palm Springs on the map again, but long before the hippy tassels and cowboy boots of A-list partygoers descended, the likes of Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo and Elvis Presley were hiding out here. Surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains, mid-century modern architecture and botanical gardens, it’s all country-club luxury and unpretentious glamour. So beautiful are the front doors of houses, that one even has its own Instagram hashtag - #ThatPinkDoor. And if you ever fancy leaving your pool, there’s always a soak in the Desert Hot Springs or the Aerial Tramway up to Chino Canyon for a romantic summit dinner.
San Diego is as well heeled as Palm Springs but with a livelier fashion, surf and arts scene. Whether you’re ocean bound, strolling the exquisite Balboa Park Gardens or enticed by the best Mexican restaurants north of the border, you’re in prime position for some of the most beautiful beach towns in the state. Our hand picked holidays to San Diego & Palm Springs include Pacific Coast hideaways with beachfront rooms and iconic architecture. It’s all glitzy coastal La Jolla vibes, snorkelling in reef protected waters and crossing that distinctive blue bridge to exclusive Coronado Island.
Our Personal Travel Experts know the best hotels to stay in, whether you want a sultry desert break or an oceanfront resort. Give us a call and we’ll help craft your dream San Diego & Palm Springs holiday.
- San Diego’s Balboa Park is home to a fantastic collection of the city’s attractions including the Air & Space Museum and San Diego Zoo
- The Cabrillo National Monument, the sight of the first European landing on the West Coast, offers a great escape from the heart of San Diego
- The cultural and historic heart of the city is the Gaslamp Quarter, now home to a wide range of bars, restaurants and shops
- In just two hours from both San Diego and Los Angeles you can reach Palm Springs, a retreat for Hollywood stars since the 1920s
- A well renowned golfing destination, Palm Springs is also famous for its natural hot springs and restorative spas.
San Diego & Palm Springs holiday highlights
Covering over 16 blocks of Downtown, the Gaslamp District is the heart of the city with its blend of modern and Victorian architecture, lively bars, art galleries and museums. Head to the waterfront Embarcadero to look at the ships at the USS Midway Museum or jump on board a harbour cruise around the bay. From Downtown you can hop on a trolley to Balboa Park or San Diego Zoo. If you’re searching for fine dining, pizzerias and Farmers Markets, then vibrant Little Italy is a sure stop, where ‘Top Chef Alley’ hosts a culinary playground of celebrity restaurants. If it’s the California beaches that bring you here, there are plenty of gorgeous coastal towns to explore including the breathtaking coastline of La Jolla and Mission Beach. La Jolla is an upscale village-style town surrounded by the golf courses, independent boutiques and scenic cliff walks. Come here for all your outdoor adventure - surfing, snorkelling and kayaking or hand gliding, whale watching and hiking. Mission Beach has similar California spring break vibes, with its huge 4,600-acre aqua park at Mission Bay and sailing, kite surfing and paddle boarding. End your evenings on Sunset Cliffs, a renowned local favourite for Pacific Ocean sunset views.
For a high-end desert escape, Palm Springs Coachella Valley location is a dream. Expect to find celebrity summer houses, country clubs and golf courses, surrounded by palm trees and mountains. There are the designer boutiques and art galleries on El Paseo, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens and the Desert Hot Springs. Take the Aerial Tramway up to Chino Canyon, hike the Thousand Palms Oasis on the San Andreas Fault line and horseback ride along desert trails. Visit the iconic Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway, the Palm Springs Air Museum or cool off from the desert heat at the 16-acre Wet ‘n’ Wild Park.
Where is San Diego & Palm Springs
On the western edge of Coachella Valley, Palm Springs sits within the Colorado Desert, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. The San Jacinto Mountains are to the west and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south.
About 140 miles east of Palm Springs and just 20 miles north of Mexico, San Diego is a sprawling coastal plain between mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It sits on San Diego Bay, one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the USA.
The most convenient way to explore San Diego and Palm Springs is by hiring a car. If you’re relying on public transportation, in San Diego you’ll find trolleys, shuttle buses and taxi services. There are three Red Trolley lines taking you through Downtown, Mission Valley, Old Town and El Cajon and also the Old Town Trolley and the seasonal Big Bay Shuttle providing a hop-on/hop-off service through the Embarcadero waterfront area. It’s also possible to cycle through neighbourhoods, and there are lots of cycle lanes and bike rentals available throughout the city. You can also travel by water taxi between Harbor Island, Shelter Island, Coronado and Downtown.
In order to explore the wider Coachella Valley from Palm Springs including the national parks and preserves, it’s advisable to hire a car. But if you’re just here for the sunshine and pools, then Downtown Palm Springs is walkable, and there is also a bus service and taxis. Taxis can be hailed on weekends, but during the week, its best to call ahead.
Expect to pick up gorgeous Moroccan rugs, California resort-wear and delicate jewellery in the Palm desert. The Shops at 1345 are a treasure trove of colour-coded rails, cool, contemporary clothing and desert-inspired gifts to put you in the holiday mood, and every Thursday evening, Villagefest transforms Palm Canyon Drive into a vibrant street fair of handcrafted gifts, late-night art gallery openings and entertainment.
In San Diego there’s 16 blocks of shopping in the Gaslamp District, over 200 at the super chic Fashion Valley Mall, and charming independent boutiques at Cedros Avenue on Solana Beach. Expect everything from big American department stores to laid-back surf boutiques and cute paper goods to stylish gifts.
Food & drink
Expect creative global cuisine infused with wild juniper, certified sake sommeliers, peel-and-eat shrimps and those famous Palm Springs fish tacos. There are glamorous rooftop restaurants with San Jacinto Mountain views, sidewalk cafes with nightly happy hours and unique alfresco long-table dining experiences with seasonal cuisine. There’s craft beer and cocktails, open-air pizzerias and renowned taco Tuesdays. Hip crowds searching high-end restaurants and lavish weekend brunches head to the Uptown Design District or Downtown, but there are also plenty of delicious casual eateries serving everything from key lime waffles to Belgian-style steamed mussels.
San Diego’s rich Hispanic heritage can be seen throughout a wealth of fine Mexican restaurants, but with so many cool coastal neighbourhoods you can also expect Baja-Med cuisine and casual places to grab a bite whether you want burgers, pizza or fish tacos. There are swanky rooftop bars, plenty of craft beer breweries and lots of cocktails and fresh seafood. Head to ‘Top Chef Alley’ on the Kettner Boulevard of Little Italy for award-winning cuisine, Harbor Island for waterfront lobster Mac n’ cheese and La Jolla for upscale dining with ocean views.