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While weekend trips in California can range from mountain skiing to desert exploring, a chili cook-off or wine tasting, weekend travelers have always had a special interest and passion for the beach. And with 1,264 miles of spectacular coastline, there is an amazing selection of coastal destinations to choose from.

Southern California Coast

The perfect California weekend getaway might include a trip to Southern California. Larger cities such as San Diego and Santa Monica have developed a strong, loyal clientele of Orange County weekend getaway travelers who simply need a break from the ho-hum routine. While others may choose to escape the urban lifestyle for a more laid back destination such as Del Mar. And if you really want to be pampered, Southern California beach resorts are among the best.

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Northern California Coast

In Northern California, Bodega Bay is an ideal weekend getaway for San Francisco bay area and Sacramento travelers. Located in Sonoma County, this area offers some of California’s finest wine and cuisine to the backdrop of stunning coastline and rolling hills drenched in golden sun. Be warned that the weekends do tend to be fully booked at many of this destination’s hotels. In fact, the locals have campaigns to get you to visit on weekdays. So if you want to maximize your wine tasting, weekends are OK, but not always the top choice.

California coast

California’s Central Coast

One of the fastest growing travel destinations for California weekend getaway vacations is the Central Coast. Monterey, Big Sur, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, and Santa Barbara are favorites for the LA, San Francisco, San Jose, and even Bakersfield crowd who only want to spend a few hours driving to get to their weekend destination.

On the Central California Coast you’ll find wineries, beaches, sand dunes and Hearst Castle among the favorites. Casual, outdoor sports and fun are in store for those heading for the country along the Central Coast. Don’t be surprised to find cows munching on grass in the pastures as you drive along Highway 101 in this beautiful, growing area.

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Regardless of where you go, keep in mind that weekends are the most popular days of the week, so hotels are reserved and filled at many resort and vacation destinations five times more often than regular week days. The exceptions are the corporate hotels that give discounts for weekend stays. Burlingame, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco all have their share of business properties that actually offer discounts on Friday and Saturday night.

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Traffic along the coast can be tough, so the earlier you can head out on Friday the better. Saturday morning escapes do not provide much relief traffic-wise, but are often better than Friday afternoons. Whatever time you leave, try not to stress out. Allow yourself enough time to relax, read a book, see a show, or do whatever it is that helps you enjoy and treasure this experience so you can look forward to many more.

Related story: Top 10 Beach Getaways in California