White sand in Santa Barbara shoreline, California with mountains in the background.
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Road Trips

Road Trip from San Diego To Solvang

By Pat Dorri | Published on 30 March 2022

If you want to get a flavor of coastal California, including some of its most exciting cities, consider the epic road trip from San Diego to Solvang. Despite the relatively short drive, you might be surprised at how much there is to see along the way.

The road trip from San Diego to Solvang covers 250 miles and takes 5 hours of driving minus stops. Notable attractions include Los Padres and Angeles National Forests and San Clemente, Santa Monica, Malibu, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara.

If the idea of a California road trip interests you, read on for more information about what the best route is, where to stay, and what to see along the way.

How far is Solvang from San Diego and how long will a road trip take?

The road trip from San Diego to Solvang is about a day's drive, covering a little over 250 miles. While you can definitely power through it in one sitting, you should consider devoting at least one weekend to this trip.

The route will take you through the trendy cities of San Clemente and Los Angeles before you enter a beautiful stretch of coastline from Malibu to Santa Barbara. Towards the end of the trip, you will venture into the forested mountains to reach Solvang.

Los Angeles downtown skyline at sunset with palm trees on the left and the city behind.
The route from San Diego to Solvang takes you through stunning cities, including Los Angeles.

With so many cities to check out along the way, each more scenic and event-filled than the last, you'll want to take the time to explore each one if you have the time.

This trip takes place almost entirely on interstates and highways, making the drive very easy for beginner road trippers, although there might be some bad traffic around Los Angeles. To get around this, try to time your trip so that you aren't travelling through the city at rush hour.

Best road trip route from San Diego to Solvang

The best road trip route from San Diego to Solvang is directly up the coast, through Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to Solvang. This route is not only the fastest but also has plenty to see and do along the way.

Road trip route from San Diego to Solvang

Road trip route from San Diego to Solvang

Leave San Diego on Interstate 5 heading directly north towards the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. Interstate 5 will take you past Encinitas and into San Clemente.

Shortly after passing through San Clemente exit Interstate 5 and turn onto Highway 1. This will take you along the coast through Newport and Huntington Beach.

Remain on Highway 1 as it leads you through Los Angeles, past Long Beach and Santa Monica. After leaving the city, you will get to enjoy some beautiful coastal views as you pass through the famous town of Malibu.

Continuing on Highway 1, you will soon reach Oxnard. Here you will merge with Highway 101, passing through Ventura and Santa Barbara. At Santa Barbara, take Highway 101 and Route 154 into the mountains. The road will meander past Lake Cachuma before arriving in Solvang.

Best places to stop between San Diego and Solvang

Solvang is a charming city with interesting architecture and a booming wine industry. Its proximity to San Diego makes it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

A Danish village in Solvang in California with brightly coloured buildings and roofs.
The pretty Danish buildings in Solvang are well worth worth a visit.
Bill Morson/Shutterstock.com

While you could drive between the two places in a day, consider breaking up your journey with an overnight stop. To help you plan your stops, here are a few stunning places to stay.

Enjoy peace and tranquility at Hotel Ynez, Santa Barbara

Hotel Ynez and its stunning courtyard sit at the heart of wine country in Santa Barbara, just down the road from Solvang. The hotel was built on two acres, providing some incredible outdoor facilities that will make your stay as tranquil as it is fun.

Hotel Ynez used their two-acre grounds to create a veritable oasis of stunning gardens and outdoor social spaces. Including bonfire pits, an outdoor pavilion, and a pool.

The rooms are simple but incredibly stylish - on top of coming furnished with everything you might need, they all have an outside patio space, perfect for enjoying your morning tea or coffee.

The hotel has a communal guest seating area with a fireplace and a bar, should you want to indulge in a quiet drink after a busy day in the sun. A complimentary continental breakfast is included in the hotel, but it doesn't offer anywhere on-site for lunch or dinner.

The hotel is not situated in Solvang, but it is only a short drive down the road. This means you can still have access to everything on offer in the city, while enjoying a bit more peace and quiet.

A great location, incredible outdoor space, and a competitive price make Hotel Ynez a real winner. If you want somewhere to stay while visiting Solvang, we highly recommend this hotel.

Relax in luxury in the beautiful Hotel Californian, Santa Barbara

Located in downtown Santa Barbara, the Hotel Californian features luxurious, upmarket rooms that are up there as some of California's finest. Boasting a prime location, a host of amenities, and numerous dining options, you won't forget your stay here any time soon.

Santa Barbara is close to your final destination, but it is a city that deserves all the attention you can give it. Hotel Californian offers fully equipped rooms designed with a Mediterranean flair - on top of being beautifully styled, the suites feel like something out of a Spanish villa.

The hotel has an on-site spa, called Majorelle, along with a steam room, salon and lounge spaces. There is also an outdoor pool for you to stay refreshed on hot summer days.

The hotel is minutes from the beach, opening up a range of additional activities to keep you entertained. There are also numerous wineries nearby, perfect if you're looking to take in the local atmosphere before heading out to go exploring.

Golden shore in Santa Barbara, California with trees and beach houses to the right and the sea to the left.
The beaches in Santa Barbara make for excellent surfing or to just relax on the golden sand.
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Two on-site restaurants provide a good variety of options for food and drink. The Goat Tree is more casual, serving food all day in a café-style setting. The Blackbird is a more sophisticated restaurant that specializes in cocktails and local food served with a Mediterranean flavor.

It should be noted that the hotel is a little on the expensive side, but this makes sense considering just how many great amenities you're getting out of the deal.

Spoil yourself with sea views in Malibu

This road trip takes you straight through Malibu, known for its beautiful beaches and breathtaking coastline. If you want to stay here, the Malibu Beach Inn offers some of the most stunning sea views the West Coast has to offer.

Every room at the Malibu Beach Inn is ocean-facing, meaning you will be waking up to an amazing vista every day. On top of that, the interior design is extremely tasteful, more than justifying the hotel's high-end price .

The inn also offers in room spa services, with a variety of massages and treatments on offer. There is also a fitness center if you want to work up a sweat.

There is an on-site restaurant called the Carbon Beach Club that specializes in local seafood and meat dishes. They take pride in using ingredients sourced from as close to home as possible.

The location of the inn is only a few minutes from the Malibu Pier and a short drive from Santa Monica, putting you in the heart of the action if you're looking to see everything Malibu has to offer.

Malibu Pier in California at sunset with lights on the buildings at the end of the pier.
The beautiful pier at Malibu.
Luc Mena/Shutterstock.com

Things to do on a road trip from San Diego to Solvang

  1. Torrey Pines State Reserve - Although it's close to San Diego it is worth a stop as it is a beautiful stretch of coastline.
  2. San Clemente - Go for a walk along the pier, sunbathe on the beach, or enjoy the Spanish architecture downtown.
  3. Newport and Huntington Beach - More great coastal cities to explore, known for their beautiful beaches.
  4. Los Angeles - The City Of Angels is arguably the most iconic spot in all of California, and it's one that definitely deserves all the attention you can give it.
  5. Santa Monica and Venice - Two of the most iconic areas of Los Angeles that you should stop and see.
  6. Malibu - Known for its coastal beauty and lavish houses.
  7. Zuma and El Matador Beaches - If the weather is kind, plan to spend a day on the beach in these stunning locations.
  8. Ventura - Soak up the beach vibes in this pretty coastal city.
  9. Santa Barbara - Why not take a surfing lesson on this spectacular beach.
  10. The Old Mission -A museum that tells the story of the local area.
  11. Wine Country - Close to Solvang you will have the chance to explore some local wineries and vineyards.
The downtown skyline at San Diego, California at sunset with its tall buildings reflecting in the water.
You can enjoy the San Diego road trip in any season and the views will be spectacular.
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

Best time to go on a road trip from San Diego to Solvang

You can go on a road trip from San Diego to Solvang at any time of year. The west coast experiences mild weather and there is unlikely to be anything that would cause a major disruption, like snow.

Winter is the quieter time to travel through this part of America. This is because the weather is not as sunny and warm compared to summer. There is an increased chance of precipitation in winter.

All that being said, winter can still be a great time to travel because you will avoid large crowds of tourists, and you may be able to get a discounted price on a hotel.

Summer in this part of California is very warm and sunny, which makes it the most popular season for tourists. Prices for hotels will be at their peak during the summer months.

Fall and spring are also great times to travel, as you may be able to strike a balance between warmer temperatures and fewer tourists. Overall, there is no one season that you have to go in, so figure out what factors are most important to you.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the West Coast is known for its summer fog, especially on warmer days - if you plan on driving early in the morning, be sure to take things slow until noon, which is when the coastal mist starts to clear up.