21 Exciting California Spring Break Trips for College Students

California is a top spring break destination. But what exactly can you do for spring break in California? Our list includes options for every budget.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on March 17, 2022

Edited by Will Baker
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21 Exciting California Spring Break Trips for College Students


Around 1.5 million college students travel each year for spring break. And California offers sunny beaches, stunning natural sights, and exciting activities. Whether you're looking for affordable outdoor adventures or a relaxing, rejuvenating vacation, the Golden State delivers.

California has something for everyone, including undergrads living in California college towns. Our list describes the best spring break activities for every budget, plus many of the top spring break destinations in the Golden State.

8 California Spring Break Activities You Can Try

Looking for fun things to do on spring break in California? The Golden State has activities for everyone — and for every budget. From affordable options like camping to luxury resorts and wineries, read about some of the top spring break activities in California for college students.

1. Visit the Beach

California has a sprawling coastline, so why not plan a spring break beach trip? Head south for sunbathing or north for rugged beaches. The best spring break beaches in California include Laguna Beach, Coronado Beach, and Santa Cruz County beaches.

2. Take a Hike

California is one of the best states for hiking. Visit Yosemite for stunning views or Joshua Tree for desert hikes. And check out the California Coast around Big Sur for scenic beach hikes.

3. Go Camping

Looking for fun things to do on spring break without breaking the bank? Consider camping. Check out the beach camping at Silver Strand State Beach in San Diego or head inland to Joshua Tree for spring break camping in California.

4. Go Skiing

California isn't all beaches and deserts. The state also has great skiing opportunities, even during spring break. Head toward Tahoe and its many ski resorts for some of the best skiing in the state.

5. Attend an Amusement Park

California created the modern amusement park. If Disneyland isn't your scene, check out Universal Studios, Six Flags, or Knott's Berry Farm. For a throwback experience, visit the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

6. Visit a Winery

Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara all boast world-class wineries. You can also visit wineries off the beaten path on the central coast or in the Sierra Nevada foothills. With roughly half of all U.S. wineries — the number topped 4,700 in 2020 — California is a great place for a winery trip.

7. Check Out a Working Farm

If you want a more active spring break, why not check out one of California's many working farms? Like the agroturismos of Italy, California boasts organic farms that welcome visitors looking to get their hands dirty.

8. Stay at a Resort

For a truly relaxing experience, check out one of California's many resorts. Palm Springs has resorts at every price point. You can also look into the resorts facing the Pacific Ocean in Coronado.

Top 13 California Spring Break Destinations

What are the best spring break destinations in California for college students? It all depends on the vibe you're looking for! Whether you want natural beauty, a thriving nightlife scene, or a more affordable destination, California likely has something to meet your needs.

1. Lake Tahoe

Spring break is still ski season at Lake Tahoe. With multiple ski resorts, Tahoe is a great option for winter recreation. Spring break in Lake Tahoe can be cold, so make sure to bundle up or book a place with a hot tub.

2. Joshua Tree National Park

Warm but not scorching temperatures — plus wildflowers — make Joshua Tree a great spring break destination in California. It's also a great place for hiking or camping, but make sure to get to the park early. Most campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

3. San Diego

Miles of beaches, nightlife, and delicious restaurants help San Diego rank as a top spring break destination. Plus, spring is a great time for a whale watching trip off the coast. Plan a sunset visit to the beach before checking out San Diego's brewery scene.

4. Yosemite National Park

For stunning natural beauty, head to Yosemite for spring break. Keep in mind that some roads and trails may remain closed due to snow in the spring. But spring is a great time to spot poppies at lower elevations or waterfalls throughout the park. If you head to Yosemite for your break, be prepared for chilly overnight temperatures!

5. Avenue of the Giants

If you want to escape the beaten path, head north to Humboldt Redwoods State Park and its towering redwood trees. The Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile scenic drive that showcases some of California's tallest redwoods, offers views and access to hiking trails. Visitors can also fish or swim in the Eel River.

6. Disneyland

Disneyland is the most visited amusement park in California, attracting more than 18 million people in 2019. If you're considering a Disney spring break on a budget, check out discounts for SoCal residents and affordable hotels that offer shuttles. And make sure to budget spending money during your days in the park.

7. Universal Studios

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Or a movie buff? Maybe you're a fan of studio tours or amusement park rides. Universal Studios Hollywood has a lot to offer, and its central location makes it a great destination as part of a spring break trip to L.A.

8. Six Flags Magic Mountain

For the most intense thrill rides in California, head to Six Flags Magic Mountain. With over 100 rides, your days will be packed with roller coasters, vertical drops, and flying coasters. In the Bay Area, you can also visit Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. More into water parks? Check out Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.

9. San Francisco

Want a big city spring break experience? Then head to San Francisco. In between biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and checking out new restaurants, you can hop onto a cable car. At night, check out dive bars in the Mission or visit SoMa's dance clubs.

10. Big Sur

Verdant forests, sparkling blue water, and stunning views make Big Sur a top spring break destination in California. Big Sur is a great place for hikes, long walks on the beach, and surfing. For camping, check out Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or look into the many lodges, inns, and spas in the area.

11. Mammoth Mountain

Located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas about five hours from L.A., Mammoth Mountain is the state's most accessible ski resort for many Southern Californians. And spring is a great time to hit the slopes at Mammoth Mountain, where you'll typically find great snow levels and sunny skies.

12. Santa Monica

Want a beach party vibe? Then consider visiting Santa Monica for spring break. With over 3 miles of beaches, a boardwalk, and lots of nightlife options, Santa Monica is a great place to spend spring break. Check out the pier and enjoy average April temperatures in the mid-70s.

13. Sonoma County

Nestled between Napa Valley and the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma County boasts scenic views, top wineries, and fantastic food. After visiting popular wineries like Korbel's champagne cellars, take a picnic to the beach or raft down the Russian River. You can also hike among the redwoods or relax in the historical city of Sonoma.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Spring Break

true What is California's weather like during spring break?

Many parts of California offer fantastic weather for spring break. SoCal beaches report average temperatures in the mid-70s, while California ski resorts provide sunny conditions with great snow levels. In contrast, the Bay Area and northern California may feature cloudier weather with cooler temperatures.

If you're visiting the redwoods, Lake Tahoe, or Yosemite, expect high temperatures in the 50s. Overall, many California spring break destinations offer sunny and warm conditions.

true What are the best ways to get around California?

The best ways to get around California depend on your destination. California is one of the biggest states, so not everything will be within driving distance. If you're traveling within California, you can typically fly, drive, or take a train to reach many popular spring break locations. Once you're local, consider renting a car or bike. California also offers many rideshare options, and some areas have great public transit.

true Is a vacation in California expensive?

California offers many fun things to do on spring break. But how much does it cost to spend spring break in California for college students? A luxury spa resort on the central coast or a week at Disneyland can set you back thousands of dollars. But college students can also find affordable spring break trips in California, like camping or hiking. Start by considering your budget and interests to find the best fit. You should also consider researching spring break packages and discounts for college students, as well as affordable spring break amenities.

Feature Image: wundervisuals / E+ / Getty Images

Discover the cost of attending college and living in California communities. Learn how you can reduce your expenses while studying in California. Ever considered extending your spring break trip indefinitely? Here are 12 colleges in ideal spots that you can attend for year-round vacation vibes. Is attending college in the Golden State the right choice for you? Our guide explores the most popular reasons to study in California.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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