Adventure Awaits: Affordable Outdoor Vacations in California

California SR1 is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

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California is a popular destination for couples seeking a romantic getaway, thanks to its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and celebrity appeal. The state offers a wide range of vacation options for its 50 million residents and neighboring states. You can easily plan a trip by filling up your gas tank and driving along the coastline, where you’ll find various options, including desert, beach, or mountain getaways.

The good news is that with careful planning of your accommodations and flights, you can find affordable vacation options in California from anywhere in the country. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or a taste of celebrity life, California has it all and is ready to make your vacation dreams come true!

Mount Shasta Escapes

Mount Shasta at sunset
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Mount Shasta is a giant, not-so-extinct volcano in northern California. It erupts every 800 years, but may have yet to erupt since Moses led his people to the promised land. USGS scientists predict a 1% chance of eruption at Medicine Lake volcano, a 3.5% chance at Mount Shasta, and a 2% chance at Lassen Peak in the next 30 years. So you’re not risking death, but you do get to enjoy an alpine playground of forests and lakes.

There’s plenty of hiking, mountain biking, and disc golf around Mt Shasta, including downhill trails and scenic rides during the ski resort’s summer operations. There’s even rafting on the Klamath River and paddling all around Siskiyou. Word to the wise- Heart Lake Trail is AMAZING! All you need to do is pack the car and pick your hotel.

Eureka Vacations

Eureka California coastline beach at sunset
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

The Big Sur road trip gets a lot of love, but it takes work to turn into a full-fledged vacation. Reaching the beach is hard, and there aren’t really resort hotels. If you drive north out of San Francisco through the redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants, you’ll reach the sleepy coastal town of Eureka.

Budget travelers will love the price point of Eureka hotels and Humboldt Bay eco-tours. Everything is mellower in Eureka, including the dining. If you’re looking for more free things to do, there’s hiking and biking through the redwoods everywhere, and the coastal habitats of Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge are some of the most biologically rich places worldwide.

Oxnard Vacations

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Malibu, Santa Barbara, Oxnard… One of these things isn’t like the other. And if you’re a bargain vacation shopper, you’ll choose the one with the best tacos. Oxnard has beach resorts that don’t suck your wallet like aggressive liposuction. It also has fun things to do, like boat trips to Channel Island National Park.

Two major Navy bases in Oxnard are Port Hueneme and Point Mugu, which means a lot of travelers on government rates bring their families for a bit of beach time. Plus, the drive from LAX to Oxnard up Highway 1 is like you’re in the movies. Once you know what Point Magu Rock looks like, you’ll realize how often it appears as a Hollywood backdrop.

Big Bear Weekends

Big Bear via Deposit Photos
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Big Bear is SoCal’s answer to Mt Shasta. Sure, maybe it doesn’t have all the epic alpine scenery, but it’s so much closer. You still get the trails and downhill biking, but save big on gas. Plus, it’s so much closer to Los Angeles.

You can still find cute lodging around Big Bear, including cabins, and plenty of things to do, including convenient paddle sports on Big Bear Lake and all the hiking you can handle in Castle Rock State Park.

San Diego Vacations

San Diego view from park over water into the city
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

America’s finest city is also our first choice for cheap California vacations. S.D. has the best beaches in California for surfing, swimming, and scuba diving, along with the world-famous San Diego Zoo. With the beach resorts of Mission Bay, the gilded age elegance of the Hotel Del, and the urban appeal of the Gaslamp District and Little Italy, it’s easy to see why San Diego is a beloved destination. The trick is how to do San Diego on a budget.

First off, because of traffic in the L.A. Basin, it’s easier to get to San Diego beaches for anybody in Southern California, Nevada, or Arizona for anybody living outside of Los Angeles County or the O.C. Secondly, because of the trolly system and hop-on /hop-off buses, you can visit San Diego car-free if you fly. There are many cheap things to do in San Diego, including biking and the beach, and the hotels are much more reasonable than you might expect. Finally, here’s our ace in the hole – the King of Happy Hour website. There are so many happy hour specials in San Diego, especially Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, that you never need to pay full price for meals!

Tijuana Vacations

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OK, T.J. isn’t in California, but it’s so cool that you can take the trolly and walk into Mexico. Once you’re there, you can go to extreme water parks, culinary tours, art tours, or just hang out for tequila and tacos.

If you’re brave enough, you can get a hotel and stay overnight, but most people just come down for the day. Another more “exciting” adventure is to get insurance and drive into Baja. The “lobster loop” to Ensenada and the wineries of Guadalupe Valley is simply an incredible weekend road trip.

Camping in California County Parks

California Camping via Deposit Photos
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

California camping is extraordinary because of the temperate weather and gorgeous locations. The problem is that everybody knows this, and the prices and availability at California’s State and National Parks are horrible. Here’s our travel hack for California camping vacations – county parks.

Most counties around the state have camping in their parks that’s objectively nice, affordable, and available. Here’s the campground resource we used when we lived in San Diego. Notice that you can get anywhere in the state you want. You might not be by the ocean, but you can find rivers and lakes to splash in and drive to the prime attractions. If you’re really cheap, there are even free campsites in California; you just have to know where to look.

More Cheap Vacations for Couples:

Vacation couple in convertable via Deposit Photos
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

There are many reasons for couples to take cheap vacations. You may be on a budget and trying to retire early or want to balance expenses on a trip between luxury stays and heart-pounding adventures. Most importantly, you shouldn’t sacrifice your fun just because you’re looking for low budget vacation ideas.

56 Cheap Vacations for Couples to Swoon Over

Read More From Coleman Concierge:

Romantic Beach
Photo Credit: Canva.

What are the most romantic getaways in Southern California? For active couples, SoCal offers a little bit of everything from luxurious beach hotels to cozy mountain cabins. From the bright lights of Los Angeles to the starlight of the open desert, we’ll show you the best couples vacations or romantic California staycation.

21 Spectacular Romantic Getaways in Southern California for Active Couples

San Francisco Walking Tours – Self Guided Routes You’re Going to Love

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

San Francisco is considered one of America’s greatest cities. We’ve designed 5 self-guided San Francisco walking tour routes that are not just easy to follow, they take you to all of the famous sites in one full and photogenic day. What’s more, these tours are 100% designed around public transportation!

San Francisco Walking Tours – Self Guided Routes You’re Going to Love

San Diego Beaches and Breweries: The Perfect Pairing

San Diego Beach
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Looking to chill on the best beaches in San Diego? How about sipping craft beer at some of San Diego’s finest breweries? Why not combine the two for a perfect pairing. Read on to get the inside scoop…

San Diego Beaches and Breweries: The Perfect Pairing


Co-Founders and Content Creators at | Website
Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.



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One Response

  1. Wonderful list of destinations for couples. I would love to explore the Mount Shasta Escapes. I and my wife are both avid hikers. Besides hiking, it is also good for rafting and paddling.

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Meet Ed & Jenn

Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman, and together we are Coleman Concierge. It is our goal to inspire you to get out, expand your world, and to seek adventure, even in your own backyard.

We deeply believe in the transformational power of travel. Our tagline is amazing adventures for ordinary people because we believe that you don’t have to be super rich, super fit or super anything to have an amazing adventure. Expanding your comfort zone and trying new things will pay huge dividends in both health and happiness.

We advocate for sustainable and ethical travel and truly believe in the power of travel to transform both ourselves as well as the world around us.


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