California: When to Go

To see the best (and worst) times to visit, please read our reviews of our recommended places to stay

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Getting There

Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.


San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is served by over 40 airlines including Delta Airlines, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines. An international gateway, with the largest international terminal in North America, SFO is a hub for United Airlines and Virgin America.

Oakland International Airport (OAK) is a popular alternative to San Francisco (with a higher on time arrival percentage) connecting mostly with other American destinations and Mexico. It is a hub for South West Airlines and is also served by Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways; and US Airways.

San Jose International Airport (SJC) is the airport into Silicon Valley and San Jose; South West Airlines is the major carrier, along with Alaska Air and Horizon Air.


Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the fifth busiest commercial airport in the world and the third busiest in the United States, served by over 60 airlines, including Qantas, Lufthansa and Mexicana, and is a hub for United Airlines.


San Diego International Airport (SAN) is located close to the centre of the city, and hosts over 20 airlines to mostly domestic destinations. The three largest are Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, and American Airlines.


Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is served by 10 airlines including Alaska, American, Delta, United and US Airways.   Non-stop are available from 16 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Ten major airline hubs offer connecting flights from to hundreds of cities worldwide.


Direct flights to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) are available from most major cities in the Southwest and along the West Coast. About a dozen flights a day arrive from both Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Alaska Air, US Airways, connector links of Delta and United Airlines and a few smaller regional airlines serve Santa Barbara.


The Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport (STS) is 4 miles N of Santa Rosa and 65 miles N of San Francisco, and is served by Horizon Air which flies from Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Getting Around


You won’t get far in California without a car. Even in cities like San Diego and Los Angeles metro transportation is limited. And if you plan to do a lot of wine-tasting in Napa or Santa Barbara, consider hiring a limo or scheduling a jeep tour.

That said, one of the great pleasures is driving the Pacific Coast Highway (often called Highway 1). The scenery is best from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Take a couple of days with stops planned for snapping photos and dosing with Dramamine (the narrow road twists and turns relentlessly) and the drop offs get more dramatic along with the scenery near Big Sur.

See our car rental recommendations.


Amtrak operates trains along the California coast, connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and all points in between. One-way fares range from US$25 from San Diego to Los Angeles to US$87 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. (Fares fluctuate and trains are not often on time.) Trains arrive at Union Station, north of downtown.

The daily Starlight (also operated by Amtrak) offers spectacular views. The coastal portion of the route from Oakland (in the San Francisco Bay Area) to Los Angeles (with a stop in Santa Barbara) takes about 12 hours. Southern California Metrolink trains leave from the same station.