Just a two hour drive from SD, in the middle of the desert, is an oasis where Southern Californians flock to eat delicious food, drink poolside, and go bar-hopping with friends. We know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not Vegas. Grab your keys and your camera, pack an overnight bag (don’t forget a bathing suit), and let’s go: it is time for a CISL San Diego student road trip to Palm Springs!

Palm Springs3

Is it possible to get tired of the San Diego sun? Probably not. But a change of scenery is always nice, and many CISL students choose to take a road trip while they are studying English in San Diego. Palm Springs’ warm weather and affordable housing made it a desired location for retirees, and for years it had the reputation of having an elderly population and a very low-key atmosphere. Over the last decade, the city has made room for today’s youth and has seen an influx of spas, nightclubs, trendy restaurants, and upscale hotels. Many Southern Californians (and celebrities) now consider Palm Springs a great location for a weekend getaway.

Palm Springs2

There are numerous ways to road trip from San Diego to Palm Springs. Most notably is the direct route, which takes just a little over two hours; however, there are a few longer options which are quite scenic as well.


Direct Route

Total driving time: approximately 2-2 1/2 hours

  • From Downtown: Take 163 North to 15 North (15 miles)
  • Keep right and continue on to 215 North, following signs for Riverside/San Bernardino (50 miles)
  • Exit onto CA 60-E/Moreno Valley Freeway (30 miles)
  • Merge onto 10 East (18 miles)
  • Take a slight right onto CA-111 (18 miles)
  • Follow signs into Palm Springs!

Click here for a map.


Route 2: A Stop in Julian

Total driving time: a little over 3 hours (1 hour and 15 minutes to Julian; 2 hours to Palm Springs)

Julian is a small mining town located in the rolling hills an hour from San Diego. The drive to Julian takes you through Cuyamaca Lake and through beautiful meadows before you stop in the charming one-street town. Walk up and down the streets and pretend that you have been transported to the Wild West of the 1800s, browse the boutiques, and don’t leave until you’ve had some apple pie: a tradition for locals! After some delicious sweets, head back on your way.


  • Take 8 East to 125 North
  • After 25 miles, take the CA-79 North/Japatul Road exit (turn left)
  • Continue for 20 miles of windy roads (and beautiful scenery!) and follow the signs for Julian.
  • Eat some delicious apple pie
  • Take CA 79 North out of Julian
  • After 6 miles, turn right onto CA 371 East/Cahuilla Road and follow this for 35 miles
  • Turn right onto CA 74 East/Pines to Palms Highway, follow for 20 miles
  • Turn left onto CA 111 North

Click here for a map.


Route 3: A Stop in Temecula

Few people think of “wineries” when they think of San Diego, but just an hour’s drive from downtown are the beautiful vineyards of Temecula. Stop off for a wine tasting and some lunch while overlooking the vine-covered rolling hills, and then make your way to Palm Springs for a late afternoon dip in the pool.

Beautiful Temecula. Photo from https://www.facebook.com/TemeculaValleyWinegrowers
  • Take 163 North to 15 North (11 miles)
  • After 45 miles, take the CA 79 South/Temecula Parkway exit toward Indio
  • Drink delicious wine and eat delicious food
  • Take the 15 North out of Temecula
  • Keep right and continue onto 215 North, following signs for Riverside/San Bernardino
  • Exit onto CA 60-E/Moreno Valley Freeway (30 miles)
  • Merge onto 10 East (18 miles)
  • Take a slight right onto CA-111 (18 miles)
  • Follow signs into Palm Springs!

Click here for a map.


Have you taken a road trip to Palm Springs? Tell us all about it on our CISL Facebook page!