Santa Barbara – A Coastal Paradise

August 31, 2021

Santa Barbara is a chic beach town nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the famed Pacific Coast Highway on California’s central coastline, only 90 miles north of LA. Fondly known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is a vibrant quintessential California beach town with a laid-back European vibe, stunning Spanish colonial-style architecture, sun-kissed surfers, and the perfect mix of casual coastal-chic and sophisticated charm.

The eclectic downtown area comprises the Funk Zone between the Ocean and Highway 1, State Street, and the La Arcada Plaza. Other Santa Barbara neighborhoods include Goleta west of downtown, the affluent Montecito to the east, and Santa Barbara’s wine country to the north. Santa Barbara’s year-round mild weather, scenic coastline, and abundance of activities, attractions, and things to do make it a vacation destination worthy of every ocean lover, wine connoisseur, art lover, shopper, and foodies bucket-list!

There’s so much to see and do in Santa Barbara, we suggest starting your vacation with a tour of Santa Barbara’s hot spots on the Santa Barbara Trolley, a great way to get a good lay of the land in a fun (and educational) way.

Surfing

Sun, Sand, & Surf

Santa Barbara has some of the best beaches in the Golden State with sun-drenched, palm-tree-lined sandy beaches, gentle ocean waters, and perfect sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Butterfly Beach near Montecito is laid back with the best sunsets in Santa Barbara, Leadbetter Beach at the Santa Barbara Harbor is the best place for surfing, boogie boarding, or SUPing, and if you’re traveling with your pet, Arroyo Burro Beach (known to locals as Hendry’s) is family-friendly and pet-friendly.

Sunset in Santa Barbara

Gorgeous sunset on the beach

Bike

Miles of coastline to explore

Soak up the sun, build sandcastles, learn to surf or rent a beach cruiser and explore the waterfront. CalCoast Adventures are your one-stop shop for tours, surf lessons rentals, and the best beach experience in Santa Barbara.

Outdoor Activities

Bike-the-Shoreline

Explore the endless biking trails

Santa Barbara boasts an abundance of coastal beauty and outdoor activities with endless hiking trails, bike paths, outdoor attractions, and the inviting Pacific Ocean for fun on the water. Cruise the bike path along the oceanfront from Montecito to Shoreline Park where you’ll find trails boasting city and mountain views. Take the kids on a family-friendly hike at the Douglas Family Reserve or head to Romero Canyon near Montecito or the nearby Los Padres National Forest for more hiking and biking trails.

Explore the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon area or the unique botanical collections at Lotusland or visit the Santa Barbara Zoo, known as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos. For on-the-water activities, the Santa Barbara Sailing Center offers whale watching tours, private sailboats for a sunset sail and kayak and snorkel rentals to explore the caves at Channel Islands National Park.

Santa Barbara Sailing Center

Take in the beautiful sunset on a sail boat ride

Arts

Arts & Culture

Santa Barbara has a vibrant arts and culture scene with studios, galleries, graffiti murals and sculptures in the buzzy Funk Zone, cultural attractions and historic landmarks in the heart of town, and culture events celebrating the rich traditions and history of Santa Barbara.

Tile Stairs

Discover intricate tile work around Santa Barbara

Santa-Barbara-Mission

The Old Mission

Take a tour of the Old Mission Santa Barbara, a historic landmark established in 1786 by the Spanish settlers, learn about the history and heritage of Chumash Indians at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and take a self-guided tour of the El Presidio Historic State Park, the birthplace of Santa Barbara and the last Spanish military site on the coastline. The Red Tile Walking tour includes 17 stops and 22 historic abodes highlighting the best of Santa Barbara’s stunning historic Spanish Architecture.

Shopping & Dining

There’s a variety of places to grab a bite to eat!

Visitors to Santa Barbara are spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping and dining. Some say shopping in Santa Barbara can come with a hefty price tag but not necessarily! From the Spanish-style open-air Paseo Nuevo downtown to Coast Village Road in Montecito, you’ll find everything from big name shops and high-end boutiques to unique indie and vintage stores.

Santa Barbara County boasts more than 450 restaurants ranging from taco trucks for authentic Mexican and casual burger joints to fun hotspots in the Funk Zone, fresh seafood on the historic Stearns Wharf, and farm-to-table fine dining in the Santa Ynez Valley. Foodies can enjoy cooking classes, food tours, fun food festivals, and be sure to put the Santa Barbara Public Market Food Hall on your itinerary for the best local artisanal food and drinks.

Wineries

Santa Barbara County is a serious wine destination producing some of California’s best wines! The famed Urban Wine Trail encompasses five Santa Barbara neighborhoods with two-dozen tasting rooms and working wineries all within blocks of downtown and the beach.

Where to Stay in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is an idyllic stop-over on your PCH road trip (or you can fly into Santa Barbara airport or hop on the Amtrak or Greyhound from LA and skip the traffic!). From charming historic homes in the heart of downtown to luxury vineyard retreats in Santa Barbara’s wine country, our lodging partner Paradise Retreats offer a wide selection of beautiful, well-maintained, and professionally managed homes, exceptional guest services, curated experiences, and fun, free activities for a unique and special experience in Santa Barbara.

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