Travel Destinations

The Ultimate Santa Barbara Travel Guide

Known as the Spanish Riviera of America, Santa Barbara’s white terracotta buildings and red-tiled rooves make for the perfect backdrop for an amazing California trip. 

Let’s cut to the chase and dive into this little slice of laid-back luxury. Here’s our ultimate Santa Barbara Travel Guide to help you make the most of your stay.

Santa Barbara Climate

The central California coast offers some of the most amazing year-round weather in the country. Most of the time, you’ll experience sunny days at a perfect 70 degrees. 

Santa Barbara boasts more than 300 days of sunshine per year – and without the humidity of many other beach towns, it’s pretty unbeatable.

When to Visit

Winter and early spring are when you’re likely to see the lowest prices and fewest crowds. However, especially at night, it’ll be downright cold. 

July through September is peak season and prices on hotels, food, and activities can skyrocket. June also isn’t the best time to go to Santa Barbara either as a dense fog can sometimes creep in. Locals call it “June Gloom.”

Early fall is a great time to visit, although heavy winds can sweep through during this season. Still, the weather in Santa Barbara is generally amazing. So, you can’t really go wrong in that regard. Summer crowds are going to be the main obstacle to look out for.

Neighborhoods in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is broken down into four main areas. 

Downtown Santa Barbara includes The Funk Zone, State Street, and La Arcada Plaza. The Funk Zone is Santa Barbara’s trendiest, artsiest area with lots to see and do. State Street is the shopping district of Santa Barbara. And La Arcada Plaza is just north of State Street with its own vibe. 

Goleta is west of downtown and is a suburb of Santa Barbara. It’s a great place to stay with cheaper accommodation options while still being just 10 minutes outside the city. 

Montecito has everything high-end and fancy. Top restaurants and affluent residents are located in Montecito which is just east of downtown Santa Barbara.

We also have Wine Country which includes Santa Rita Hills, Solvang, Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos. A bit further out, these areas take about an hour to get to. But if you’re down for a day trip, you won’t be disappointed.

If you are visiting Santa Barbara for the first time, you might as well want to check out Orange County. Why, you ask? Just located at a distance of 130 miles (approximately 2 hours from Santa Barbara), this place acts as the hub of several wonders. Moreover, the county fascinates tourists with attractions like Bowers Museum, Crystal Cove State Park, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Yost Theater, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and several popular beaches. That said, most of the travelers who want to experience an adrenaline rush usually count on the many entertaining things to do in Orange County. If you too want to feel the same, why not consider this detour?

Getting Around

No matter how you arrived in Santa Barbara, it’s super easy to get around. Rent bikes or grab an Uber when you need one. Rent a car if you’re hoping to take a day trip out to one of the nearby vineyards. 

Grab the trolley, water taxi, or the local pedicabs to get around. Or, simply walk. It’s a great place for pedestrians and you’re sure to stumble upon some hidden gems by foot. To simplify your trek, check your bags at a luggage storage spot right in Santa Barbara. If you’re just in town for the day or had an early check-out from your Airbnb, you’ll be glad you thought about it.

Where to Stay

As we mentioned earlier, Santa Barbara is all about laid-back luxury. With that being said, most accommodation is going to be on the pricier side. But, if you’re happy to indulge during this trip, there are many amazing hotels and resorts in the area.

Things to Do

Whether you prefer to sit back and relax on vacation or you love jam-packed trips full of activities, Santa Barbara has lots to do. Couples, families, and solo-travelers will all be able to enjoy what this coastal town can provide.

Of course, when in any coastal California city, hitting the beach is a must. Butterfly Beach seems to take the cake in terms of local favorites but the East and West Beaches are popular as well.

Hike to the top of Inspiration Point – it’s only 3.5 miles round trip – or venture through the San Ysidro Trail. You might also meander through State Street for some incredible shopping at local boutiques and brand name stores.

Wine tasting is another popular activity in Santa Barbara. Whether you travel out to wine country or you stay in town, here are some fantastic places to participate in a tasting – or two.

Best Food in Santa Barbara

If we had to narrow it down, Santa Barbara has incredible seafood and Mexican food. You’ll also come across some amazing Spanish tapas, celebrating the region’s Spanish history. 

To start you off on the right foot, here are some of our favorite restaurants and cafes in Santa Barbara.

Nightlife in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has a huge college culture since it’s the home of UCSB. That means the nightlife is alive and well in the area. If you’re looking to go out for a drink, here are a few places to try.

Making the Most of Your Trip to Santa Barbara

As you can see, there is so much to do and experience in Santa Barbara and its surrounding areas. From wine country to beautiful beaches, central California is a great place to spend a weekend getaway or weeks of an extended vacation.