Just 100 miles north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is the ultimate beach town. From lazy days at sun-soaked beaches to crazy nights at the club, this town has something for everyone. With UCSB in town, there is a big college scene here year-round. You can also find some of California's best (and most beautiful) wine tasting in this region. Ready to experience the best of California? Here’s my ultimate guide to Santa Barbara.
What to Expect in Santa Barbara
Beach Vibe: Santa Barbara is a chic upscale beach town with world-class vineyards at its doorstep. The style is laid-back with a little bit of luxury!
Weather: Flawless! It’s usually sunny and around 70-75 degrees F. The temperatures are fairly consistent all year, although you will find more rainy days and temps as low as 50 degrees F during the winter.
In summer, it’s all warm (but not too hot) sunshine. Don’t forget the sunscreen! Santa Barbara sees over 300 days of sunshine each year.
Food: Santa Barbara boasts lots of farm-to-table, fresh fare. There are some great Mexican restaurants as well as outstanding seafood. With many neighboring vineyards, you will get some of the best local wines. Be sure to check out the farmers market for all the local goodies!
Helpful Tip: A lot of restaurants, shops, and hotels in SB tend to be on the more expensive side, but you can find more budget options in Isla Vista (where UCSB students reside)!
Getting Around in Santa Barbara
Bikes: You can rent a bike on the boardwalk. Since it’s a relatively small city with great weather, this is a good option for seeing the main attractions.
Drive: Renting a car is a good idea if you’re planning to explore a wider area or get out to some of the vineyards.
Uber or Lyft: These apps are popular options in California and will get you wherever you need to go hassle-free. You are much more likely to snag a ride-share than a taxi in SB.
Walk: Take walks along the beach boardwalk or head to downtown where you can walk up and down State Street for some shopping!
Where to Stay in Santa Barbara
If it’s your first time visiting Santa Barbara, I highly recommend staying in the “hippest” neighborhood, the Funk Zone! Flooded with all things bohemian and artsy, you could spend days exploring the remarkable studios, galleries, boutiques, breweries, wine tasting rooms, and hip restaurants.
I stayed at The Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara, right in the center of the Funk Zone, and it was an awesome experience.
Here are the top hotels to stay at in Santa Barbara!
In the heart of Santa Barbara, this luxury hotel stole my heart on my last trip stateside. The hotel truly feels like you’ve stepped back into history—they’ve even incorporated the façade of the original 1925 Hotel Californian—and the architectural details are so impressive. Here’s my full experience!
This five-star Spanish-style resort offers the best of SoCal luxury. As it’s a Ritz-Carlton property, you’ll be impressed by the luxury and ambiance at every turn. It’s a bit outside of Santa Barbara proper, so you’ll want a car to explore the area if you stay here!
From cheap couches to luxury lofts, VRBO is a great option in Santa Barbara for every taste and price range.
With a dream location just off of the famous State Street, this European-influenced property offers a lush courtyard, a delicious complimentary breakfast, and exceptional services.
Where to Eat in Santa Barbara
When in Santa Barbara, you have to try some fresh seafood and local wine and craft beers! It is truly foodie heaven and has a lot to offer by way of cafes, fish markets, breweries, and upscale, fine dining restaurants.
Here are the top spots to eat in Santa Barbara!
Figueroa Mountain BreweryBrewery
For award-winning local beers and sweeping mountain vistas, come here for drinks and pub grub.
This is the perfect place to sit out, enjoy the sun, and chow down on some wood oven pizza.
For ultra fresh seafood and amazing Bloody Marys, look no further.
Want to see where the locals go for breakfast? Come here.
Santa Barbara Shellfish CoSeafood
Santa Barbara has some of the best seafood in the world, and this place has the freshest of fresh seasonal seafood.
La Super-Rica on MilpasMexican
The lines here get crazy during lunch time but their first-rate Mexican specialties make it worth the wait.
This traveler-friendly spot is perfect for grabbing something quick and healthy on the go.
The Shop KitchenBreakfast, American
Walk up to the service window (be prepared for a line at peak hours) and order from a selection of the best breakfasts, baked goods and coffee.
What to Do in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is the perfect playground! If you’re looking for a destination with beautiful beaches, hiking areas, and outdoor activities but also high-end shops, spas, and restaurants‚ this city is the perfect mix. There’s something for everyone!
Here are my favorite activities to do in Santa Barbara!
You can rent bikes all over town and they’re the perfect way to get around. As soon as you hop on, head down to the pier.
Get over to the trendy The Funk Zone to experience the Urban Wine Trail. Be sure to try the local Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
Normally I don’t think it’s worth it to spend travel time in a dark movie theatre, but Arlington is just such a cool spot. They’ve also got standup comedy shows and concerts.
Founded in 1786, Mission Santa Barbara is a great place to start exploring and learning about Santa Barbara’s Spanish roots. Plan for a good hour here to take in Mission’s incredible artwork and architecture.
If this interests you, be sure to check out El Presidio Historic Park too! It is the last Spanish military site remaining on the west coast of the USA.
State Street has it all. You could easily spend a full day just exploring the shops, restaurants, and cafés.
You can’t go to Santa Barbara without spending at least one full day at the beach! My top picks are Butterfly Beach and Santa Clause Lane.
Also known as Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, get down here to pet an octopus!
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