Santa Barbara, CA

Travel Guide
Santa Barbara showing theater scenes, night scenes and signage

The American Riviera offers historic adobe architecture, plenty of art galleries, wineries and beautiful beaches. 

Santa Barbara is famous for its expensive hotels, large mansions and trendy boutiques, but it also has beautiful beaches and many museums and festivals dedicated to celebrating the city’s past.

Be sure to visit Santa Barbara’s picture-perfect beaches. Lie on the soft sand and read a book, or grab a board and hit the surf. Conditions are great for beginners, but on the right day there are some good breaks for those of all skill levels.

Marvel at the Franciscan–Spanish architecture of the old Santa Barbara Mission. You’ll find artifacts and documents from old missionaries, a still-operating chapel, and the mission’s impressive and well-kept grounds. For more old architecture, visit the adobe Rafael Gonzalez house or the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Head up the bell tower for great views of the surrounding area. History buffs will also want to check out the Presidio of Santa Barbara, a Spanish fortress from the 1780s.

Learn how modern-day Santa Barbara came about as you wander through the exhibits at the city’s Historical Museum. For a look at the evolution of plant and wildlife in the area and beyond, spend some time at the Museum of Natural History.

Art lovers will enjoy the city’s excellent institutions. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art has an extensive collection of European, American and Asian art, and plays host to some world-class exhibitions. For a look at more recent works, wander over to the Contemporary Arts Forum. This gallery is artist-run and funded, and is dedicated to exhibiting the highest-quality work in the region.

To enjoy other local products, organize a tour of the region’s wineries.

Santa Barbara enjoys the sophisticated charm of a much larger city but maintains a quaint, friendly atmosphere. Throw in a fascinating history, loads of cultural activities and excellent beaches, and it’s not hard to see why it attracts visitors from around the world.

Where to stay in Santa Barbara

Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
3.5 out of 5
4111 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA
The price is $178 per night from Oct 31 to Oct 31
Situated near the airport, this hotel is 0.9 mi (1.4 km) from La Cumbre Plaza and 3 mi (4.8 km) from Mission Santa Barbara. Arroyo Burro Beach and Arlington ...
4/5 Very Good! (465 reviews)
"Location is convenient to 101 but nothing around here. It’s not near the downtown of Santa Barbara State Street. It’s in Goleta. The hotel itself is really nice. It looks new. Rooms are nice..breakfast is good ..lots of choices.. the staff is great..parking underground charge $9. Elevators are protected ..."

Reviewed on Oct 20, 2021

Hyatt Place Santa Barbara
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
4 out of 5
633 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is $213 per night from Nov 1 to Nov 1
Located in East Beach, this beach hotel is 0.5 mi (0.9 km) from Santa Barbara Zoo and within 3 mi (5 km) of Presidio Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Museum of ...
4/5 Very Good! (1,124 reviews)
"Very large and staff is wonderful. The rooms are little boring and not as nice as expected."

Reviewed on Oct 18, 2021

Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Inn By The Harbor
Inn By The Harbor
3.5 out of 5
433 W Montecito St, Santa Barbara, CA
The price is $199 per night from Oct 24 to Oct 24
Located in Santa Barbara Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Carriage and Western Art Museum, Santa Barbara City College, and Moreton Bay Fig Tree. ...
4.4/5 Excellent! (925 reviews)
"."

Reviewed on Oct 22, 2021

Inn By The Harbor
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort
Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort
2 out of 5
3750 Paradise Road, Santa Barbara, CA
The price is $178 per night from Oct 27 to Oct 27
Located in Santa Barbara, this family-friendly cabin is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Los Padres National Forest, and within 9 mi (15 km) of Rancho San Marcos Golf Course ...
4.3/5 Excellent! (59 reviews)
Not what was expected
"At check-in, we were told that the restaurant on-site opened at 4pm. However, we found out that the restaurant had been closed since March. There was no horseback riding due to it having rained the day prior. We were not allowed to pet or feed the horses without staff present, and although there ..."

Reviewed on Jan 25, 2021

Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort
Mariposa- One Bedroom Flat; sweet getaway by the Beach!  newly renovated beauty
Mariposa- One Bedroom Flat; sweet getaway by the Beach! newly renovated beauty
Santa Barbara, CA
The price is $220 per night from Nov 4 to Nov 4
Located in East Beach, this historic apartment building is within a 5-minute walk of East Beach and Cabrillo Pavillion. Santa Barbara Zoo and Chase Palm Park ...
4.9/5 Exceptional! (76 reviews)
clean house, awesome location, friendly neighborhood, quick response, process is quick and simple!
"Had an awesome time in Santa Barbara with family. I would not hesitate to book this property again. Jami had everything that we need including beach gear. Parking is going to be by the street so plan on that."

Reviewed on Sep 29, 2021

Mariposa- One Bedroom Flat; sweet getaway by the Beach! newly renovated beauty
Ocean View Cottage, Santa Barbara
Ocean View Cottage, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA
Located in Eastside, this romantic vacation home is within 2 mi (3 km) of Andree Clark Bird Refuge, Cabrillo Pavillion, and Santa Barbara Zoo. Butterfly Beach ...
5/5 Exceptional! (20 reviews)
Great View / Peaceful
"We enjoyed the visit, I just wish it have been a couple days longer. The property was super comfortable, from the fully equipped kitchen, the outdoor sitting out back, the main room and finally the massive king-sized bed. The view from the front are great, includes the ocean in the distance. Only ..."

Reviewed on Oct 18, 2021

Ocean View Cottage, Santa Barbara
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Getting around Santa Barbara

The only public transit option in Santa Barbara is its bus network, the SBMTD, which spans the entire city and into Santa Barbara County, as far out as Carpinteria. Taxis are very expensive in the city center, making car rental a more appealing option. If you’re staying close to the center, consider walking or cycling around Santa Barbara. It’s easy to rent a bike in the city. Visit the California Department of Transportation website.Browse Santa Barbara rental cars.

Best time to visit

Like much of California, Santa Barbara has mild weather year round, with highs of around 75 F (24 C) in July and August, and around 65 F (18 C) in December and January. This temperate climate means it’s pleasant to visit throughout the year. Summer is the busiest and most expensive time, so you may prefer to visit in May or September; most of the rain in Santa Barbara falls between December and February.

Popular places to visit in Santa Barbara

Top things to do in Santa Barbara

Read travel guides and advice on visiting Santa Barbara

Cities near Santa Barbara