Santa Barbara Travel Guide

Our Guide to The American Riviera

From the mountains to the sea, Santa Barbara County has so much to offer. Also known as The American Riviera, Santa Barbara is known for its world-renowned food and wine scene, pristine sandy beaches, beautiful architecture, and near-perfect weather all year round. Explore everything Santa Barbara has to offer! 

Why do people love Santa Barbara?

Many people visit Santa Barbara year after year because they love the landscape, climate, history, and community. From Goleta down to Carpinteria, there is a rich culture and history in much of the local architecture. Not to mention the stunning sunset views from one of the many coastal cliffs. Santa Barbara offers so many experiences that not only bring people back but there is always a new adventure to embark on.

The Top Attractions to visit in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County is full of things to do and see! Santa Barbara County Courthouse is an iconic Santa Barbara landmark because of its Spanish-colonial design, four-faced clock tower, red-tile roof, and stunning garden and grounds. The courthouse is fully functioning, but it offers self-guided tours for those who would like to marvel at the beauty of the courthouse. You can even climb the clock tower for a beautiful panoramic view of Santa Barbara.


Another Historical Landmark is The Old Mission, Santa Barbara. The Mission is one of the city’s most picturesque landmarks with its double bell towers, lush gardens, and the San Ynez Mountains as the backdrop. For over 200 years, the “queen of missions” is an active parish church and a vital part of Santa Barbara’s cultural landscape. You can tour The Mission to view the museum, church, Sacred Garden, and Cemetery.


Other Attractions include the Santa Barbara Zoo and The Funk Zone. The Santa Barbara Zoo is just 2 miles from State Street, the 30-acre zoo is home to more than 146 species. This zoo is perfect for families with small children. The Funk Zone is a popular destination for those wanting to shop, view art, and wine and dine. This area covers a vast area from the ocean to Highway 101. Visit the converted warehouses turned shops, restaurants, galleries, and tasting rooms to visit Santa Barbara’s contemporary side.  

Santa Barbara Landmarks - County Courthouse
Santa Barbara Beach

Does Santa Barbara have nice Beaches?

Santa Barbara is home to miles of beautiful sandy beaches offering some of California's best sunsets. Some of our more popular beaches are Butterfly Beach, Leadbetter Beach, and Miramar Beach.


Butterfly Beach is perfect if you are wanting to catch up on your favorite book while soaking up the California sun. Butterfly Beach also offers some of the best views of the sunset.


Leadbetter beach is the beach for surfing, boogie boarding, and stand-up Paddleboarding. Shoreline Park is just a short walk away from Leadbetter. This park offers areal views of the beach below and The Channel Islands.


Lastly, we have Miramar Beach! This beach is famously recognized by the blue-roof Miramar By The Sea Hotel, now known as Rosewood. Located in beautiful Montecito, Miramar Beach is perfect for beachcombing, stand-up paddleboarding, and surfing. Let's not forget about the vibrant tidepools. 


No matter which beach you’d like to visit, our Santa Barbara Beaches will never cease to amaze those who visit.

Is Santa Barbara a wine country?

Yes! Santa Barbara is part of a World Class Wine Making Region and one of the world's premier wine destinations. Santa Barbara’s wine country offers a diverse and authentic experience for the wine-curious traveler. The Santa Ynez Valley Mountains and the San Rafael Range offer create a variety of valleys and microclimates, making this region perfect for growing a diverse range of grapes.


One of the best ways to get a taste of some of Santa Barbara’s world-class wine is on The Urban Wine Trail. This wine trail is in the downtown area of Santa Barbara, home to 28 tasting rooms and working wineries within a couple of blocks of each other. This is an excellent way to taste some of the spectacular local wines Santa Barbara is known for without having to travel 45 minutes out of the city.

Santa Barbara Wine Making Region - Santa Barbara’s wine country

Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is perfect to visit year-round! The summer months, particularly in July and August, is the best time to visit for a classic beach vacation. That’s when the sun and the waters are the warmest. This is also the busiest part of the year so expect large crowds and higher prices.


If you would like to enjoy the nice warm weather without all the crowds or the high costs, the late spring or early fall is the ideal time to travel to Santa Barbara. Fall time is one of the best times to catch one of the most dramatic yet vibrant sunsets you’ll ever see.


The winter season is also a good time to visit if you want to experience the cooler weather of Santa Barbara. Wintertime can be rainy but there is so much to do, it wouldn’t put a damper on your vacation. An additional benefit to visiting in the winter is the cost of rentals and attractions is much lower and there are very few tourists.

Travel & Transportation

There are a variety of ways to get to Santa Barbara! You can fly right into Santa Barbara on one of the few airlines that fly into the Santa Barbara Airport. Enjoy the California Coastline by taking Amtrack’s Coastline Starlight train service and get off right in town at Sterns Wharf. This train runs from San Luis Obispo south to San Diego. Lastly, if you are looking for a vacation close to home, many stop in Santa Barbara when traveling along Route 1 Pacific Coast Highway.

No matter how you plan on getting to your Santa Barbara vacation, we highly recommend you have a car. It’s the best way to get around and see all sights!