The Santa Barbara South Coast is home to sparkling beaches cradled by the cascading Santa Ynez mountains, with simply unbeatable views and renowned wine country just over the hill. The city itself may seem small but hidden within our white adobe paseos, and naturally, stunning topography is incredible history, culture, and adventure across five unique cities, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, and Summerland. Dine alfresco under the stars on the State Street Promenade, where eating and entertainment become synonymous. Bike down one of the numerous trails winding through Goleta, and then afterward surf famous breaks along the coast. Relax during seaside yoga and sample freshly caught seafood for lunch and dinner.
With so much to do and see, you’ll need at least three days to get the full Santa Barbara South Coast experience. To help you stay just one more day, we’ve made it easy to book a serene coastal getaway. Receive your third night free at these participating lodging properties.
The question is, what will you discover in the Santa Barbara South Coast with an extra day? Whether you are a foodie at heart, art lover, or adrenaline junkie in search of your next adventure, read on to experience the brilliance of The American Riviera® within 72 hours.
Begin your three-day stay in The American Riviera® with an exhilarating a.m. adventure. As early birds will tell you, there’s no sight like seeing the morning sun rising over the Pacific when the views are clear, and the air is crisp. Avid cyclists can take full advantage of daybreak en route to the top of Gibraltar, one of the most iconic ascents in Southern California. Winding nine miles up with over 3,000 feet of climbing, locals refer to this as the Alpe d’ Huez of Santa Barbara – for a good reason. Gibraltar is a feather in the helmet of any experienced cyclist. If extreme cycling isn’t your forte, enjoy the alternative and find early morning rays with these top-rated Santa Barbara hikes.
Post-workout, head to The Presidio Neighborhood for a morning refuel with coffee and a hearty breakfast. Relish in your morning achievements with a cup of coffee fittingly named the “Gibraltar” at Handlebar Coffee. Once you’ve savored every last sip, take a quick walk to Scarlett Begonia, a charming restaurant with the perfect mix of casual ambiance and gourmet flavors.
Since you’ve already trekked along area mountain tops, consider spending your afternoon exploring the sea via sailboat. Better yet, a sunset cruise is an excellent way to experience Santa Barbara’s coastline and can easily be paired with wine tasting or beer tasting. Watch for whales and dolphins as both frequent the Santa Barbara Channel.
Finally, meander over to the Santa Barbara Public Market for dinner downtown. In the midst of “Restaurant Row” on Victoria Street, you can count on spacious outdoor seating and a little something for everyone’s taste buds. From sizzling Mexican food and fresh sushi to wood fired pizzas and spicy Thai, the Santa Barbara Public Market offers a wide variety of delicious fare. Once you’ve savored your meal, top it off with a delectable scoop of ice cream from Rori’s Artisanal Creamery.
Start day two with a little soul revival in the form of a morning yoga practice. Santa Barbara has a variety of studios with indoor and outdoor classes to choose from. Or, for a solo session, opt to roll up your mat and head outdoors for a few fresh air sun salutations.
The exploration continues with a visit to one of the area’s most intriguing sites—Lotusland. This stunning botanical garden sits on 37-acres in Montecito, where the eccentric Madame Ganna Walska spent 43 years creating and cultivating multiple gardens. Today, you can wander through 20 different flora wonders on a two-hour, self-guided tour. If landmark hopping fits your travel style, Casa Del Herro is a mere 1.4 miles down the road and is one of the finest examples of Spanish revival architecture in America. Known as the House of the Blacksmith, step back in time to see what Montecito looked like in the 1920s and 1930s.
For lunch, head to what many, including the late Julia Child, consider Santa Barbara’s most notable local taco shop, La Super-Rica Taqueria. A bright blue exterior gives way to some of the most sought after tacos along the Santa Barbara South Coast. And if you’re taco-obsessed like us, explore the city one delicious taco at a time along the Santa Barbara Taco Trail.
Later in the afternoon, be sure to carve out time for Santa Barbara’s extraordinary arts and entertainment scene. Explore local museums, including MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation and Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for family-friendly fun. If you’re an architecture buff, the free, self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour will be right up your alley. Get a first-hand look at the classic Spanish Colonial Revival-style adobe brick buildings and red tile roofs that epitomize the Santa Barbara skyline. If you prefer additional outings that are easy on the wallet, Santa Barbara and surrounding communities offer a variety of free things to do.
Round out the day with a visit to the Funk Zone. Located adjacent to State Street and the beach, this local hot spot is always bustling with fun, youthful energy. Peruse various breweries like Figueroa Mountain Brewing or Rincon Brewery, wine tasting rooms such as Pali Wine Co. or Riverbench, local boutiques, and restaurants galore. No visit to The Funk Zone would be complete without a stop at Mony’s Taqueria, for incredible $2 tacos and a full menu of burritos, enchiladas, tortas and more. Don’t forget to try all of the salsas, too.
Think you’ve uncovered all there is to do in Santa Barbara in just two days? Think again. For day three, embark on a bucket-list visit to The Channel Islands National Park. This extraordinary archipelago, which sits just off of Santa Barbara’s shores and across the channel, is an excellent place to go sea kayaking through caves, snorkeling in crystal clear water, or hiking among wildlife you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The ferry ride alone is often full of dolphin, whale, and sea lion sightings. Make sure you add this day-trip to your must-do list.
Once you’re back on land, wind down and cheers to an unforgettable day while wine tasting along the Urban Wine Trail. This series of 25+ tasting rooms bring Santa Barbara’s nearby wine country’s incredible wines directly to you. Explore on foot as you wander from one to the next, to get a taste for why Santa Barbara wines are so well-loved.
For dinner, plan on making a reservation at Toma Restaurant & Bar, ideally located along the waterfront. The delectable menu features true coastal California variety, offering pastas, fresh fish, flatbreads, and gluten-free options. But you’re not done yet. Close out the end of a perfect 72 hours in Santa Barbara with a craft cocktail made just for you by a local mixologist.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for all that one can experience in Santa Barbara. We all know that one trip is never enough and it will leave you craving for more. Just ask yourself:
Did you unwind in the Salt caves?
Did you indulge in a little retail-therapy on Lillie Avenue in Summerland?
Did you eat fresh Sea Urchin on the docks of the Santa Barbara Harbor?
Did you have a picnic on the lawn of Old Mission Santa Barbara?
Did you climb to the top of the Courthouse Clock Tower for 360-degree views of the city?
Did you surround yourself with butterflies at the Ellwood Beach Butterfly Preserve?
Did you pet a shark at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center?
Did you go SUP’ing along the coastline at Butterfly Beach?
Did you wave “hi” to Twiga the Masai giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo?
Did you browse the beachside Sunday Arts & Craft Show?
Did you hit the surf breaks of Santa Barbara?
Did you try Mama Mony’s tacos at Mony’s Taqueria?
Did you learn about Santa Barbara wine country at The Valley Project?
Did you go to brunch at one of these locations?
Did you ride a horse along the coastline with Los Padres Outfitters?
Did you explore the State Street Promenade?
Did you squeeze in a round of golf?
Did you down a stiff drink at Joe’s Café?
Did you stroll through the historic courtyard and window shop the boutiques of El Paseo?
Did you follow your nose to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden?
Did you see any whales with Condor Express?
Did you get your feet sandy at Haskell’s Beach?
Did you go shopping at Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants?
Did you pamper yourself at Float Luxury Spa?
Did you enjoy Santa Barbara-style barbecue at Barbareño?
Did you relive any Sideways moments?
Did you go paragliding or parasailing?
Did you hike Hot Springs Trail to see the most beautiful views in Santa Barbara?
Did you pick out fresh produce at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market?
Did you have a lemon-blueberry martini from opal restaurant & bar?
Did you take a trolley tour of the city?
Did you take a drive to Santa Ynez Valley and taste the mouth-watering pasta at S.Y. Kitchen?
Did you listen to live music at Cold Spring Tavern and enjoy a tri-tip sandwich?
Did you take your dog to play at Arroyo Burro Beach?
Did you stroll the beautiful grounds of the Douglas Family Preserve?
Did you enjoy a sunset at Lizard’s Mouth?
Did you play a game of volleyball at East Beach?
Did you take in the ocean views and cheers with a glass of wine at Deep Sea Tasting Room?