If you’re searching for a relaxing, seaside escape for one, look no further than Santa Barbara. With its miles of beaches, hiking trails, one-of-a-kind experiences and progressive culinary scene, there are many must-dos for those flying solo on The American Riviera®.
For those traveling alone, these experiences offer ample opportunities for you to reconnect with yourself while making friends along the way. Here are some of the top solo-travel experiences in Santa Barbara.
Go Hiking at Inspiration Point
Nestled in Los Padres National Park, Inspiration Point is a 3.4-mile out-and-back trail that leads to panoramic views of the Santa Barbara coastline. While known for its “inspirational” vistas, this moderately challenging trek is also a wonderful place to deeply connect with nature (and yourself!), from the perky yellow and purple wildflowers and waterfalls cascading in the background to the feeling of accomplishment experienced at the top. Because it is a popular trail, you’ll find many fellow solo travelers hiking, mountain biking, running and reflecting as well.
Discover more of the best hikes in Santa Barbara.
Explore Ganna Walska Lotusland
Magical. Awe-inducing. A horticultural haven. There aren’t enough adjectives in Webster’s to describe the immense beauty found within Ganna Walska Lotusland. After purchasing the property in 1941, Polish opera singer Ganna Walska spent 43 years transforming Lotusland into one of the most revered botanical gardens in the country.
Home to more than 3,000 species of plants, many of which are rare or endangered, solo travelers can meander under towering cacti, around Japanese-style water fixtures and through lush tropical landscapes all within Lotusland’s 37 acres.
Insider tip: Plan your trip in advance and secure your reservation at least a few weeks prior to your vacation. In addition, Lotusland’s friendly, knowledgeable docents are happy to snap photos for you so you can share your experience with your friends and family back home. Don’t forget to tag us at @visitsantabarbara using the hashtag #SeeSB!
Discover Hidden Gems in the Funk Zone
A hub for local art, food, wine and retail, the Funk Zone is by far one of the hippest neighborhoods in The American Riviera®. With much to be explored within its 13 walkable blocks, it’s an ideal place for a solo traveler to spend the day. Fuel up with a latte or cold brew and a hearty breakfast burrito at Dart Coffee Co.
Then, spend some time exploring the neighborhood’s plethora of locally owned shops, including a robust collection of vintage denim at Loveworn, chic footwear at SeaVees and eclectic accessories at The Shopkeepers. Bop into any one of the Funk Zone’s several art galleries, like Helena Mason Art Gallery and Studio 121. Treat yourself to a premium Southern California wine tasting experience at Pali Wine Co. Or, go on an immersive culinary journey with Eat This, Shoot That! Food and Drink Tours.
End your day with farm-fresh Spanish-style tapas and the best gin and tonic in the city at Loquita or dine on bold flavors crafted with local produce, like roasted beef bone marrow and hand-cut pappardelle, at The Lark.
Visit the Santa Barbara Historical Museum
Situated in downtown’s El Pueblo Viejo District, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum is one of the city’s oldest cultural institutions. The museum features an extensive collection of artifacts, furniture, art and costumes that represent over five centuries of American Riviera® history. While browsing the museum, you’ll find fellow solo travelers being captivated by the region’s history and evolution, especially while viewing its signature exhibit, The Story of Santa Barbara, which takes visitors on a journey from the time of native Chumash people to the mid-20th century.
Dine on the Waterfront
No matter the time of day, there are countless dining options throughout Santa Barbara that have prime waterfront, or nearly waterfront, seating for parties of one. Jeannine’s at the Shore, just steps away from Stearns Wharf (see below), is a delightful café whose breakfast menu features simple, wholesome meals, such as its iconic lemon poppyseed pancakes, served with a side of ginger blueberry sauce.
For a jaw-dropping sunset, head to Oku on Cabrillo Boulevard. This California-Asian inspired eatery offers a laid-back vibe set against the backdrop of Santa Barbara’s waterfront. The menu has everything from A5 Miyazaki wagyu and portobello gyoza to authentic ramen bowls and fresh sushi .
We would be remiss if we did not mention this beachfront favorite—Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. If you’re a solo traveler who enjoys mixing and mingling with the community, Boathouse is your spot! Take a seat on the outdoor patio during happy hour and share an $8 whiskey shot with a beer chaser alongside locals, or grab a cocktail and walk out to Hendry’s Beach (Arroyo Burro Beach) to chat up native surfers and beachgoers. Not only does the restaurant showcase spectacular ocean views, but the menu is filled with fresh, local seafood dishes, like rockfish ceviche, oysters on the half shell and Dungeness crab.
Find more restaurants on the water in Santa Barbara.
Find Your Center
Over the years, Santa Barbara has become a hub for world-class fitness and wellness experiences, like beach yoga. From vinyasa to yoga sculpt, Santa Barbara Beach Yoga offers a variety of classes at their immaculate waterfront studio as well as pop-ups around the downtown area. For yogis that prefer to practice with beats, the studio has wireless headphones available to rent that allow them to listen to music and instruction simultaneously. Looking for more opportunities to recenter yourself? Check out The Sacred Space in nearby Summerland, where they host an array of holistic events, including sound baths and meditation workshops, that decrease stress and increase vacation vibes.
Take a Jaunt Down Stearns Wharf
No trip to Santa Barbara is complete without a visit to Stearns Wharf, California’s oldest working wharf. One of the region’s most notable landmarks, there are lots of places to explore along its 2,300 feet, including ice-cream shops, quirky souvenir stores, locally owned restaurants, tackle shops and fishing-pole rentals and much more. The wharf also houses the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. If you love graceful moon jellies and frisky seahorses, you certainly don’t want to miss a trip to this interactive aquarium. And, if your itinerary allows, stick around for the most memorable sunset of your life—an essential California experience.
Spend a Day at Ellwood Mesa
Home to the University of California Santa Barbara, Goleta is a small town situated just 13 minutes north of downtown. Known for its breezy vibe, pristine beaches and premium microbreweries, Goleta is also home to numerous outdoor adventures, including Ellwood Mesa. This 230-acre open space includes 10 miles of trails that can accommodate bikers, hikers and horseback riders, as well as the Goleta Butterfly Preserve. And, from November through February, the preserve welcomes more than 100,000 migrating monarch butterflies—a magnificent and vibrant sight to behold! Ellwood Mesa also has a public beach area that’s perfect for an afternoon picnic.
Grab Cocktails at The Manor Bar
Tucked away in nearby Montecito, just a short, 15-minute Uber ride from downtown Santa Barbara, the Manor Bar at Rosewood Miramar Beach is a speakeasy-style lounge known for innovative and thoughtfully curated cocktails. The menu changes often, with its most recent edition paying homage to acclaimed female authors and their heroines. For example, the Little Women cocktail is comprised of elements that honor each of the four March sisters—when combined, they create a sweet, opulent and full-bodied old fashioned you won’t taste anywhere else. For the full 1920s speakeasy experience, plan to visit Thursday-Saturday evenings for live music by local pianists and other musicians.
Insider tip: If you happen to have one too many cocktails, make a trip to Cajé on Haley in the a.m. Its creative signature lattes and opulent avocado toast with lox will have you feeling spritely again in no time!