A Perfect Beach Day in Santa Barbara

The perfect sandy oasis is a quick bike ride away in Santa Barbara. In fact, Santa Barbara has pioneered the quintessential beach town with its vibrant setting, romantic shorelines and carefree atmosphere. Rent some wheels from BCycle Santa Barbara or Wheel Fun Rentals, and hop on a beach cruiser to find a plethora of picturesque, coastal spots. If you need a quick sun break, these urban beaches are conveniently located next to some of Santa Barbara’s fine-dining restaurants, museums, tasting rooms, shopping and more. Pick one or all—these beach-front paths are sure to delight.

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Leadbetter Beach

Located below Leadbetter Hill, Leadbetter Beach has a vivacious energy. The wide, sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, and a little breeze brings out windsurfers, kite boarders, kite flyers, sailors and surfers. Pack your own picnic with grab-and-go items from Goat Tree in Hotel Californian and enjoy at Leadbetter Beach Park, located nearby. Or, if you can’t bring yourself to leave the beach, order lunch with your toes in the sand at the oceanfront Shoreline Beach Cafe.

Editor’s note: The grassy areas of Leadbetter Beach will be temporarily closed through January 2024 for turf renovation.

Santa Barbara
A picturesque view of the Santa Barbara Harbor from Santa Barbara’s Maritime Museum. Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

Santa Barbara Harbor Beach or “Sandspit”

See how the experts handle the waves at Santa Barbara Harbor. If you arrive early, make your way to the end of the breakwater for a perfect vantage point of the frequent surfers and wave-catchers out for their morning paddle. Or, during low tide, get on the surfboard yourself! Paddleboards, kayaks and surfboards are all available for rent from shops at the harbor, including Paddle Sports Center and Santa Barbara Sailing Center. Try Brophy Bros. for delicious seafood and harbor views that are hard to beat. Or, get the catch of the day straight from the fishermen who caught it on Saturday mornings at the Fishermen Market. When you’re full and ready for a different view of the coastline, hop aboard Lil’ Toot—leaving the harbor every half hour—for a scenic shuttle to Stearns Wharf.

West Beach

Stearns Wharf is packed with spots to explore—enough to fill your entire afternoon! Browse shops, savor a scoop of ice cream, or wine taste with some of the best views in town, all along this historic pier. At the base of the Wharf you’ll find West Beach. Best known for its annual firework shows on New Year’s and Fourth of July, West Beach is a favorite for kayaking, windsurfing and sailing almost any day of the year. Just behind is Chad’s—a Santa Barbara classic. Stop in for a delicious blast from the past, with traditional diner grub and a welcoming, family-run atmosphere.

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Sandy coastlines and blue views along Santa Barbara’s East Beach. Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

East Beach

Make like a local and hop on a beach cruiser to follow the bike path from West Beach to East Beach to find the perfect sandy stretch. East Beach is a must-stop for volleyball players of any skill level. With numerous courts available along the beach, East Beach is host to several volleyball tournaments throughout the year and offers sandy stretches for relaxation, as well. For a post-game snack, try a taste of the local’s favorite food group: tacos! East Beach Tacos offer a selection of street tacos sure to hit the spot. If happy hour is more your style, end your evening with a glass of delicious, local wine at Convivo. Cheers to coastal views and a beach day well spent.