The splendor of a sunset in The American Riviera® is undeniable, and there are countless spots to witness one. While a Santa Barbara sunset paired with breathtaking ocean views is beautiful no matter where you are in the city, a golden hour viewing at any of these swoon-worthy locations is certainly worth the detour.
Perhaps Santa Barbara’s most famed attraction for its shops, dining and outdoor adventure, Stearns Wharf also makes for a phenomenal spot to watch the sun go down. Grab a seat at a nearby bench with a hearty bowl of clam chowder from Santa Barbara Shellfish Company or a scoop (or two) of ice cream from The Great Pacific Ice Cream Company and soak in the beauty of Mother Nature.
Reigning as one of the most iconic Santa Barbara beaches, it’s no surprise that East Beach makes the list when it comes to swoon-worthy sunsets. Stretching from Stearns Wharf to the city limits just past Bellosguardo Foundation, there are countless of places to sit back in the sand, under the palm trees or walk along the Cabrillo Bike Path to soak in the warm hues of one of nature’s most spectacular performances.
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If you are looking to add a little more adventure to your Santa Barbara sunset scout, Lizard’s Mouth is the perfect micro-hike to embark on. The brief quarter-mile stroll off West Camino Cielo Road opens up to scenic views of Santa Barbara and offers abundant space to lay out blankets and enjoy a charcuterie spread. This famous lookout gets its name from the rock formation that looks like a lizard opening its mouth, creating a stunning silhouette during golden hour.
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Overlooking Arroyo Burro Beach, Douglas Family Preserve spans 70 acres of pristine coastal land in Santa Barbara. This expanse provides one of the city’s most magnificent spots for sunset watching, enhanced by occasional whale and dolphin sightings. Dog-friendly Arroyo Burro Beach (Hendry’s Beach, as locals refer to it) makes for another excellent view of the sunset—just at sea level.
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The vast 23-acres of Ellwood Mesa provide ample viewing of a glowing sunset over the ocean, just 14 miles north of Santa Barbara. Embark on a late afternoon stroll through towering trees and wide open spaces and let day fade to night at this can’t-miss Goleta overlook. Ellwood Mesa is also home to the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, where you can witness thousands of Monarch butterflies as they migrate through the Santa Barbara South Coast between November and February.
Located in Montecito, this west-facing beach is an excellent stretch of sand for catching an iconic Santa Barbara sunset. Its calm waters and towering palm trees make for the perfect backdrop against Santa Barbara’s sorbet skies at sundown. Afterwards, head to Coast Village Road for dinner and a cocktail at Coast & Olive, Bettina or if you’re in the mood to splurge, Lucky’s.
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Just outside of the community of Isla Vista, Devereux Beach and its vast bluffs are somewhat unbeknownst to many first-time visitors, and are widely popular to students of the University of California, Santa Barbara. With benches sprinkled along the pathway, or convenient patches of grass perfect for setting up a picnic blanket, you’ll often be able to find a front-row seat with ease to watch the colorful rays dip below the horizon. Note: There is limited free parking near the main entrance to the pathway along Camino Majorca Road.
Perched on Santa Barbara’s Riviera, the 15-acre Franceschi Park offers panoramic city views, making it an epic location for sunset gazing. Once the residence of famed botanist Francesco Franceschi, the park not only stands as a botanical treasure with its exotic plants, but also celebrates the beauty of Mediterranean-climate landscaping.
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SEASONAL OR RESERVATIONS-REQUIRED SUNSET VIEWING IN SANTA BARBARA
Aboard a Boat
A dreamy evening on the water means you’re almost always sure to catch a stunning sunset. Set sail with outfitters like Celebration Cruises, Santa Barbara Sailing Center and SunSwept Sailing, which offer everything from lively public excursions to intimate private cruises. The best time of year to catch an exceptionally memorable sunset at sea is during the fall, because the sun sets over the water, making for a golden hour perspective unlike any other in Santa Barbara.
From a Santa Barbara Restaurant
Caruso’s at Rosewood Miramar Beach, Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, Angel Oak at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, The Dining Room at El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel or Reunion Kitchen + Drink at East Beach make for the perfect array of oceanside venues to enjoy dinner and a drink while watching the sun go down. Discover more must-try restaurants and restaurants on the beach in Santa Barbara.
Atop the Courthouse Clock Tower
Due to its 5 p.m. closing time, the lookout atop the Santa Barbara County Courthouse’s renowned clock tower is a prime location to watch the sunset during the shorter days of the winter and spring months, offering panoramic views of the city from almost every angle.
At an Outdoor Concert
During concert season, which is between April and November, the Scranton Overlook at Santa Barbara Bowl is a uniquely Santa Barbara way to witness golden hour. Equipped with a bar, bathrooms and miles of panoramic views of the city, be sure to snap a pic before the concert starts (or during, while it’s less crowded!) to capture this Instagram-worthy moment.
On that note, if you’re looking for additional, Instagram-worthy spots to snap a photo for your feed, look no further than this guide.