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Santa Barbara, California

Local Details

Learn more about Santa Barbara, California using the City Guide below. Plan a trip, find local shopping centers, or just discover what makes Santa Barbara, California so great!

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City Guide

Santa Barbara is located geographically less than 100 miles from hyper-metropolitan Los Angeles but feels light years away from the noise and congestion of its huge neighbor to the south, which helps explain why the upper crust of Southern California have long favored the coastal retreat as both a getaway destination and the perfect place for a second (or sometimes first) home. With a temperate climate and lush natural environs, the "Riviera of the West" is perfect for a day trip, with its wide, perfect beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices, or a much longer stay, with a highly active local culture of volunteerism and fund-raising (not to mention the very high number of wealthy people) that enables the town of just 90,000 residents to enjoy the sort of cultural and social amenities that are usually found only in much larger cities.

Although the common perception of Santa Barbara is as a playground for the rich and famous, the reality is more middle-America than you might think, with an average income only slightly higher than California as a whole, and a diverse ethnic makeup and heritage. Notable for its California Mission-style architecture (a long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follow the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled roofs and faux adobe supermarkets), local residents are intensely proud of their city's roots and traditions, and a number of hugely popular festivals throughout the year celebrate the many cultures found within the city limits.

Get in

Santa Barbara is served by a relatively small, but popular airport, Amtrak train station, and Greyhound bus lines.  Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, small and charming, provides access to LAX through a shuttle service that flies between the two airports several times per day. There is also service to San Fransisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver and other destinations. Amtrak, housed in a historical landmark on lower State Street, provides service on both the Pacific Surfliner route (San Luis Obispo to San Diego) and the Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles). The Greyhound station is also located in downtown, on Cabrillo and Chapala, near the local bus transit center.

If arriving by car, be aware that there is only one major highway in or out of Santa Barbara, US 101; downtown Santa Barbara can be accessed via the Garden St. exit, while the beaches can be found off the Cabrillo St. off ramp. Traffic patterns here are almost the complete opposite from the famous Los Angeles grid lock as the 101 can come to a grinding halt on Sunday afternoons

Get around

There are numerous methods for getting around once in Santa Barbara. The city limits are cozy enough that simply walking from one destination to another is quite possible, but there is also a healthy public transit system in place here. The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD) runs buses all over Santa Barbara proper, as well as neighboring Goleta and Montecito. Their website lists all current routes and fares. The SBMTD also runs a special shuttle service between downtown and the waterfront, leaving every fifteen minutes during the day. Along the waterfront, many businesses offer bicycle or inline skate rentals for exploring the beach areas, and "rickshaw" taxis are also a common sight.

Budget and Hertz outlets are present at the airport terminal for easy car rentals, but several other rental agencies are located in Santa Barbara; call around for best rates.


For a city the size of Santa Barbara, the number of "must-sees" is quite astonishing.  This is only a partial list:

  • Karpeles Museum, 21 West Anapamu St., (805) 962-5322, open 7 days a week, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. The Karpeles Library is the world's largest private holding of important original manuscripts & documents. Among those items on permanent display in the museum is an original Stone copy of the Declaration of Independence, a replica of the globe used by Columbus (sans the Western Hemisphere), handwritten scores by a dozen leading composers, and the computer guidance system used on the first Apollo lander flight to the moon.
  • Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St. (from downtown State St., turn east onto Mission St. and follow signs pointing toward the Mission,) (805) 682-4149. Self-guided tours available daily from 9am to 5pm. Known as "The Queen of the Missions," Santa Barbara's "Old Mission" is a superb example of California's Franciscan Spanish architecture. The tenth California Mission to be constructed, Mission Santa Barbara today is both a scenic wonder and a fine anthropological study of original native culture in the surrounding area. Well worth a visit, be sure to take note of adjacent pottery kiln and tanning vat ruins. $4 for adults.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta Del Sol Road (follow signs from SB Mission). Open 10am to 5pm daily. (805) 682-4711. This large, well-presented natural history museum is - literally - a hidden treasure. Highlights include eleven exhibit halls focusing on regional natural history, and a life-size Blue Whale skeleton. $6 for adults. Admission is free on the last Sunday of every month except September.
  • Stearns Wharf, located at the end of State Street along the Waterfront. This picturesque 1872 wharf - the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco - has tons of history. Badly damaged several times by fire, Stearn's Wharf has been repeatedly rebuilt and restored and today features more than a dozen shops and restaurants, and one of the best views in California from the end of its pier. The Wharf was also once owned by Hollywood legend James Cagney. Free.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State Street. Open Tuesday-Sunday 11am to 5pm. (805) 963-4364. A remarkably well-provisioned museum considering the size of the town it resides in, Santa Barbara's main art museum features a strong collection of Roman antiquities, as well as an impressive lineup of classical European and modern art. Frequently rotated exhibitions are among the strongest in California. Adults: $7. Free admission on Sunday.
  • Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Dr. Open 10am to 5pm all year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and some private events. (805) 963-5695, Small but well-represented with over 600 animals, the zoo has provided entertainment for all ages since 1963 and is the largest zoo between Los Angeles and San Francisco (unless you count the Monterey Aquarium). Adults 13-59: $10. Children 2-13 and Seniors 60+: $8. Children under 2: Free.
  • University of California, Santa Barbara, open all year. Situated on a point somewhat west of Santa Barbara proper (but still part of the city), UCSB is commonly listed as one of the top public universities in the United States. Known for its high science programs and top scholars, it also houses a great Marine Biology department, Dance/Theater/Music programs, and much more. The campus itself is regarded as one of the more beautiful campuses among the UC system (perhaps due to it's local). Head to the top floor of the campus library for one of the best viws of the whole campus. Much of the campus, especially the areas near the beach, is undeveloped open space, and includes a man-made lagoon. Head to the UCen or the nearby college town of Isla Vista for food. From downtown, take Highway 101 north to Highway 217, and go past the airport exit. Admission is free to the campus, but parking costs, and parking restrictions are heavily enforced.
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Road, Open 9am - 6pm, March - October, and 9an - 5pm, November - February., 805-682-4726. Located on 85 acres in the foothills just above the city, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden features exquisite exhibits of California native plants displayed in beautiful landscaped settings. Walk along a meadow, through a canyon and redwood forest, across a historic dam, and along ridge tops that offer sweeping views of the Channel Islands.$8 adults, $6 seniors, teens 13-17, full-time students, and active military with id, $ children 2-12, children under 2 free.


Although Santa Barbara is an atypical coastal town, it offers the typical Southern California variety of outdoor activities, from surfing to whale-watching.

  • Beaches, along the Waterfront. Santa Barbara's most popular beach, East Beach, is a pristine stretch of blindingly white sand framed by postcard quality palm trees, surrounding hills and nearby harbor. For less crowded beachcombing, try nearby Leadbetter Beach, or further up the road, isolated Arroyo Burro (known to locals as Hendry's Beach,) where dog lovers bring their pets to frolic in a no-leashes-needed surfside dog park. Hendry's Beach is also home to a nudist beach, where one can often see a frolicking nude man pass by. Even more isolated is Butterfly Beach, tucked away in a cove beneath the high-toned Biltmore Hotel in Montecito.
  • Golf, Santa Barbara has numerous private and public golf courses located in and around the city. Hidden Oaks, Twin Lakes, and Ocean Meadows are 9 holes courses that provide budget prices for a round of golf. For those wishing to play 18 holes without spending a lot, the Santa Barbara Golf Club located at 3500 McCaw. provides reasonably priced rounds. For those wishing to spend more, Sandpiper Golf Course, located north of Goleta on Hollister, or Rancho San Marcos, located about 15 miles up the 154 provide a world class golf experience.
  • Hiking, from the Mesa to the Santa Ynez Mountains, the unique geography of Santa Barbara provides amazing opportunities to see panoramic views and abundant wildlife. Hiking guides and maps are easily obtained at any local bookstore, well-equipped newsstand, or selected stores in tourist-heavy locations such as downtown. Examples include the Douglas Family Preserve, a great off-leash open space that often serves as the backdrop for numerous weddings, and East Camino Cielo Road off of Highway 154, which has several spots one can park and find a little trail to hike on, or even just sit and enjoy the view.
  • Paragliding, (805) 968-0980, Instruction of beginner and intermediate pilot. Fly solo from the training hill at Elings Park.
  • Surfing. There is no surfing in SB during the summer due to islands blocking surf from reaching the beach area!!!
  • Wine Tasting. The Santa Barbara back country has a great collection of wineries. Just pop up to Solvang or Buelton and enjoy. Wine tours are available also. Sustainable Vine Wine Tours (805)698-3911, Santa Barbara County Wine Tasting Tours focusing on the sustainable aspects of our regions best producers.


Santa Barbara is a shopping paradise. State Street alone offers more than a mile stretch of everything from trendy boutiques to popular chain stores like Borders Books and Restoration Hardware. El Paseo (812 State St.,) on downtown State Street, is an upscale mall that bills itself as "California's First Shopping Center," while lushly themed and nearby Paseo Nuevo (651 Paseo Nuevo) offers Nordstrom's, Macy's, and more than 50 specialty shops. Whatever you're looking for, you'll likely find it on State Street. There is plenty of parking downtown with the first 75 minutes free in most lots (except at the beach). A good bet is the parking structure on Ortega. Walking or taking a bus in is also a good bet, but taxis are extremely expensive.

Some Local stores of note:

  • The Italian Pottery Outlet 19 Helena Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Located one block east of State Street at the beach in the "Funk Zone". A family owned business, the Italian Pottery Outlet has been in this location for more than 15 years. They carry the largest collection of Italian Pottery in the west and at discounted prices. Phone toll free 877-496-5599 .


Latin-themed dishes are, quite logically, the order of the day in Santa Barbara, and the town's Mexican food ranks with any other town in California. The town's elevated cultural status attracts high-powered chefs from all over the world, and the selection and sheer variety of local fare is quite astonishing for a community of 90,000.  Here are just a few of Santa Barbara's culinary choices:

  • La Super Rica Taqueria, 622 N. Milpas St., (805) 963-4940. Once tabbed "Best Mexican Food in the Country" by the New York Times. You won't come here for the atmosphere. There is no sign on the building, and seating is first come-first served, but you'll be happy you stood in the long line forming outside the door once you taste what's served up here. Julia Child claimed this her favorite Mexican restaurant (or even all-time favorite place to eat, according to some accounts), saying, "Everything is incredibly fresh. The salsas are wonderful." $5-$15.
  • La Salsa Mexican Grill The chain that started the "Fresh-Mex" trend started here in Santa Barbara. Enjoy the amazing fresh salsa bar (one of the few that offers a true habenero salsa), trans and saturated fat free fresh tortilla chips, amazing fajitas and breakfast burritos.
  • Panino, 834 Santa Barbara St., Good variety of sandwiches
  • Café Buenos Aires,1316 State St., Serves the tastiest parts of the tastiest animals. Good Argentinian beef; the empanadas are great. Chicken, pork, all good. Definite focus on meat here. Good mojito's. The outdoor dining is nice in almost all weathers-it has heaters although not every seat feels the warmth. Pretty courtyard with lighted fountain (the water is a bit dirty and it splashes on the tables next to it). Live Argentinian band some nights, beautiful music.
  • Arigato Sushi, 1225 State St., Unbelievably good sushi.
  • Maeda Sushi, Across the street from Arigato, very good and a lot less crowded than Arigato
  • Los Arroyos, 14 W. Figueroa St., off State, 962-5541; 1280 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, popular and very good Mexican food.
  • Lucky's, 1279 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, Steakhouse with some of the best food in town in a prestigious setting.
  • Chuck's of Hawaii, 3888 State St., 113 Harbor Way, 564-1200, A great cut of beef -- try anything with artichokes.
  • El Encanto Hotel,1900 Lasuen Rd. on the Riviera, Great view of the city and the ocean. A romantic getaway restaurant.
  • Super Cuca's Taquería,2030 Cliff Dr., 966-3863; 626 W. Micheltorena St., Big burritos, vegetarian recommended even for those die-hard carnivores.
  • Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Rd., Stop for lunch on your way out to wine taste -- off the 154. Great location and great food. Fun atmosphere on weekend nights with live music.
  • Rudy's Restaurant, Six in town, one in Paseo Nuevo. Very good tamales, chimichangas and burritos. Charming family-owned business.
  • The Palace Grill,8 E. Cota St., fun Cajun food with great service.
  • Elements, 129 E. Anapamu St., Great view of Courthouse with innovative food.
  • Montecito Café, 1295 Coast Village Rd., Montecito. Try the coconut cake.
  • Palazzio's, 1026 State St., Generous portions of pastas and salads. One entree and a half salad is enough to feed up to three people. Every fifteen minutes waiters walk around with freshly baked garlic rolls that are to DIE for.
  • Chads, 625 Chapala St., American cuisine with very good appetizers. Go for happy hour and stay for dinner.
  • Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, 1260 Channel Dr., Montecito, when on an expense account, grab brunch here.
  • Pascucci,729 State St., Santa Barbara's best affordable Italian food.
  • Cajun Kitchen, 901 Chapala St., 1924-A De la Vina St. Very popular breakfast and lunch place. The beast breakfast in town. Delicious sausages. Good price.
  • Brophy Bros., Breakwater at the Harbor, great seafood, known for clam chowder, the setting cannot be beat.
  • Your Place, 22-A N. Milpas St., Good Thai food.
  • The Habit, 216 S. Milpas St., 962-7472; 628 State St., 892-5400. Stop by for a sidewalk burger.
  • The Natural Café, 508 State St., outdoor, sidewalk dining that is healthy and good. If there is a vegan/vegetarian in the group, they will be happy here.
  • Woody's BBQ, 5112 Hollister Ave. Serving delicious BBQ in Santa Barbara for 19 years and voted Santa Barbara's Favorite BBQ For 19 Years In A Row!!!


In addition to Santa Barbara wine tasting, the region is also full of bars. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preference), the vast majority of them cater to crowds of students from the nearby university. You won't find many dive bars here, and expect to pay a dollar or two more per drink than you would in your typical San Francisco or LA bar.

  • Rooftop Bar at Hotel Andalucia, Carillo St. and Chapala. Top of Hotel Andalucia. Great sunset bar as you overlook the mountains, the mesa and the harbor. Very nice.
  • The James Joyce, 513 State Street. (805) 962-2688.  Open 10am-2am daily. Yes, it's an Irish pub, or "A Traditional Irish Bar." Free peanuts, a fireplace and dixieland jazz bands on the weekend. Guinness flows freely.
  • Dargan's Irish Pub & Rstrnt18 E Ortega St, Sportsbar with Irish music. Good Lambstew.
  • Santa Barbara Brewing Co. 501 State St., Microbrewery, TVs. Decent food.
  • Sharkeez, State Street. This sportsbar has a lot of TVs. Well drinks are usually around $1 on Thursdays.
  • Elsie's, 117 De La Guerra. Neighborhood beer and wine joint with good music. Meet the locals out back in the outdoor smoking area or over rounds of pool inside.
  • Wilcat Lounge,15 W Ortega St. Danceclub.
  • Joe's, State Street. Stiffest drinks on State St. Have a couple at the beginning of the night.
  • Roy's Carrillo and State. Good "off State St." bar. Serves great food late at night -- focus on local ingredients. Price fix menu with everything at around $25.
  • Bogart's In La Arcada off Figeroa and State. Serves a good pour of Guinness. Tucked away.
  • SOhO Restaurant and Music Club 1221 State St., jazz/live music club above Victoria Court.

Thursday nights are the official college night of downtown bars. The drinks are cheap, and UCSB is home to some the most attractive people in California (or the country, for that matter). Really any bar on lower State Street is Fun on Thursday nights to relive those college days.


Santa Barbara has a huge number of hotels and motels, ranging from Motel 6 to Fess Parker's astonishing Doubletree Resort. One thing you won't find here are dive hotels. Prices are before tax, allow another 10% taxes.


For budget and midrange hotels, online travel services like and can sometimes offer cheaper prices than the hotel itself offers.

  • Presidio Motel, 1620 State Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101 "+1 - 805" 963-1355. This sweet motel is run by a charming young couple, with a faible for mid-century design. Room no.1 is already fully furnished in this manner, making it a very cool and pleasant stay on the far end of State Street. With prices ranging from $109+ per room with a kingsize bed, it is an affordable place for two, offering free wireless internet and some books on design or art are likely to be part of the rooms set up, as much as TV and a coffee and muffin in the morning.
  • Santa Barbara Tourist Hostel, 134 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101, +1-805 963-0154. Amazingly, an inexpensive backpacker two blocks from the beach and one block from the State Street buzz. Close to train and bus station. Basic breakfast and wifi internet in the lobby included. Bed in a shared room $23-30, private double room with shared bath $59-95, private double room with private bath $69-95, rates in all cases a function of day (weekends, summer, festivals are more expensive).
  • Motel 6 Santa Barbara - Beach, 443 Corona Del Mar, +1-805 564-1392. Basic simple hotel room with bed, private bath, and TV. $91.99.
  • Motel 6 Santa Barbara - Goleta, 5897 Calle Real, Goleta, +1-805 964-3596. Located on US 101 at Fairview Ave in Goleta, which is to the west of Santa Barbara proper and closer to UCSB and the airport. $75.99-78.99.


  • Ramada Santa Barbara, 4770 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93110, +1-800 654-1965, Fax: +1-805 964-0075. In addition to guest rooms and spacious suites, the hotel also offers spa and golf packages. Free wired and wireless internet, free continental breakfast. $99-119.
  • Coast Village Inn, 1188 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108, +1-800 257-5131. Located in the tony Montecito area on the city's east side. Breakfast included. Basic room $169, Suite with kitchen $259, deluxe suite with two bedrooms and kitchen $469. Midweek rates as low as $99, also check for internet discounts of about 20% off. Take 101 to the Coast Village Road exit.
  • Hotel Santa Barbara, 533 State Street, +1-800 549-9869. European-style hotel smack in the middle of Santa Barbara's busy downtown shopping area. $129-$219, ask about midweek specials.
  • Holiday Inn Santa Barbara Goleta Hotel, 5650 Calle Real, +1-805 964-6241. The usual corporate range rooms with twin beds, queen beds, and king beds. $117 per night with advance purchase, $129 regular, $141 with breakfast.
  • Country Inn by the Sea, 128 Castillo Street, +1-805-963-4471. Located 1 block to the waterfront, beach and a short walk to Stearn's Wharf and Downtown Santa Barbara. King beds, Jacuzzi Rooms, Queen Beds and 2 Double Beds. Free Daily Deluxe Breakfast and Cookies and Milk Every Evening. Heated Pool & Spa, his and hers Sauna.


  • Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore, 1260 Channel Drive Santa Barbara, CA 93108 Tel +1-805 969-2261 Fax +1-805 565-8323. A Spanish Colonial treasure whose red roof tiles, ivory adobe and graceful archways grace Butterfly Beach in exclusive Montecito, this classic West Coast resort blends the glory of historic California with Four Seasons service in the heart of “America’s Riviera.”
  • Pacifica Suites, 5490 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93111, +1-800 338-6722, Fax: +1-805 683-4121. An all-suite hotel adjacent to the beautifully restored Sexton House, an 1880's architectural landmark, and minutes from the Santa Barbara Airport and UCSB. Features elegant meeting space and conference facilities. $169-$209, as low as $144 with three-week advance purchase or for four or more nights.
  • The Eagle Inn, 232 Natoma Avenue, +1-805 965-3586, Fax: +1-805 966-1218. The Eagle Inn provides very comfortable lodging near West Beach, Stearns Wharf Pier and Marina, and the main shopping street. In-room double size Sanijet whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, and scenic balconies. $145-$210.
  • Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, 633 East Cabrillo Boulevard, +1-800 879-2929, +1-805 564-4333. A plush 24-acre oceanside resort with high-end rooms and all the conveniences. $255 for a basic two queen beds crammed into 435 square feet, up to $735 for a Presidential Suite with whirlpool bath. Add $25 for breakfast for two adults. Enter off Calle Puerto Vallarta.
  • El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas, 1900 Lasuen Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, +1-800 393-5117, Fax: +1-805 687-3903. This landmark hotel is closed for renovations from September 2006 until late 2007 or early 2008. Perched above the red tile roofs of Santa Barbara and overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands, El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas has been an integral part of Santa Barbara's social, cultural and architectural heritage for over 90 years. Today, the glitterati continue to be drawn to El Encanto, including Diane Lane, Barbara Streisand, Sharon Stone and others.
  • San Ysidro Ranch, 900 San Ysidro Lane, Tel (805) 565-1700. This Montecito hotel ranch in California’s Wine Country provides romantic getaways with room, suite and villa accommodations, dining, day trips to local beaches and wineries, guided hiking and nearby golf.
  • Simpson House Inn, 121 East Arrellaga St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, +1-800 676-1280. An historic Italianate Victorian manor considered one of the best preserved and restored homes of its era in California. Includes luxurious guestrooms in the estate house, private English style cottages and four guestrooms in the Carriage House. Landscaped gardens, wood-burning fireplaces and exceptional personalized service. All rates nclude daily gourmet breakfast, evening wine tasting and hors d'oeuvres and complimentary parking. Rates from $235 to $615.

Get out

Although Santa Barbara is somewhat geographically isolated, with only one major route in or out of the city, the surrounding area is rife with fascinating side-trips.

  • Wine Country. Check out the winery list up this page.
  • Los Olivos. About 50 miles north of Santa Barbara on Highway 154. This is a cute little one horse town with about 20 local winery tasting rooms lined up on Grand st. A great place to go wine tasting without having to drive a zillion miles from winery to winery.
  • Solvang. Located approximately 40 miles north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a gingerbread town. What must have started several decade back as a small "Little Denmark" tourist trap has grown into an entire town and surrounding community obsessed with its own overwhelming Danishness. Every sign, roof, light post and pothole is Danish-themed here, and reports of wandering bands of drunken men in plastic Viking helmets are firmly founded in reality. Take Highway 101 north/west to Buellton (the home of the original Pea Soup Anderson's), exit at the Highway 246 offramp and follow the destination signs to Solvang. If you're up for a twisty drive, take Highway 154 (also known as the San Marcos Pass) back to Santa Barbara at sunset and enjoy an unforgettable view.
  • Lake Cachuma. Beautiful Lake Cachuma Recreation Facility is located approximately 20 miles north of Santa Barbara and offers RV hookups, tent camping, and yurt camping. The Lake also provides fishing, boating, sailing, and lake cruising. No swimming and/or body contact with the water is allowed because the lake is used as a reservoir by the city of Santa Barbara. The Lake's location along highway 154 (the San Marcos Pass) makes it an excellent rest stop on the way up to Solvang from Santa Barbara.
  • El Capitan Canyon, 11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara CA 93117, tel +1-866 352-2729. An interesting combination of rustic cabin camping and high-end spa. $145-$345, about 5% lower in Nov-April. A few kilometers west of Santa Barbara on Highway 101 near El Capitan State Beach.

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