When people think of Santa Barbara, images of luxurious residences, palm-fringed beaches, and Spanish-style buildings immediately spring to mind. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, the city offers the perfect mix of outdoor activities and is one of California’s underrated travel destinations. Visitors can enjoy this great place by getting outside, exploring some of Santa Barbara’s stunning hiking trails, strolling along the palm-fringed shoreline, whale watching, and soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches.
Visitors will see why Santa Barbara is so revered when they mix the city’s world-class vineyards, fine dining, spas, and lush gardens. So let’s take a look at what Santa Barbara has to offer to explore.
Let’s hit the beaches of Santa Barbara
California has some of the best beaches in the country. Santa Barbara’s coastline is one of the most beautiful in Southern California. The south-facing beach, flanked by the untamed Santa Ynez Alps and shielded by the Channel Islands beyond, offers the ideal stretch of beach and surf for any beach lover.
This wide strip of coastline, stretching east from Stearns Wharf, is a popular tourist beach due to its ideal location. Another popular spot for volleyball, East Beach hosts major competitions throughout the year. There is plenty of space for sunbathing as the east coast is the city’s widest seafront promenade along the main waterfront area. A variety of water activities are also available at Eastern Beach. Visitors can rent stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and surfboards from the shore, and the shallow waters are usually ideal for both activities.
The most popular beach in Santa Barbara would be this tiny sandy beach. Here travelers will find a variety of attractions, including sand creations, water activity rentals, people lounging in the sun and tanning, and people snapping photos. The two most popular activities are sailing and beach volleyball, and visitors can always see active locals enjoying themselves on the beach. Visitors can also watch yachts in the harbor as people swim in the water.
Hendry’s Beachfront, also known as Arroyo Burro Beach, is indeed popular with locals, especially those who own dogs. It’s one of the few beaches in Santa Barbara that allows dogs to be walked off the leash in certain areas. With its gentle waves and proximity to neighborhood parks, it’s an ideal beach for families. Visitors should also take care when staring into the water, as dolphins, seals and whales can often be seen from shore. In addition to stand-up paddleboarders, surfers also enjoy Hendry’s Beach.
Leadbetter Beach is perhaps the most sheltered of all the shores surrounding downtown Santa Barbara’s famous shoreline. It’s a fantastic place to experience what Santa Barbara is all about: sun, sand, water and active locals walking or running along the beachfront bike route. The west side of the shore is protected by cliffs that swimmers dive into when the waves pick up. However, this area is generally better suited to newbies than experienced surfers. Visitors can eat with their feet in the sand here, which is one of the few places in the city where this is possible. Or one can have lunch on the grassy area bordering the shore.
Take in the great outdoors in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is beautiful as there is never a shortage of natural beauty. There are several ways for tourists to connect with nature. Let’s look at the most popular places to enjoy nature.
The Santa Barbara Zoo
One of the best places to visit when visiting Santa Barbara with kids is the excellent Santa Barbara Zoo, which has a picturesque location on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It invites you to stroll with its wide open spaces and lush greenery of palm trees and local plants that give it the appearance of a botanical garden.
Visitors will discover a surprising variety of animals in such a small zoo. Attractions include snow leopards, lions, meerkats, California condors and magnificent western lowland gorillas. Best of all, there’s a fun array of kid-friendly interactive attractions. Children can feed giraffes in addition to the animals in the pasture.
One of the most lush gardens in the world is known as Lotusland. The garden layout has entire lawns of sculpted succulents, twisted cacti, delicate euphorbia, and prickly cycads, and the area’s famous lotus flowers grow in the former pool area.
Attractions include the Blue Meadow, the Palm Courtyard, the Japanese Lawn and the Theater Garden with a collection of old stone statues from France. Visitors shouldn’t overlook Madame Walska’s favorite possession: three huge, incredibly rare and environmentally perished cycads.
Santa Barbara Canal
Few experiences compare to the thrill of seeing a humpback whale leap out of the water, and Santa Barbara offers a front-row seat. The activity is right where everyone can see it on whale watching tours. Santa Barbara Bay is among the best areas in the country for viewing outdoor marine life as it is home to over 27 different species of dolphins and whales. Visitors can often see other animals like sea lions, dolphins, and orcas even if they don’t see whales.
Marvel at the architecture of Santa Barbara
Admiring historic architecture is one of the many things to do in Santa Barbara. The Spanish settlers not only enriched the history but also left an architectural impact on the landmarks. Visitors would surely love visiting the places and learning the history.
Mission Santa Barbara
The city’s most prominent monument would be the Santa Barbara Mission. Known for its delicate elegance and attractive setting, this remarkable structure helps define the look and feel of the entire city. Completed in 1820, the church is among the best places to explore. The exterior of the Roman temple, the twin towers and paintings and statues from the imperial era are among its features. The site also has a museum with fascinating relics and works of art from the colonial era. Also, make time to visit the exquisite Mission Rose Garden.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
The architectural gem of the city is this National Historic Landmark. It’s a must-see here, not only for the elegant construction, but also for the breathtaking view of the city from the clock tower. People can observe the hand-painted roof, intricate tile work, some imported from Tunisia and Spain, and wrought-iron chandeliers as they walk down the tiled halls. Mural Hall, a chronicle of Santa Barbara’s heritage, would be another attraction. A magnificent underground lawn with palm trees and plants from different nations surrounds the courtroom.
Santa Barbara offers both an adrenaline rush and an opportunity to relax in nature, so visitors are sure to enjoy their trip there.