Santa Barbara is my all time favorite beach town in California! I am not sure if it’s the palm tree lined coast, beautiful golden beaches, sailboat-dotted horizon, or the fact that I got ENGAGED there.. but trust me friends, this place is amazing!
If you are doing a PCH road trip and are planning to just do a day trip to Santa Barbara, I got you covered with a jam-packed itinerary to see majority of what Santa Barbara has to offer! Not only that, but I also give tons of bonus ideas at the bottom of this guide incase you want to extend your trip to more than just a day.
Okay, lets dive in!
There is a chance this free guide on a Santa Barbara Day Trip contains affiliate links. This means, that if you make a purchase through these links I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that goes towards little Rosie’s dog treats!
Where is Santa Barbara & How Do I Get There?
Santa Barbara is a beautiful, coastal town just 95 miles north of Los Angeles. There are loads of activities in the area like wine tasting, sailing, bike riding, surfing, and so much more!
To get there, you can either fly into the small airport in Santa Barbara (which usually only has connecting flights, unless you are flying from major airports like SFO or LAX), or you can fly into LAX and take the extremely scenic drive up PCH! The drive between LAX and downtown Santa Barbara can be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3 hours, depending on how bad that LA traffic is 😉
If you plan on doing a PCH road trip where you visit a few different California towns, my 7 Day California Itinerary covers everything from San Francisco to Los Angeles!
Another option if you don’t want to rent a car is to take the AMTRAK train from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara! The duration is only around 2.5 hours and is extremely affordable (around $20 each way). And the best part…. no traffic!! 🙂
TIP: If you plan to fly to Los Angeles and drive to Santa Barbara, try your hardest to not land during rush hour traffic! It will drastically impact the length of your drive!!
Must Pack Items for Santa Barbara
I never want to bore you with a long packing list, because you came here to read about the perfect Santa Barbara day trip! BUT I always list a few items that I think are absolute must-haves for this specific trip:
- My go-to Travel Shoe: Rothy’s white tennis shoes are seriously the only shoes I bring on vacations because they are so comfortable, don’t need to break them in, I can throw them in the wash if they get dirty, and they go with casual outfits like jeans or cute sundresses!
- Cute flat brim hat: This is my favorite hat that looks sooo flattering on! I’m not kidding when I say I have this hat in every single color that they offer, ha! It’s very sturdy too so it never gets squished in my suitcase.
- Sunblock Packets: These things are the best!! It’s sunblock that comes in a little ketchup-size packet so you can easily re-apply on the go!
- Cute and Affordable Pair of Sunglasses: If you like the Cateye shape, you MUST get these!! They come in both black and brown and guys… they are truly adorable. You would never believe how inexpensive they are either!
Day Trip to Santa Barbara Itinerary
Santa Barbara is one of my favorite coastal towns in California and you has so much to do to fill up your day trip to Santa Barbara! I traveled here for the first time in October 2020 and I already know I will be going back time and time again. 🙂
Here is my recommended day trip to Santa Barbara itinerary that has a little bit of everything that Santa Barbara has to offer!!
Grab Coffee in the Funk Zone
If you get their early enough, grab coffee and a light breakfast in the “funk zone,” which is Santa Barbara’s quirky downtown area. There are tons of unique restaurants, wine bars, trendy boutiques, and murals everywhere!
When I traveled to Santa Barbara, I was confused on what part of downtown is technically the “funk zone” since the downtown area is quite big! According to the locals, it is the area between the ocean and Highway 1 (only 3-4 blocks).
Plug in Helena Avenue Bakery into your maps to grab a coffee and a delicious, homemade pastry and that will put you right in the center of the funk zone. 🙂
Rent Beach Cruisers and Cruise Along the Boardwalk
Santa Barbara’s coast is incredibly scenic with tons of palm trees, sail boats dotting the horizon, and a beautiful beach. The best way to experience Santa Barbara is renting some beach cruisers to explore the coastline!
Beach Cruisers can be rented by the hour or by the day, and are extremely affordable – roughly $10/hour per bike. Click here to check out a local Santa Barbara company!
Test Out Some Wine Bars Along the Urban Wine Trail
The Urban Wine Trail is a bundle of wine bars across the different neighborhoods in Santa Barbara! This trail originally only had 8 wine bars when it started in 2007, but now has over 30 to try out!
The largest bundle that are within walking distance are in the “funk zone,” and where is I would recommend going since you are already in that area! Here is a list of all the wineries on the Urban Wine Trail.
TIP: Skip lunch and grab appetizers at a few of the wine bars!
Rent a Sailboat at Sunset with SB Sail
And for the best part of your Santa Barbara day trip… charter your own private sail boat (with a captain) and cruise the Santa Barbara coast with SB Sail!
My (now) Fiance and I did this and it was the ultimate bucket list experience! This is actually how he proposed to me 🙂
We rented a private, chartered sailboat for a 2 hour sunset sail and it was truly magical. You are able to bring your own wine and food on board and just enjoy the gorgeous views. We even saw a huge pod of dolphins playing in front of the boat!
Even though this is more of a splurge, it is not as much as you would think it would cost for a private sailboat charter! ESPECIALLY if you are traveling with a group (6 people can fit on the boats). Click here to check out pricing and the different boats they offer!
Just imagine sailing the California coastline during sunset, wine in hand, watching dolphins frolicking in front of the boat… you can thank me later!
TIP: Grab a bottle (or two) of your favorite wine from the Urban Wine Trail to bring with you on the boat!
Like how these photos were edited? They were edited in ONE CLICK using my presets!
Head to dinner either in Funk Town or Stonehouse
So if you are traveling solo or with some friends, I would just grab dinner anywhere in the Funk Zone! There are tons of really amazing restaurants to choose from, depending on what type of food your craving.
If you are traveling to Santa Barbara for a special occasion or a romantic getaway, you MUST go to the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch! It was truly the most magical dinner we have ever had.. with a string lit patio, unique architecture, 5* service, and the food… OH MY THE FOOD!
This restaurant is in a local area of town, so you will definitely need to take an Uber / Lyft or drive around 15 minutes.
Bonus Ideas to Extend your Santa Barbara Day Trip
If you want to spend more than just a day in Santa Barbara, lucky for you there are tons of other ideas! When I traveled to Santa Barbara, I actually only spent one day there, and then road tripped to Solvang for some wine tasting. Here are some ideas if you want to make a weekend out of it:
Day trip to Solvang
Solvang is a Danish-inspired town only 45 minutes from Santa Barbara! The entire town is absolutely adorable with Danish bakeries, Danish architecture, windmills, and surrounded by the Santa Ynez wine region. Make sure you stop at Paula’s Pancake House in downtown Solvang for an authentic Danish breakfast. 🙂
Wine tasting near Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is surrounded by delicious wine to try out! You could definitely drive to the wine regions since they are so close, but would not be wise to drive if you plan on doing any of the wine tastings. There are tons of tours that will pick you up from your hotel in Santa Barbara and drive you to a few wineries to try out. Click here to check them out!
Boat Tour to Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands is a national park off the coast of Santa Barbara! There are tons of boat tours that will take you out to the island and allow you to hike, kayak, or snorkel for the day before bringing you back. This is really an entire day excursion, so you can’t fit this into your day trip to Santa Barbara unless you want this to be the only thing on the itinerary, ha! Click here to check out some tours.
Hiking Along the Coastline
Santa Barbara has mountain ranges surrounding the area, making it the perfect place to go for a hike! There are hiking trails along the coast, inland on the mountains, or some waterfalls to check out. Click here for a list of best hikes in Santa Barbara!
Psst.. Like adventurous travel with tons of hiking? Yosemite National Park is in California and is amazing!! Click here to read my 2 Days in Yosemite Itinerary!
Okay, that’s a wrap! Santa Barbara is (biasedly because of my engagement) my favorite California beach town and I hope it’s yours too! The unique Spanish architecture, fun downtown, beautiful beach, and sailboats everywhere make this the perfect day trip.
If you are wanting to extend your day trip to Santa Barbara and are looking for more ideas to do in California, here are some things I think you would love:
- California Road Trip 7 Days!
- Big Sur Road Trip!
- 4 Days in San Diego or Girls Weekend in San Diego!
- 2 Days in Yosemite National Park!
- Paso Robles Wine Tasting Itinerary!
Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂
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