Your Guide to Summer Relaxation in Santa Barbara
As summer is winding down to an end, take a relaxing week to yourself and enjoy all that the quintessential beach town has to offer. Santa Barbara is located on the coast of central California and features Mediterranean-style white buildings alongside high-end restaurants, boutiques, and cafes. Nestled in between the Santa Ynez mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this picturesque destination is the perfect place to spend a week with friends and family.
Day 1: Exploring State Street and Santa Barbara Museum of Art
As your trip begins, take the first day to get to know your surroundings by exploring State Street, the heart of downtown Santa Barbara! This lively area stretches for 10 blocks and ends at Stearns Wharf, the oldest wooden wharf in California and a great spot to check out the scenery. The streets are lined with courtyards, fountains, palm trees and flowers, as well as being blocked off for cars and making the area pedestrian-friendly.
Start your morning at Dune Coffee Roasters, a hip coffee shop with a modern and sophisticated ambiance. Grab a vanilla latte and and choose from an array of toast options, ranging from avocado to cinnamon & sugar.
As you finish up with breakfast, start shopping your way down State Street by heading into the different boutiques and stores. Take a break halfway throughout the day and stop for ice cream at McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. With flavors ranging from ‘Eureka Lemon & Marionberries’ to ‘Sea Salt Cream & Cookies’ and distinguished “the best in the world” by Time Magazine, you definitely cannot miss it.
Once you finish up with shopping and exploring, head over to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The museum features pieces ranging from Asian, European, and American art that covers time periods from modern to 4,000 years ago. Exhibits are both permanent and rotating and in total holds around 25,000 works of art. The museum is quite impressive for the small city of Santa Barbara, and even boasts more Monet paintings than any other museum on the West Coast.
End your day by grabbing food to-go and watching the sunset on Stearns Wharf, a classic Santa Barbara night.
Day 2: Vineyards Tour
For your second day in Santa Barbara, prepare for a whirlwind experience touring private vineyards and wineries with Sustainable Wine Tours! Prepare to be whisked away into the beauty of the vineyards, while also gaining a vast amount of knowledge about the processes of winemaking.
You’ll be starting your morning early, as you will be picked up for the tour at 10 am and be on it for around seven hours. Throughout the day you will be taken through barrel rooms, wineries, and a walking tour of vineyards. The tour is personalized and allows groups of only 6 to transport around for the day. Every vintner that the tour works with produces the wine using a hands-on technique within a small production, and are committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly production.
Lunch is provided halfway throughout the tour and is customizable with choices of different sandwiches, salads, and (of course) wine preference.
Prepare to wear comfortable shoes and layers, as the temperatures can vary between the cold barrel rooms and warm vineyards under the sun.
Experiencing the beauty of Santa Barbara wine country is the best way to start your trip off with an adventure!
Day 3: Beach day at Butterfly Beach in Montecito!
Pay a visit to the relaxed and chic neighborhood of Montecito for a beach day at the scenic Butterfly Beach! Located across from the Four Seasons and within a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes, the area is charming in itself. Find yourself surrounded by lush landscaping, vibrant flowers, and towering palm trees lining the walkway above the beach!
The white sand beach with a relaxed tide is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or just spending time with friends. As you lounge on the beach, keep one eye open for dolphin, and even whale sightings!
Butterfly Beach is not in a commercial area, so be sure to bring a packed lunch, drinks, and whatever else you might need for your ideal beach day. I recommend South Coast Deli for gourmet sandwiches and salads that are suitable for vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike from Santa Barbara and take the Cabrillo Bike Path from Stearns Wharf all the way towards the beach. This scenic 3-mile long bike path will take you winding along the coast for a scenic and enjoyable bike ride! If you’d rather pack more with you and drive, there is free parking alongside the beach and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Head back into Santa Barbara and take some time to freshen up and relax at your hotel or Airbnb. When you’re ready for dinner, make your way to Loquita, an authentic Spanish restaurant. Try ordering Spain’s king of cocktails, the gin & tonic, or the famed paella. If you’re craving something sweet after dinner, walk a few blocks upwards towards Tondi Gelato. This spouse-owned gelateria produces everything from scratch and on-site!
Day 4: Santa Barbara Zoo and Some of The Best Eats in Town
Start your morning with a sweet treat from Hook & Press Donuts, and try one of their many unique and flavorful donuts! Hook & Press has been voted one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara by both USA Today and Food Network, and has flavors ranging from Cold Brew Crisp, to Strawberry Basil!
After breakfast, get ready for a day of exploring the 30 acres of lush gardens and exhibits at the Santa Barbara Zoo! The Zoo is home to 146 different species including mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. A few notable animals include the penguins, otters, snow leopards, and the giraffes(which you can feed!).
The grounds on which the zoo is located was previously known as the Child Estate, owned by a wealthy tea and coffee merchant in the 1920’s. As she grew older and wasn’t able to maintain the impressive estate, Mrs. Child offered the land to the Santa Barbara Foundation. In 1963, the zoo was opened!
For an ideal day, make a counter-clockwise loop around the zoo and walk around the different exhibits. About halfway through you’ll arrive at the Hilltop Lawn. Enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean while sitting down for a bit for lunch. You can choose to either bring a picnic lunch, or opt to dine at The Wave, serving tacos, quesadillas, fajitas and more!
Once you get back to Santa Barbara, enjoy some time on State Street before heading to Zaytoon for dinner. This luxurious Lebanese restaurant is hidden around the corner, but an oasis once you step inside! The outdoor patio is surrounded by lights, fountains, and ivy-covered walls. Try dishes to share with your table, such as the pita & hummus or watermelon salad. To end your night, opt for the baklava, a signature Lebanese pastry with layers of walnuts and sugar syrup.
Day 5: Santa barbara Hot Springs Hike
Grab your hiking boots and water bottles, as today you’ll be venturing on a classic Santa Barbara hike! Hot Springs Canyon, known by locals as the Montecito Hot Springs, is located a 20 minute drive from Santa Barbara and edged along a neighborhood of million dollar mansions.
The hike is 4 miles round trip with a medium difficulty level. Follow the trail upwards and enjoy the views of downtown Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean, while being surrounded by plant life and rivers. Once you arrive at the hot springs you will be greeted by multiple pools, with the hottest temperatures of about 80 degrees at the top.
Be sure to wear your bathing suit underneath your clothes, and another pair of clothes if you want to change after lounging in the hot springs.
If you’re looking for some fuel after your hike, grab an acai bowl from Backyard Bowls in Santa Barbara before heading home! Founded in 2008, this spot is a go-to and features organic and nutritious bowls.
After you’ve relaxed and are ready for dinner, you’ll head to Toma. Consistently rated as the #1 restaurant in Santa Barbara, the Italian food here is to die for. Start off with the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Salad and move your way towards the Black Spaghetti topped with fresh clams. After an active day of hiking, filling up with Toma’s mouth watering pizza and pasta is the way to go!
Day 6: Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
On your last full day take some time to walk around State Street and finish any shopping you still want to do. Walk to the wharf and enjoy the views of the ocean, architecture and mountains! When you’re ready, make your way to Scarlett Begonia for brunch. This cozy eatery is the perfect place to sit down and have a nice meal with your group.
Try the Kale Caesar Salad or Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, which are topped with a blueberry compote and fresh flowers. The Cinnamon Rolls are a must-get, order one for the table and share with your friends!
Spend your afternoon admiring the beauty of native SoCal nature at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. The 78-acre land contains over 1,000 species of both native and rare plants backdropped by the Santa Ynez mountains. With 11 different trails, expect to see something different at every corner! Explore the desert section for cacti and purple-flowering willows, or the Meadow Section to admire fields of the California poppy.
After walking through the trails visit the nursery, and pick out plants for your own garden at home!
Day 7: Day at Hendry’s Beach
Where else would you spend your last day in Santa Barbara than on the beach? Today you will be spending the day at Hendry’s Beach! This beach is a 10 minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara and has free parking in the lot. The landscape is reminiscent of Hawaii, being surrounded by towering cliffs and lush palm trees. You can even spot paragliders flying down from above!
Start the morning with breakfast at The Boathouse, an upscale seafood restaurant with a patio located directly on the beach. Options range from the California Eggs Benedict to the French Toast with orange zest and vanilla bean. If you’re feeling like celebrating, order the signature bloody mary, completed by bacon, pickled asparagus, an olive and shrimp.
After you’re done with breakfast, grab any beach necessities from your car and spend your last few hours relaxing and reminiscing on your fabulous trip!
We hope you enjoyed this in-depth guide to discovering the best areas of one of California’s best beach towns. Santa Barbara is a beautiful area with so much to do and explore! If you’re interested in planning more of your next best trips, sign up for the Limon waitlist and check out our Instagram!