San Diego

The route between San Diego, CA and Santa Barbara, CA boasts spectacular views of California's coastal landscape, beaches, cuisine, nature, golf, history, and some of the best amusement parks in the world.

San Diego to Santa Barbara By Plane

The San Diego International Airport (SAN) sees a large amount of traffic, roughly 20 million travelers per year. United Airlines offers flights to Santa Barbara with a stopover in Los Angeles. One-way fares start at $350. Alaska Airlines also flies with a stopover in Portland or Seattle. One-way fares start at $700. There are no non-stop flights.

There is ample parking and a variety of ground transportation options at the San Diego International Airport. The airport also is home to a variety of shops, cafés, restaurants, newsstands and convenience stores. If there is something you need before you board your flight you can most likely find it at the airport.

The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) is a smaller airport but connects to several California destinations via Los Angeles International Airport.

»San Diego to Santa Barbara By Train

San Diego to Santa Barbara By Train

Amtrak offers daily service between San Diego and Santa Barbara via the Pacific Surfliner, offering a stunning vantage point for California's seascape. The trip takes nearly six hours. The train features unreserved coach seats (starting at $42) and premium business class seats (starting at $63). Train amenities include free Wi-Fi, checked baggage and a café car serving up light meals. Bikes and surfboards can also be checked. There are five daily Pacific Surfliner trains.

By Bus

Greyhound offers four daily bus routes between San Diego and Santa Barbara, each with a transfer in Los Angeles. Departure times are: 11am arriving at 4:05pm, 3pm arriving at 8:50pm, 7:15pm arriving at 1:00am the following day and 10:15pm arriving at 8:35am the following day. Ticket prices start as low as $28 one way.

Amenities on board include checked baggage, reclining seats and ample leg room, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and bathroom.

Greyhound is an economical way to travel. It also takes away the hassle of driving and allows you to enjoy the scenery.

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»San Diego to Santa Barbara By Car

San Diego to Santa Barbara By Car

San Diego is about 218 miles south of Santa Barbara. The fastest route by car is to take I-5 north out of San Diego and connect to US 101, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, in Los Angeles which will take you straight to Santa Barbara. This option drive will take at least four hours with no traffic and no stops. It's best to budget five hours for the drive. Weekends usually see less traffic.

The Pacific Coast Highway is a direct, north-south thoroughfare in California. It provides the most direct connection between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and is also very scenic, hugging the California coast. Once in Los Angeles, why not stay a few days to see the sights?

Before leaving San Diego visit some of the amazing attractions. San Diego is home to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. There are many other exciting sights to visit.

For a day trip from San Diego, Borrego Springs is a nice option to escape the hustle of the big city. The desert community is surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and offers a slower pace to life. The sculptor Ricardo Breceda has provided dozens of large, metal sculptures dotting the landscape. To get there, take CA-67 North to Ramona, CA then turn onto CA-78 East to Santa Ysabel where you'll take CA-79 North to the junction with San Felipe Road. Follow San Felipe road until you reach the turnoff for the Montezuma Valley Road which will take you straight to Borrego Springs.

Once back in Sand Diego, head north on I-5. Your first stop on the way to Santa Barbara should be the Carlsbad Flower Fields. In fact, you don't actually need to stop, but can take a slow drive along Armada Drive for a view of the gorgeous flowers.

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»By Car - Continued

By Car - Continued

Also near Carlsbad is California Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium. Several ticket options are available for Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium, including multi-day passes and passes that combine both attractions.

Carrying on up I-5, your next stop should be San Juan Capistrano. The 230-year old historic chapel, landmark and museum is perfect for history buffs. Ticket prices, including a free audio tour, are: $9 for adults; $8 for seniors 60+, and $6 for children 4-11 years. Children three and under are free.

If you are hoping to catch some sun, a stop at the Laguna Beach resort area along the I-5 and at the southern end of Orange County is a must.

Next read: Best Beaches in San Diego

Los Angeles offers countless opportunities for adventure and diversion. Stopping in the City of Angels for a few days is a must. L.A. is home to Disneyland, the Disney California Adventure Park, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Hollywood.

West of the city, the Topanga Canyon Loop offers a scenic drive through a famous part of L.A. Historically a weekend getaway for Hollywood's rich and famous, this area of Los Angeles became an enclave for artists and musicians in the mid-20th Century. From L.A. take I-10 West to Santa Monica and connect with the Pacific Coast Hwy. Then head north on CA-27! Follow the road up through the mountains. There are quirky shops, restaurants and saloons. Enjoy the views of the San Fernando Valley from the Topanga overlook.

After your fill of Los Angeles, head north on the Pacific Coastal Highway (US 101)! The state beaches of Malibu and Ventura provide the perfect place to catch some surf and rays before heading onto Santa Barbara.

If you are interested in wildlife, a stop at the Carpinteria Harbour Seal Rookery offers a chance to see over 100 adult seals.

Once you reach Santa Barbara, you are rewarded with a beautiful city situated on the Pacific coast and with the Ynez Mountains providing a picturesque backdrop. It is a popular tourist destination and offers countless opportunities for surf, sand and adventure.

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»By Bike or Walking

By Bike or Walking

Google Maps highlights three different bike routes between San Diego and Santa Barbara. One follows the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path. All three routes follow the Pacific coast for the majority and veer inland for portions. Google does a very nice job of providing turn by turn directions.

The Pacific Crest Trail offers hiking and walking options in an inland route. The website Hikespeak provides information about the best walking, biking and hiking trails in Central Coastal California. No trails link San Diego and Santa Barbara directly.

Santa Barbara has so much to offer. Participate in a number of outdoor sports - swimming, kayaking, hiking, biking and camping. Taste some of the best food and wine there is to have. Enjoy a variety of cultural influences. Or, just relax at the beach and soak up the sun. There is so much in store when you visit Santa Barbara.

Best things to do in: Santa Barbara, Poconos, Cleveland, Key West, SF



San Diego to Santa Barbara: Driving, By Plane, Train or Bus