When the sun is shining and you feel like heading outdoors, there's no better place to spend a day than a beautiful beach. As your feet sink into the sand and the sound of crashing waves fills your ears, you really feel a million miles away from the mundanity and stresses of regular life. Beaches offer the perfect getaway at any time of year, letting people simply sit back and relax for a few hours or a full weekend. They also offer all kinds of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including activities like surfing, swimming, snorkeling, and beach games like volleyball.

We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.

1.Butterfly Beach

Butterfly Beach
© Alison Jones/Danita Delimont

Located in Montecito to the east of the city, right by some fabulous upscale resorts and the vibrant Coral Casino, Butterfly Beach is one of Santa Barbara's most naturally beautiful spots and it's a super place to visit at any time of year. Even on cloudy days, it can be nice to simply walk along this Santa Barbara beach and admire the views. You don't even need to actually head onto the sand itself to appreciate this beach, as there's a nice rock wall lining the edge of it and providing an ideal spot to sit down and relax. Many of the city's beaches are south-facing, but Butterfly Beach looks out to the west, meaning it's a nice spot to come early in the mornings in order to admire the sunrise while most of the city is still sleeping.

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2.Santa Claus Beach

Santa Claus Beach
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Situated in the local town of Carpinteria, Santa Claus Beach isn't known as a top tourist spot, so the crowds never get too big at this location, making it a nice fit for families or groups of friends that are looking for a little privacy and don't want to be drowned out by the noise of hundreds of other beach-goers. This oddly-named beach has a lot of good amenities like eateries and beach equipment rentals, and you can park for free on the local streets too. The area gets some nice waves for surfing, but there are gentler days too, offering nice conditions for younger beach visitors to do some paddling and splashing on the water's edge. Paddle boarding and swimming are popular here too and the sand is especially soft.

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3.Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach
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Also located in the local town of Carpinteria, which can be found just a long hike or short drive out of Santa Barbara, this beach is a big hit with families. The waters are very calm here compared to other Santa Barbara beaches, offering just the right conditions for families to head out and do some swimming together without having to worry about the little ones. There are some picnic tables and restrooms at this beach too, and it's a good spot to look out for all kinds of wildlife. The local town of Carpinteria has some good shops and eateries to make your day complete.

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4.Leadbetter Beach

Leadbetter Beach
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A very popular beach spot with Santa Barbara locals, Leadbetter Beach is a great spot for surfing and swimming. It's a very pretty beach with a lot of useful amenities, including BBQs that tend to get claimed quite quickly on warm days, so it's a smart idea to arrive early if you want to grill up some burgers. If you miss out on the grills, a nearby restaurant offers some great food and there are restrooms and outdoor showers for public use as well. As this Santa Barbara beach is quite popular, there's always a lively atmosphere here, so it's a nice spot to come on special occasions or summer weekends.

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5.Summerland Beach

Summerland Beach
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Just a little way south of Santa Barbara, Summerland Beach offers a lot of space and is one of the area's best kept secrets. Not too many tourists know about this beach, so it never gets overly crowded, resulting in a quiet atmosphere where beach-goers can really listen to the waves and appreciate the tranquility of the day. A kids' play area and picnic table can be found here, along with showers and free parking zones. This particular beach is very open, with few shady spots, so you might want to bring a beach umbrella along or remember to wear hats.

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6.Mesa Lane Beach

Mesa Lane Beach
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One of Santa Barbara's true hidden gems, Mesa Lane Beach is totally unknown to many travelers in the area, but as soon as you step foot on this beach for the first time, you'll want to come back again and again. Getting onto the beach is a bit of a challenge, however, as you'll have to walk all the way down a very long staircase on Mesa Lane. You'll also have to walk all the way back up at the end of the day, so be sure to save a little energy for the return trip. The views on Mesa Lane Beach are simply extraordinary and it's a breathtaking spot to lie back and do some sunbathing.

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7.More Info

More Info
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There are plenty of great beach towns and cities all around the United States, but if you live in California or plan on visiting the state, you'll have a particularly long list of exceptional beaches to choose from. Santa Barbara is one of the best beach cities in California and everyone who visits the city has their own favorite spots. Whether you're looking to simply lie back and read a book, enjoy a picnic with the family, or head on the waves for some swimming or surfing fun, Santa Barbara will have a beach for you.

Best Beaches to Visit in Santa Barbara

Since Santa Barbara has so many awesome beaches to choose from, it can be quite hard to narrow down your search and pick just one of them. That’s why we’re here to help. We’ve taken a look at all the big beaches around the city and highlighted some of the very best. Read on to learn all about them and be sure to visit a couple on your next Santa Barbara trip.

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6 Best Beaches in Santa Barbara

Attraction Spotlight: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Spread across 78 acres in Santa Barbara, California, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG) is an expansive natural tapestry. As one of only 30 gardens in the country accredited as a living museum by the American Alliance of Museums, the SBBG is not only beautiful, but a vital resource, as well. The Garden works to accomplish its mission to preserve California’s native plant species through research, education, and the gardens themselves, demonstrating sustainable horticultural practices.

One of the few botanic gardens that is also a Center for Plant Conservation, a designation bestowed by a national coalition, the SBBG is a highly regarded establishment for scientific research. The vision of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a society that understands the interdependency between plants and people, where communities act to preserve nature.

The origins of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden date back nearly a century, to 1925, when the Carnegie Institute suggested a cooperation between the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and a yet-to-be-created botanic garden. This vision came to fruition when patron Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss bought and subsequently donated 13 acres of land, located in the Mission Canyon area, expressly for the purposes of the botanic museum. This initial gift grew, first with an endowment in 1927, and then again with more land in 1932.

By 1939, the institution was incorporated and the officially named the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. During this time, the identity of the organization was taking shape, establishing itself as an institution both scientific and aesthetic, with a focus on native plants of California. The garden flourished throughout the twentieth century, becoming more established, first with the historical designation of the Garden’s Mission Dam in 1983. This trend continued, and in 2003, 23 of the Garden’s 78 acres were granted County Historic Landmark status.

The sections of the Garden are grouped by various plant communities, such as canyon, meadow, prairie, etc. With ten different sections spread across the acreage, there is a variety of landscapes to explore. Visitors can discover miles of trails while taking in magnificent mountain to ocean views.

Arroyo Section

Plants in the Arroyo section showcase species found throughout watercourses in the state. In the SBBG, this translates to a garden located along a seasonal stream, shaded by native oak trees. A noteworthy site in this garden is the ‘dripping rock’ that displays plants that require a continuously moist environment. Also in the Arroyo section is the Discovery Garden, a special area targeted to children. Here, kids learn about biodiversity and the interactions of California’s ecosystems with a special eye on the movement of water.

Campbell Trail

The Campbell Trail is home to the Chaparral Section, highlighting plants that grow in this type of habitat. These areas are characterized by dry, rocky slopes near California’s coastal or interior mountains. Plants in this zone necessarily have deep roots, as well as having adapted to the State’s periodic wildfires. This takes the form of rejuvenation following a fire, the absorption of nutrients, and the appearance of new bulbs in the increased sunlight available post fire.

Canyon Section

The Canyon section, home to the Pritchett Trail and the Easton-Aqueduct Trail, follows Mission Creek and its adjacent canyon slopes. This area is characterized by western sycamores, coast live oaks, among other native trees. Parts of this section were burned in 2009, during the Jesusita Fire. As fire is part of the normal evolution of habitats in this part of the world, the Canyon Section has rebounded, and what was once an ash-laden, barren landscape is now full of growth.

Water Wise Home Garden

Once the demonstration garden, the Water Wise Home Garden now has a more specialized purpose: to demonstrate beautiful applications of drought tolerant landscape. Using California native plants, this garden inspires visitors to incorporate the ethos of the SBBG in their own homes, providing ideas and tools to help them do so. Many of the plants showcased in this garden are available for purchase at the SBBG’s Garden Growers Nursery.

Manzanita Section

Manzanita, with their beautiful and distinctive red bark, are a fixture of many California landscapes. This highly diverse plant has dozens of varietals, many of which are on display in the Manzanita Section. These include low growing ground cover, bushes and even small trees. Mixing with other California natives, the garden demonstrates how different plants work together to create visual interest.

Education goes hand in hand with conservation, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is no exception. The SBBG works to understand, protect, restore and advocate for the native landscape of California. This includes an extensive herbarium for the preservation of plant specimens for future study. This work includes plants in the Chanel Islands National Park. The Organization also works to protect endangered plants, such as the Lompoc yerba santa, with only a handful of occurrences in the area, or the Vandenberg monkeyflower which is threatened by invasive species.

The restoration efforts of the Garden include combating many of these invasive plant species, as well as planting natural buffers, or hedgerows, between wild and agricultural lands. These efforts underscore the message that the environment needs an advocate, that it cannot speak for itself. The SBBG strives to be a voice for the native plants of California, and undertakes significant advocacy efforts on their behalf.

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Events at the garden are frequent and varied, with everything from book signings to tea ceremonies. Visitors can partake in a geology walk, learning about the natural forces at play with the impact of humans on the natural landscapes. Craft classes and holiday markets make for fun days with a memento to take home. Other events include lectures, conservation talks, day trips and much more. The full calendar of events, including the operating days of the teahouse, is available on the Garden’s website.

As a living museum, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is so much more than a beautiful day in nature. The SBBG offers classes and educational programs to further its mission, including citizen science, school programs, gardening with natives classes, as well as youth and family activities. These include Saturday morning family walks, citizen science club meetings, STEMS (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, & Sustainability) Summer programs and more.

This is in addition to the numerous schools that visit and participate in the Garden’s academic programs: Nature Walk, Chumash Uses of Native Plants, Seasonal Focus Lab, and Habitat Hike. The educational efforts of the SBBG also extend to the Blaksley Library, with 15,000 books and journals available for research. These include rare books, photos, and manuscripts, as well as horticultural catalogues.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens is just a short drive from downtown Santa Barbara, with free parking available onsite. Visitors are advised to review the Garden’s website prior to arrival, not only to explore the abundant events on offer, but also to review garden etiquette and rules to ensure a safe and pleasant visit.

This also includes advisements on how to best protect the gardens from the human impacts of its visitors and canine friends (which are allowed on leash). Spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit, with many California wildflowers in bloom. Guests will also want to check out the Garden Growers Nursery to take a bit of the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens home with them.

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1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, USA, Phone: 805-682-4726

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Attraction Spotlight: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum in Santa Barbara, CA is a historic building that has some of the most remarkable maritime artifacts depicting the history of the local coast on display. This 1943 museum building overlooking the Santa Barbara Harbor was built as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) project during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. After its completion, it served as a navy training center during World War II, and after the war also served as a naval reserve. The museum opened its doors to the public in July 2000 and since then has served as a center of education through its exhibits, artifacts, and events.

Tours and Field Trips

The museum offers 45-minute docent-guided tours for groups if advanced reservations are made online by submitting a group registration form available on the museum’s website. Field trips at the museum can be organized for children from kindergarten to 6th grade by making an advanced booking with the museum's guest services coordinator.


Along with the field trips, the museum organizes several educational programs aimed at school children, including;

· Marine science program

· Tall ship program

· Science night program

· Lecture series

· Book club

Museum Exhibits

· 20 Masterpiece Photographs by Ernest H. Brooks II

· Point Conception Lighthouse Fresnel Lens

· Wives and Daughters: Keepers of the Light

· Tragedy at Honda: Honoring the George Writer Family

· Tall Ship Education Program

· The Lost Posters of Surf Artist Rick Sharp

· Maritime Ranching

· Marine Safety Agencies and USCG Black Fin

· Mario M. Castagnola Commercial Fishing

· Diving Technology and Abalone Diving

· Historic Path of California’s Central Coast

· Goleta Cannons

· Working Periscope

· Marilyn S. Tennity Surfing Exhibit

· Loughead Seaplane

Private Events

The museum offers events and reception packages for private events like weddings as well as corporate and social events. The museum itself can accommodate up to 400 guests for a standing reception and 150 guests for a seated meal. The museum's Munger Theater is yet another venue that can seat 88 guests and is suitable for corporate presentations or private meetings as the theatre offers a large screen and HD projector.

Supporting the Museum

The museum accepts donations in the form of online gifts and services like volunteering as well as through membership programs.

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Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way #190, Santa Barbara, CA 93109, Phone: 805-962-8404

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