For a year, I was able to call Santa Barbara home. It was honestly one of the best years of my life and one I look back on so fondly. My partner and I could walk on the Santa Barbara beaches multiple times a week, watch dolphins and seals flourish in the ocean, and soak in some incredible sunsets.
All in all, it was a magical time. As you plan your trip to Santa Barbara, I hope this guide to the best beaches in Santa Barbara brings you joy and wonder as you sit under the sunny skies on the California coast.
My 9 Best Santa Barbara Beaches
These beaches in Santa Barbara are not in any particular order, so don’t view this as a ranking system.
1. Butterfly Beach
It is one of my favorite beaches in Santa Barbara, though I think I only went into the water here once or twice. I really like it because of the views. My girlfriend did a Valentine’s dinner here, and the flowers along the bike path are simply exquisite. Taking photos with them in the foreground and the beach in the background is picture-perfect!
I highly recommend everyone who goes to Santa Barbara to spend time at Butterfly Beach.
One thing to note is there is not a lot of beach space, so there could be zero dry sand when it’s a high tide. But during low tide, you’ll have tons of space to lounge around.
2. East Beach
It is the most popular beach in the area simply due to its location.
Most locals visit East Beach as there’s a lot of parking – both in a parking lot and along the road. Plus, it’s close to many hotels that line the beach. Furthermore, there’s a TON of beach space, so you won’t need to crowd others (unless it’s a holiday weekend).
For the active folks, there are volleyball courts to play on.
PS: The famous McConnells Ice Cream is just up the street from Stearns Wharf. It’s fantastic and a must-have when visiting Santa Barbara beaches.
3. Miramar Beach
It’s another one of my favorites, but this time because it’s super chill and relaxed. Furthermore, it’s also in a nice cove, so there’s not a lot of waves, which makes it great for families with little kids. It’s located right in front of the Miramar Hotel. So, if you’re looking for a luxury place to stay, this is it!
This is also one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara to run if you want to work out before cooling off in the water.
Check out my top 18 things to do in Santa Barbara.
4. Summerland Beach
Not technically a Santa Barbara beach, Summerland Beach is a little to the east along Highway 101. But once you’re on this beach, it stretches for miles and miles, allowing you to take a pleasant stroll with your loved ones.
I really like the high cliffs that adorn the beach here. It feels like you’ve been transported to a different location.
5. West Beach
West Beach, on the opposite side of Stearns Wharf in downtown Santa Barbara, is a much smaller beach that juts up against the Santa Barbara Harbor. If you plan to rent kayaks, paddleboards, or anything else, you can do it at West Beach. This is one of the more casual Santa Barbara beaches.
There are also volleyball courts here.
6. Ledbetter Beach
Ledbetter Beach is one of the larger beaches in Santa Barbara and sits in front of Santa Barbara Community College. With plenty of parking in the area, you shouldn’t have any issues finding a spot. It’s also near the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (worth going).
There’s also an excellent spot to eat here. The Shoreline Beach Cafe is a cozy spot with ocean views for lunch or dinner! I’ve been here and highly recommend it.
7. One Thousand (1000) Steps Beach
1000 Steps Beach isn’t one that’s usually lounged on, but it’s highly worth it. I actually witnessed the most epic sunset here. But this one’s great for walking alongside the water and doesn’t have too many people on it.
I still have found it’s one of my favorite of the Santa Barbara Beaches.
8. Mesa Lane Beach
This is near One Thousand Steps Beach. But I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I ever made it here. It offers steps down to the water, and during high tide, you might not be able to access the beach without getting wet. Still, this is one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara.
The Douglas Family Preserve is next door, a nice forested area where you can walk/run around. We did this once, and it was a lovely time!
9. Arroyo Burro Beach/Hendry’s Beach
Arroyo Burro Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Santa Barbara. This is partly due to the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach Restaurant and one-half of the beach being dog friendly.
There’s a decent-sized parking lot here, but it’s also a popular area to ride your bike as it’s on the local bike path.
If you’re looking for a place to hang out on the beach and then grab an upscale dinner, this is the place to be!
10. Bonus: Carpenteria Beach
Further down the coast towards Los Angeles is Carpenteria Beach. What makes this one so cool is its Seal Sanctuary. You can’t go down to protect the animals, but it’s a cool place to check out. We also got a wild sunset here that blew our minds!
My Best Photos from the best Santa Barbara Beaches
Thanks for enjoying these photos and this article!
Most Lively of the Santa Barbara Beaches
The most lively beaches in Santa Barbara are East Beach and West Beach. Both of these straddle State Street and downtown Santa Barbara, meaning they get most of the visitors.
They are also right in front of most of the hotels in the area.
However, these are not always college kids, as they tend to stay in the Goleta area. You’ll find a lot of young adults and families at these two beaches as it’s a short drive from most houses in Santa Barbara.
Most Relaxing Beach in Santa Barbara
Right in front of the hotel, Miramar Beach is a calm and relaxing beach. This is partly due to it being tucked away and also because it’s full of a more affluent clientele who are there to chill out and relax on the beach.
If you’re looking for a more adult/older crowd who aren’t playing games and getting rowdy, this is your beach.
Best Santa Barbara Beaches to Surf
The prominent beach people surf at is Ledbetter Beach, next to Shoreline Park. Most surfers will hang out on the far western side of the beach, nearest the cliff’s edge. While these don’t tend to be massive waves, people have fun out there.
Book Your Santa Barbara Beach Hotels
It is costly to stay in Santa Barbara. Most places are expensive. So if you want cheaper options, look in Carpenteria or Goleta.
🏨Budget Stay – Motel 6 Carpenteria; Casa Del Sol Carpenteria; Rose Garden Inn Santa Barbara
🏨Mid-level Stay – Inn by the Harbor; Brisas Del Mar; Hotel Santa Barbara
🏨Luxury Stay – Rosewood Miramar Beach; El Encanto; Ritz-Carlton Santa Barbara
FAQ: Santa Barbara Beaches
What is the best month to visit Santa Barbara?
This is a great question! If you’re looking for a few crowds on the best beaches in Santa Barbara, visiting in the spring is a beautiful time. It’s warmer than winter, but not too hot. Plus, you won’t have to handle crowds and higher hotel costs.
However, the best time is the summer, which ranges from May to August. This will give you the longest days, the most sun, and the best weather to spend time on the beaches. Plus, you can still go hiking in the mountains, and it won’t be too warm because temperatures don’t go much higher than 85.
Will I see Sealife while at the beach?
Yes, you will!
When we used to walk the beaches at sunset, we routinely saw seals and dolphins swimming. It was a fantastic experience and one that I greatly miss since moving. There’s honestly nothing like driving five minutes from your house and seeing wildlife.
You’ll also see many birds, but that’s not always as exciting.
Are these beaches rocky?
Thankfully, Santa Barbara doesn’t have rocky beaches. Now, you will find some rocky parts, sure, but for the most part, they’re sandy! This is what makes the best beaches in Santa Barbara so good!
Are Santa Barbara beaches swimmable?
Yes, the beaches in Santa Barbara are extremely swimmable and offer loads of fun and great times. There’s not a lot of kept in the area either, which makes it nice for those who dislike swimming in it.
What beaches are close to downtown Santa Barbara?
The two closest beaches to downtown Santa Barbara are East and West Beach. These are on both sides of State Street, as well as the downtown hotels and shops.
What is parking like near Santa Barbara beaches?
It’s surprisingly good outside of a holiday weekend! Most of the roads along the Santa Barbara beaches have parking alongside them. Some of it is free, but almost all have a time allotment.
Additionally, there are specific parking lots for East Beach.
The parking near Butterfly Beach, Ledbetter Beach, and Miramar Beach are all free.
When is the best time to visit the Santa Barbara beaches?
The summer is the best time to visit the beaches in Santa Barbara are obviously the summer months. These are the warmest days, and the ocean is the warmest. However, with incredible yearly-round temperatures, you could choose a beach day in January if you’re okay with a little chillier air temperature.
This is one of the reasons Santa Barbara is one of the best places in America.
Are Santa Barbara beaches warm?
Not exactly. In the summertime, the water feels great with warmer temperatures. But for the most part, most surfers will wear wetsuits when surfing in the ocean around Santa Barbara.
You’ll definitely find warmer ocean temperatures in San Diego and southern Los Angeles.
Are Santa Barbara beaches clean?
They’re okay. The Santa Barbara Channel naturally emits oil from the ocean floor, so it can sometimes wash up on the beach. Then, there’s always trash from people who do not adhere to Leave No Trace.
But in saying that, I didn’t find the Santa Barbara beaches to be dirty or nasty.
What is the weather like in Santa Barbara?
As mentioned, Santa Barbara’s weather is consistently 65-85 year-round. Yes, the winter can be chilly, but it’s also almost always sunny, with some early morning fog every now and then.
This weather consistency makes Santa Barbara beaches a fantastic place to call home.
The Wrap-Up: Best beaches in Santa Barbara
I hope you enjoyed this rundown of the best Santa Barbara beaches. Over my year living in this beautiful community, I fell in love with these fabulous beaches.
There’s so much to see, experience, and soak in. I know for a fact you’ll love your time hanging out at these best beaches in Santa Barbara.
Until next time, adventurers, stay safe.