Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in California. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, you’ll be surrounded by incredible views no matter where you go in this town. Whether you’re a nature lover or prefer a sophisticated urban environment, there’s plenty to do in Santa Barbara and the surrounding region. In this one week in Santa Barbara itinerary, we’ll show you local favorites and hidden gems to give you a real taste of everything this beautiful town has to offer.
Day One – Stay in Downtown Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a relatively small city, so by staying in the downtown area, you’ll be close to many of the best attractions the city has to offer. One of the best ways to enjoy the relaxed, beachy vibe of Santa Barbara is to rent a house on Airbnb. It’s very affordable, and there are plenty of choices within walking distance of State Street, which is Santa Barbara’s main drag.
If you prefer a luxury hotel experience, consider staying at The Canary, which is full of the Spanish-style design touches that Santa Barbara is known for. If you’re on a tighter budget, The Wayfarer is a chic hostel known for its beautiful outdoor pool. Once you’ve settled into your hotel, take some time to stroll around the downtown area and acquaint yourself with the charm of Santa Barbara.
Day Two – Relax on the Beach in Carpinteria
Carpinteria is a charming town just a short drive south of Santa Barbara. While there are plenty of great beaches throughout the area, Carpinteria has some of the most pristine plots of sand to relax on. Carpinteria State Beach and Santa Claus Beach are both very accessible and very clean, so bring a towel, some sunscreen, and a book and just relax. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also try your hand at surfing the waves here. If you don’t have your own surfboard, there are plenty of places nearby to rent one, with plenty of options for surfing lessons as well.
Once you’ve had your fill of sunshine for the day, head to Rincon Brewery for a beer and a burger. This brewpub is located right on Carpinteria’s main drag and is a popular hangout for locals and visitors alike.
Day Three – Go Back In Time At the Santa Barbara Mission
On the northern edge of downtown is the Mission Santa Barbara, which was founded in the 18th century and is full of rich history and architecture. Although the mission is still an active Roman Catholic Church, you can take tours to learn more about the building and its role in the founding of Santa Barbara. Soak up some sun and stroll through La Huerta Historic Garden, which is next to the Mission.
Finish your afternoon at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, which is just up the street. The museum is home to an extensive collection of wildlife specimens from around the world, as well as a planetarium. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities here, but adults will enjoy the in-depth exhibits.
Day Four – Eat and Drink Your Way Through the Santa Barbara Funk Zone
The Funk Zone is a section of downtown Santa Barbara that sits between the 101 freeway and the beach. Although this neighborhood is small, there’s so much to do there. Start your day by heading out to Stearns Wharf for some classic waterfront views. If your accommodations have a kitchen, you can purchase your fish straight from the fisherman and take it home to cook for an affordable and fresh dining experience. There are plenty of restaurants and shopping options on the pier, but they tend to be overpriced and aimed at tourists. Instead, head off the pier and into the Funk Zone proper, where you’ll find plenty of independent cafes and restaurants with great food.
Head to Loquita for tapas, Lucky Penny for pizza, or The Nook for a burger and some delicious craft beer. For a truly upscale dinner, head to The Lark, which many would argue is the best restaurant in Santa Barbara. Keep the party going by sampling the many wine bars in the neighborhood. Some fun, trendy options include Municipal Winemakers, Pali Wine Co., and Corks and Crowns. If liquor’s more your style than beer or wine, head to Test Pilot for some incredible tiki drinks.
Day Five – Go Wine Tasting near Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is home to some of the best wine in Southern California, so it’s only fitting to dedicate day five of our One Week in Santa Barbara to wine tasting. While there are plenty of tasting rooms in the downtown area, this is the perfect opportunity to venture further afield and visit some vineyards. There are many companies that offer wine tours in the Santa Barbara area, or you can build your own itinerary for the day. There are plenty of excellent options, many of which are northwest of the city.
There is a huge concentration of vineyards in Buellton, Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos. There are so many choices that it’s difficult to narrow them down, but some standouts include Bridlewood Estate Winery, Sunstone Vineyards, and Babcock Winery and Vineyards. Babcock Winery is known for its trendy tasting room, which has a fun and eclectic 70s theme. Bridlewood Estate has some of the best priced wines in Santa Barbara, but doesn’t compromise on quality. The estate itself has Spanish-inspired architecture that fits in perfectly with the area. Sunstone Winery has a very traditional villa and tasting room, but with a laid-back vibe that doesn’t feel too pretentious.
Day Six – Stroll State Street
State Street is Santa Barbara’s main drag, and there’s so much to do concentrated in this small area. Start your day by heading to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, which is one of the most stunning buildings in the entire city. Make sure to visit the clock tower at the top of the building for some of the most stunning views in the area.
Next, relax at one of Santa Barbara’s many hipster coffee shops – Handlebar Coffee Roasters and Dune Coffee Roasters are very popular local shops. From there, make your way to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Although the museum is small, they have an excellent collection of art with a focus on Western American works.
For dinner, head to Bibi Ji, a renowned Indian restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. Finish off your night with a show at the Arlington Theater. This is the oldest theater in Santa Barbara, and they frequently host live music, comedy, and other performances here.
State Street is very walkable, but you may also want to consider renting bikes to explore the city even further.
Day Seven – Hike Inspiration Point in Santa Ynez Mountains
Before you leave Santa Barbara, you’ll want to fit in one last opportunity to enjoy the incredible beauty of this area. One of the best ways to do this is by hiking in the Santa Ynez mountains, where you’ll get an incredible view of the city, the ocean, and the mountains.
Inspiration Point is one of the most beautiful views in the area, and the hike will give you a great workout too. There are two ways to get there. The shorter route starts at the Inspiration Point trailhead, but if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can also begin at the Jesusita trailhead.
If you have extra time and energy after your hike, visit the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden on your way back. It’s just south of the trailhead and has several gardens featuring native Californian plants. The gardens are incredibly peaceful, and they are home to over 1,000 species of native flowers and plants.
Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful towns in California, with plenty of beautiful nature, history, and culture. If you haven’t been yet, now is the perfect time to add one week in Santa Barbara to your bucket list.
If you have more time to explore the coast from Santa Barbara, see our One Week Los Angeles to San Simeon itinerary