Santa Barbara is a wonderful beach town for a weekend getaway!
We’re talking beautiful beaches, nice sunny California weather without the crowds of LA, and a slower pace than the larger cities.
Although a small city, there are plenty of activities to easily fill up two days in Santa Barbara.
Here’s how to spend an ideal weekend in Santa Barbara!
Weekend in Santa Barbara Itinerary: Day One
Start your day right at Jeannine’s Restaurant and Bakery
Here, you stand in line to order at the counter, then find a spot at a table and wait for your food to be served. Everything on the menu is delightfully presented and delicious and you can’t go wrong!
There are four locations in the area, but my favorite is the Montecito location on Coast Village Road, as the café has the sophisticated vibe of Montecito, the wealthy town adjacent to Santa Barbara, home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Ty Warner!
Take a hike to Tangerine Falls
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While in the neighborhood, take a hike up to Tangerine Falls off of E Mountain Road up Cold Springs Canyon before the afternoon heat.
This is a 2.5-mile hike with 875 feet of gain up the trail to a waterfall. Tangerine Falls is an impressive waterfall after a good rain, but is a fun destination even while dry, as there are plenty of rocks to climb on.
To get to the trailhead, follow Olive Mill Road as it turns into Hot Springs Rd going up the hill, take a left on Mountain Drive, and find the trailhead at the sharp bend in the road where Cold Spring Creek crosses the road.
The hike involves a fair bit of navigation to find the waterfall, so be sure to watch for junctions. At the first junction take a left, cross the creek just below the bench.
As the trail descends towards the creek, you will pass a white sign, and take the unmarked trail to the left, downhill. Cross the creek, and at the last junction, avoid the main trail that bends to the left and continue straight, crossing the creek a few times until you reach the waterfall.
Take care to remember the way you came and stay on-trail, as all of the paths to the falls are well-worn!
Fuel up on the best tacos in town for lunch
After the hike, drive down to Milpas for tacos at La Super-Rica Taqueria.
Although there are countless places to find tacos in town, these are my personal favorite. Here you order at the front counter as you enter.
This place is cash only, so make sure to bring enough cash to buy food!
Take a scenic spin through Mountain Drive
Once you have finished lunch, take a drive back up to Mountain Drive and through the hills.
There are plenty of fancy houses to look at, including the book house (it is shaped like a stack of books), the jungle house (there is a jungle in the yard), and plenty of houses designed by famous architects.
Enjoy the views from this road, where you can see the town and beach down below. While you are driving through the hills enjoying the surroundings, stop by Franceschi Park for the best view in town.
Visit the oldest part of Santa Barbara
After you have finished driving around the hills, stop at the Santa Barbara Mission. The Old Mission was established on the Feast of St. Barbara in 1786 by the Spanish Franciscans.
It is the only Mission under continuous guidance of the Franciscan Friars since its foundation, and has the oldest choral singing tradition of any California mission.
While you are in town, it is worthwhile to pay for the tour, either the self-guided tour or the docent-led tour, and learn about the history of the Mission.
If you come back on Sunday morning, the Mission is the location of the Santa Barbara Parish, an active congregation with a choir. Also be sure to check out the rose garden before leaving.
Stroll along the pier
Head down to the pier after exploring the Mission for some time on the beach. You can actually drive onto the pier and park at the end in the parking lot.
There are many nice shops on the pier to walk through. You can also grab some ice cream or visit the Sea Center where you can learn about local sea life, visit the touch pond, and check out sediments from the seafloor.
Have a beautiful harborfront dinner
When you are ready for dinner, sit down for a nice dinner with a view at The Harbor Restaurant.
The Harbor Restaurant has a wonderful seafood menu, with some other favorites if you are not a fan of seafood.
However, if you do like seafood, grab some oysters for an appetizer, a seafood tower, and a cocktail to match, and enjoy the sunset!
Weekend in Santa Barbara Itinerary: Day Two
Have breakfast your way
Start off day two or your Santa Barbara weekend trip the right way: with breakfast at the Helena Avenue Bakery or the Summerland Café.
Summerland is down Highway 101 a 10-minute drive south, and you will enjoy a wonderful American-style breakfast on the beachfront.
Helena Avenue Bakery is a delightful bakery with a selection of pastries and drinks in Santa Barbara proper, if that is more your style.
Check out the local art scene
Continue your adventures with a visit down to the beach near the pier, where you can peruse the beachfront Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show.
The show happens every Sunday, year-round, and is the gathering point for local artists and craftsmen to show and sell their work. Santa Barbara has a thriving artist community, and this is the place to see all of the beautiful work!
Lay out on the beach
When you finish looking at the art show, spend time on the beach!
You can either walk or drive east down Cabrillo Blvd until you reach East Beach, the site of volleyball courts.
Here, you can go for a swim (but know the water isn’t so warm), sit and watch the waves, or befriend volleyball players and see if you can join a game.
Have a fantastic burger for lunch
The Habit is a great spot for lunch, a quality hamburger chain that originated in Santa Barbara and portrays the beach vibe of the town.
Their specialty is the charburger, which features a chargrilled beef patty! The Santa Barbara-style charburger is especially delicious, with its double char on a grilled sourdough bun and avocado.
The closest location to East Beach is on Milpas, where I once saw Katy Perry drive by!
Hit the waters in a kayak or on a surfboard
After lunch, get ready to spend some time on the water, and proceed to the Santa Barbara Harbor.
The harbor is the location of the yacht club, sailing club, and also where you can find kayak rentals at the Paddle Sports Center.
Santa Barbara has the perfect harbor for a paddle, and since almost every day is sunny, you should have great weather.
There is a good chance you will find sea lions on the buoys near the harbor (ask the staff for specific sighting information) and the chance you may have dolphins greet your kayak if you get especially lucky.
Either paddle off on your own or join a guided kayak tour for a local guide! The Paddle Sports Center offers a History and Wildlife Tour that is sure to help you learn something new.
If you would rather surf on the renowned Santa Barbara waves, the Paddle Sports Center offers beginner-friendly surfing lessons at Leadbetter Point, a beach with a righthand forgiving break; the best to learn on.
Surfing is best in the morning, so these lessons start at 10 AM each day (so swap out your morning beach time if you decide to go this route)
Pay a visit to the conservation-minded Santa Barbara Zoo
If you still have time to spare, the Santa Barbara Zoo is worth a visit. A relatively small zoo, the Santa Barbara Zoo is conservation-focused, and houses several unique animals despite its size.
Most notably, the zoo is very actively involved in California Condor conservation and is home to a captive breeding program, with many of these birds visible for visitors to admire. This may be the only place you ever see one of these huge condors!
In addition, there are a few Island Foxes, a species that are only found on the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara and have seen a great recovery since their listing on the endangered species list.
After only 12 years on the federal endangered species list, the population recovered enough to be removed from the list – the fastest de-listing ever of any mammal on the list!
Have a final blowout meal to finish your weekend in Santa Barbara
For dinner, stop by my favorite Santa Barbara restaurant of all-time: Los Agaves!
This restaurant has several locations, all equally good, and a wonderful selection of authentic Mexican dishes.
While waiting for your food, make sure to enjoy the salsa bar to pair with the complimentary tortilla chips. You can’t go wrong with anything you order here!
Finish your trip with an evening walk
An evening beach stroll is the perfect end to a Santa Barbara trip, and Butterfly Beach is an especially scenic place for an evening walk, lighted by the nearby Biltmore patio and enclosed by cliffs.
As you walk down the beach enjoying the evening light, don’t forget to start planning your next weekend in Santa Barbara!
Where to Stay for a Weekend in Santa Barbara
Accommodations in Santa Barbara are not cheap, but the Eagle Inn in West Beach (a 10-minute walk from central Santa Barbara) offers some of the best value just a short walk from the ocean!
For a little more luxury, the Santa Barbara Inn is a beautiful, chic boutique hotel with beachfront access and its own pool, also located in West Beach.
There are also other areas of Santa Barbara you could look at, like Goleta or Montecito.
Pin This Guide to a Weekend in Santa Barbara
Abby Conner loves rugged mountain peaks, old-growth forests, and ferns. She spends as much time as she can outside hiking, camping, climbing, and identifying native plants. Abby firmly believes the West Coast is the Best Coast of the U.S. and denies she could place any of the states east of the Mississippi on a map. After moving around the Western U.S., she is glad to be back in Seattle. Follow her adventures at her blog Cedar Peaks & Trees and on Instagram.