3 days in Santa Barbara
Where to stay
Kimpton Goodland: Located in Goleta, the neighboring town to Santa Barbara, Kimpton Goodland is both affordable and classy with an eclectic, surf inspired design. Also houses the Outpost, a delicious and modern seafood restaurant that’s a local favorite.
- Grab a coffee and croissant at the best coffee joint in town, and among the top 10 in California — Handlebar Coffee Roasters. Started in 2011 by two professional cyclists who share a passion for cafe culture and coffee roasting, this hole in the wall cafe quickly grew its reputation for quality and has expanded to two locations. Outdoor seating available.
- If you want to do a hike during your stay, Inspiration Point is the quintessential one to do. This 3 mile out-and-back journey reveals a panoramic vista of the city and the Pacific. There’s incline, shade and beautiful fauna – meant for those who want to burn some calories and a fun hike to do with friends.
- La Super-rica Taqueria has been a Santa Barbara staple forever, and won acclaim after Julia Child said it was her favorite restaurant in SB when she retired here. Typically fans line up and wait their turn to devour delicious tacos and tamales (wait well worth it). Tortillas and guacamole are made fresh. Insider tip: try their specials which rotate daily and include vegetarian options. Outdoor seating available.
- Butterfly beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area (neck and neck with Arroyo Burro beach). Located in the neighboring town of Montecito, this is a great spot to chill at and sunset watch. Dolphin and seal sightings are common, and dogs are welcomed.
- Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro has hands down the best croissants, omelets and pastries in the area. Authentically French, simple and delicious, and popular among locals. Coffee is so so but the quality of the food makes up for it. Outdoor seating available.
- There are plenty of bike rental shops in town. A solid one is E-Bikery, family owned and offers e-bikes at an affordable price. While a regular bike is fine to use, Santa Barbara is on a slope so the e-bike can come in handy if you want to cover a lot of terrain in one day. Bike to the Santa Barbara waterfront which has a dedicated bike path that you can take for ~4 miles (the road next to the waterfront also has bike lanes). Along this path, stop by a few beaches as well as Stern’s Wharf and the Santa Barbara Harbor.
- Grab a beer at the excellent Third Window Brewing Co. They offer Third Window beers, local guest taps and non alcoholic options, as well as respectable nosh. Plenty of outdoor seating in a beautiful cabin-like milieu.
- Check out the Santa Barbara Mission, which just celebrated its bicentennial, as well as Rose Garden (right across the street from the Mission) and check out a beautiful, historical spot. Then head to the Santa Barbara Courthouse for incredible Spanish architecture and potentially see a wedding party or two. The courthouse is near State Street, the downtown strip with many shops and food options to check out.
- Vegans and Middle Eastern food lovers flock to Mesa Verde. Their Syrian inspired fare is full of color and flavor. Outdoor seating available.
- Get brunch at Scarlet Begonia. A favorite spot of the Barefoot Contessa, each dish is thoughtfully crafted – from homemade cinnamon rolls and biscuits, to shrimp and grits, to lemon ricotta pancakes.
- Rent kayaking or paddle boarding gear at the Paddle Sports Center and set out from the Santa Barbara Harbor. Santa Barbara offers tremendous aquatic life, from dolphins and seals to herons and pelicans, which you can see up close. Because Santa Barbara’s coastal line faces south, not west, the waters are also calmer.
- Stop by On The Alley for some fresh, delicious fish tacos, located right next to the Santa Barbara Fish Market right on the harbor.
- Grab a glass of wine at Municipal Winemakers. They offer a variety of interesting reds and whites in a hipster, warehouse vibe. Located in the “funk zone” an area of town with art galleries and wineries.
- There are a number of high quality French restaurant in Santa Barbara, but Stella Mare wins for its beautiful, romantic and secluded ambiance. Nestled a few minutes away from downtown and near a wetland preserve.
- Alternative option: Another staple of Santa Barbara for any seafood lover is the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. right on Stern’s Wharf. Pair freshly caught crab, lobster and mussels with an oceanfront view.
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Photo credits: Butterfly Beach (Photographer: OC Gonzalex; Source: Unsplash), Handlebar Coffee Roasters (Source: Yelp), Super-rica Taqueria (Source: Yelp), Third Window Brewing (Source: Yelp), Santa Barbara Mission and Rose Garden (Source: Wikimedia, Niranjan Arminius), Santa Barbara Shellfish Co (Source: Yelp)