Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Luckily Santa Barbara has as many healthy activities as noteworthy restaurants. From surfing, stand-up paddling, to running and hiking, my time in Santa Barbara always feels like a balance of calories in, calories out. Here’s what you should do while visiting Santa Barbara.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara


There are endless hikes throughout Santa Barbara’s diverse landscape. Want a view of the ocean? A mountain to summit? Critters to spy? Yes, there’s those elements and so much more. With its five miles of trails, excellent trekking can be done at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. This living museum is lush with native plants and birds. It’s even possible to spot deer and coyotes. Bringing with it stone steps, a wooden bridge, and a tree-filled canyon is Goleta’s Nojoqui Falls Park. Just waiting to delight here: an 80-foot waterfall. Go for the adrenaline rush of Cathedral Peak with its towering boulders that rank for class 3 rock climbing. 


For almost 23 years, Santa Barbara Surf School’s instructors have made wannabe surfers’ dreams of hanging 10 come true on Mondos Beach. Available to all skill levels, the 1.5-hour classes are offered on a private or group basis.


Catch sight of kayakers along the American Riviera, and the desire to join in will come on. Go for it! Santa Barbara Kayaking offers three kayaking tour options: Harbor Wildlife Kayak Tour (easy; 10am, 11am; from 1.5 to 2 hours), Gaviota Coast Kayak Tour from Haskell’s Beach (easy to moderate; 9:30am to 12:30pm; 2.5 hours), and the Sunset Kayak Tour on Santa Barbara Harbor (easy to moderate; 2.5+ hours) with a start based on time of year.

Coronado Butterfly Preserve

495 Coronado Dr, Goleta

This 9.3-acre property along Devereux Creek includes woodlands, coastal bluffs, and meadows, landscapes appealing to humans and butterflies alike. Especially the Goleta Butterfly Groves, ideal for over-wintering Monarchs. Catch them during their migration period November through February.


Love museums? Santa Barbara’s got this territory covered. Especially the Santa Barbara’s Museum of Natural History, with exhibits dedicated to geology, astronomy (yep, there’s a planetarium here, too), anthropology, paleontology, and, of course, creatures great and small. Head to Stearns Wharf to check out the adjunct Sea Center for a glimpse of the area’s marine life. Prefer art or history? Pop into downtown’s Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the historic El Pueblo Viejo District’s Santa Barbara Historical Museum. 

Photo: Courtesy of Jay Sinclair

Old Mission Santa Barbara

This 1786-founded Franciscan mission is one of the 21 missions along California’s Historic Mission Trail. Take a self-guided tour of the property, which includes a museum, cemetery, mausoleum, and 12 acres of historic gardens. Highly recommended: pack a picnic to enjoy in the rose garden.

The Funk Zone

This eclectic area just off the beach has affectionately become known as the “drunk zone” due to its plethora of wine tours (don’t miss the self-guided Urban Wine Trail’s 20+ stops) and tasting rooms. Beyond imbibing, there’s plenty to see and do, from taking in art ranging via murals and galleries, popping into shops to pick up great buys from local artisans, and savoring cuisine that will trigger return trip cravings.

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our Santa Barbara page for more!

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