Stairs leading down to the beach and Pacific ocean at Carpinteria State Beach, California.

7 of the Best Santa Barbara Beaches

Santa Barbara is called the “American Riviera”. This iconic beach town has all the Cali vibes with its own unique feel. Santa Barbara is best known for its broad, sandy beaches that appeal to a lot of different types of beachgoers, from surfers to dog walkers and swimmers to sunbathers. So, whatever type of beach you are looking for, you’ll find it here. Ready to dive in? Here are some of the best Santa Barbara beaches.

7 of the Best Santa Barbara Beaches

1. Arroyo Burro Beach

Known locally as Hendry’s Beach and located 10 minutes west of downtown Santa Barbara, this beach offers so much more than the usual sand and surf; the beach features on- and off-leash areas for dogs! If your dog is curious, they can explore the many rocky tide pools and go running in the surf. There’s also a self-serve dog wash, so you can de-beach your dog before they jump in the back of your car.

best santa barbara beaches

2. Butterfly Beach

Located in the picturesque village of Montecito, Butterfly Beach is a favourite among locals. The sweep of soft sand is ideal for a day of sunbathing, and the calm water is very popular for swimmers. Butterfly Beach is west facing meaning it is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset.

Top tip: Bring snacks, water, and sunscreen because this beach has no public facilities.

Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara California

3. Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach is located 10 minutes south of Santa Barbara. This beach is known as one of the safest in the country, making swimming safe for adults and little ones. So, as you can imagine, it is very popular with families. The area is beautiful with terraced bluffs, dune areas and a mile of beach for swimming, surf fishing, tidepool exploring and camping. 

Stairs leading down to the beach and Pacific ocean at Carpinteria State Beach, California.

4. Summerland Beach

Summerland Beach is located just below Lookout Park, 10 minutes or so south of Santa Barbara. Known for its laidback vibes, Summerland Beach is an idyllic spot for rest and relaxation. However, if you want to get active, you can saddle up and ride horseback. Summerland Beach is the only beach on Santa Barbara’s South Coast where people can go horseback riding on the beach.

A fisherman casting off. Summerland, California

5. Mesa Lane Beach

Mesa Lane Beach is a narrow beach below the cliffs, and due to its awkward access, you’ll usually just find locals hanging out here, with very few tourists. To access it, you must descend many stairs tucked between the private homes at the end of Mesa Lane. The beach is accessible during low tides for walking and sunbathing, but during high tides, it is mostly underwater.

Mesa Lane Beach Santa Barbara, California

6. Goleta Beach

Goleta Beach is located just east of the University of California, Santa Barbara campus. The 1,500-foot pier in Goleta Beach County Park is popular with fishermen and families out for a stroll. It also offers sweeping views of the Pacific coast. The beach also has plenty of amenities, for instance, horseshoe pits, picnic tables, barbecues, volleyball courts and kayak rentals.

Best Santa Barbara Beaches

7. Leadbetter Beach

Leadbetter Beach is a locals’ beach located just west of the harbour in Santa Barbara and right across the road from Santa Barbara City College. Therefore, expect to see lots of students sprawled out on the sand. People flock to this beach for some terrific surfing, swimming and sunbathing. It is also popular to have a barbecue as there are built-in grills and a grassy area perfect for a picnic.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA, USA - OCT 8th, 2014: city Leadbetter beach with a cruise liner

Melanie May

Melanie is an intrepid solo traveller, endlessly curious about people, places and food. She is a fan of slow travel and loves exploring the world by mouth, discovering a culture through its food. Having backpacked her way around the world she turned her wanderlust into a career and is now a full-time travel writer.

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