Planning a Southern California beach vacation? Carve out time to see the best beaches in Santa Barbara, California. With all the beautiful stretches of sand around this seaside city, it might be hard to choose a favorite, but it will be well worth your time to try!
Just west of the Los Padres National Forest and north of Los Angeles lies Santa Barbara, California. Its sun-filled, sandy beaches are protected by the Channel Islands, just off the coast. You can find everything under the sun, from surfing and swimming to beach volleyball and kayaking.
Are you ready to get outdoors, get some vitamin D, and enjoy some sand and sea? Then plan your trip to the most beautiful Santa Barbara beaches!
Looking for more vacation ideas? Check out all our other beach guides and our California Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Top-rated Santa Barbara beaches
Feeling the urge for a picnic complete with grilled hamburgers and hotdogs on the beach? Leadbetter Beach is the go-to spot for all ages who want to enjoy a good meal in the sunshine.
Leadbetter Beach is known for its calm waters. One of the most sheltered of Santa Barbara’s beaches, it’s a beginner surfer’s spot and an ideal beach for swimming.
In addition to the food and fun, don’t forget to hike up to Shoreline Park. At Shoreline Park, you’ll find the vistas of not just the ocean waves, but the surfers, Channel Islands, and even migrating whales passing by.
Goleta Beach Park
Goleta Beach Park is more than just a beach. This Santa Barbara hotspot includes bike trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more. Maybe try your hand at one of the horseshoe pits.
The waves are gentle at Goleta Beach. Swimming is popular here, along with calm water boating options. Dogs are also allowed; just be sure to keep them on a leash and pick up after them.
You can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and other water sports equipment right on the beach. There’s even a long pier for fishing. Bring the family along for a full day of fun activities at Goleta Beach Park.
Think Butterfly Beach has its name because it’s full of butterflies? Think again. No one really knows why this stretch of sand is named for butterflies, but don’t expect to see any upon visiting.
Butterfly Beach may just be named so because of how beautiful the beach is: just like a butterfly. Situated in the ritzy and glamorous Montecito neighborhood, the beach is surrounded by five-star luxury resorts and celebrity residences. Take a walk along the thin strands of soft sand or up along the bordering walkway in the footsteps of fame.
Visit at low tide for long walks on the beach, let your dog run in the surf, or simply gaze at a beautiful Butterfly Beach sunset.
One of Santa Barbara’s central beaches, East Beach is a beach volleyball player’s dream. There are many nets to practice your game. There are also tournaments often held so both players and spectators alike can enjoy the game.
In addition to volleyball, East Beach also hosts a local art fair on the promenade every Sunday. For the kids—or kids at heart—Skater’s Point skate park is also located near the promenade.
Worried about parking? East Beach connects to several other pristine beaches in central Santa Barbara via the Cabrillo Bike Path, one of the top Santa Barbara attractions.
Didn’t bring your bike? No problem. Bike rentals are available, along with other water sports equipment.
Just across from Cabrillo Boulevard, you’ll find another one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara: West Beach. With a hive of people coming and going, West Beach attracts activity seekers and beach loungers alike.
From the shoreline, watch as sailboats dot Santa Barbara Harbor and paddleboarders navigate through the water. Volleyball nets are a dime a dozen at this popular Santa Barbara beach, and Skater’s Point skate park is just a short skate away.
Up on the boulevard, you can find interesting shops and boutique hotels. Cafes also line the street to satisfy those mid-afternoon cravings. And for those who are health-conscious among us, jogging and biking are popular Cabrillo Boulevard activities.
1000 Steps Beach
Don’t let the name of 1000 Steps Beach intimidate you. There really aren’t that many steps; it just feels like it. In fact, only about 150 concrete steps lie between the parking area, high above on the bluffs, and your Santa Barbara beach adventure below.
Hiding under the bluffs, the rocky and sandy beach invites explorers more than sunbathers. At low tide, the sand is exposed for walking or jogging. There are also tide pools to discover and investigate.
If nothing else, 1000 Steps Beach could offer you the perfect stairs workout and an unpopulated beach to run. If your dog also requires a good workout, 1000 Steps Beach is dog-friendly, even off-leash.
Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
Don’t wish to hike 150 steps to let your dog run amok? Then head to Arroyo Burro Beach Country Park. There’s a specific off-leash portion of the beach in the Douglas Family Reserve. Everywhere else though, Fido must be kept on a leash.
Arroyo Burro Beach, also known as Hendry’s Beach, is an expansive white sand beach with quintessential palm trees. It’s a perfect spot for sea life spotting and beach lounging.
Surfers and paddleboarders also enjoy the ocean waters. One of the top Santa Barbara day trips, Hendry’s Beach is a favorite beach for surfers in Santa Barbara County.
Want to get outside the city limits? Summerland Beach is a short 10-minute drive south of Santa Barbara. It’s close enough for an easy getaway and far enough to enjoy a less touristy and more tranquil time at the beach.
Adjoining Summerland Beach is Lookout Park. All your favorite summertime activities are there, including volleyball, picnic areas, and kids’ playgrounds.
Why is it worth it to make the trip? If you’ve ever wanted the ubiquitous horseback ride along the ocean’s edge at sunset, then you must visit Summerland Beach. In addition to horses, dogs are also welcome on the sand. Bring the whole family for a relaxing day trip just south of Santa Barbara.
Carpinteria State Beach
Interested in camping on the beach? Carpinteria State Beach has RV and tent sites available. Just a short drive south of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria is a charming town with a family-friendly atmosphere.
During the day at Carpinteria State Beach, you can explore the tide pool or go surf fishing. The water and its gentle waves are also safe for swimming, paddle boarding, and body surfing. If you plan your California itinerary during the migrating season, whale watching can also be a top-list activity.
Labeled as one of the world’s safest beaches, Carpinteria State Beach is a truly family-friendly destination.
Montecito has more than one beautiful beach. Miramar Beach is a perfect stretch of sand that beckons to beach strollers and beach-sunners the same.
Except for the boardwalk, you might misplace yourself on the sandy shores of Atlantic City. With the picket fences, sandy dunes, and thrush grasses, it’s no wonder why Miramar Beach is such a popular Santa Barbara County destination.
Leashed dogs are welcome, and the waters are perfect to surf and swim. A relaxing day wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Miramar Beach.
Can’t bear to leave? There’s an oceanfront hotel waiting to invite you for a true upscale beach experience.
Santa Claus Beach
Right down Santa Claus Lane lies Santa Claus Beach. Hidden away in Carpinteria, you might expect more visitors because of the name. But this white sand beach offers a nice bit of privacy in the local community.
Name notwithstanding, Santa Claus Beach has what most beaches do in California. Volleyball courts, paddleboard rentals, and surfing are all popular here.
Besides its unique name, the sand really sets this beach apart. It’s exceptionally soft. Going for a barefoot stroll or letting the sand cradle your body under your blanket are terrific ideas on Santa Claus Beach.
Mesa Lane Beach
Interested in finding a secret beach? That is what Mesa Lane Beach is for the locals: their best-kept secret.
You may have to ask for directions to find Mesa Lane Beach. The entrance is a long set of stairs mostly hidden between local residences. Once you find it and make the trek down, you’ll be rewarded with a picturesque perfect southern California beach.
Just don’t forget: You must also trek back up to leave. There are about 240 steps each way; it’s a good workout, but not for the faint of heart.
Local surfers enjoy the waves and sand. You won’t find any volleyball courts or picnic benches here; at high tide, the beach really is a hidden secret.
Loon Point Beach
Sometimes lost between the popular beaches of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, Loon Point Beach can feel like your own private beach. Bordered by high, steep cliffs, it feels secluded and remote. It’s easy to access though. Highway 101 and a local rail line are both just past the sea cliff wall.
In the mood for a long walk? You can reach Loon Point Beach on foot from Lookout Park in Summerland.
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Most people visit Loon Point Beach just to take a dip in the ocean water or catch some rays on the beach. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this idyllic beach.
Jalama Beach County Park
Jalama Beach County Park is a one-stop resort of sorts. There are many ocean view campsites, fully equipped cabins, and RV sites. There’s also a fully stocked grocery store and shop for any forgotten camping supplies. They even have a restaurant on-site: The Grill.
Jalama Beach has stronger wind and waves than some of the other popular Santa Barbara beaches. All kinds of surfing are popular here, including windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Want to disconnect and get away from the hustle and bustle of work and city life? Book a trip to stay at Jalama Beach County Park and you’ll leave renewed and refreshed.
Rincon Point State Beach
Are you looking for an authentic surfing experience? Look no further than Rincon Point State Beach. If you’re interested in testing your skills against other surfers, every year Rincon Point hosts the Rincon Classic Surf Competition.
The beach is narrow and rocky, so most visitors don’t come for swimming and sunbathing. Instead, surfers flock to Rincon Point as it’s one of the most sought-after surfing spots on California’s Central Coast.
Rincon Beach Park sits on the north side of the beach and has well-kept day-use areas replete with picnic tables and restrooms. Here, you’ll also find plenty more sand to stroll.
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The area is also dog friendly. You’ll spot many dogs running off-leash through the surf and sand. It’s safe and secluded from the highway above by the beautiful Carpinteria cliffs.
Sands Beach is Santa Barbara’s college beach 101. Located just on the edge of the Isla Vista neighborhood, Sands Beach is a short distance from the city university. Usually filled with University of California Santa Barbara students, this is the go-to beach for all things college surf.
The breaks at Sands Beach are typically reliable and decent. You can head out into the waves and join the lines of classmen waiting for their break. The water here isn’t the cleanest and clearest, so the beach is most popular for surfers and those learning to surf.
Refugio State Beach
Just off Highway 101, Refugio State Beach is a perfect place to experience the California coastline. The park offers breathtaking campsite views and RV sites. This popular spot is so incredible that reservations are often made at least six months out! Plan accordingly.
Refugio State Beach has so much to offer. You can scuba and snorkel, hike, and bike. Guides are also available for kayak and nature trail tours.
The views from atop the cliffs are mesmerizing. The turquoise waters below will invite you to jump in for a quick swim or surf while palm trees hypnotize you as they sway in unison for as far as you can see.