These 5 Beaches Are The Absolute Best Santa Barbara Has To Offer, According To Visitors

Santa Barbara, on California's Central Coast, is a treasure trove of adventure. The affluent city has a myriad of attractions suited for all travelers. History buffs can visit Old Mission Santa Barbara, established in 1786. Those who love nature will adore the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden which has endless meadows and a redwood forest. Furthermore, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art displays works by European, Mexican, and American artists, amongst others.


Of course, there are plenty of spots for foodies, too. One notable eatery is the La Super-Rica Taqueria, known for its affordable and delicious Mexican food. Downtown, the Santa Barbara Public Market is a paradise for food connoisseurs. This neighborhood is also where visitors will find countless boutiques, galleries, and more. This is all to say that Santa Barbara is a must-visit. Even better? It's only two hours away from Los Angeles, making it the perfect weekend getaway or stop along the road trip of your dreams

But alas, the crown jewel of Santa Barbara is none other than its spectacular beaches. With a 6-mile coastline, Santa Barbara's beaches are famed for their sereness and offering of outdoor activities. If you want to know which beaches to visit on your next trip to the American Riviera, you've come to the right place. We've searched high and low on websites like Tripadvisor, travel blogs, and more to present you with the top five best beaches in Santa Barbara.


Leadbetter Beach

Located just minutes from Downtown Santa Barbara, next to Shoreline Park, is Leadbetter Beach. It came in at number 10 on USA Today's list of Best Beaches of Santa Barbara. In addition, it's highly rated on Tripadvisor, with reviewers noting affordable parking and lovely scenery. One individual wrote, "Beach is wide with nice sand and swimming. We had seals playing in the ocean in front of us and one came up on the beach. Beautiful coastal views. Get there early for a nice spot. Very crowded on weekends." The beach also has typical amenities including restrooms and barbecue grills, and does not allow dogs.


Hungry beachgoers will be happy to learn that there is an onsite eatery steps away from the water. Shoreline Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their extensive menu includes everything from burgers to fish tacos and grilled salmon, with many items priced under $20. Reviewers on Tripadvisor rave about the restaurant's casualness and its epic views of Leadbetter Beach. The beach cafe opens at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday and at 8:00 a.m. Friday to Sunday.

Looking for something else to do nearby? Leadbetter Beach is a brief walk away from the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, which is kid-friendly and has historical artifacts and ship models on display. 

East Beach

A Santa Barbara getaway is incomplete without visiting East Beach. A short distance from downtown, it's adored by local bloggers with good reason. East Beach has it all for the perfect beach day including a bike path, playground, grassy areas, volleyball courts, restroom facilities, and ample parking. Dogs are not allowed on the sand. If you're interested in exploring the bike path or any other cycle trails Santa Barbara has to offer, head to nearby Wheel Fun Rentals. They provide everything from beach cruisers to Surrey bicycle rentals. In addition to its many amenities, East Beach is centrally located to several of Santa Barbara's attractions, only adding to its convenience for beachgoers.


For example, Stearns Wharf is adjacent to East Beach. It features several eateries including the highly-rated Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, gift shops, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Next to East Beach is Chase Palm Park, ideal for picnicking and for little ones, and the Santa Barbara Zoo is just around the corner. There are also several accommodation options located steps away from East Beach including the Santa Barbara Inn, Inn at East Beach, and the Mar Monte Hotel.

With all that said, East Beach came in at number eight on USA Today's Top 10 Best Beaches of Santa Barbara and number three on Tripadvisor's ranking of the top six best beaches of Santa Barbara. It was also named one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara by Celebrity Cruises. 


Butterfly Beach

Although Butterfly Beach is technically in nearby Montecito, it's only about a 10-minute drive or 20-minute bike ride from downtown Santa Barbara. Butterfly Beach is beloved by bloggers like Kessler Elsewhere and Wellness Travel Diaries. It also topped USA Today's Top 10 Best Beaches of Santa Barbara list and was named one of the Beat Beaches in Santa Barbara by Celebrity Cruises. This praise is well deserved; Butterfly Beach offers visitors seclusion and respite. In short, it's ideal for a scenic beachside stroll or for those who want to lounge on the sand all day.


One individual on Tripadvisor wrote, "This is a gorgeous white sand beach. Great for people watching. Surfers in the water and lots of dogs taking their people on walks, couples sitting on the wall picnicking." In addition, several reviewers say Butterfly Beach is a stunning spot to view the sunset. It's also a popular location to paddleboard and kayak. Visitors can rent equipment from Cal Coast Adventures located by East Beach.

However, there is a downside: visitors will not find bathrooms or a designated parking lot at the beach, and there is only street parking available. As mentioned above, Butterfly Beach is dog-friendly but furry friends must be leashed. Need food or snacks for your beach day? There's a Pavilions grocery store and sandwich shop a few minutes away at the Montecito Country Mart.


Arroyo Burro Beach County Park

Arroyo Burro Beach County Park, commonly known as Arroyo Burro Beach, clocks in at number one on Tripadvisor's top six best beaches of Santa Barbara and number three on USA Today's Top 10 Best Beaches of Santa Barbara. Notably, Arroyo Burro Beach is incredibly dog-friendly, and there is even a designated zone where furry friends can be off-leash. Imagine swimming or sunbathing while your furry friend has an adventure of their own. What's not to love about that? You can enjoy impressive cliffside views on a picturesque nature walk or hike along the Douglas Family Preserve, just next to the beach, where dogs can also be off-leash.


Arroyo Burro Beach is open from 8:00 a.m. until sunset, and visitors can access parking and restrooms. This beach also offers complimentary beach wheelchairs. However, you must contact the park reservations call center in advance to secure a free rental.

While there's lots to do here, make sure you have time to eat at Boathouse at Hendry's Beach. The popular upscale eatery is known for its seafood and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with ocean views. The establishment, which unfortunately does not allow dogs, is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. If you're wondering what to order, several reviewers on Tripadvisor say that the crab cakes are a must-have.

Thousand Steps Beach

If you're looking for a beach away from the hustle and bustle of Santa Barbara, Thousand Steps Beach is for you. As hinted by its name, there is a stairway visitors must walk down to reach the shore, but don't worry, the true count is only 157 steps. There are no restrooms at this dog-friendly beach, and street parking is limited. Keep in mind that this destination can be quite narrow at high tide and is best for a scenic walk or tide pooling. Nevertheless, this breathtaking cliffside beach is a sight to see. It's little wonder that Thousand Steps Beach was voted one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara by Tripadvisor and Celebrity Cruises.


One reviewer on Tripadvisor wrote, "This beach is so calm and beautiful. Perfect for a walk with the dog and very close friends. The steps down to the beach are the perfect entry to this place." They added, "Use caution going down the stairs when they are wet, they are very slippery." Others emphasized that the walk to and from the steep stairs is arduous but worthwhile.

Thousand Steps Beach is located next to Shoreline Park where you can find parking and restrooms available if needed. If you're looking for more things to do in Central California, know that it's considered the most underrated wine region in the state. You can also visit nearby Ventura, California's number one most affordable beach town.



We chose the Santa Barbara beaches mentioned above primarily based on rankings from Tripadvisor,USA Today, and Celebrity Cruises. However, we also compared these selections with posts published by travel bloggers like Kessler Elsewhere and Wellness Travel Diaries. Ultimately, this allowed us to narrow down our top five best beaches in the city. We included everything from hidden gems to Santa Barbara beach hot spots to further diversify our picks. This was to ensure that we included beaches suited for all visitors, including families, dog owners, and those who need a little R&R. Of course, amenities and nearby attractions were also considered.