11 Amazing Day Trips from Santa Barbara

Are you visiting Santa Barbara for a few days or perhaps you live there? Of course there are plenty of wonderful Santa Barbara activities to experience but maybe you want to explore things to do near Santa Barbara. Take a look at our list for amazing weekend getaways and day trips from Santa Barbara.

Amazing Day Trips from Santa Barbara

Hiking trails, wineries, beaches and cute California towns are just some of the places to visit near Santa Barbara. Go kayaking, see elephant seals, go rock climbing or go shopping.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is just a little over an hour drive making it a fantastic day trip from Santa Barbara. You’ll find a cute little town, nice harbor and of course the famous Morro Rock on the beach. Take a long leisurely stroll on the sand and then grab a meaty meal at Brickhouse BBQ.

Are you into rock climbing? Then check out Cabrillo Peak just south of Morro Bay.

Los Olivos & Santa Ynez Valley

Love wine? Then take a day to explore the Santa Ynez valley and the wineries near Santa Barbara. Visit a few wineries and be sure to drop into charming Los Olivos, which was once a stagecoach stop. Maybe even turn the day trip into an overnight adventure by staying at the Fess Parker Inn in Los Olivos. Check here for rates and availability. Or  take look at these other Santa Barbara wine country hotels to sleep among the grapevines.

Visiting the vineyards is one of the more popular Santa Barbara activities for couples. My favorite wineries to visit in the Santa Ynez valley include Sanford, Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Foxen. And when in Los Olivos you should definitely eat at Sides Hardware & Shoes.

Don’t have a designated driver? There are plenty of guided tours available with transportation included. Here are a few we’ve found:

Montana de Oro State Park

I think this is one of the prettiest parks in California. Take a leisurely walk along the cliffs and watch the waves crash on the rocks. Or head inland for hilly hikes with spectacular coastal views. You can camp in the park too if you’d like to enjoy the surroundings a bit longer.


Go to Scandinavia on a day trip! Solvang is a kitschy cute town with fun Danish style architecture and charming restaurants, hotels, bakeries and shops. It might look like Disney built it but it was actually a community of Danes who were searching for sunnier climates. Stop by Mortensen’s Bakery for pastries to fuel your road trip.

Solvang also offers places to stay near Santa Barbara that can be less expensive than lodgings in the city. Take a look at Mirabelle Inn or Hotel Corque.


Ojai is a fun little town that is thought to have good spiritual energy. Grab a healthy lunch at Food Harmonics or Hip Vegan and check out Meditation Mount. Yes, you’ll find new age shops and vegetarian restaurants but you can also go to the gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn for a round of golf or a visit to the spa. Stay the night in a room with a fireplace. Check here for rates and availability. You can also taste wine at The Ojai Vineyard or wander olives groves at Ojai Olive Oil Company. (creative names in Ojai, eh?)

Nearby State Parks

Santa Barbara is surrounded by fantastic state parks that offer wonderful hiking opportunities that make the perfect Santa Barbara weekend getaway. Explore rocky beaches at El Capitan State Beach or check out the caves at Gaviota State Park. You can even go kayaking at Refugio State Beach.

Pismo Beach

Did you know that Pismo Beach’s motto is “Clam Capital of the World”? This sleepy little beach town is filled with vintage motels and shops and a long sand beach that used to be famous for clam harvests. Go for a seafood meal at the Oyster Loft.

From October to March check out the migrating Monarch butterflies at Pismo State Beach or explore the Oceano dunes. If you’d like something a little faster, you can race across the sand dunes in dune buggy!

San Luis Obispo

A laid back university town, San Luis Obispo is relaxed but still lively. Wander the downtown area and go for lunch at one of the terrific restaurants or go for a hike in the surrounding hills to Bishops Peak.

Just south of San Luis Obispo you’ll see the famous Madonna Inn which could be an interesting place to stop and take a look or even spend the night. Check here for rates and availability and to see photos of the crazy themed rooms.

Channel Islands

An island escape sounds good doesn’t it? Head out to the Channel Islands National Park on a weekend or day trip from Santa Barbara to kayak, explore tide pools and hike. On a clear day you can see the Channel Islands from the city of Santa Barbara.

The Channel Islands are some of the best places to visit near Santa Barbara if you enjoy nature and adventure. Grab a boat ride across the water with Island Packers or go on a guided adventure tour.

Learn more about visiting Catalina and the Channel Islands here.

Los Padres National Forest

If you love to hike, head to Los Padres National Forest. There are two sections – the larger one is just inland from Santa Barbara and encompasses forests, mountain peaks and tons of trails. To get your blood pumping, hike the 7 miles round trip Jesusita trail to Inspiration Point. The National Forest website has many other regional day hikes and backpacking routes as well.

The second section lies along the gorgeous Big Sur coastline.

Big Sur

Perhaps a bit far for a day trip, the Big Sur area begins about three or four hours drive north of Santa Barbara. The southern part closest to Santa Barbara has plenty to see. Check out the elephant seals just south of San Simeon along the way. To read more about visiting Big Sur click here for our guide.

I hope this list of things to do near Santa Barbara helps you plan amazing day trips. Be sure to check out our Santa Barbara travel guide too for even more things to do around Santa Barbara. We share tips for getting around, lots of ideas for Santa Barbara tours & activities as well as places to stay. And don’t miss our guide to exploring Central California too!


Where to stay near Santa Barbara? Take a look at some of our tips above, or compare area lodgings on Hotels Combined for the best rates.

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