Sun, Surf & Sand: 10 Best Beaches in Santa Barbara

If you live in Santa Barbara, we're 100% sure that you have a favorite beach. And we're also pretty sure that you're going to be mad at us, because we've probably put your beach on this list. And now everyone will know. So for that, we apologize. 

BUT we can give you two good reasons why we did it:

  1. We want our readers to experience the very BEST that Santa Barbara has to offer. 
  2. You live where people vacation. We think people should be seriously jealous of you. 

So this list of the 10 best beaches is a pretty good start. Whether you're looking for a quiet place to sunbathe or a fun spot to BBQ, we've got you covered. Stop by Butterfly for the best views (we mean bikinis and celebs, not necessarily natural wonders) or pack a picnic and hit spacious Santa Claus Beach with the whole family. 

No matter where you go, don't forget the sunscreen! Beaches here aren't known to be shady, but many have great restaurants you can duck into if you start to overheat. 

Santa Barbara


Constantly busy, Leadbetter Beach is a favorite with college kids and young people, who flock to it for surfing, swimming and tanning. They also enjoy socializing on the beach and picnicking on adjacent grassy expanses. Built-in grills are...  Read More



Of course everyone knows (and goes to) Butterfly Beach in Montecito. It's great for celebrity sightings and showing off your best bikini. But for a more exclusive Montecito beach experience, head to Hammond's. This stretch of shore is pretty...  Read More

Santa Barbara


A Santa Barbara leisure-time favorite, this busy beach offers recreational opportunities in spades. A children's playground, rollerblading trails, food vendors, picnic facilities, a bathhouse, showers and open lawns hint at the amenities....  Read More



No matter what you like to do when you get to the beach, you'll find it here. Less busy than the downtown beaches, Goleta beach has every amenity, including free parking. There are horseshoe pits, picnic tables, barbecues, volleyball courts and...  Read More



The fact that we're writing about this beach at all might make a lot of Santa Barbara locals kind of mad. You see, this particular stretch of sand is a best kept secret. To access it, you have to walk down about one million stairs tucked in...  Read More



A lovely beach just 10 minutes or so south of Santa Barbara with wide shores and an easy, shallow ocean entrance. Usually not too crowded, Summerland Beach is located just below Lookout Park. There's a great picnic spot, playground and showers...  Read More



Applauded by "Dr. Beach" for its beauty and quality, Carpinteria also finds approval with visitors, who love the calm waters that result from a protective reef. Swimming is safe for adults and little ones, and the beach is great for sand play,...  Read More



Arroyo Burro Beach might be what the guidebooks and websites say, but locals know this beach by another name: Hendry's. This is THE place to go if you have a dog. The whole beach welcomes our four-legged friends, but the left side of the beach...  Read More

Santa Claus Beach
Photo courtesy of Leah Schmidt


A local favorite, Santa Claus Beach is one of Santa Barbara's best kept secrets. Made up of a wide stretch of soft white sand, Santa Claus is actually located in Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town just a short drive (or long bike ride!) from...  Read More



You won't find much in the way of amenities at this lovely beach, which is a bit ironic considering that it's across the street from the esteemed Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara. Nevertheless, the sweep of sand is ideal for lying...  Read More


Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva