Best Beachfront Dining in Santa Barbara

Beachfront restaurants in Santa Barbara: See food with a sea breeze

They say that sea air really works up an appetite. We're not so sure about the science behind it, but if the number of restaurants dotting the Santa Barbara coastline is any indication, this seems like a valid conjecture.

For any proper beach bum who doesn't want to leave the sand, getting hungry can be a drag. Do you have to put on actual clothes? And possibly even shower? Or do you pack a picnic and let it sit for hours while you build sandcastles? Eat soggy sandwiches and warm, wilted salads?

No, thank you very much. In Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas, there are plenty of places to grab a bite in sight of the shore. You may not even have to put on pants to do so. Isn't that great?

For the most casual dining experience, dust the sand off and order at the walk-up counter of The Spot, a century-old burger shack across the street from Carpinteria Beach. Or, if you're feeling fancy, make a dinner reservation and take a date to The Boathouse, a secluded seafood restaurant on one of Santa Barbara's most scenic shores.

Looking for something in between? Just consult this list. We'll steer you in the right direction!


The Shoreline Cafe is one of the very few places in Santa Barbara where you can sit at a table and be served breakfast, lunch or dinner with your feet in the sand - right on the beach! Order some fish tacos and a cocktail or bucket of Coronas and watch the waves. The Shoreline is family and group friendly, but be prepared for a wait at peak eating times on warm days. Tables on the sand usually have the longest wait, but there are patio and bar seats too. There is also a walk-up window with a limited menu for shakes and to-go bites. Paid and free parking in the lot right out front.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: The Shoreline Beach Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner AND HAS TABLES RIGHT ON THE SAND! That's pretty special around here.

Geneva's expert tip: Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 until 6. You can get a margarita and a fish taco for less than $20 (and still have cash left to tip).

Read more about Shoreline Beach Cafe →

Padaro Beach Grill
Photo courtesy of Padaro Beach Grill

Is there a more charming beachfront restaurant location in Santa Barbara County? We don't think so. Overlooking Santa Claus beach, a local favorite, the Padaro Beach Grill boasts a park-like outdoor dining room that's ideal for day dates and impromptu gatherings. Enjoy fresh salads, savory burgers and sinfully rich milkshakes that are blended by hand only after you place your order. A large sandbox encourages the kiddos to play while grown-ups indulge in refreshing beers and local wines. Try the shrimp salad or the prime burger. Live bands have been known to play on the weekends. Free (but often crowded) parking right out front.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Enjoy a delicious lunch in a park-like setting with an unbroken view of the Pacific. Ideal for families with kids.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the fresh shrimp and avocado salad paired with local white wine (while your little ones play in the sandbox).

Read more about Padaro Beach Grill →

Santa Barbara
Costa Kitchen & Bar
Photo courtesy of Mar Monte Hotel

Well this is a treat! After years of a culinary black hole close to the zoo, Costa in the freshly remodeled Mar Monte Hotel is serving up local fare with a heavy dose of flavor. The new menu features rich coastal Italian cuisine infused with Middle Eastern influences. Start with a cocktail and some roasted market carrots in a meyer lemon yogurt before tucking into a whole roasted branzino topped with green olive salsa, paired with local wine. The dining room is gorgeous, but it's hard to beat the patio that overlooks the ocean. No time for a multi-course meal but still want a tasty nibble? Pop in during Golden Hour every Wednesday through Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with special deals on select beverages and appetizers to enjoy while taking in the beautiful Santa Barbara sunset.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Costa is one of the newest beachfront restaurants in town. It's worth a trip in just to see the lovely space.

Geneva's expert tip: Reserve a patio table, and you'll be seated directly across from East Beach. Watch sailboats drift by while you enjoy Chef Planter's menu.

Read more about Costa Kitchen & Bar →

Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama / Datsu Films

For a totally indulgent, totally scrumptious meal (with an unparalleled ocean view), look no further than Caruso's at the Rosewood Miramar Beach. Chef Massimo's perfectly plated seasonal dishes use the highest quality ingredients sourced from neighboring farmers, fishermen and ranchers. The prix fixe menu includes four courses that change often; there's a vegan prix fixe option too. Choose from an extensive selection of hyperlocal and international wines and handcrafted cocktails to pair with your meal. Caruso's was recently added to the Michelin Guide, making it one of an exclusive handful of Central Coast restaurants to achieve that distinction. Fun note: Caruso's has a "Casual Elegance" dress code. If you've been wanting an excuse to dress for dinner, this might be it.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Although not directly on the sand, this ultra-posh dining spot will blow you away with both the food and the view!

Geneva's expert tip: Arrive early for your reservation so you can enjoy a drink or appetizer at the beach bar before dinner. The view is incredible!

Read more about Caruso's →

Convivo is located at the Santa Barbara Inn, across the street from East Beach. The Italian-inspired menu is rich in Central Coast ingredients. In addition to beautiful food, this restaurant serves up large, healthy doses of fresh ocean air. Convivo specializes in shareable plates that change daily with what's in season. The Italian-leaning menu includes wood-fired pizza, grilled seafood that's often locally caught, house-made pasta and farm-fresh vegetables. To complement the food, there's a beverage menu complete with spritzes, negronis and, of course, vino. Very scenic, incredible menu, wine on tap, sunny patio, lots of free parking... are you on your way yet? Did we mention they serve brunch too?

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: If you want to enjoy an oceanfront happy hour or brunch with above-average food and drinks, Convivo is your spot!

Geneva's expert tip: While the menu changes weekly –" even daily –" depending on what's fresh at the farmer's market, the most popular dish since day one is the Charcoal Avocado.

Read more about Convivo →

Flor De Maiz
Photo courtesy of Flor De Maiz

If you're looking for fresh Mexican food with a view of the sea, this is the place! Think of Flor De Maiz as the fancier, more sophisticated sister of local favorite Los Agaves. Sure, she has tacos, but hers are stuffed with lobster and Angus steak. Yes, she has ceviche, but hers is served in a young coconut for extra drama. Of course you can get a margarita, but it will be made with Patron. Flor de Maiz celebrates the innovative cuisine of Oaxaca in a fun and lively atmosphere. There's an open kitchen, wraparound bar and sunny patio that's right across from the beach. While takeout is available, you'll get the best experience if you eat there. But be warned: it gets busy (especially on Friday and Saturday nights) so be prepared to wait!

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Looking for a meal that feels like a getaway? This is your destination. Enjoy expressive Mexican food and delicious cocktails with an ocean view.

Geneva's expert tip: Weekends can be really busy (and parking is hard to come by), so try going during happy hour from Monday - Thursday from 2-5 p.m.

Read more about Flor De Maiz →

Santa Barbara

The Boathouse is a Santa Barbara seafood restaurant with one of the best beach locations around. Tucked away in a quiet part of town and facing Hendry's beach, this is a great place to go for a romantic date, family dinner or birthday celebration. Enjoy fresh surf and turf on a beautiful patio that's sunny during the day and nicely heated at night. Local seafood is served as available. Santa Barbara catches include spiny lobster and Dungeness crab. Brunch, lunch and dinner served daily. Happy hour is from 3-6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. First come, first served (reservations not accepted). Parking is free, but the lot does get crowded.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Come for the food, stay for the beach. The Boathouse is situated on one of the prettiest beaches in Santa Barbara.

Geneva's expert tip: Happy hour lasts from 3 - 6 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday. It's the perfect place to enjoy a sunset cocktail.

Read more about Boathouse →

The Spot
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Located just past the train tracks on Linden Avenue, mere steps from the beach, is The Spot: a trusty little shack of a restaurant that all the locals know. Serving up delicious burgers and fries for more than 100 years, The Spot is Carpinteria's go-to for a quick, filling bite. The surprisingly vast menu also includes veggie burgers, Mexican specialties and fish n' chips. There's no dress code so come in your bikini or trunks if you please. There is seating outside OR you can just walk across the street to the park or beach for an impromptu picnic! A can't-miss "spot" in Santa Barbara.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Want a burger? No problem. Nachos? You got it. Fish and chips? The Spot has you covered! An awesome beachside shack with something for everyone.

Geneva's expert tip: Order a milkshake, any milkshake for a cold, creamy treat. Our pick is banana - it's made with fresh bananas instead of that artificial flavoring.

Read more about The Spot →

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this! (And you can't get any closer to the ocean.) At the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, you can pick your lunch right out of the tanks. Established in 1980, this tiny restaurant on the pier began as a shellfish shop before popular demand (and secret family recipes) transformed it into the bustling eatery it is today. Their menu includes all types of shellfish but live abalones, crabs and lobsters - many locally sourced - are the real stars. Draft beer pairs nicely with a bread bowl of chowder on a cold or foggy day. There is bar seating inside, table seating outside and even a walk-up window for to go orders. First come, first served.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Fresh shellfish, no fluff. The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company serves amazing oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, lobsters and abalone.

Geneva's expert tip: In a hurry or part of a large group? Place your order at the walk-up window on the side of the building and then find a seat on the pier or take your grub to go!

Read more about Santa Barbara Shellfish Company →

Santa Barbara
Brophy Bros.
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Unbeatable harbor views, fresh seafood and the happy noise of a jolly crowd combine to make Brophy Bros. irresistible, even at a distance. Bustling and busy, Brophy's serves up some of the city's most coveted clam chowder, along with awesome garlic baked clams and hefty portions of cioppino. Fresh, grilled fish is also a fine choice, along with a host of other fresh-from-the-sea options. Grab a table on the patio overlooking the water for the most memorable experience. These are the best seats, even on wet, gloomy days when they pull down the transparent siding to protect you from the elements. Arrive early because weekend waits can be well over an hour.

Recommended for Beachfront Dining because: Brophy Bros. serves fresh seafood with an unparalleled view of the harbor. They have the best Bloody Mary in town, too.

Geneva's expert tip: Like clams? Get the garlic baked clams. Cooked with breadcrumbs and dijon and topped with bacon, there's nothing else like them in town.

Read more about Brophy Bros. →


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