If you’ve never been to Santa Barbara, California, you need to go! Here is a 4-day itinerary guide for 2019 that includes secluded beaches, romantic things to do in Montecito, dog friendly Butterfly Beach, which by the way, was named in CNN Travel Best Beaches, and so much more!
Santa Barbara is one of the most casual, fun, happening places you can go to.
Best of all, if you stay near the waterfront you can walk, bike or shuttle your way around. We barely used the car we drove in.
I will give you our day to day itinerary, and if duplicated, you will not be disappointed with your vacation.
With this itinerary you will go to Butterfly Beach, a Wine Tasting Tour and then best of all, finding the illusive 1,000 Steps Beach.
I planned this trip months before going, and implemented all I have learned from my past travels.
To see what I did to go about this vacation without a hitch, read my previous post How To Plan Activities And Save Money For Awesome Vacations.
This post contains affiliate links. Please see full disclosure for details.
Climate And Dress Code in Santa Barbara
Don’t dress up here. Everyone is very casual in shorts and t-shirts. I was a bit out of place as I love to wear colorful summer dresses.
Mismatch seems to be the theme…LOL…Needless to say, it’s very laid back.
The climate here is pretty temperate year round. In the springtime the low’s are in the high 40’s and highs, in the high 70’s.
Summer isn’t much different from Springtime with about 10 degrees higher on both ends.
Bring a light sweater for the evenings, or I carry a super light scarf in my purse to wrap around my shoulders for when I feel chilled.
Santa Barbara is a coastal town, so be sure to bring your bathing suit.
Also very important are comfy shoes. This is a very pedestrian friendly city and you can walk almost anywhere.
I always wear Reef Cushion Sandals. I don’t care where I go, whether it’s just here at home in Tucson, Arizona, or Barcelona, Spain, I’m wearing these shoes for walking. They are perfect for Santa Barbara, California!
Where To Stay In Santa Barbara
Day 1 – Friday – AirBnb Rental
Driving from Tucson, Arizona takes about nine hours to get to Santa Barbara, California, and needless to say we were tired by 2 pm when we arrived.
Seeing our Airbnb rental for the first time was definitely a welcome sight for me but not so much for my fiance, Jeremy. “Where’s the ocean?” he asked…LOL… He’s so used to me picking ocean front vacation rentals, and seeing a renovated old B&B was a disappointment to him.
Unless you stay at the Biltmore Four Seasons Resort, it’s very hard to find an ocean front place to stay if you’re on a budget in Santa Barbara.
There were many nice hotels like the Belmond El Encanto, The Hotel Californian and vacation rentals to choose from, but I want a place that is as close to the beach as possible plus we are on a budget. That’s when I found The Gallaher Room at The Old Yacht Inn Club. The beach is only a block away.
This place is an old building and somewhat renovated. The back patio is very welcoming with a nice place to lounge, drink a cup of coffee in the morning, or have a glass of wine in the evening.
The bed was plush and oh, so comfortable. The room was very clean too!
Jeremy scrutinized everything from the lopsided pretty sink to the “Tiny” TV to watch football on.
But let me tell you, by the end of our vacation we both fell in love with the room and will definitely stay there again. The historic charm grew on him!
Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara
After getting settled in, we ventured out to Stearns Wharf. We followed a walking guide map provided by the City of Santa Barbara which I printed out prior to coming here.
It was a 1.7 mile walk from our rental to Stearns Wharf, but walking along the waterfront was a sight to see.
Everything seems to be turned around here and it was hard to remember what direction we are going.
The ocean is to the South and if you’re standing on the entrance of the pier that leads to Stearns Wharf the left hand side is East and the right hand side is West.
So we follow the path west and to the left hand side is the beach ,and when you look to the right, there is large grassy areas with a bunch of palm trees.
There were people laying in hammocks tied to the trees, some were tight roping, or just sitting around enjoying the afternoon.
You will find a few homeless tent camps as the city of Santa Barbara seems to be very welcoming to all, even providing bathrooms where you can wash up at. If I was homeless, I’d stay here too!
Stearns Wharf has some nice little shops which include places to buy mementos, souvenirs and t-shirts. There are also several nice snack shops where you can buy candy and ice cream.
If you’re looking for nice places to have dinner, they also have several restaurants. One of them is the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. We didn’t get a chance to eat there as there was always a line. Must be good!
Where To Eat In Santa Barbara
By the time we return to our room we are exhausted and hungry even though it was only about 4:30 pm. Getting in our car, we head to State Street.
State street is the pathway to a lot of restaurants and shopping. It seems this is where everyone likes to hang out, and for good reason!
We had a hard time deciding where to eat as there is so much to choose from, but finally, we settle on Casa Blanca Restaurant and Cantina. The servings are plentiful and the food delicious!
Look at all that food. Yum!
Fun Things To Do In Santa Barbara
Day 2 – Saturday
When you stay at The Old Yacht Inn, the use of bicycles are complimentary. They have eight or so to choose from. If the place you are staying at doesn’t have any bicycles to use then there is are quite a few places to rent from.
This recreational vehicle rental place is right off of Cabrillo Blvd.
The bike path on the waterfront is the same as the walking path off the shoreline on Cabrillo Blvd that turns into Shoreline Drive. It is so much fun and the view amazing!
First we head west, towards Stearns Wharf, then we pass the Marina and it ends at Shoreline Park.
I love finding hidden beaches like I did when I went on my solo trip and found Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach, California. To see that post click here.
I have been seeing 1,000 Step Beach on Pinterest numerous times, but when I click on it, it never tells you how to get there. It has the spot on the walking path map and we kept looking for it , but never found it that day as the bike path ended. You can still walk further ahead, but you can’t take your bikes with you.
We decide to head back east past Stearns Wharf and into East Beach where there are a lot of people playing volley ball.
We keep going until shortly after East Beach, the bike path ends,.. or so we think.
We went back to our room and sat out in the patio where we drank our coffee and ate our leftovers from Casa Blanca from the night before for breakfast. There was so much food.
This place was really growing on us, such a delightful spot!
Santa Barbara Beaches
There are some wonderful beaches in Santa Barbara. After a little nap we decide to lay out at the beach and head to West Beach. The weather is sunny and just perfect.
As we are laying there, off in the distance, I can see this hotel and it intrigues me. And so on the way back we stop by and have a look.
It’s the Santa Barbara Inn just off of Cabrillo Blvd.
On the way back to the Old Yacht Inn where we ware staying, I stop to smell and admire the flowers.
It is so beautiful here in Santa Barbara, it kind of reminds me of Hawaii with all it’s flora and fauna.
Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara
3rd Day – Sunday Morning
I’ve heard so much about Butterfly Beach on Pinterest that today is the day to find it. From we can see on the Walking Path map and our experience yesterday, we decide not to take the bicycles as we saw that the bike path ended at East Beach.
To see the Butterfly Beach walking/biking path map, click hear.
As you’ll see on the map, in order to continue on the bike path you must cross Cabrillo Blvd from East Beach at Ninos Dr.
This path is very scenic as you’ll be passing an area with a pond called Andrea Clark Bird Refuge. Cross the street very carefully at Channel Drive and you’ll be on the path to Butterfly Beach. Here, you will also see the very old and quaint Santa Barbara Cemetery.
The path is uphill so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Up on a hill we find a beautiful large and ornate gate from which I take the opportunity for a photoshoot.
We took a lot more than one from which I made a GIF. You can see that here…LOL…I love making GIFs, its fun!
We also take an opportunity for a selfie of us lovebirds.
Keep going onward up the path, you will be amazed on how beautiful every step gets as you get closer to Butterfly Beach.
After two miles walking, we finally reach it. Butterfly Beach is absolutely breath taking!
The Biltmore Four Seasons Resort in Santa Barbara
Right across the street of Butterfly Beach is another beautiful landmark, The Biltmore Four Seasons Resort. If I had a lot of money, I would definitely stay here.
We decide to look around. Why not? We are right there!
First we tour the outside and find their rose garden.
I absolutely adore roses.
Then we wander to the main entrance.
Then into their restaurant.
Lovely resort indeed!
Anticipating the long walk, we head back. It’s a good thing it’s mostly downhill.
By the time we reached East Beach, we had walked 4 miles and we were hungry!
Cabrillo Bathhouse and East Beach Grill
This place was right in our path so we stopped in for breakfast.
The great thing about this restaurant that I love is that they are dog friendly and will allow you to have your dog at the table with you.
This is a nice stop, especially since we were famished!
3rd day – Sunday Afternoon
Jeremy is a sports fanatic and he needed to stay back at our Airbnb to watch football. I on the other hand, booked a wine tasting tour with Eat This, Shoot That. As it turns out, I was the only attendee which was fabulous as I got a one on one tour with Tara Jones Haaf, founder and big cheese of the company!
Let me take a moment and tell you how much that impressed me about Tara. Many businesses would have cancelled the tour if there was only one person who made reservations. Let me assure you though, that this tour is very popular as I see their posts on Facebook. There must have been other things going on that day, that it was only me. I cannot highly recommend this tour enough, this is a must do while in Santa Barbara, California.
Tara took me on the El Paseo Wine & Photo Shoot Tour through the historic Presidio neighborhood and the El Paseo courtyard where most of the wine tasting rooms are located. Not only did I get a lesson on wine and wine tasting, I also got to taste some yummy food and a history lesson of José de la Guerra, who was among Santa Barbara’s wealthiest and most influential citizens back in 1819 – 1827. Very interesting indeed!
Go with me on this tour:
Our first stop was the Brat Haus where we had a sampling of three different brats.
This is a blueberry dessert wine fortified with brandy. This is right up my alley, nice and sweet!
One of the best reasons to buy wine at Cebada Wine is that the wine maker, Sandy Newman, harvests the grapes early so that she doesn’t have to add acid or sulfites to the wine which causes headaches. The year on the bottle, is the harvest year.
You can check the age of the wine by looking at the edges of the wine in a glass.
This one is young as it is watery up the edges.
This one is older as it is darker red on the edge.
While we are here Tara taught me the Five S’s of wine tasting.
- Sight – If drinking white wine, hold the glass to natural light. Check to see the color. If it is yellowish gold or buttery, then the wine is aged in Oak not metal.
- Swirl – Swirl the wine in your glass. This is to mix the chemicals settled in the bottle by creating a hurricane vacuum and airing it out. This is obviously an art form, this swirling, because all I was doing was sloshing!…LOL
- Sniff – After uncorking, sniff the cork. If its dry, that means air entered in the bottle and has spoiled the wine.
- Sip – When you sip, be sure to suck in air as to hit the front and back of your palate.
- Savor – No explanation needed here.
Casa De La Guerra Museum
We head on to De La Guerra Street and into the Casa De La Guerra Museum. An old building with adobe walls and red tile roof. Built in 1818 to 1828 by José de la Guerra and was occupied until 1943 by his grandchildren.
If you would like to know more about the museum and the historic people involved, visit the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation website.
Now, more wine tasting at the:
El Paseo Courtyard
Jamie Slone Wine
Jamie Slone wines placed Runner-Up for Best Urban Tasting Room in the Santa Barbara Independent 2018 Readers’ Poll.
It definitely has a warm and casual atmosphere with friendly and attentive staff.
Margerum Wine Company
I enjoyed visiting Margerum Wine Company’s tasting Room very much. The gentleman there is friendly and takes the time to explain their wines to me. One most interesting piece of information is that their Sauvignon blanc was served at the White House during President Obama’s presidency. Definitely good wine.
Next we stop at C`est Cheese shop on Santa Barbara Street for some sampling. I have never been in a place with so much cheese. Upon entering, my mouth immediately start watering. Yum!
After having wine, cheese hit the spot and oh so delicious!
Grassini Family Vineyards
This is a beautiful tasting room with rustic reclaimed wood bar tops that permeates a rich and warm atmosphere.
Another thing Tara taught me was that many times when you have an expensive bottle of wine, it’s probably because of the style of the bottle. The deeper the bottom of the bottle curves in, called a punt, the more expensive it is.
Last but not least is:
Happy Canyon Vineyard
Wanna know why I love this tasting room so much? Chocolate. That’s right, when you come here they will serve you a small dish of dark chocolate with your wine. Awesome, isn’t it?
This adventure was definitely a fun filled afternoon. Thank you so much Tara Jones Haaf of Eat This, Shoot That. This tour is one of the highlights of my trip.
If you are ever in Santa Barbara, California, be sure to book this tour!
On the way home (I walked) I decided to do a bit of shopping on State Street and came upon this delectable dessert shop:
The Andersen Restaurant and Bakery
Everything looked amazing.
Thousands Steps Beach in Santa Barbara, California
4th Day – Monday
Not wanting to give up, I insist we take our bikes out again and find Thousands Steps Beach. I refuse to leave Santa Barbara without finding it!
Looking at the Shoreline walking/biking map again, I paid close attention to make sure we’re not missing anything.
Once again, we head west. We pass the Marina, Shoreline Park and that’s when the bike trail ends.
We get off our bikes and walk them to legitimize us going through the park. We pay close attention to the street signs, looking for Santa Cruz Street. We happen upon a nice couple going for a walk and ask them for directions,… but to no avail. They tell us that they hear it is no longer there, that it is washed out!
I was so disappointed! But, still not wanting to give up, I must see it for myself, we go forward on. Jeremy, my wonderful fiance, just went along with it and we continue our search.
Alas, we found it.
I was surprised to see that it was just a small side street with no signs welcoming us that we have finally found that which we seek.
We came to a chain link enclosure and there it is, the entrance to 1,000 Steps Beach. If you aren’t looking for it, you will never know to go around the corner and find this secret place.
We are ecstatic to finally find it that we must take a selfie for proof we were there!
We are now satisfied and can tell the tale that we have found 1,000 Steps Beach!
Santa Barbara Scavenger Hunt Adventure
That same day we participate in a fantastic activity that I think everyone should do when you’re in an unfamiliar city. A Scavenger Hunt!
This is a Groupon deal I found prior to coming here. It is put on by Urban Adventure Quest and they have scavenger hunts all over the United States.
The time is flexible to do it in, so long as it is done during sunrise to sunset. It takes approximately 4 hours. Make sure you bring a notepad and pen, plus your smart phone. You will be using your smart phone to get the instructions, riddles to solve and you will be answering with your phone as well.
At the end of your hunt you can check to see what place your group landed in for that city. We were at 6th place which surprised us as we stopped for lunch. Some people get competitive but competitive or not, this is a great way to see landmarks the city has to offer.
We begin at the Visitors Center, the starting point, which is walking distance from our airbnb.
From there, you’ll log in and start your hunt.
They will send you places, step by step, in order to answer the task question or solve the puzzle.
We start off at the Chase Palm Park where there is a building that houses a carousel.
We traveled by foot and shuttle from the park, to Stearns Wharf then by shuttle to downtown Santa Barbara.
Solving a riddle from that post sign.
Stop for lunch at Carlitos Mexican Restaurant. The food was amazing!
Downtown Santa Barbara Public Library to solve the riddle below:
Next stop, the Santa Barbara Courthouse. This is one of the places I’ve been wanting to see and wouldn’t have had a chance if it wasn’t for this scavenger hunt.
Sculpture outside the courthouse.
It’s beautiful inside!
Church inside the courthouse
Spiral staircase with a riddle to solve.
The hunt leads us to the La Arcada Shopping Mall where we have to find a specific number of sculpture statues.
And that’s where it ends.
We placed at 6th for Santa Barbara!
That is all the time we have for this trip and headed back to Tucson at dawn the next morning.
This was one of the best vacations we’ve had!