Santa Barbara, CA | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara is less than 100 miles from hyper-metropolitan Los Angeles but differs vastly from its huge neighbor to the south. With a mild climate and lush natural environs, the "Riviera of the West" is perfect for a day trip from LA, with its wide beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices, that enables the town of just 90,000 residents to enjoy the sort of cultural and social amenities which are usually found only in much larger cities.
Although the common perception of Santa Barbara is as a playground for the rich and famous, the reality is that the average income is only slightly higher than California as a whole. Notable for its California Mission-style architecture (a long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follow the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled... Read more

Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara is less than 100 miles from hyper-metropolitan Los Angeles but differs vastly from its huge neighbor to the south. With a mild climate and lush natural environs, the "Riviera of the West" is perfect for a day trip from LA, with its wide beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices, that enables the town of just 90,000 residents to enjoy the sort of cultural and social amenities which are usually found only in much larger cities.
Although the common perception of Santa Barbara is as a playground for the rich and famous, the reality is that the average income is only slightly higher than California as a whole. Notable for its California Mission-style architecture (a long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follow the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled roofs and faux adobe supermarkets), local residents are intensely proud of their city's roots and traditions, and a number of hugely popular festivals throughout the year celebrate the many cultures found in the city.
In addition, the city's large Latino population, concentrated in the east side of the city around Milpas Street, means there are a great many tacquerias and Mexican restaurants to be found. Santa Barbara has also been influenced by Los Angeles' food-truck scene.

Downtown's main street is State St which runs roughly north-south. Upper State St (north of Ortega St) has most of the museums.
  • Santa Barbara Visitors Center, 1 Garden Street, downtown, ☎ 805-965-3021. 9 AM (10 AM on Su) - 5 PM (4 PM Nov-Jan). Has information about Santa Barbara, including maps, pricing and hours of attractions, restaurant guides, bus and waterfront shuttle schedules.


The climate of Santa Barbara is classified as dry-summer subtropical. Summers and falls are the driest, warmest times of the year, which have the most sunshine. The daytime temperatures during this time of year are typically from 75-85F, with nighttime temperatures from 55-64F and water temperatures in the mid-60sF. Winter and spring are the rainier, mild times of the year, with daytime temperatures fro 60-65F and nighttime lows around 41F. The water during this time of year is usually around 55F.

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Santa Barbara, CA: Port Information

Cruise ships anchor offshore, and passengers are transported ashore by tender boats (to the heart of Santa Barbara).
You can explore Santa Barbara area on foot.
Shuttles and taxis are available.

Get around Santa Barbara, CA

By bus
The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD) runs buses all over Santa Barbara proper, and neighboring Goleta, Montecito, and Carpinteria. Routes and fares are on their website. Most buses stop at the Transit Center which is 8 blocks from the Amtrak train station.
The SBMTD also runs shuttle bus services along State St between downtown Sola St and Stearns Wharf, and along the waterfront between the harbor and zoo, leaving every 15 or 30 minutes between 9 AM and 6 PM (till 10 PM F-Sa in summer). 

By taxi
Taxis are extremely expensive.

By bike
Along the waterfront, many businesses offer bicycle, surrey or inline skate rentals for exploring the beach areas, and "rickshaw" taxis are also common. Cyclists needing maps, pdfs, or apps can visit the Santa Barbara visitor center at Garden St and Cabrillo Blvd or the Santa Barbara County website, Traffic Solutions. There is a beachside bike path that is common with walkers, joggers, and cyclists. It goes from the bird refuge to the harbor.

By car
Budget and Hertz car rental outlets are present at the airport terminal, and several other rental agencies are located in Santa Barbara. Getting around by car is fairly easy in this city. 

Uber and Lyft are both available from the western edge of Goleta to the eastern side of Carpinteria.

What to see in Santa Barbara, CA

  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St, M-F 8 AM-5 PM, Sa-Su 10 AM-4:30 PM. Guided tours, M-Sa 2 pm and M, Tu, F 10:30 am. Built in 1929 and the grandest building in the town. A working courthouse, this Spanish-Moorish castle has frescoes, murals, and Tunisian tilework. The El Mirador Bell Tower provides great views of the city and the bay. The grounds contain a collection of palms and specimen trees from more than 25 countries and a printed guide to the plants is available. 
  • Santa Barbara Mission

    , 2201 Laguna St., (from downtown State St., turn east onto Mission St. and follow signs pointing toward the Mission), (805) 682-4149. Self-guided tours daily 9 AM-4:30 PM. Known as "The Queen of the Missions," Santa Barbara's "Old Mission" is a superb example of California's Franciscan Spanish architecture. The tenth California Mission to be constructed, Mission Santa Barbara today is both a scenic wonder and a fine anthropological study of original native culture in the surrounding area. Well worth a visit, note the adjacent pottery kiln and tanning vat ruins. 
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

    , 2559 Puesta Del Sol (follow signs from nearby Santa Barbara Mission), (805) 682-4711. Daily 10 AM-5 PM. This large, well-presented museum is - literally - a hidden treasure. Highlights in the eleven exhibit halls include regional natural history, a life-size Blue Whale skeleton, and a rare skeleton of a pony-sized "pygmy mammoth." free on the 3rd Sunday of every month except September.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State Street, (805) 963-4364, Tu-Su 11 AM-5 PM. A remarkably well-provisioned museum considering the size of the town, Santa Barbara's main art museum features a strong collection of Roman antiquities, as well as an impressive lineup of classical European and modern art. Frequently rotated exhibitions are among the strongest in California. 
  • Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra St, Tu-Sa 10 AM-5 PM, Su noon-5 PM. 
  • Presidio of Santa Barbara

    , 123 East Canon Perdido St (a block off State St, corner of East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Sts). Every day except major holidays, 10:30 AM-4:30 PM. A military fortress founded in 1782, only parts of which remain. Some parts are gradually being rebuilt. 
  • Stearns Wharf, end of State Street along the Waterfront. This picturesque 1872 wharf - the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco - has lots of history. Badly damaged several times by fire, it has been repeatedly rebuilt and today features more than a dozen shops and restaurants, and one of the best views in California from the end of its pier. You may see brown pelicans at the end of the wharf. It was once owned by Hollywood legend James Cagney. 
  • Karpeles Museum, 21 West Anapamu St. (half a block from State St), (805) 962-5322, W-Su, noon-4 PM. The Karpeles Library is the world's largest private holding of important original manuscripts & documents. Among the items on permanent display in the museum is an original Stone copy of the Declaration of Independence, a replica of the globe used by Columbus (sans the Western Hemisphere), handwritten scores by a dozen leading composers, and the computer guidance system used on the first Apollo lander flight to the moon. 
  • Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Dr, (805) 963-5695. Every day, 10 AM-5 PM, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and some private events. Small but well-represented with over 600 animals, the zoo has provided entertainment for all ages since 1963 and is the largest zoo between Los Angeles and San Francisco (unless you count the Monterey Aquarium). 
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Road (Follow signs from Old Mission), 805 682-4726, 9 AM-5 PM Nov-Feb, 9 AM-6 PM Mar-Oct. Located on 65 acres in the foothills just above the city, the Garden features exquisite exhibits of California native plants displayed in beautiful landscaped settings. Walk along a meadow, through a canyon and redwood forest, across a historic dam, and along ridge tops that offer sweeping views of the Channel Islands. Established in 1926 as an educational and scientific institution, it is the oldest botanic garden in California dedicated to the study, conservation, and display of native flora.   
  • Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, 653 Paseo Nuevo, 805-966-5373. Tu-Sa 11 AM-5 PM, Su noon-5 PM. CAF is a non-profit, non-collecting institution dedicated to exhibiting the highest quality of contemporary art while recognizing "the artists of tomorrow," and was founded in 1976 by artists and art supporters seeking a venue dedicated solely to contemporary art. What began as a grassroots, artist-run organization with nominal funding now serves as the leading contemporary arts presenter in Central California. CAF offers its innovative education and exhibition programming to the region primarily free of charge. Foundations and individuals keep CAF active with opportunities for artists, children, and adults to experience all the visual and performing arts have to offer. 
  • Reagan Ranch Center Exhibit Gallery, 217 State Street, downtown (next to Amtrak Station), 805-957-1980. Monday - Thursday from 11 am - 4 pm. Features original Reagan Ranch artifacts matched with state-of-the-art, interactive, multimedia exhibits that highlight the history of Ronald Reagan’s quarter-century at Rancho del Cielo and the accomplishments of his presidency. Over six hours of dynamic multimedia exhibits provide access to exclusive speeches, interviews, radio addresses, and original video presentations. The centerpiece is a 28-foot-long interactive “timeline” that gives users the ability to explore the “Western White House” during the 1980s. 

What to do in Santa Barbara, CA

Although Santa Barbara is an atypical coastal town, it offers the typical Southern California variety of outdoor activities, from surfing to whale-watching.
  • Beaches, along the waterfront. Santa Barbara's most popular beach, East Beach, is a pristine stretch of blindingly white sand framed by postcard quality palm trees, surrounding hills and nearby harbor. For less crowded beachcombing, try nearby Leadbetter Beach, or further up the road, isolated Arroyo Burro (known to locals as Hendry's Beach,) where dog lovers bring their pets to frolic in a no-leashes-needed surfside dog park. Hendry's Beach is also home to a nudist beach, where one can often see a frolicking nude man pass by. Even more isolated is Butterfly Beach, tucked away in a cove beneath the high-toned Biltmore Hotel in Montecito.
  • Food Tours (Eat This, Shoot That!), 805-699-6719. Thurs-Sat 11:30 am. 3-hour food and photo tour visiting 7 eateries in the Funk Zone and Waterfront neighborhoods for a total of 8 tastings. Taste some of the best seafood, gourmet flatbread, authentic Mexican food, and handmade confections topped off with local wines, craft beer, and artisan spirits. Soak in the epic views of the city and learn how to take better food photos with your camera or smartphone.   
  • Golf, Santa Barbara has numerous private and public golf courses located in and around the city. Hidden Oaks, Twin Lakes, and Ocean Meadows are nine-hole courses that provide budget prices for a round of golf. For those wishing to play 18 holes without spending a lot, the Santa Barbara Golf Club, located at 3500 McCaw, provides reasonably priced rounds. For those wishing to spend more, Sandpiper Golf Course, located north of Goleta on Hollister, or Rancho San Marcos, located about 15 miles up the 154, provide a world class golf experience.
  • Hiking, from the Mesa to the Santa Ynez Mountains, the unique geography of Santa Barbara provides amazing opportunities to see panoramic views and abundant wildlife. Hiking guides and maps are easily obtained at any local bookstore, well-equipped newsstand, or selected stores in tourist-heavy locations such as downtown. Examples include the Douglas Family Preserve, a great off-leash open space that often serves as the backdrop for numerous weddings, and East Camino Cielo Road off of Highway 154, which has several spots one can park and find a little trail to hike on, or even just sit and enjoy the view.
  • Eagle Paragliding, (805) 968-0980. Santa Barbara offers year-round flying, and some of the best flying in the United States. You can fly solo on your first day at Elings Park. Tandem Flights are also available from the Mountains, the Beach, or the Elings Park Training Hill.
  • Surfing. There are numerous beaches in the area fit for surfing and several companies that rent surfboards. Although the surf tends to be much smaller in the summer, it is perfect for beginners. There are also several nice long board breaks that are suitable year round.
  • Wine Tasting. Santa Barbara has a number of wineries all within blocks of downtown. Known as the urban wine trail, most wineries have tasting rooms, are open to the public starting at 10 am. The Santa Barbara back country also has a great collection of wineries, most of which are part of the Vintner's Association. Just pop up to Solvang or Buellton and enjoy. The region takes responsible consumption very seriously, and since the February 2008 launch of the CHP Designated Driver Program, DUI checkpoints have been frequent. Consider hiring a limo or signing on for a wine tour.
  • Wine Tours, Daily wine tasting excursions depart from most area hotels, and you can pick from several different approaches. The Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle (888) 8-WINERY, offers a flexible day aboard deluxe shuttles. Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours offer a wine tour in open air jeeps. Sustainable Vine (805)698-3911 focuses on the producers employing sustainable practices. I Bike Santa Barbara (805) 705-7998 provides single-day bike tours of the wine country. The Stagecoach Wine Tours (805) 686-8347 offers fun, exciting, educational wine tasting tours and also offer large group tours for corporate events, weddings, bridal showers, etc. Eat This, Shoot That! (805) 699-6719 offers a downtown wine tasting tour experience that walks guests through the Presidio neighborhood every Saturday and Sunday, 12pm, that is great for private groups as well as couples and individuals.
  • An easy walking tour. Find some free parking on the side streets from Cabrillo Boulevard after passing State Street (i.e. on Bath Street and Yanonali St). Then walk on the sidewalk or the beach to State Street. At the intersection of Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street you will find the pier which will give you great views of the city. After walking on the pier, take State Street up past the train station. Shops and restaurants line up State Street up and down providing a great visitor experience. Take a right on West Carillo St and go one block and then take a left on Anacapa St. This should get you to the Santa Barbara Courthouse (details above under See) opposite the public library Main Branch, where you can enjoy the pleasant views from its tower. Next, walk up the street to Anapamu St and take a left. This will put you back on State Street. If you're not tired yet you can keep walking up State Street to Mission St and take a right. If you follow the street to Laguna St and take a left and after three blocks take a right on Los Olivos. This will get you to the Santa Barbara Mission. After visiting the mission and the delightful rose garden in front of the Mission, you can walk back to Cabrillo Boulevard or just take the shuttle back to the waterfront.
  • Channel Islands Kayaking (Channel Islands National Park). Close to the California mainland, yet worlds apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) and their ocean environment, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth and helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was.  
  • Sanguis, 8 Ashley Avenue, 805-845-0920, by appt. Santa Barbara Winery.

What to eat and drink in Santa Barbara, CA


Latin-themed dishes are, quite logically, the order of the day in Santa Barbara, and the town's Mexican food ranks with any other town in California. The town's elevated cultural status attracts high-powered chefs from all over the world, and the selection and sheer variety of local fare is quite astonishing for a community of 90,000. Here are just a few of Santa Barbara's culinary choices:
  • La Super Rica Taqueria, 622 N. Milpas St., (805) 963-4940. Once tabbed "Best Mexican Food in the Country" by the New York Times. You won't come here for the atmosphere. There is no sign on the building and seating is first come-first served, but you'll be happy you stood in the long line forming outside the door once you taste what's served up here. Julia Child claimed this her favorite Mexican restaurant (or even all-time favorite place to eat, according to some accounts), saying, "Everything is incredibly fresh. The salsas are wonderful." 
  • The Natural Café and juice bar, 508 State St., 5892 Hollister Ave, Goleta, (805) 962-9494 ( Mon-Sun 11 AM-9 PM. Outdoor, sidewalk dining that is healthy and good. If there is a vegan/vegetarian in the group, they will be happy here. Part of a small regional chain.  
  • Woody's BBQ, 5112 Hollister Ave. Serving delicious BBQ in Santa Barbara for 19 years and voted Santa Barbara's Favorite BBQ For 19 Years In A Row!
  • Super Cuca's Taquería,2030 Cliff Dr., 966-3863; 626 W. Micheltorena St., Big burritos, vegetarian recommended even for those die-hard carnivores. Alternatively, you can plan on buying two meals in one. Get the "super burrito", with grilled onions and peppers (and sour cream) in addition to your normal burrito fillings and it should heat up nicely in the microwave! Locals regularly choose Super Cuca's for "Best Burito" in the Santa Barbara Independent's "Best of Santa Barbara" list.
  • Rudy's Restaurant, Six in town, one in Paseo Nuevo. Very good tamales, chimichangas, and burritos. Charming family-owned business.
  • The Habit, 216 S. Milpas St., 962-7472; 628 State St., 892-5400. Stop by for a sidewalk burger, hailed as one of the best in the nation.
  • Panino, 834 Santa Barbara St., Good variety of sandwiches.
  • Los Arroyos, 14 W. Figueroa St., off State, 962-5541; 1280 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, popular and very good Mexican food.
  • Cajun Kitchen, 901 Chapala St., 1924-A De la Vina St. Very popular breakfast and lunch place. The best breakfast in town. Delicious sausages. Good price.
  • Rusty's Pizza, multiple locations, 805.564.1111. Locally owned pizza franchise. If you want a real local experience, have them deliver some McConnell's Ice Cream (locally owned ice cream company, stealing their cow mascot is the traditional senior prank for Santa Barbara High School Students), with your pizza! Also good for late night food, which can be hard to find.
  • Longboard's Grill. 210 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara. Located above the Harbor Restaurant, it is the cheapest place to eat and watch the sunset over the ocean. Their clam chowder is fantastic and the fish and chips are pretty good! The rest of the menu isn't as great, but the deserts and drinks are good.
  • East Beach Grill, 1118 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Located right on the beach. The food is great, especially for breakfast! It is very affordable.
  • Palazzio's, 1026 State St., Generous portions of pasta and salads. One entree and a half salad are enough to feed up to three people. Every fifteen minutes waiters walk around with freshly baked garlic rolls that are to die for.
  • Arigato Sushi, 1225 State St., Unbelievably good sushi.
  • East Sushi & Thai, 1208 State St. Across the street from Arigato, very good and a lot less crowded than Arigato.
  • Brophy Bros., Breakwater at the Harbor, great seafood, known for clam chowder, the setting cannot be beat.
  • Pascucci, 729 State St., Santa Barbara's best affordable Italian food.
  • Montecito Café, 1295 Coast Village Rd., Montecito. Try the coconut cake.
  • Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Rd., Stop for lunch on your way out to wine taste - off the 154. Great location and great food. Fun atmosphere on weekend nights with live music. 
  • Chuck's of Hawaii, 3888 State St., 113 Harbor Way, (805) 564-1200, A great cut of beef. Try anything with artichokes.
  • The Palace Grill, 8 E. Cota St. This place celebrates the cuisine of New Orleans. It has a fun, yet laid back atmosphere with great service. Try the Caribbean coconut shrimp!
  • Petit Valentien, 1114 State Street #16. In La Arcada. Creative small plates, French Cuisine, with a constantly changing menu. Great for foodies and their pricing is very reasonable, for the quality of the food!
  • Intermezzo, 819 ANACAPA STREET, SANTA BARBARA, CA 93101, in front of The Wine Cask. The Wine Cask's moderate range little sister. On their website, they say they are ideal for a quick meeting or a cocktail before dinner. However, if you are not a big eater, you can easily make a meal of their small plates and enjoy some superb food. They also have an excellent wine selection, as you would expect from the wine cask's sister restaurant. Good for foodies and wine lovers and groups.
  • Tupelo Junction Cafe, 1218 State Street, Santa Barbara, California 93101. Cajun/ Southern gourmet.
  • Downey's Restaurant, 1305 State St., Santa Barbara. One of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. Excellent wine pairings.
  • Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, 1260 Channel Dr., Montecito. When on an expense account, grab brunch here.
  • Wine Cask, 813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, in the (old) El Paseo complex (not to be confused with Paseo Nuevo, though El Paseo and Paseo Nuevo are not too far away from each other). A longtime local favorite, you probably cannot do better if you are into wines. Their food is also excellent. They feature local, fresh ingredients and classic California cuisine. Reservations recommended.
  • Stella Mare's, 50 Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara, CA, 9310. Located a historic 1872 house, near the ocean and the bird refuge. French cuisine. Small plates available. Try their Lavender and vanilla creme brulee! Reservations Recommended.
  • Moby Dick's, 220 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. On the wharf with wonderful ocean views. Specializes in seafood.
  • "Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach", 2981 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109. Overlooks arroyo burro beach. Good for seafood and brunch.
  • Trattoria Mollie, 1250 Coast Village Rd, Montecito, CA 93108, United States. Amazing in-house gelato.


In addition to Santa Barbara wine tasting on the urban wine trail, the region is also full of bars. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preference), many of them cater to crowds of students from the nearby university. Thursday nights are the official college night of downtown bars at which time the drinks are particularly cheap. Really any bar on lower State Street is Fun on Thursday nights to relive those college days.
  • Rooftop Bar at Canary Hotel, Carillo St. and Chapala. Top of Canary Hotel. Great sunset bar as you overlook the mountains, the mesa, and the harbor. Very nice. Hotel Guests only.
  • The James Joyce, 513 State Street. (805) 962-2688.  Open 10 AM-2 AM daily. Yes, it's an Irish pub, or "A Traditional Irish Bar." Free peanuts, a fireplace and Dixieland jazz bands on the weekend. Guinness flows freely.
  • Dargan's Irish Pub & Restaurant 18 E Ortega St, Sportsbar with Irish music. Good Lambstew.
  • Santa Barbara Brewing Co. 501 State St., Microbrewery, TVs. Decent food.
  • Sharkeez, State Street. This sports bar has a lot of TVs. 
  • Elsie's, 117 De La Guerra. Neighborhood beer and wine joint with good music. Meet the locals out back in the outdoor smoking area or over rounds of pool inside.
  • Wilcat Lounge, 15 W Ortega St. Best Danceclub in Santa Barbara! Perhaps the only dance club in Santa Barbara...
  • Joe's, State Street. Stiffest drinks on State St. Have a couple at the beginning of the night.
  • Roy's Carrillo and State. Good "off State St." bar. Serves great food late at night, focus on local ingredients.
  • SOhO Restaurant and Music Club 1221 State St. Jazz/live music club above Victoria Court.

Shopping in Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara is a shopping paradise. State Street alone offers more than a mile stretch of everything from trendy boutiques to popular chain stores like Restoration Hardware. El Paseo (812 State St., downtown) is an upscale mall that bills itself as "California's First Shopping Center," while lushly themed and nearby Paseo Nuevo (651 Paseo Nuevo) offers Nordstrom's, Macy's, and more than 50 specialty shops. Whatever you're looking for, you'll likely find it on State Street. There is plenty of parking downtown with the first 75 minutes free in most lots (except at the beach). A good bet is the parking structure on Ortega.
  • The Italian Pottery Outlet, 929 State St, 877-496-5599. A family-owned business, it has been in this location for more than 15 years. It carries the largest collection of Italian pottery in the west and at discounted prices.

Safety in Santa Barbara, CA

Most California cities are very safe. As long as you take basic precautions against petty crime and stay out of obviously run-down neighborhoods, you will probably have a safe and pleasant visit. Be smart and you will be safe.
If you find yourself in an emergency situation (of any kind), dial 9-1-1 on your phone or from any (available) phone. It is a free call from a payphone.

Language spoken in Santa Barbara, CA

English is the main language. Spanish is widely spoken.


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