12 Best Day Trips from Santa Barbara, California

Spending some time away from the hectic schedule is a need for everyone. But it’s hard to take time out from our super busy days. However, a day trip from Santa Barbara will take away all your stress and worry.

Situated in beautiful California, Santa Barbara offers a wide range of tourist spots which is perfect for a day trip from Santa Barbara. So if you wanna unwind yourself on the beaches or coastal areas or soak in the beauty of nature in a forest, day trips from Santa Barbara are your go-to destination.

Best Day Trips from Santa Barbara

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So stop your hunt for the best day tours from Santa Barbara, and read through the article to find the most exciting and fun day trips from Santa Barbara.

Even if you have less time, these perfect getaways from Santa Barbara will certainly be a great fit for your timetable.

Best Day Trips from Santa Barbara

1. Channel Islands

The Channel Islands comprising of five islands is a National Park, must be on your list for day trips from Santa Barbara. You will enjoy a stunning view of nature combined with some amazing activities as well.

You can make your trip to Channel Island from Santa Barbara easily from Ventura. Opt for a boat from your city or have a new experience by flying a seaplane.

The island is beautifully located in the southern part of Santa Barbara and has a picturesque landscape. Also, if you are a wild animal lover, you would fall in love with this place. You get to witness the rarest species of the world, that is found nowhere else.

Channel Island day trip from Santa Barbara is also best if you wish to explore some fun activities like snorkeling, diving, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hiking, etc.

You can also see some extraordinary marine animals like dolphins, sea lions, and whales. So for a fun day trip from Santa Barbara don’t forget to visit the incredible Channel Islands.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: Ventura 27.4miles plus boat/sea-plane time.

Tip: You must carry a ton of water and plenty of food for your day trip from Santa Barbara as this place has no restaurants or stores.

Channel Islands |  Best Day Trips from Santa Barbara, California
Channel Islands

2. Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Barbara Wineries make one of the best day trips for Santa Barbara. This is the most loved place for any wine connoisseur as some of the world’s unique and finest wines.

If you wish for something more than beaches and waters, then plan a Santa Barbara day trip to Santa Ynez valley. The valley is perfectly sandwiched between the mountain ranges making it a suitable place for wine production.

The scenic beauty of the place will surely stay in your heart forever while the wine tasting tours will make it super delicious.

Opt for tour companies for wine tasting or rent a bike and roam around on your own. Your day trip to Santa Barbara will be extremely special undoubtedly. You can visit museums, firms, boutiques, and wineries for your day trip in Santa Barbara.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 34.2 miles

Fun Fact: The entire film Sideways which is a popular rom-com was shot in Santa Ynez. You too hop on a road trip, just like the boys of the movie for your best day trips from Santa Barbara.

Santa Ynez Valley | Santa Barbara day trip
Santa Ynez Valley

3. Los Padres National Forest

Day trips from Santa Barbara would be incomplete without vising the huge Los Padres National Forest. Your road trip would be never boring with the spectacular view that the forest offers. Visit this forest for an amazing Santa Barbara scenic drive.

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Covered in mountains, cliffs, and forest, this is going to be the best day trip from Santa Barbara. You can go for a swim in the lakes, or have a fun hike on the mountain trails. If you prefer winter hiking, check out our dedicated post on best winter jackets for hiking for men and women.

You can stop at some scenic spots like Pine Mountain Ridge, Piedra Blanca, Wheeler Gorge, and many more. The popular mountain ranges are Santa Ynez mountains, Sierra Madre Mountains, etc.

The area stretches over 2 million acres and it definitely makes for a calming Santa Barbara day trip.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 33 miles

Fun fact: Nine rivers flow through this vast area and the Sisquoc river is known as the “most pristine stream” in entire Southern California.

Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest

4. Hearst Castle

If you’re on the lookout for unique Santa Barbara day trip ideas, then you should visit the famous Hearst castle which has immense historic significance.

It was William Randolph Hearst who established this grand architecture in 1919. The monument was renamed Hearst castle after Mr. Hearst passed away.

Bring along your kid on this Santa Barbara road trip and let them enjoy the magnificence of this place. The castle is full of paintings, decors, sculptures, ancient lamps of the Egyptian structure, and Renaissance eras.

Also, if you are unsure what to do on a day trip from Santa Barbara especially if you have children, then Hearst Castle would be a great day trip from Santa Barbara.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 137 miles

Fun Fact: The Hearst Castle was also known as the “Enchanted Hill” was loved by famous Hollywood stars like Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo who were frequent visitors of Mr. Hearst.

Hearst Castle | day trip from Santa Barbara
Hearst Castle

5. Malibu

Do you love some gorgeous beaches? Do you wish to know where your favorite Hollywood celebrities have their rich mansions? Then make a visit to Malibu, one of the best cities to visit near Santa Barbara.

Surfers would love this place as Surfrider Beach is the best surfing beach in the world. So, Malibu must be on your list for day trips from Santa Barbara.

Take some Instagram-worthy photos, have a great sunbath, or go for a fun hike to Point Dume, Malibu is your one in all place for nonstop entertainment.

Never forget to enjoy the lip-smacking seafood of Malibu during your weekend trips from Santa Barbara.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 66.6 miles

Fun Fact: Guess who are some of the famous residents of Malibu? From Leonardo Di Caprio to Jack Nicholson to Jennifer Anniston all these stars have owned a house in Malibu. Now you know why you need a day trip from Santa Barbara to Malibu.


6. Solvang

Your wanderlust soul would love a visit to a Dutch-themed city called Solvang. Make the best day trip from Santa Barbara to the quaint Solvang.

Take a quick drive from Santa Barbara to a day trip to Solvang to experience the Danish culture. Solvang is located in Santa Ynez Valley and looks like just a postcard because of its natural beauty.

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The city is filled with festivals, wine tasting tours and the rustic village life touch makes this place a romantic place in California.

You have a lot of things to do in Solvang. From tasting the pastries of the Danish bakeries to visiting the local museums to buying some Danish souvenirs for your loved ones, the list is endless. Solvang is rightly known as the dream destination for its flavor of Europen culture.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 34.4 miles

Tip: If you want to experience a live theatre under the stars with your partner, make sure to catch hold of the Solvang Theater Festival for your ultimate entertainment.


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7. Ojai

Ojai is another great option for a day trip from Santa Barbara. If you want t to have a taste of luxurious spas, exotic dining experiences, visit boutique hotels, organic farms, then come to Ojai for your Santa Barbara day trip.

The small city has a lot in store for you. You can visit the local galleries, Ojai valley museum, visit the lavender, olive oil farms, and many more. Tourists also love to go hiking around the countryside trails, or even you can rent a bike too.

If hiking is not your forte, then go for a relaxing boat ride on Lake Casitas or simply indulge yourself in the deluxe spas. Ojai certainly makes for an incredible day trip near Santa Barbara.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 41. 2 miles

Tip: You won’t find a single fast-food restaurant here as Ojai proudly makes some awesome farm-fresh food. So ditch your usuals, and enjoy the real, organic food.


8. Pismo Beach

You can’t have a tour from Santa Barbara without visiting a beach. And what’s better than Pismo beach? If you wish to take sunbathe on the white sandy beaches, then Pismo is your right choice.

Also, Pismo is not just for relaxing on the sea beach. You can go biking, horseback riding, hiking, and camping in Pismo Beach. Surfers too don’t forget to pack their surfing boards for exciting surfing experiences.

You can enjoy the fascinating marine life of whales and dolphins too. Relish the seafood and make your best day trip from Santa Barbara to Pismo Beach.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 82.9 miles

Tip: You must visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove to witness the colorful migrating butterflies.

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Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach

9. Venice

Another beach town for your bucket list to your Santa Barbara day trips. Venice is a pretty mix of beautiful attractions and happening activities.

Ask for music, art, shopping, pretty sunsets, Venice has everything on its plate. Go to the extremely popular Broadwalk to witness the street performances. Broadwalk also has great restaurants and shops. You will never run out of entertainment if you are in Venice.

You can go to the Venice Recreation Beach Center too which has volleyball, tennis and handball courts.

Driving distance from Santa Barbara: 93.7 miles

Fun Fact: Venice was earlier called the “Venice of America” and Abbot Kinney the founder of this town established it as a resort town. Now, Abbot Kinney Blvd. is one the most popular and coolest shopping places for all tourists.

Beach Art in Venice
Beach Art in Venice

10. Morro Bay

Go visit the cute little fishing town Morro Bay if you’re wondering what things to do outside Santa Barbara. It will give you a special coastal experience for your Santa Barbara day trip.

Morro Bay is famous for the Morro Rock which is a volcanic rock that stunningly rises from the sea. The Morro Bay State Park includes incredible marine life, lagoons, and trails.

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The place is filled with adventurous activities like kayaking, hiking, boating, biking, surfing, swimming, paddleboarding making it a perfect destination for your day trip from Santa Barbara.

This is a great place to visit with your family and have a delightful experience watching the otters, seals, and dolphins. Also, Morro Bay makes for an ideal Santa Barbara overnight tour if you wish to relish the dazzling nightlife of Morro Bay.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 108 miles

Tip: Surprise your partner with a romantic sunset dinner on the cruises and take him/her for superb whale watching tours.

 Morro Bay
Morro Bay

11. San Luis Obispo

Do you crave to be in a place called the “happiest places in America”? Then, what are you waiting for? Come to the sweet town of San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo offers boutiques, beautiful vineyards, amazing restaurants, and its lively atmosphere will surely cheer up your Santa Barbara day trip. Take a stroll in the full-of-life downtown to get the taste of this small California town.

The San Luis Obispo Creek walk is another favorite among the visitors. Also, if you’re enthusiastic enough go for a hike at Bishop Peak which covers the trail of Morro Bay to Sun Luis Obispo.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 95.2 miles

Tip: Don’t forget to stop at the Bubblegum Alley, an alley whose walls are slathered with used bubble gums. You can also spot this alley in various TV shows.

History Center of San Luis Obispo County
History Center of San Luis Obispo County – PC: Flickr

12. Point Mugu State Park

Point Mugu State Park is great for nature lovers if you’re planning for a day trip from Santa Barbara and wish to spend a day in the lap of nature.

Spring is the best time to visit the place as it brims with colorful flowers, crystal waterfalls, and many more. You not only have mountain ranges here but also have a super sandy beach. So allow yourself for a relaxing swim when you are here for your day trip from Santa Barbara.

Read Also: 10 Best and Affordable Fall Destinations in The US

You can hike on the highest peaks of Boney peak and Mugu peak to enjoy a stunning view of California.

Driving Distance from Santa Barbara: 48.6 miles

Tip: Do make a pause at the beach because you might get lucky to see some pretty birds and sea lions.

Point Mugu State Park
Point Mugu State Park

Get ready for your best Santa Barbara Day Trip

Don’t waste time looking for Santa Barbara day trip ideas. We have curated the best day trip from Santa Barbara for you to unwind and enjoy.

So get in your car with your friends and family and appreciate the indescribable beauty on your day trips from Santa Barbara.

FAQ on The Best Santa Barbara Day Trips

1. How many days do you need in Santa Barbara?

A: You need 2 days to cover all the beautiful spots of Santa Barbara.

2. How much is a trip to Santa Barbara?

A: You can have a day trip to Santa Barbara within a budget of 150$.

3. What is there to see between Malibu and Santa Barbara?

A: You can watch the beautiful Malibu coastline, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Barbara waterfront in between Malibu to Santa Barbara.

4. What is the best time to visit Santa Barbara?

A: You can visit Santa Barbara all year around. But for a perfect beach experience, July to August is the best time.

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