A Guide To Exploring Santa Barbara, California

Welcome to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is one of California’s prized jewels in terms of tourism and one of my favorite places to visit. At the meeting of the blue Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains, the city has risen in the ranks of tourist destinations in the last years.

A guide to Santa Barbara, California. Ideas of where to stay, what to eat, and things to do.

Whether you are driving the Pacific Coast Highway or you’re just spending a weekend in town, there is so much worth exploring in Santa Barbara. Keep reading to discover Santa Barbara and everything it has to offer.


5 of My Favorite Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Visiting a city amounts to nothing if you don’t dine at least a few times in its best and most popular restaurants. Exploring Santa Barbara would not be the same without getting to know some of their restaurants. Thankfully, the downtown area is home to a multitude of eating establishments close to the top hotels in Santa Barbara, each with its delightful prime dishes and chef specialties.

  1. Bella Vista at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara – 1260 Channel Dr., Santa Barbara, CA 93108

With a gorgeous view of the Pacific and a dim light provided by the restaurants’ décor, the Bella Vista is a restaurant for dreamers, not mere tourists. Any discussion over the numerous dishes brought by the waiters becomes vivid and deep. I lost track of time at the Bella Vista for many evenings and hope to return there again.

  1. Bouchon – 9 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3123

High class and with exquisite food and wine, Buchon has a habit of trapping its customers for years and years. In this way, a trip to Santa Barbara would be nothing without faithfully returning to the Buchon.  This French-American restaurant is among the top restaurants in the city. California is wine country and you can find a bit of that in Bouchon.

  1. Downey’s – 1305 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101-2609

Despite a rich offer in terms of main courses, such as sea bass or black cod, Downey’s excels in deserts. As such, it has become the go-to restaurant for families and couples. With colorful dishes made complete with an explosion of sweetness, Downey’s made it extremely hard for me not to indulge.

  1. The Habit Burger Grill – 628 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3302

As I could not survive solely on fine dining and expensive wines during the entire length of my stay, I discovered the Habit Burger. American to its core, this affordable restaurant offers its clients burgers, chicken sandwiches, quick bites and other West Coast specific foods. Popular among the locals for a reason, the Habit Burger supplies itself with fresh produce from the local market.

  1. Cadiz Restaurant & Bar – 509 State St,Santa Barbara, CA 93101-1601

A guide to Santa Barbara, California. Ideas of where to stay, what to eat, and things to do.

With a mix of Italian and Spanish foods, the Cadiz excellently represents Mediterranean cuisine in Santa Barbara. Any visitor is dazed by the tastes of the albondigas, the cioppino and the signature cocktails of the restaurant. Service is something that the Cadiz prides itself with, friendly waiters and excellent chefs providing a friendly environment for friends, family, not to mention lovers. If you have the chance, don’t forget to pass by Cadiz during your stay in Santa Barbara.


3 Must Visit Attractions When Exploring Santa Barbara

The city by the Pacific is also the home of a few locations that every tourist to California should visit. I had the chance to go to three of them – a beach park, a church and a museum.

The Arroyo Burro County Beach Park

After all the eating and drinking I had to go outside and explore the city. My first stop was the Arroyo Burro County Beach Park. With its gushing white waves and close proximity to the city, this beach park is one of the most popular ones in Santa Barbara. The sunset finds couples clinging together dearly, lingering for just a minute longer in front of the sea.

Old Mission Santa Barbara

With its rose garden, the Franciscan Catholic Church of Santa Barbara is one of the most visited destinations in the American Riviera. A still-standing history lesson with its arches, columns and sumptuous sanctuary, the Old Mission is not only for religious tourists. It is a testament to human art and resistance through time, a place of great beauty and strength that should be visited by all.

Things to do on the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Barbara to Cambria. Including Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, and Morro Bay.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

A guide to Santa Barbara, California. Ideas of where to stay, what to eat, and things to do.

In the hills behind the Mission stands another of Santa Barbara’s attractions. Live butterflies, whale skeletons, planetarium shows and even a T-Rex can be found at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. It is perhaps the most beloved spot in the city for children of all ages. The Museum also brings homage to the Chumash Indians that ruled the plains where Santa Barbara now stands. History is well and alive at the Santa Barbara Museum.


I unwillingly left Santa Barbara after a stay that felt too short. The city has much to offer to the tourists but it’s slow, relaxed pace makes you believe that there’s no rush. The beach will always be there, the people will always be welcoming and I will always gladly return to exploring Santa Barbara.

Find even more ideas for what to do when exploring Santa Barbara.

About the Author

While there is a hidden poetry in travel, Luana is an experienced writer who understands that to have not “another travel site” but the best travel site possible, readers should be kept informed and updated, so she focuses as a researcher. Do you want to know the best offers for a family vacation? She’s in charge. Do you want to read the latest reports, charts, statistics, and authority endorsed recommendations in travel? She will make sure they will be available on our site. Want to make a foodies trip around the world? She will lead you to the best places to test their latest menus. There is nothing she can’t find, review or recommend. You can find more of her work at Route4Us.

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About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the non-profit world in California. She focuses on exploring the world from her own backyard to across the globe. You'll find her sharing about explorations through food, books, travel, and more.