Santa Barbara is a lovely coastal city situated northwest of Los Angeles. It’s the perfect spot for a scenic vacation or weekend getaway!
Santa Barbara is blessed with warm weather year-round, stunning beaches, and tons of exciting attractions to check out. With so much to see and do, you’ll want to plan your trip carefully so you can make the most out of your visit.
So what’s the best time to visit Santa Barbara? We’ll explore the best times to go based on weather, crowds, prices, and seasonal events.
We’ll also share some top Santa Barbara recommendations and tips to ensure you have the trip of a lifetime. Ready to start planning your trip? Keep reading!
Why You Should Visit Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a destination unlike any other. From the rugged coastline to the towering redwood forests, this area of Southern California has something for everyone.
People visit Santa Barbara for a range of reasons – wine, beaches, culture, and dining among them. Here’s a look at why this city is worth a visit!
Santa Barbara is known for its world-class wine country. There are more than 120 wineries here, making it a paradise for wine lovers. From pinot noir to chardonnay, there’s something to please every palate.
You can easily plan a few days touring the nearby wineries and taking in the gorgeous scenery of those rolling, vibrant hills!
Santa Barbara also has some of the best beaches in California. Whether you’re hoping to find a secluded spot to relax or an active beach for swimming and surfing, you can find it here.
If you’ve never seen the stunning sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, this sight alone will make your trip amazing. With lots of beaches to check out, you’ll be busy enjoying all coastal Santa Barbara has to offer.
Santa Barbara also boasts a vibrant cultural scene. There’s plenty to explore, from galleries and museums to live music and theater. With so many culinary offerings, you’ll find something to satisfy every craving.
You can schedule time to explore the city, stopping into different museums, art galleries, and historical sites throughout the day. You’ll learn a lot while you take in the heart of Santa Barbara.
The state of California is known for its fresh, amazing selection of food and Santa Barbara is no exception. Here, you can find an array of restaurants featuring everything from farm-fresh cuisine to global flavors.
The city is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. In the mood for some quick burgers and fries? You got it! Need a list of awesome vegan restaurants serving up healthy fare? It’s all here.
Overall Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The overall best time to visit Santa Barbara is late April to mid-June or late September to mid-November.
The weather is beautiful and mild during these shoulder season periods with highs in the 70s or 80s. Rainfall is minimal and it’s overall a perfect time to visit. The city is a lot less crowded during late spring/early summer and fall.
You’ll get the most out of your trip without competing with crowds or spending too much money on accommodations and attractions! These periods are ideal for beachgoers, outdoor adventurers, and nature lovers.
April to June and September to November also make great times to explore the city outside of the beaches and great outdoors. You’ll love digging into the vibrant cultural scene, culinary offerings, and wineries at these times of year.
Cheapest Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The cheapest time to visit Santa Barbara is January through March when it’s wet and chilly.
The winter is the city’s rainy season, with temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit and the average rainfall at 3-4 inches per month.
It’s wet and chilly, but that may be okay depending on your trip goals. While it’s not ideal for beaching and spending lots of time outdoors, this period is a great time for exploring the city’s attractions and nightlife.
Since it’s Santa Barbara’s low season, accommodation and other expenses are notably cheaper during this season. That makes it more attractive for budget travelers who don’t mind putting up with a little rain and cooler temperatures!
Least Busy Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The least busy time to visit Santa Barbara is January to March – it’s also the cheapest time to go.
January through March is one of the low seasons for Santa Barbara because most visitors want to go when it’s sunny, dry, and perfect for the beach. But if you’re seeking smaller crowds, this time period is ideal.
The weather during these months can be cool and rainy. Temperatures typically range from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, so the mild weather is actually quite nice if you plan on exploring the city by foot.
If you’re interested in non-beach activities such as shopping, dining, and exploring the city’s cultural scene, this is a great time to go.
Since it’s also the cheapest period, it’s perfect for budget-conscious travelers. In addition to not competing with crowds and having a more relaxing vacation, you can save some money on accommodations and travel during this time!
Worst Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The worst time to visit Santa Barbara is February (rainy, cool weather) and July (busiest season).
It’s hard to pinpoint the worst time to visit Santa Barbara because you can really visit anytime of year and have a great time! But if we had to choose the worst, it’s a tie between February and July.
In February, temperatures dip as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit with increased rainfall averages over 4.3 inches. That’s fine if you’re planning cozy indoor activities, but not ideal for outdoor excursions or beach visits.
During July, Santa Barbara is packed with tourists and can get really crowded. The weather is dry and hot with temperatures in 90s. Some people love this weather for swimming and beach-going, but the combination of crowds and heat can be unpleasant.
Despite July’s drawbacks, this time is still great for beachgoers, outdoor adventurers, and nature lovers.
If you want to take advantage of the warm weather and don’t mind crowds, you can make it work. However, it’s still best to try going during the spring instead if you want the best Santa Barbara experience.
Things to Consider
Now that you have an idea of the best time to visit Santa Barbara for your trip goals, let’s take a look at what you should know before you book your trip.
Keep these tips and considerations in mind!
- Transportation. The most convenient way to get around Santa Barbara is by car. You can also take advantage of the city’s public transportation system (which runs throughout the day) or hire a taxi if yo’d prefer. Additionally, biking, walking, and skateboarding or roller skating are common modes of personal transportation here.
- Accommodations. There are plenty of options for places to stay in Santa Barbara, ranging from cozy bed and breakfasts to upscale resorts. It’s important to book in advance during the peak season, when prices tend to go up and availability may be limited.
- Weather. Santa Barbara enjoys mild temperatures year-round, but the best time to visit also depends on what activities you’re planning and the ideal weather for them. If you hate the rain or plan to hang out on the beach, cool and rainy February is not a great time to visit. On the other hand, if you love warm, dry weather and don’t mind heavy crowds, June to August is ideal.
- Budget. The cheapest (and least busy) time to visit Santa Barbara is from January to March. Most accommodations, activities, and other expenses will be cheaper during this time because it’s both rainy and after the holiday season has ended. Save some money to enjoy your trip even more!
- Natural disasters. Santa Barbara is located in a seismically active area, so it’s important to check for any updates on natural disasters before you plan your trip. You should also know what to do in the event of an earthquake and take any necessary precautions when visiting.
- Safety. Santa Barbara is generally a safe city, but like any city, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take the necessary precautions when you travel. Make sure to keep your wallet, passport, and other valuables secure to avoid unwanted incidents.
Things to Do in Santa Barbara
There are tons of activities to do while visiting Santa Barbara! Here’s what you shouldn’t miss on your trip.
- Wine tastings
- Beach hopping
- Art galleries
- Dining out
- Clubs and bars
- Theater shows
- Live music
- Hiking and biking
Attractions to Consider in Santa Barbara
Taking in some of Santa Barbara’s fun attractions will make your stay so much better! Here’s what you can check out while you’re in the area.
- Old Mission Santa Barbara, a Spanish mission and lovely gardens from the 18th century
- Santa Barbara Museum of Art, home to Asian, European, and American art exhibits
- Stearns Wharf, a beautiful pier full of restaurants and shops
- El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, the oldest building in Santa Barbara
- Santa Ynez Valley, home to scenic rolling hills, vineyards, and wineries
- The Santa Barbara Zoo, for botanical gardens and over 500 animals
- State Street, main street in downtown Santa Barbara, lined with stores and restaurants
- 1000 Steps Beach, one of the area’s most beautiful beaches, especially at low tide
- Santa Barbara Historical Museum, great place for educational exhibits
- Santa Barbara Adventure Company, where you can rent kayaks for adventures at sea
- Arroyo Burro Beach County Park, a great beach for both humans and dogs
- Lookout Park, a scenic park, garden, and beach all in one area
No matter when you go, you’re sure to have a great time exploring Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches, vibrant city life, and excellent attractions.
It’s a lot easier to plan when you know which areas and activities excite you the most!
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have some lingering questions about the best time to visit Santa Barbara? Check below to see if you can find your answers.
How many days do you need to see Santa Barbara?
Depending on how much of Santa Barbara you want to explore, we recommend allowing at least 2-3 days for your trip.
You can have an excellent extended weekend there or spend your entire summer vacation exploring the city in more depth.
What's the hottest month in Santa Barbara?
The hottest month in Santa Barbara is August when temperatures can reach up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It's great for visiting the beaches, but the milder spring and early summer months are better.
Is Santa Barbara worth visiting?
Santa Barbara is definitely worth visiting! It has a variety of attractions and activities to enjoy, both in town and outdoors, all throughout the year.
Home to a wide variety of cuisine, art galleries, museums, and more, Santa Barbara will be an excellent choice if you're looking for a relaxing beach vacation or an exciting outdoor adventure.
Does Santa Barbara have a rainy season?
Santa Barbara does indeed have a rainy season, which typically runs from November to March.
February is the rainiest, receiving more than 4.3 inches of rain on average during the month. This is also the time of year when temperatures are at their lowest.
Why is Santa Barbara so popular?
Santa Barbara has become an increasingly popular tourist destination since it has so much to offer visitors, including beaches, wineries, art galleries, and a vibrant nightlife.
It's also known for its incredible architecture, especially the Spanish colonial-style buildings. Other activities include hiking, surfing, biking, and kayaking.
Is Santa Barbara expensive?
Santa Barbara is generally considered a more expensive city due to its popularity as a tourist destination. You can still enjoy Santa Barbara without breaking the bank!
Try camping or exploring budget hotels in the area. There are plenty of free activities are available if you're looking to save money, like visiting the beach or exploring the city's downtown area.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara?
The overall best time to visit Santa Barbara is late spring and early summer, from late April to mid-June. The fall months, especially late September to mid-November, are an equally great time to go.
During these periods, the weather is ideal for any activity, attractions and events are in full swing, and crowds aren’t overwhelming. You’ll get the best experience by planning your visit during either time.
The cheapest time to visit and least busy time visit are one and the same: January through March. You’ll get better travel and accommodations deals, but the trade-off is rainy weather and chillier temperatures.
If you can, try to avoiding visiting Santa Barbara during February (the rainiest month) and July (the busiest month). February sees few crowds, but it’s very wet and chilly at this time of year. July is very busy and prices shoot up for the month.
Still, as an all-year vacation destination, you’re sure to have a memorable time no matter what time of year you visit Santa Barbara.
Pack properly, plan to visit as many attractions as you can, and come up with a few fun activities you’d like to try. You’ll have an amazing time exploring this west coast city!