What's the best time to visit Santa Barbara?
The best time to visit Santa Barbara is during the spring or summer months. In spring, you can relish pleasant weather conducive to outdoor activities like hiking. On the other hand, summer is perfect for beach enthusiasts, offering warm waters ideal for swimming and a host of water-based adventures.
Both seasons also feature exciting festivals, including the Summer Solstice Celebration and the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, ensuring a lively atmosphere for tourists.
The gorgeous city of Santa Barbara is one of the best travel destinations on the California coast. Many say that its beauty rivals that of the Mediterranean. Santa Barbara is one of the places where you can see the most of the Spanish influence on California’s history.
Visit the Old Mission to glimpse this part of the city’s history, or stroll through the Spanish-inspired streets. The mild, warm climate and gorgeous beaches also make this city a great destination. The great dining scene is just the cherry on top.
Santa Barbara is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway in California, especially if you time your visit right for perfect weather. Keep reading to learn more about the best time to visit.
The Overall Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The best time to visit Santa Barbara is during the spring or summer, when the mild weather makes it perfect for exploring (and you may even catch some beach days).
As is typical for this region of California, Santa Barbara has a mild, warm climate that can get quite hot in the summer. In July and August, high temperatures hover around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the city gets barely any rain.
Spring is also warm, with daily high temperatures averaging in the high 60s or low 70s. The beach is one of Santa Barbara’s peak draws, so it makes sense that you’d want to visit during a time when you’ll be able to go swimming and tanning on the famous East Beach.
Water temperatures are at their best in the summer, perfect for swimming, kayaking, and other water-based activities. Summer is definitely Santa Barbara’s tourism high season, which means that you’ll see plenty of other visitors around.
A positive of visiting during the peak season is that there is a lot more to do. Seasonal attractions such as the famous Santa Barbara Bowl open up.
Summer is also home to the city’s most famous festivals, such as the Summer Solstice Celebration (June) and the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, a colorful celebration of Santa Barbara’s Spanish history that takes place every year in August.
Spring is cooler than summer, so it may not be as comfortable for swimming, but the weather is still gorgeous. The cooler temperatures make for great opportunities to go hiking and explore the beautiful surrounding nature.
Go hiking in the Channel Islands National Park or in Los Padres National Forest, both nearby. Spring also has plenty of festivals, although they tend to be less crowded than the ones that take place in the summer.
These festivals are mostly geared towards lovers of culture and unique art. Popular events include:
- Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (March)
- Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Festival (May)
- I Madonnari Italian Street Painting festival (May)
Cheapest Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The cheapest time to visit Santa Barbara is during the winter, although you can also find deals in the fall. The least expensive time to visit Santa Barbara overall is the winter, which is also the town’s low season.
Fewer people come during this season, which is colder and rainier than the rest of the year. To respond to lower demand, most hotels offer steep discounts during this time. You can get rooms for even 50% of the price during the regular season.
Winter is also the least expensive time to fly to California as many airlines have discounts (just make sure not to fly around Christmas or New Year’s, when prices are at their highest). As long as you avoid major holidays, you can visit Santa Barbara on a bargain.
If you want to save money but still want to catch some warm weather, then visit during the fall. Once the summer rush is over, hotels begin to offer discounts. Although not as inexpensive as winter, you can still find affordable deals as fall progresses.
Least Busy Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The least busy time to visit Santa Barbara is during the winter and fall, when cooler weather tends to keep most of the visitors away. As mentioned above, winter weather in Santa Barbara tends to be cool and rainy.
However, for people coming from colder climates, the winter won’t feel cold at all. As long as you bundle up, you can enjoy strolling through the town and take advantage of the few lines at famous attractions and restaurants.
Crowds tend to pick up in December, when the holiday season starts. Santa Barbara goes all out for Christmas, with lights up in the zoo and festive events such as the Trolley of Lights Tour. Local families tend to pack into the town, but it isn’t nearly as crowded as it gets in the summer.
Even if you wanted to beat the crowds, it’s still worth visiting in December thanks to the beautiful lights. The fall also boasts fewer people, also due to the weather.
Fall temperatures are cooler than in the summer or spring. It can also get very windy due to the Santa Ana winds. However, if you dress appropriately for the weather, you can enjoy hiking and running with few other people around.
Plus, fall has more local-oriented events, such as the local half marathon. If you visit in early fall, such as September, you’ll even be able to hit the beach because temperatures stay warm during that month.
September also boasts popular events such as the California Brew & BBQ Festival. It’s a great time to visit if you want to hit the beach, but want to avoid the worst of the summer crowds.
Worst Time to Visit Santa Barbara
The worst time to visit Santa Barbara is winter because of the weather, but it still has its charms during this season.
Some would say that there is no worse choice than visiting a beach town when it’s too cold to go to the beach, and that’s what visiting Santa Barbara in the winter is like.
Although temperatures rarely dip below freezing, it’s still impossible to swim without a wetsuit, and the frequent rain makes tanning unpleasant. As long as you’re creative and dress appropriately for the weather, you’ll still find plenty to do in Santa Barbara in winter.
You can stroll along the boardwalk, visit the zoo with the kids, or take in indoor activities such as the museums, theaters, and restaurants.
Winter is the best month for some outdoor activities, such as whale-watching. Gray whales and other whale species are most active along the coast between November and April.
Going on a whale-watching cruise is an unforgettable experience, and the sight of the magnificent creatures will make up for having to wear a waterproof jacket. Although fall used to be one of the best seasons to visit, keep in mind that it falls into the peak wildfire season.
Throughout the season, wildfires plague the Californian countryside and sometimes get close enough to threaten Santa Barbara itself. Many visitors are avoiding this region in the fall due to the high risk of wildfires, and it’s something to be mindful of as you plan your visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Santa Barbara that can help with your trip planning:
What is the warmest month in Santa Barbara?
August is the warmest month in Santa Barbara, but it never gets too hot. The water temperature is also the warmest at this time.
What month does it rain the most in Santa Barbara?
January and February are the rainiest months in Santa Barbara. If you are planning to visit during this time, be sure to pack an umbrella, waterproof clothes, and sturdy shoes.
So, When Is the Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara?
Summer in Santa Barbara is the best time to visit if you are looking for a perfect beach vacation. If you are hoping to beat the crowds, visit in early fall or late spring for great weather and fewer people.