Santa Barbara > Activity Guide > Santa Barbara Beaches
Santa Barbara is blessed with beautiful beaches - most of which face south rather than west.  A visitor once remarked, "I knew Santa Barbara was unique, but I didn't realize the sun set in the north!"  No, the laws of physics are not different here, but the quality and quantity of our beaches - now that's different! 

I don't know what the actual beach per capita ratio is, but it's definitely better than average.  Even so, on weekends beaches tend to be packed.  Just remember, nobody really likes getting up before 10 a.m., so the early bird gets the sand, if you catch my drift.

Hendry's Beach - Officially named Arroyo Burro Beach, this beach has an ideal location, a sense of privacy and plenty of amenities.  The only drawback is the lack of parking.  Go early and linger.  It's worth the extra sunscreen.
Butterfly Beach - One of the few west-facing beaching, you can actually catch a sunset here.  Private and in the midst of a very exclusive neighborhood, this beach draws an interesting crowd.
Carpinteria State and City Beaches - You get two beaches rolled into one very long stretch of gorgeous sand.  The beauty of the State Beach is you can set up camp surf-side.  The beauty of the City beach is its easy access.  Many a local brings lunch to eat and watch the waves.
East Beach - East Beach is in the middle of everything and has it all.  If you get bored with the sun and volleyball, you can find a restaurant, swing by the zoo, rent some blades or walk along the wharf.  The only drawback is the parking.  Go early and make a day of it or go later and prepare to walk. Either way, this is a wonderful beach for just about any member of your group.
El Capitan Beach (and State Park) - We LOVE this beach.  It is gorgeous, private, long, and you have an excellent chance of spotting a dolphin or two.  Of course, I love reading, swimming and getting a great tan.  The lack of non-water entertainment is a big plus.  If you're easily bored bring toys.
Gaviota Beach (and State Park) - This is a quirky little beach about 20 minutes north of Goleta.  It has a railway trestle running between the parking lot and the beach and a very long, tall fishing pier.
Goleta Beach - Another favorite of just about everybody.  This beach is for the easily bored.  Between the excellent restaurant, volleyball, picnic and fishing facilities, you could entertain an entire cadre of folks - which is probably why its a local favorite for company picnics.
Leadbetter Beach - Centrally located and busy, this beach offers plenty to do.  It is a popular haunt for windsurfers, catamaran pilots, surfers and walkers.  Leadbetter is between Shoreline park and the breakwater.  Each summer this beach hosts weekly sporting events, parties and it's not uncommon to see a radio station hosting something  interesting.
Refugio Beach (and State Park) - Just a bit further out than El Capitan, this beach is truly unique.  It has a charm all its own that makes it worth the extra ten-minute drive up the coast.
West Beach - Although not the most glamorous, this beach hosts a number of sporting events, including the Hawaiian outrigger lessons.  Nestled between the Wharf and the Breakwater, you can enjoy the boats coming and going, as well as the variety of people walking by.

Beach Tips

There are a couple of survival tips you should keep in mind to enjoy Santa Barbara beaches. 

  1. The sun is hot, even though the cool breezes off the ocean make it seem otherwise.  Use the sunscreen often, liberally and everywhere.  Bring along a hat, too.  You see a lot of Santa Barbara natives with hats because it protects even better than sunscreen.

  2. Bring lots of water. Most of our beaches do have stores and vendors nearby, but we prefer to spend our money on ice cream, hot dogs and chips.  

  3. Invest in a pair of those little jelly beach shoes.  We have beautiful beaches that tend to have oil leaks.  It's not something we like to talk about, but tar makes a mess of rugs, shoes and everything white.