Santa Barbara, often referred to as the “American Riviera,” is a picturesque city located on the central California coast. With its warm-summer Mediterranean climate, stunning beaches, and Spanish colonial architecture, Santa Barbara is a popular destination for tourists seeking both relaxation and cultural enrichment. The city is nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, offering breathtaking views and a variety of outdoor activities.

The city is home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), which is noted for its research activities and beautiful campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is another prominent institution, known for its stunning oceanfront location and academic programs.

Santa Barbara’s blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and relaxed lifestyle makes it a unique and enchanting place to visit or live. From its historical landmarks and architectural treasures to its vibrant arts scene and outdoor adventures, Santa Barbara offers a wealth of experiences that embody the spirit of the California coast.

Getting to Santa Barbara

U.S. Highway 101 connects the Santa Barbara area to Los Angeles (100 miles to the southeast) and San Franciso (325 miles to the northwest).

The city is served by the Santa Barbara Airport.

Railway service is provided by Amtrak which operates the Pacific Surfliner, a train running from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.


The oldest evidence of human habitation in this area are from roughly 13,000 years ago. Examples of notable archeological finds in the Santa Barbara area is a fluted Clovis-like point found along the western Santa Barbara County coast and the Arlington Springs Man discovered on Santa Rosa Island.

At the point of European contact, the Chumash lived in the Santa Barbara area.

  • Chief Yanonalit’s large village was found between what today is Bath street and Chapala street.
  • The Amolomol village was at the mouth of Mission Creek.
  • The land where we now find the Santa Barbara City College was home to a village named Mispu.
  • The village Syukhtun was in the place where the Los Baños pool is today (along west beach).
  • The Swetete village was above today´s bird refuge.

Santa Barbara’s modern history began in the 16th century with the arrival of Spanish explorers. In 1786, the Spanish established the Mission Santa Barbara, which remains a significant historical and cultural landmark. The mission’s architecture is a prime example of the Spanish colonial style that characterizes much of the city.

Following the Mexican-American War, Santa Barbara became part of the United States in 1848. The city experienced significant growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially after the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1887. The 1925 earthquake led to a major rebuilding effort, during which many buildings were constructed in the Spanish Revival style, further shaping Santa Barbara’s distinctive architectural landscape.

Attractions & Activities

The beaches: Santa Barbara’s coastline offers some of the most beautiful beaches in California, including East Beach for volleyball and family fun, and Butterfly Beach, popular for its sunset views.

State Street and the Funk Zone: The heart of Santa Barbara’s downtown, State Street, is lined with shops, restaurants, and galleries. The adjacent Funk Zone has emerged as a vibrant arts district, with wine tasting rooms, breweries, and unique eateries.

The Mission: Known as “Queen of the Missions” for its graceful beauty, the Mission Santa Barbara is a must-visit historical site, offering insight into the area’s early Spanish history.

Outdoor activities: The city is surrounded by great opportunities for hiking, biking, and water sports. The Santa Ynez Mountains provide scenic trails, while the ocean allows for kayaking, surfing, and sailing. Behind the city, in and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains, you will find the Los Padres National Forest.

Botanic Garden and Lotusland: These botanical gardens showcase the diverse flora of the region and are ideal for leisurely walks and picnics.

Cultural festivals: Santa Barbara hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, celebrating its cultural diversity and artistic spirit. Notable events include the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: These beautiful and ecologically significant protected areas are found roughly 20 miles offshore.


Santa Barbara’s culinary scene is a reflection of its coastal setting and the agricultural bounty of the surrounding countryside. The city is renowned for its seafood, farm-to-table restaurants, and the Santa Barbara Public Market, offering a taste of local produce, artisanal goods, and gourmet dishes. The surrounding wine country, particularly the Santa Ynez Valley, is known for its excellent wineries and vineyards, contributing to the city’s reputation as a food and wine destination.

Geography and climate

Santa Barbara is located along the Pacific Coast, with the Santa Ynez Mountains rising dramatically behind the city. The climate is of the warm-summer Mediterranean type, which is typical for coastal California.

Since the city is right by the sea and parallell to the predominant westerly winds, a breeze serve to moderate temperatures here – keeping the temperatures a bit cooler in summer and a bit warmer in winter compared to locations farther inland.

Still, summers tend to be warm, and in the fall ”sundowner” winds can raise the temperature into the high 90s F in the afternoon or evening. The summers in Santa Barbara are usually without any rain, unless tropical hurrican/monoonal flows cause showers or thunderstorms.

Heavy rains can occur when storms reach California in the winter season. The coastal mountains create a rain shadow effect which can either moderate or enhance rainfall depending on the storm wind. Sometimes Santa Barbara gets more rain than other stretches of the coast due to a phenomenon known as orographic lift; it happens when moist air is pushed over the Santa Ynez mountains.

Frost is very unusual but not unheard of in Santa Barbara during the winter season. On average, there are less than two nights of freezing lows in a year. Snow sometimes fall in the nearby mountains. Near sea level in the city, there has not been any accumulating snow since Januari 1949.

Examples of neighborhoods in the Santa Barbara area

The Mesa

Runs from Santa Barbara City College to Arroyo Burro County Beach. This neighborhood has a strong beach vibe thanks to Mesa Lane Beach and Thousand Steps Beach.

Bel Air and Alta Mesa

Bel Air and Alta Mesa comprise most of the Santa Barbara costal highlands north of The Mesa. In addition to residential buildings, you also find Elings Park and the Hond Valley Natural Area here.

The Riviera

This is roughly 2 miles of ocean-facing hillside and back hillside. The extreme points are Fothill Road, Sycanmore Canyon Road, Santa Barbara Mission, and North Salinas Street. The neighborhood is characterised by winding streets and stonework terracing, and is often compared to old towns in France and Italy.

The Waterfront

This is a popular destination for visitors to Santa Barbara. Examples of notable points within this neighborhood is Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Harbour, the breakwater, and the Bird Refuge.

Upper State Street

The famous Santa Barbara Mission is found here. A lot office buildings are located in this area, alongside health care resources.

The Westside (west of State Street)

The Westside denotes west of State Street. It includes parts of Highway 101, and is chiefly comprised of lowlands between State Street and The Mesa. Santa Barbara City College is found here.

The Eastside (east of State Street)

The Eastside denotes east of State Street. It continues to the base of the Riviera. The Santa Barbara High School is located here.