Skip to Content

5 Best Day Trips from Santa Barbara

If you are thinking of traveling to California or thinking of just spending a few days in Santa Barbara, this article may be for you. There are so many interesting things to see in Santa Barbara that it may take you months to explore them all.

However, if you are limited on time or restricted by the weather, it can be difficult to plan what to do. This article highlights a few must-do day trips from Santa Barbara and suggests what you should definitely pack for your trip.

1. Get Up Close With A Sea Lion

If you are staying in Santa Barbara for a couple of days, then a trip to Channel Islands National Park is definitely worth it. This day trip offers you the most amount of freedom as well as a ton of things to see and do. You can get there by flying to Santa Barbara Airport, or, driving.

If you choose to fly then you will need to check with the provider, if they are offering flights to the islands. This trip is quite popular with Americans, particularly during the summer holidays.

If you choose to drive, then it will take you roughly 2.5 hours to reach Los Padres National Forest Park. There you will find Toyon State Reserve and San Nicolas Island.

2. Los Padres National Forest Park

One of the most beautiful parts of this island is the forested trails that lead to the island’s highest point. You can also walk alongside wild horses to the western end of the island.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Madison, Wisconsin

3. San Nicolas Island

San Nicolas Island is the smallest island off shore of Santa Barbara. It is a popular day-trip destination from Santa Barbara that you can take all year round. The island is 1.5 miles wide making it perfect for exploring.

As you drive across the island, you will come across stunning views of Santa Ynez Valley, as well as Santa Ynez Mountains. The island is perfect for hiking as there are many trails and parking areas.

There are plenty of restaurants and gift shops on the island for you to stop off and grab some lunch, as well as, drinks and snacks. There are also a couple of lighthouses to visit and remnants of the once thriving whaling industry.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

4. Santa Barbara Hot Springs

This day trip is not too far away from Santa Barbara. It is 50 minutes away from the city center and just as far from the airport.

Santa Barbara Hot Springs is a warm mineral water resort where you can relax and soak in the Hot Springs, which are naturally found 145 feet underground. The water temperature is around 100 degrees.

The Hot Springs were discovered by accident in 1896 by a Spanish-American excavation team. They started digging a tunnel under Santa Barbara, looking for oil. The tunnels opened into a natural hot spring. At that time the hotel had 5 springs with approximately 200 guests staying.

The now-abandoned hotel offers you a glimpse into the past with old signs and pictures.

This is arguably the best day trip you can take.

See Related: Best Day Trips from Boise, Idaho

5. Mission Santa Barbara

There are 17 Spanish missions in California and Santa Barbara is one of five remaining missions in the state. The Santa Barbara Mission is a tourist destination, attracting over 4 million visitors a year.

Mission Santa Barbara was built between 1797 and 1806 and is the only mission that was never abandoned. It fell into disrepair over time but has since been renovated.

Mission Santa Barbara is an 18th-century Spanish colonial-style church with an interior decorated with murals..

See Related: Best Day Trips from Duluth, Minnesota

Travel Back in Time

Mission Santa Barbara is the third most visited tourist attraction in Santa Barbara. It is situated right in the center of the city and is one of the most popular attractions.

There are many tours available that will take you to many of the locations visited during the Spanish missions.

You can also go on self-guided tours, using the free audio tour.

If you are in Santa Barbara and only have a couple of days, make sure you visit some of these places.

Related Resources: