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Things to do in Santa Barbara, California

Our most recommended things to do in Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara: Catamaran Sunset Cruise

1. Santa Barbara: Catamaran Sunset Cruise

Unwind with a relaxing early evening sunset cruise on the Santa Barbara Harbor. Admire the beauty of the scenery as you sail along the coast in a catamaran, then enjoy the romantic atmosphere as the sun sets over the water. Board the Double Dolphin catamaran at the meeting point and set off from Santa Barbara Harbor. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, otters, birds, and other coastal wildlife. Sit back and relax alongside friends or family, and put your feet up after a day of work or sightseeing. Marvel at the sunset views before returning to your original starting point.

Santa Barbara: Whale Watching Catamaran Cruise with Bar

2. Santa Barbara: Whale Watching Catamaran Cruise with Bar

Set sail for a unique whale-watching experience in Santa Barbara. Enjoy a relaxing boat trip where you can get up close with some of the largest creatures on the planet, including Pacific grey whales, bottlenose dolphins, and California sea lions. Treat yourself to a drink from the onboard bar. Meet your guide at the harbor and climb aboard a 50' catamaran for an intimate Santa Barbara whale watching experience. Once you're settled on board, set sail to start your adventure. Every season brings something special with it and different animals to spot off the Californian coast. In winter, explore near the coast. Discover the Santa Barbara Channel, home to over 30 species of whales and dolphins. Common sightings include Pacific gray whales, common dolphins, California sea lions, and harbor seals. If you're lucky, spot orcas, blue whales, humpback whales, and pilot whales. In mid-February, spot some of the 28,000 pacific gray whales journeying through the channel on their migration north between Baja California and Alaska. See mothers and calves just a hundred yards offshore. From July through September, discover blue and humpback whales feeding on krill.

Santa Barbara: Wine Country Tour

3. Santa Barbara: Wine Country Tour

Your group will be picked up by an air-conditioned van in the morning. Travel then to the first winery in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Once there, begin wine tastings and sometimes are offered barrel room tours. On the weekdays, lunch will be served in the shade at a favorite winery or park. Your guide will pick up a delicious lunch sourced from local, fresh ingredients. Cold beverages will be provided. Visit 3 local favorite wineries in the area. Each has its unique vintages and award-winning selections. The winery staff will offer insight into specific blends and selections to our guests.

From Santa Barbara: All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour & Lunch

4. From Santa Barbara: All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour & Lunch

Enjoy a memorable day exploring California's famous wine culture in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Where stunning vineyards and boutique wineries await to serve up award winning small patch wines, hospitality, wine knowledge and stunning vineyard views. Depart your city of Santa Barbara area hotel at ~9:30AM aboard one of our deluxe touring vehicles. Visit 3 fantastic wineries where you get to sample award-winning wines and enjoy the best that Santa Barbara Wine Country has to offer. Your Grapeline driver/host is fun & knowledgeable. They will liaison with all three of the wineries, stow your purchases, and keep you informed and entertained throughout the day. You will enjoy an artisan inspired lunch catered by one of the valley's top lunch restaurants and served in wine country. 8 selections to choose from plus dessert. Santa Barbara Wine Country offers more than 120 wineries, and this tour supplier is one of the few companies that does not limit tours to a small portion of these. Instead, your day is flexible and takes into account your preferences in wine and scenery, as well as any special events or offerings at the wineries. In addition to the exciting tour, many of the wineries offer great discounts on wines that you may wish to purchase. Lunch options include:1. Chicken and pesto sandwich2. Greek salad with chicken3. Mixed veggie sandwich4. Roast turkey with sliced Brie sandwich5. Roast beef and horseradish cheddar sandwich6. Italian combo sandwich7. Goat cheese and roasted pepper salad8. Curried chicken salad sandwich

California Highlights Express: 3-Day Tour from Los Angeles

5. California Highlights Express: 3-Day Tour from Los Angeles

Discover the most iconic highlights of California, as well as some lesser-known gems, on this 3-day tour from Los Angeles. Drive the renowned 17 Mile Drive, explore Santa Barbara, and visit Yosemite Valley National Park or Hearst Castle. Enjoy 2 nights of accommodation and a bay cruise in San Fransisco included. Day 1: Los Angeles – Santa Barbara – 17 Mile Drive – Carmel Summer RouteDepart north up the spectacular California Coast to the first stop in Santa Barbara. Visit a Spanish Mission and learn how these religious outposts were key in the development of the entire region. Continue to Solvang, a quaint Danish community to browse in the local shops. See the spectacular California coastline up close (small vehicles will travel the southern portion of route 1 while full-size coaches will travel the 17-mile drive exclusively). Visit the town of Carmel, home to the actor Clint Eastwood. Enjoy some free time to stroll in town before departing to reach your hotel at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Oakland Airport. Winter RouteDepart north up the spectacular California Coast to the first stop in Santa Barbara. Stop at the heart of downtown at the “state street promenade” and stroll through the exclusive shops and restaurants. Continue to Santa Barbara beaches and Stearns wharf to “walk on the water” and enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean. Finish your visit at the Spanish Mission Santa Barbara and continue to Solvang, “the Danish capital of America” a quaint Danish community at the heart of California. After your lunch break, head north through Silicon Valley before departing to reach your hotel at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Oakland Airport. Day 2: San Fransisco – Bay Cruise – Golden Gate Bridge – ChinatownSummer RouteStart your tour at the Fisherman’s Wharf with a cruise in the world-famous bay. Enjoy great views of both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. Next, return to Pier 39 for a leisurely lunch before an afternoon tour that takes in all the city’s famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Union square, Chinatown, and Nob Hill. Stay overnight in Modesto. Winter RouteStart your tour at the Fisherman’s Wharf with a cruise in the world-famous bay. Enjoy great views of both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island. Then return to Pier 39 for a leisurely lunch before an afternoon tour that takes in all the city’s famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Union square, Chinatown, and Nob Hill. Stay overnight at the Springhill Suites Oakland Airport. Day 3: San Fransisco – Yosemite – Los Angeles Summer RouteHead east through the farmlands of the Joaquin Valley to Yosemite National Park. Stop at El Capitan, Bridal-Veil Falls, and Half Dome. See the highest waterfalls in North America, Yosemite Falls. Then head back to Los Angeles in the evening. Winter RouteStart the day with a visit to Monterey including the wharf and Cannery Row. Continue your tour of the beautiful California Coast with a visit to the town of Carmel-by-the-sea. Then head south to the world-famous Route #1 where you'll see the spectacular California coastline up close (small vehicles will travel the southern portion of route 1 while full-size coaches will travel the 17-mile drive exclusively). Then drive back to return to Los Angeles.

From Los Angeles: 7-Day Golden Experience Tour

6. From Los Angeles: 7-Day Golden Experience Tour

Day 1: LOS ANGELES – SANTA BARBARA – 17 MILE DRIVE – CARMEL Depart north up the spectacular California Coast to the first stop in Santa Barbara. Visit a Spanish Mission and continue to Solvang, a quaint Danish community to browse in the local shops. Head north to the world-famous Route #1 where you'll get to see the spectacular California coastline up close (small vehicles will travel the southern portion of route 1 while full-size coaches will travel the 17-mile drive exclusively). Visit the town of Carmel and enjoy some free time to stroll in town before departing to reach your hotel at the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott Oakland Airport. Day 2: SAN FRANCISCO – BAY CRUISE – GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE – CHINATOWN Start your tour at the Fisherman’s Wharf with a cruise in the world-famous bay. See great views of both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island on your way to Sausalito. Return to Pier 39 for a leisurely lunch before an afternoon tour that takes in all the city’s famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Union square, Chinatown, and Nob Hill. Stay overnight in Modesto. Day 3: MODESTO – YOSEMITE Summer Route: Head east through the farmlands of the Joaquin Valley to Yosemite National Park. Stop at El Capitan, Bridal-Veil Falls, and Half Dome. After a beautiful day in the park, head to Stevenson Ranch and stay the night at the Comfort Inn and Suites Stevenson Ranch. Day 4: STEVENSON RANCH – LAS VEGAS Head east through the desert and Death Valley to arrive at the gambling capital of the world: Las Vegas. Stop for lunch at the outlet mall in Barstow and in the evening, take a tour of the strip to see some amazing hotels such as Caesar’s Palace, Luxor, Mirage, Paris, Venetian, Bellagio, New York New York, Treasure Island, and more. Stay overnight at the Harrah’s Hotel. Day 5: LAS VEGAS – GRAND CANYON – PAGE Start the day traveling through the desert and through the Navajo Indian reservation before you arrive at the south bank of the Grand Canyon. After lunch, continue along the canyon east stopping at some of the Indian market places to browse the handmade arts and crafts. Then, head to the Page and Lake Powell area for the evening where you will stay at the Quality Inn View of Lake Powell. Day 6: ANTELOPE CANYON – BRYCE CANYON Tour the lower Antelope Canyon and visit the spectacular dunes created by the wind, water, and sand. Then head west to Bryce Canyon, home to the most amazing natural sculptures in the world. Experience the unique changing of the colors during the sunset from one of the vista points in the park (this may change due to changing sunset times). After the visit, head towards the town of Kanab, where you will stay overnight at the Days Inn Kanab. On certain departures, the tour will continue to Cedar City for the night. Day 7: ZION PARK – LAS VEGAS Head into Zion Park and enjoy a short walking trail along the Virgin River that runs through the park. Arrive in Las Vegas and head towards Los Angeles for a late night.

Santa Barbara: Electric Bike City Tour

7. Santa Barbara: Electric Bike City Tour

Discover the best bike routes, historical landmarks, and viewpoints of Santa Barbara on an electric bike with an expert guide. Choose between a customizable private tour or a shared group tour where a route is decided by your guide. Start with an easy stroll along the scenic Cabrillo bike path and quickly venture into the artsy area of Santa Barbara. Check out the delicious wine and dine culture of this area. Let your tour guide show you the must-see historic buildings in the heart of downtown. As you bike through downtown, enjoy a safe and spacious bike ride up and down the energetic State Street Promenade allocated for bike and pedestrian traffic only. After downtown, your guide might have a few secret gems that he or she will show you before heading back along the waterfront. The finale of this tour will take you through the bike path that winds through the Santa Barbara Harbor and along the boardwalk back to the bike shop.

Santa Barbara: Catamaran Coastal Cruise

8. Santa Barbara: Catamaran Coastal Cruise

Experience the beauty of Santa Barbara on this coastal catamaran cruise. Sail along the coast and breathe in the salt air, with the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Channel Islands surrounding you as the backdrop. Try to spot local marine and aerial life and relax in the sun with friends and family. Bask in the afternoon sun as you sail the Santa Barbara coastline on a catamaran. Climb aboard and set off, with the Santa Ynez Mountains calling in the distance. Over a dozen beaches and stunning villas line the ocean-carved coastline, making the best view of Santa Barbara, from the ocean. Enjoy a unique experience with family and friends, spotting California sea lions, otters, seals, dolphins, and many coastal birds. Lear, about local life and why this city is a popular place to visit year-round.

Santa Barbara: Guided Sea Lion Kayaking Tour

9. Santa Barbara: Guided Sea Lion Kayaking Tour

Explore the Santa Barbara harbor on this guided kayaking bay. Follow your guide out to look for California Sea Lions who like to visit the green navigation buoys at the entrance of the harbor. Discover iconic Santa Barbara sights like Stearns Wharf along the way.  Meet your guide and get set up with a high-quality paddle, kayak, and life jacket. Set off into the harbor on this family-friendly adventure. Expereince the joy of spotting local wildlife like playful California Sea Lions, sea gulls, and sliver fish.  Keep your things stored in the included lockers and feel free to make use of the onsite changing rooms. After your tour is over, you can stay in the harbor complex area and get some quick food, or sit down for a fish dinner at the famous Brophy Brothers.

Santa Barbara: Self-Guided Walk with App-Based Audio Guide

10. Santa Barbara: Self-Guided Walk with App-Based Audio Guide

Take an idyllic walk through Santa Barbara with a GPS-based app as an audio guide. Walk the route at your own pace, and stop by sights including El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, West Beach, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Start on the corner of Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden and Alameda Park, where you’ll learn about Santa Barbara’s earliest roots, including the Chumash Natives who lived there more than 9,000 years ago. Discover one of the city’s most important historical sites, the El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, before walking the city’s Urban Wine Trail. Soak in the fresh air along West Beach, and learn how the Funk Zone got its name. Stop by spots significant during prohibition, and take in some of Downtown’s most iconic landmarks including Hotel Californian, Lobero Theatre, Hotel Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Gaze at one of the city’s oldest structures, the Covarrubias Adobe. As you wind your way across State Street to Stearns Wharf where the walk ends, hear about the disastrous 1925 earthquake that destroyed the area, and the preservation efforts in place in the Downtown district.

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Frequently asked questions about Santa Barbara, California

What top attractions are a must-see in Santa Barbara, California?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Santa Barbara, California?

The best day trips and excursions from Santa Barbara, California are:

Solvang

Other Sightseeing Options in Santa Barbara, California

Want to discover all there is to do in Santa Barbara, California? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Santa Barbara, California

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 131 reviews

Very accommodating business. We had a strict timeline and they went above and beyond to get us out 1 hour earlier than out scheduled appointment. The employees that we encountered were super friendly, especially Andre who visited with us until our guide Dale arrived. Dale was fantastic! He knows the city well and was full of information. He made sure that we were always safe while cycling and kept us informed of anticipated turns well in advance. He took us to Montecito at one end, to the centre of town and then to the Mission on the other side. A highlight in town was the Court House where the bell tower recently reopened and the view from there was amazing. Best day of our holiday thanks to Dale of Cal Coast Adventures.

For those, like us, who want to be amazed in a short time, this tour is ideal. I shared these moments with my 10-year-old daughter…unforgettable… The roads are long, of course, but the discovery of all these mythical places steeped in history offers us magical moments. The bus is air-conditioned, comfortable. The guides are friendly.. a small flat on the breakfasts of certain hotels which do not offer much choice.

The tour was great. Our driver Sunny was very nice. She kept everything running smoothly and was informative. My friends and I were celebrating a work anniversary and it was a perfect day. Would definitely recommend to anyone who wants a relaxing day of wine tasting in Santa Barbara.

The GPS functionality worked very well and the tour was quite interesting. I wish the additional points of interest feature worked without Wi-Fi or service and was more imbedded into the tour. Definitely worth the money!

Fantastic Sunset Cruise. The Catamaran was beautiful, and the staff was excellent. We all enjoyed the music as well!