Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara anaheimer

Santa Barbara - beach walkSanta Barbara is a coastal town sandwiched between the steep hills of Santa Ynez mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

The Spanish Colonial architecture, white buildings with courtyards, homes terraced on the hills overlooking the ocean, and the inviting sandy beaches – all gave Santa Barbara its nickname "The American Riviera".

There is plenty to do on the American Riviera. During my visits to Santa Barbara, I went on walks on the beach, hikes in the mountains, Biking, Whale Watching, kayaking.

I also visited the Botanic Garden, the Zoo, a historic building, and dined on State Street. Here are my favorite places to see and things to do.

A walk on the beach

Santa Barbara has a long shoreline with many beaches, a harbor, and a Wharf. You can walk through most of it with a leisurely walk starting from Shoreline Park on the West end, through SB Harbor, passing through East Beach, and ending at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.

Along the way, you can stop for a snack at the Harbor, Sterns Wharf, or the restaurants dotting Cabrillo Street.

Right after the Wharf, as you go east, you will find another unofficial bird sanctuary. It is fun to watch all the birds gathering at Mission Creek – right at the beach.

Sterns Wharf

Santa Barbara - Sterns WharfThe Wharf is an excellent place to catch some good views and enjoy a meal. There are several restaurants to choose from, a wine tasting bar, and several snacks and treat shops.

Both Harbor and Moby Dick restaurants offer good seafood and splendid views. The food is just average, but you are paying for the views. 

The Deep-Sea Tasting Room is an excellent choice for wine lovers. They offer great food and drinks with second-floor balcony seats.

The Wharf allows cars in, which makes it a bustling and noisy place, but once you pass the main road, you can escape the noise by going behind the restaurants and shops on the sides overlooking the water.

State Street

Santa Barbara - State StreetState Street is probably the most popular destination for visitors and residents alike. It cuts through downtown Santa Barbara and extends to Sterns Wharf.

It is a very lively place with many restaurants, bars, and shops – and a historic place. The old Stagecoach route ran through this street.

Santa Barbara Downtown - by Pierre André - WikipediaDue to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, long sections of this street were converted to pedestrians only. Most of the restaurants added an outdoor seating area extending into the street. This gives it a more European vibe.

State street is long, so expect to walk a lot. While walking, you can admire the Spanish colonial buildings, theaters and museums, and hidden courtyards.

Santa Barbara Car-Free offers good self-guided walking tours. Try the Red Tile Walking Tour that includes stops at historic landmarks. 

This walk starts and ends at the Courthouse – another beautiful historic site. This is a functioning courthouse with a large courtyard, a clock tower, and a statue fountain.

Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa_Barbara - The Harbor Restaurant - by Alex Proimos - WikimediaRenting a berth at the harbor will cost you a lot, but you don't have to be rich to enjoy some water adventure.

You can rent a boat, jet skis, kayaks, or take surfing lessons. You can also enjoy a nice meal with a view at one of the restaurants.  

From the harbor, you can also go on a whale and dolphin watching trip. You can also visit the Maritime Museum.

Do you want to splurge a little? You can hire a yacht with a full crew and a live band.

Santa Barbara is also a springboard to the Channel Islands National Park, where you can hike and explore the pristine wilderness. Read about Channel Islands National Park here. /content/channel-islands-national-park

Botanic Garden

Santa Barbara - Botanic GardenThe botanic garden is an excellent way to get introduced to California's diverse habitats – from the redwood forest to desert sands.

The garden is divided into several sections based on the environment. You can visit the Arroyo section with plants that thrive around creeks, or the Canyon section, which takes you through a lush, shaded wood on the banks of Mission Creek. In the desert section, explore the hearty plants that survive with minimal water. See more garden sections here.

The garden is currently leading an effort by citizen scientists to reclaim and restore local trails after the recent wildfires.

Get more info about garden sections, guided tours and events here

Museum of Natural History

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History - Chumash LifeThis museum is tucked away in the hills above Santa Barbara and provides a great way to learn about the history of the region. 

Indoor and outdoor exhibits highlight the plants and animals who make this area home – and native American tribes that thrived here.

I especially enjoyed the Chumash life exhibit. It is full of artifacts and dioramas showing the daily lives of the tribe. 

Another exhibit worth mentioning is the Mammal Hall, with large dioramas depicting mammals in their natural habitats. 

It is not the largest or the best museum in the country, but it is worth a visit if you have a few hours to kill. It is also a big hit with the kids.


The Santa Barbara area, with its long coast and surrounding mountains, offers plenty of hikes for every level. You can take a leisurely stroll on the waterfront, or you can follow one of the trails through the canyons. You can also head to the Santa Ynez mountains for a more strenuous hike with amazing views.

Some of my favorite hikes:

Lizard's Mouth 

For an easy hike with a picnic area, head to Lizard's Mouth. From West Camino Cielo Road, you can take a half-mile roundtrip hike to a rock formation that resembles a Lizard's mouth. At the top, you can set up a picnic and enjoy the ocean views.

Seven Falls

Santa Barbara -  Seven Falls - by Scott Mattoon - FlickrThis is a moderate hike to a seasonal waterfall and three pools. Don't expect to see running water during the summer months.

The round trip is only about 2.5 miles (ca. 4 km) long, with an elevation gain of 800 ft (0.24 km).

The hike is not easy. Make sure to wear hiking boots and be ready to do some rock hopping. But your reward at the end is nice cool pools to splash in.

Parking is limited and strictly enforced. Get there early to guarantee a spot, or take a Lyft or Uber.

Trailhead: End of Tunnel Road

La Cumbre Peak and Inspiration Point Loop

This hike is longer and more strenuous, but it is worth the effort. The 10-mile hike takes up 1000 ft (0.3 km) with stunning views of Santa Barbara, Channel Islands.

This is not an easy hike. Be prepared with hiking boots and gloves. You will be doing a lot of rock scrambling.

Trailhead: End of Tunnel Road

You can also get to the summit via E Camino Cielo. 

For more hikes go here.

Channel Islands

nullIt is hard to find a secluded area in Southern California to step away from civilization and commune with nature. But luckily for us, the Channel Islands are a short boat ride away with beautiful nature and great adventures.

The eight islands constituting the Channel Islands are only a few miles away from Santa Barbara, but they might as well be worlds away. So, you can make Santa Barbara your Basecamp for your adventure.

Those islands have never been connected to the mainland, so they have their unique species of animals and plants. 

The islands are full of hiking trails, campgrounds, and adventures. You can spend a day hiking, kayaking, or snorkeling. Read the full Channel Islands Guide here

Electric Bike Tour

We recently went on a private electric bike tour with Cal Coast Adventures and loved every minute of it. The e-bikes were very steady and comfortable, and the electric assist helped us climb some steep hills. Read the full article about this tour here


Santa Barbara adapted quickly to the pandemic and converted long sections of State Street to pedestrians only use.

Most of the restaurants added an outdoor seating area extending into the street. This gives State Street a more European vibe.

But also because of the pandemic, you can't just walk in and expect to find a table. Plan and make reservations days in advance. A Few restaurants don't offer reservations, but you can check in ahead of time via Yelp or by calling the restaurant.

State Street does not have a monopoly on good restaurants. You can find wonderful places close to State or even further away. 

Read the dining guide here.

Santa Ynez Wine Tours

Grassini Family Vineyards During a recent visit to Santa Barbara, we decided to check out wine country in the Santa Ynez valley. We booked a full-day tour with Sustainable Wine Tours.

During this tour, we visited 3 wineries that only cater to private tours and wine club members. All three were very gracious and generous with their samples.

Read the full review here.

Electric Bike Tour of Santa Barbara

Electric Bike Tour of Santa Barbara anaheimer

Santa Barbara - e-bike tour - Butterfly BeachWhat a great way to explore Santa Barbara! We recently went on a private electric bike tour with the Cal Coast Adventures and loved every minute of it.

Brody was our guide on this tour, and he quickly exhibited his love and knowledge of the area. He took us on a long but leisurely ride on beautiful bike trails, beaches, and city streets.

The bikes were very steady and comfortable, and the electric assist helped us climb some steep hills.

The tour started from Cal Coast Adventures office in an industrial area, but soon we were on the beach path and headed to a well-appointed bike trail.

Andree Clark Bird Refuge - by - Antranias - PixabayOur first destination was the city of Montecito, but before we got there, we came across the Andree Clark Bird Refuge – a serene marsh with thousands of birds swimming and flying around.

Right above the sanctuary, you can spot some animals from the Santa Barbara Zoo. The most prominent are the Giraffes trying to eat from the tree branches.

We kept going through winding paths and some hills until we reached the homes of the rich and famous in Montecito. Brody pointed out the majestic mansion of Ty Warner, the maker of the famous “Beanie Babies”.

As we progressed on our tour, we came across a lot of expensive estates and resorts, but what grabbed our attention the most is the beautiful Butterfly Beach. The beach got its name from the migrating Monarchs who rest in the area along their journey.

After enjoying the views at the beach, we headed back to Santa Barbara, passed by Sterns Wharf, and climbed up a steep hill to SB College. The college is surprisingly large, with commanding views of the ocean. We relaxed at “” with a great view of the harbor and the hills.

The final leg of our tour took us through the famous State Street with lots of shops and restaurants. Did you know that State street used to be the old Stagecoach route?

Talking about history, close to state street, we visited the Courthouse – considered the most beautiful public building in the United States. This is a functioning courthouse with a large courtyard, a clock tower, and a statue fountain.

We really enjoyed our tour and will definitely come back for more tours and adventures. While at Cal Coast Adventures office, we noticed that they offer other adventures like Surf Lessons, Kayak Tours, and Mountain Bike Tours. You can also rent bikes, kayaks, and surfboards. Check out their services here.  

Santa Barbara Dining

Santa Barbara Dining anaheimer

Santa Barbara - State Street at nightSanta Barbara adapted quickly to the pandemic and converted long sections of State Street to pedestrians only use.

Most of the restaurants added an outdoors seating area extending into the street. This gives State Street a more European vibe.

But also, due to the pandemic, you can't just walk in and expect to find a table. Plan ahead and make reservations days in advance. A Few restaurants don't offer reservations, but you can check in ahead of time via Yelp or by calling the restaurant.

State Street does not have a monopoly on good restaurants. You can find great places close to State or even further away.

Here are some of my favorite restaurants:

On State Street


Jane is billed as an American, international, Vegetarian-Friendly restaurant – and it does offer an exciting fusion of cuisines.

It is a place where you can order a Duck Breast, Curry Chicken, Veal Marsala, or a Cheeseburger.

During our recent visit, we enjoyed the patio seats as tried the Lamb Chops and the Chicken Curry. Both were perfectly cooked and very tasty.

We ended the meal with Toffee Sundae and Pecan Tart, for an excellent finish.

1311 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 


Santa Barbara Dining - OpalOpal offers Italian American dishes with international influence. You can find many pasta dishes on the menu, but if you prefer to skip the carbs, you can enjoy duck, chicken, and steak dishes too.

For our last visit, we tried the  Fettuccine With Tiger Shrimp and the Chicken Chipotle. The food was delicious, and the portions were huge.

We also enjoyed their wine list. I had a Merlot, and my wife enjoyed a Riesling. For dessert, we tried their Gelato and Crème Brulee.

1325 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 

Santo Mezcal

Santa Barbara Dining - Santo MezcalWe went to Mezcal for convenience. It was right next to our hotel. But we ended up enjoying an excellent Mexican meal with lots of drinks.

This place is bustling and does not take reservations, but you can get on the waitlist at

The ambiance was a little loud for us, but it would be heaven for sports fans. Lots of screens all around to catch the latest game.

During our visit, my wife ordered: “Tlacoyo De Huitlacoche Y Hongos“  - a very long name that really means corn tortilla and huitlacoche mushroom.

My meal was more traditional Mexican cuisine – the Enchiladas Verde.

We finish our meal with Pan De Elote – a Toffee Caramel with vanilla ice cream.

119 State St, Santa Barbara, CA

Close to State

Helena Ave Bakery

For a culinary adventure, head to Helena Ave Bakery. This café and bakery offer the best bread, scones, and biscuits. They also make unique and delicious sandwiches.

Your breakfast can be as simple as French bread with butter and jam or as elaborate as Breakfast Sandwich on Brioche or Green Eggs & Ham on a Biscuit.

Lunch choices include Turkey Sandwich, Cous Cous Salad, or a BLT.

131 Anacapa St c, Santa Barbara, CA

Black Sheep

Santa Barbara Dining - Black SheepBlack Sheep chefs like to source their ingredients locally, keep it organic, and experiment with their creations.

Although it is not on State street, it is only a few blocks away. They have several patios to choose from and some indoor seating.

On our visit, we ordered the catch of the day – which happened to be scallops and the Duck Leg Confit. They were both cooked right and delicious.

If you feel adventurous, try the Menu Gastronomique, a 4-course meal selected by the chef.

We tried their Lemon Drop Martini and the Manhattan. The drinks were a little above average, and the selection was short. If you prefer wine with your mean, they do offer a good selection of wines.

We finished our meal with the Almon Finacler and the Chocolate Tort. Both were excellent.

26 E Ortega St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101


OKU is right at the corner of State and Cabrillo streets – facing the beach - and serves Santa Barbara Dining - Okucreative Asian-inspired dishes.

The covered patios are a great place to relax, enjoy the views and the delicious food.

The menu includes a delightful selection of Sushi, Sashimi, freshly caught seafood dishes to share. You can also order steak, vegetarian, and gluten-free meals.

Our meal consisted of Miso Soup, Spicy Yellowtail Roll, Shinpbi Roll, and Rainbow Roll on our recent visit. The rolls were fresh and tasty and the service was excellent.

For a great finish to a great meal, I recommend the Meyer Lemon Tartlette.

29 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA


aSanta Barbara - BouchonIf you feel like being pampered while enjoying great food, a visit to Bouchon is a must.

This restaurant offers French/American dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients - served with excellent attention to detail.

Our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable, explained the various options, and made good wine recommendations.

We were not very hungry so we shared a Rack of Lamb and each ordered the butternut squash soup.

The lamb was perfect but the soup was very bland. We still enjoyed our meal and we ended it with the warm lemon berry cake. 

The dessert was very tasty and delightful for the eyes. 

9 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA  

The Roundhouse

Santa Barbara Dining - The Roadhouse - HiltonThis restaurant is inside the Hilton Beachfront – right on the beach. We were staying at the Hilton so it was convenient to have breakfast at this place.

We were not expecting a lot but were pleasantly surprised by the food and the service.

You can have the traditional American breakfast, build your Omelet, French Toast, or a Mexican style Chilaquiles. You can also go light and have a Granola & Yogurt or mixed fruit.

633 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA

Chad's Cafe

aSanta Barbara - BouchonAnother great place for breakfast. This cafe is right on Cabrillo Street, which is the main street overlooking the bay.

The location is great but the food is even better.

During our visit we woke up too early for the hotel's breakfast, so we walked a few steps to the cafe and enjoyed our coffee and food.

Before we ordered, the server offered us fresh muffins to go with the coffee.

We ordered the Huevos Rancheros and Mom's Pancakes. The food was very tasty and portions were large. We had enough for the next day's breakfast.

216 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 

Further away

Boat House

Santa Barbara Dining - Boat House at Hendry's Beach - from hidden gem is located right on the sand in Hendry's Beach. The beach itself is gorgeous and very popular, so you may not find a parking spot.

We went for breakfast and ordered the Breakfast Burrito and Pancakes. The burrito was exceptional, and the pancakes were fluffy and tasty. Other good breakfast choices are the Signature Breakfast, a delicious creation of snow & rock crab cakes under poached eggs – or the Quinoa Breakfast Bowl.

2981 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 

Santa Barbara Food and Wine Tasting

Santa Barbara Food and Wine Tasting anaheimer

Santa Barbara - La Arcada Plaza The best way to learn about a new city is to join a tour, and if you are a foody, then a tasting tour is a must.

After some research, I decided to go with Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours. They offer two food tours in the Santa Barbara area with the option to make it a private tour.

We decided to go with the private tour for two due to Covid and to customize our tastings.

Santa Barbara - Coat of armsWe met Georgia, our tour guide on State Street, at the entrance to El Paseo plaza. 

We were delighted to learn that Georgia used to be a history teacher and loves to talk about SB history and architecture – and we loved to learn it.

Interesting Fact: The Chumash people populated this territory for about 13,000 years.

Santa Barbara - Grassini Wine Tasting Our first tasting happened to be at the Grassini Family Wines – one of the many tasting rooms in SB – but this one had a nice garden where we sat and enjoyed a flight of wine. The server also offered a “Grazing Box” – a small box full of fruits, nuts, and crackers.

Note: During a previous visit, we went on a wine tasting tour in the Santa Ynez Valley where we spent some time at the Grassini winery. Read more about it here.

Our visit to Grassini was a great start for this 3.5-hour tour. As we walked around to our next tastings, we learned about how SB got started, the reason for the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, landmark buildings, and discovered a few hidden gems of shopping plazas.

Interesting Fact: After a devastating earthquake in 1925, the city planners decided to rebuild with the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. They passed ordinances to mandate this style and limit the building heights to 4-floors only.

Santa Barbara - Los Arroyos Our next stop was at Los Arroyos for some unique tacos and drinks. We tasted their “Tajas Con Queso Tacos” – a vegetarian taco with grilled pasilla chiles, onions, monterey jack & queso fresco. The tacos were full of flavor. If I weren’t expecting a lot more food later, I would have ordered more of those delicious creations.

For the drinks, we tried Jamaica and Horchata – both were very tasty.
From California to Mexico and now we are heading to Thailand to try some Thai cuisine. The Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar is inside the Santa Barbara Public Market.

Interesting Fact: The city was recognized as the first “Hollywood of the North” for producing a large number of silent films in the early film industry.

Santa Barbara - Public Market The public market is like an incubator for future restaurants. If someone has a good idea for a food offering, they can rent a space here and try it out before committing to a big storefront.

The empty bowl offered us a Papaya salad and potstickers. The potstickers were great, but the papaya salad will take some getting used to. This restaurant also offers traditional Thai dishes like pad Thai,Santa Barbara - Chase Italian several noodle choices, and lettuce wraps.

The public market has a lot of other food choices from around the world - you can try Japanese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Italian. 

Talking about Italian, our next stop was at The Chase Restaurant and Bar. This place is right on State Street and offers indoor and outdoor seating. 

We sat outside to enjoy the busy pedestrian street and tried an Italian food sampler. The food was delicious and plenty for a sampler, and we had leftovers for dinner. 

Santa Barbara - Cebada WineryWe ended our tour back at El Paseo Plaza to visit Cebada Wines. The sommelier presented four wines for our tasting. They were all good, but we enjoyed the Blueberry Wine so much we ordered a bottle to take back with us. 

While enjoying our last wine tasting, Georgia grabbed our dessert from McConnell’s Ice cream. We had a long list of flavors to pick from, but we ended up with Cookies and Cream, Banana Salted Carmel, Pistachios, Chocolate Chip. They were all very Santa Barbara - McConnels Ice Creamcreamy and tasty – probably the best ice cream I had had in a long time. 

Interesting Fact: Mac and Ernie McConnell spent months developing their own recipes based on the French Pot ice cream-making process. In December 1950 they opened their first shop which went on to become very popular.

The tour was very well-planned, and the food choices were excellent. Georgia was an excellent guide with her friendliness and wealth of information. 

I recommend this tour for anyone visiting Santa Barbara. It is an excellent way to learn about the city and to discover new places to eat.

Get more information about TasteDB here.

Santa Ynez Wine Tour

Santa Ynez Wine Tour anaheimer

Santa Ynez Wine tour - photo from Sustainable Tours websiteDuring a recent visit to Santa Barbara, we decide to check out wine country in the Santa Ynez valley. We booked a full-day tour with Sustainable Wine Tours.

Karina, our tour guide, picked us up from our hotel in Santa Barbara at 10 am. Our ride was a luxurious Mercedes van.

Interesting Facts: The Santa Ynez valley is sideways. This means it runs East to West instead of the usual North to South. That creates unique growing conditions and allows for a large variety of grapes.  

McKenney Winery  - photo from Sustainable Tours websiteKarina was a wealth of information about Snat Ynez, the wineries, and wine tasting. We found out that she started tasting wine at the age of 8 – but at that young age, she had to spit it out after tasting.

During this tour, we visited 3 wineries that only cater to private tours and wine club members. All three were very gracious and generous with their samples.

Interesting Facts: Other than wineries, the valley is home to Solvang, a unique Danish town with many restaurants and bakeries.

Along with tasting great wines, we enjoyed the scenery throughout the valley. The vineyards were spread out over hills and valleys, and the weather was California perfect.

Mckinney Family Vineyards

McKenney Winery  - lunch picnic with wineOur first stop was at the McKinney Family Vineyards. We were greeted by Jared who took us on a tour of the vineyards while enjoying the first two wine tastes.

We learned about the different types of grapes and how they are processed and aged. Jared reminded us that they don’t sell their wines at stores or restaurants. They are only available through direct purchase and to wine club members.

Interesting Facts: Matt Mckinney, the owner, used to run wine tasting tours before starting his own winery.

We tasted six wines during our visit – all were very good, but my favorites were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinot Noir.

McKenney Winery  - goats help with cleanupInteresting Facts: Santa Ynez is also home to the Chumash tribe reservation. When you had enough wine tasting head to the Casino for some slot machine fun.

At lunchtime, Karina, our guide, brought in sandwiches and chips. The turkey sandwiches were especially good with sips of wine. We enjoyed this relaxing lunch out on the porch with comfortable chairs and great views.

Note: The wines we tasted were the most expensive we had on this tour, but the quality was also the best.

You don’t have to be on a guided tour to do some wine tasting. You can arrange for a private 2-hour tour and wine tasting for $50. The fee is waived if you buy three or more wines per person.

Grassini Family Vineyards 

Grassini Family Vineyards - main house with tasting roomsI loved this place as soon as we passed the gates. Immaculate vineyards, a private lake, and lots of trees. All this before reaching a rustic-looking building and gardens.

Our host here was Dean. He greeted us outside the beautiful building in a covered patio with an elegant dining table and chairs. They have tasting rooms inside the house, but the outdoor seating is appropriate for California weather and Covid-19.

Interesting Facts: In 2019, the vineyards received the “Best Santa Barbara Winery” award from the Independent magazine.

Grassini Family Vineyards Dean was a wealth of knowledge about winemaking in the Santa Ynez valley. He introduced us to five of their estate wines. They were all delicious, but I especially enjoyed the Afiora Rose.

You also enjoy their wines in the tasting room in Santa Barbara. Both the tasting room and the vineyards receive multiple awards.

Note: Wine prices here are more reasonable. Their wine clubs are a good bargain.

Happy Canyon Vineyards (Piocho Ranch)

Happy Canyon Vineyards at Pinocho RanchPiocho Ranch is one of the biggest vineyards in Santa Ynez. They grow many varieties of grapes using a variety of techniques. They pride themselves on using manual sustainable growing and harvesting methods.

Interesting Facts: The ranch name “Piocho” is a native American name that means Where the two rivers meet and go to heaven."

Happy Canyon Vineyards at Pinocho RanchThe owner, Sean, greeted us at the main tasting room and explained his passion for winemaking. He had the wine flights ready for our taste buds. He also prepared a plate of crackers, cheese, and chocolate to pair with the wines.

Interesting Facts: Heading back to Santa Barbara, try to take the 154 highway – AKA Chumas Highway. This scenic highway crosses over the Santa Ynez mountains while passing through a lake. As you descend into Santa Barabara, you will have a commanding view of the city and the ocean beyond.

We enjoyed all of the wines, but my favorite was the Piocho Red Blend.

Piocho Ranch is also home to a popular Polo field and tournaments.

Note: The Piocho wine prices are very reasonable. This also makes their wine clubs affordable.