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  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara

Holidays to Santa Barbara

​Chill out California style in Santa Barbara. That's if you remember you're in the US at all. With its red terracotta roofs and white stucco buildings, plus its scent of jasmine and orange blossom, there's more than a whiff of the Mediterranean about this gorgeous seaside town. But then you cast your gaze to the rolling Pacific, breeze past an upscale shopping plaza and feel the warmth of the year-round sun on your skin...and you're soon reminded you're in California again.

Santa Barbara holidays are loved by pretty much everyone - because there's something here for everyone to love. Beach-niks can stretch out on the superb white sands; surfers can hit the waves; culture vultures can lap up the town's rich history and fascinating museums; and there's even a couple of destinations for garden fans, with beautiful botanical gardens complete with a backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountains, and the exotic sweep of the Lotusland estate.

This is a place where you can relax away from the big city hubbub. There's a laid-back feel to Santa Barbara holidays, and strolling by the harbour to watch sailboats bobbing in the water, or visiting the tranquil 18th-century Old Mission, where Franciscan monks live and pray still, is food for the soul. There's natural beauty in spades, too, and a leisurely boat trip out into the Santa Barbara Channel holds the promise of whale watching.

But if it's man-made pleasure you're after, then there's also superb shopping, delectable restaurants, sumptuous local wines and cool cocktail bars to enjoy. There's even good art to lap up at the Museum of Art, plus opera, ballet and theatre to enjoy at the local performing arts venues. No wonder Oprah, Drew Barrymore and Brad Pitt all love it here - you will too.

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Beaches Galore

Santa Barbara beaches

You get more beach on Santa Barbara holidays than you could imagine. The endless sands of East Beach are at the centre of the action, but there are plenty other quieter spots. Hendry's Beach is a quiet cove backed by towering cliffs, which is also good for surfing; and Butterfly Beach, in an exclusive neighbourhood, is west-facing, so perfect for sun sets. Plus there are many more.

County Courthouse

An icon of the town, the Spanish-Moorish courthouse combines beautiful architecture with manicured gardens and a fabulous view. Inside, the highlight is the Mural Room, where enormous wall paintings tell a romanticised version of Santa Barbara's history. Up at the top of the observation tower you can drink in a stupendous view stretching from the mountains to the ocean.

The Glorious Grape

The rolling foothills and shallow valleys surrounding Santa Barbara make for perfect vine-growing territory, putting plenty of wine tastings on the menu. You can either venture out of town to visit wineries first-hand, or stick closer to home and follow the Urban Wine Trail, which takes in over 20 tasting rooms within the downtown and beachfront areas.

Stearns Wharf

This historic wooden pier is a Santa Barbara institution, and local fishermen still unload their catch here. There's also great views to be had, and a whole host of other things to keep you occupied, including the Ty Warner Sea Centre, which has aquariums and touch-tanks. Other plus points include plenty of shops and restaurants - even a  wine tasting room.

Serious Shopping

Santa Barbara is known for its shopping, and there are plenty of options. State Street has the biggest concentration of stores, including one-off boutiques. Brinkerhoff Avenue is 'antiques alley',while at the El Paseo and Paseo Nuevo malls you'll find an endless number of stores, galleries and department stores.

 

Fly Drive Holiday: Central Coast

San Francisco - Santa Cruz - Monterey/Carmel - San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles - Santa Barbara - Los Angeles

Our suggested fly drive itinerary showcases the rugged and dramatic coastline that California is famed for. Your holiday starts in San Francisco, where you should make time to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and Union Square amongst other sights and attractions. Santa Cruz will be your next stop where you can explore the scenic coastline before heading to Monterey and Carmel, where you can savour some exquisite seafood dining. Continue south along the coast, driving along majestic Big Sur towards the quaint towns of San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, and the American Riviera that is Santa Barbara, before finishing your holiday in Los Angles, the perfect end to a perfect holiday.
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Rail Holiday: California Coast by Rail

San Francisco - Santa Barbara - Los Angeles - San Diego

Experience the famous So-Cal scene as you travel by train along the stunning Pacific coast from San Francisco to San Diego, close to the Mexican border. Watch glorious sun-drenched beaches slip past as you speed south, and spend time in three fantastic locations: beachside Santa Barbara with its Mediterranean feel; celebrity-strewn Los Angeles, home of Hollywood; and San Diego with its endless stretches of sand and world-famous zoo. This trip is guaranteed to leave you California dreamin'.
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Surfing Lessons in Santa Barbara  
Become a local and learn to surf in beautiful Santa Barbara, with an expert instructor showing you how to ride the perfect wave. All skill levels are welcome, and equipment rental is included. Whether you want to lie on your board, paddle out with your instructor, or be adventurous and take on the waves – anything goes! From £45 per person.

Private Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara  
A private Kayak tour is a great way to take in the stunning Santa Barbara coastline. During your tour keep your eyes peeled for seals and dolphins. Your expert guide will share information about Santa Barbara's top attractions and customize the speed of the ride to suit your needs. Choose between three different tours of varying duration and difficulty. From £43 per person.

Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour
During this guided your you will enjoy the beautiful sights of Santa Barbara, including the historic Mission and State Street while riding an easy-to-use electric bike, the most popular way to get out and about in California. Keep your camera at the ready as you cruise along Pacific coastline, on these easy to use electric beach cruisers - a bike with wide tires and upright seating - you have the option of pedalling, using the electric motor or a mixture of both. From £67 per person.

Santa Barbara Wine Country and Celebrity Homes Helicopter Tour
There’s no better way to take in Santa Barbara’s gorgeous scenery than by air on this helicopter ride over the beautiful wine county, including aerial views of downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Mountains and Channel Islands National Park. Spot Michael Jackson's famous Neverland Ranch and other celebrity homes, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and whales off the coast. Your pilot will teach you about Santa Barbara's winemaking history as you enjoy wine tasting and a snack during this nearly hour-long flight. From £150 per person.

You can add tickets for activities to your booking later.

Time Difference:
GMT- 8hours

Closest Airport:
Los Angeles International Airport (approx. 11 hours, direct flight) Santa Barbara Airport (approx. 14 hours, indirect flight).

Getting around:
Hire a car and explore the surrounding areas. Check out the great selection of dining options, attractions and local excursions available. Care hire is available from £20 per day.

Insider Tip:
The Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara is a great way to go wine tasting without driving out to the vineyards.

You’re going to need an ESTA:
For anyone travelling to the USA, the US authorities have imposed a requirement for passengers travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), to register for Electronic Travel Authority. Just fill in the online application form which you can find at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. You will need to apply for entry via ESTA at least a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel.

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