Lots of sun, cold drinks, fun with friends, and sandy beaches are a few things that come to mind instantly when you think of Santa Barbara.
Speaking of beaches, you haven’t experienced the true magic of Santa Barbara if you haven’t walked barefoot on the sun-kissed shorelines. It’s one of the simple pleasures that both locals and visitors thoroughly enjoy.
From swimming, surfing, snorkelling, fishing, etc. Santa Barbara is like a playground for fun lovers who like to be in the water. Here, you have miles and miles of sandy coastlines to explore.
Are you looking forward to having fun by the beach? Santa Barbara has plenty of beaches waiting to be unravelled. If you don’t know where to start, below are 10 of the best beaches in Santa Barbara for families.
What sets Miramar Beach apart from the rest are the crisp blue waters, calm ambience, and magical experiences available for you. For a family looking to spend quality time together, the scenic views of Miramar Beach will complete your experience.
The best time to visit this location is when the tide is low. You can see the shoreline’s full breath, which stretches far east. The slow waves are excellent for swimming and surfing. If you are a surfer and have had enough of Miramar beach, you can take a short walk westwards to Hammonds Beach, where you’ll find other surfers and explore a different space.
Feel free to pitch your umbrella on the beach over some drinks or snacks and wait for the captivating sunset — it’s a sight to behold!
Note that Miramar Beach has limited parking. Plan to get there in advance to get a parking spot or opt for another convenient means of transportation from your hotel.
When the stomach rumbles threaten to rip your stomach apart, why not try out the sumptuous fresh meals prepared at the beachside restaurants?
Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
Also known as Hendry’s Beach, the Arroyo Burro Beach County Park is like a treasure chest waiting to be unravelled. It’s one of the hidden gems in Santa Barbara, where you’ll see the rich ecosystem of the waters.
The clear blue sea, white sandy shores, and welcoming nature of the locals will captivate any families looking to spend some time here. You and your loved ones will get to see dolphins, whales, and seals not too far from the shoreline on this part of the shore.
Hendry’s Beach also allows pets! This is one of the few places you can walk with your pet unleashed. Provided it’s in the designated area, you can have tons of fun swimming and playing catch without leaving your dog out of it.
The left side of the beach allows pet owners to walk with their dogs unleashed. You can still explore the right side of the beach with your pet, but they’ll have to remain leashed.
This spot is perfect for you if you enjoy surfing and paddleboarding. You also have plenty of open spaces to go hiking if that’s your thing. On your hike, you can go as far as the Mesa Lane Beach and a little further to the Douglas Family Preserve, which is not too far away from Hendry’s Beach.
Nothing can beat the snacks and meals available at The Boathouse beach restaurant when you crave something to eat.
As the name hints, Butterfly Beach is as enchanting and glorious as butterflies are. It’s a sacred, serene, intimate space where locals and visitors frequently scratch their itch to be by the beach.
During the high tide, much of the shore is soaked up. The best time to experience fully what the Butterfly beach has to offer is during the low tide. You can swim, sunbathe, watch the surfers in the water, and let your dog run freely unleashed.
The sunset here is epic! Quite a romantic setting, especially for a couple who wants to spend an evening away from the kids.
Butterfly Beach may not be as expansive as other beaches on this list, but this makes it unique. It gives you and your family an intimate beach experience and isn’t too crowded. This beach is close to other famous beaches and close to Upscale Montecito, where you can get a hint of the local lifestyle.
Leadbetter Beach is located between the harbour and Shoreline Park, a popular spot for tourists and locals looking to cool off. It’s an ideal location for that introverted family that values their privacy. The Leadbetter Beach is a prime area for people who enjoy hiking, jogging, swimming, strolling, and watersports like surfing.
This serene beach is close to major tourist attractions in Santa Barbara, and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants for you to try. On your visit here, don’t forget to try freshly prepared fish tacos from the Shoreline Beach Café. It’s one of the simple snacks that will dominate your taste buds so much that you can never have enough!
The waves here aren’t too animated to offer experienced surfers the adrenalin rush they crave. The Leadbetter Beach is therefore ideal only for beginner surfers.
Don’t be surprised to see students riddled all over the beach. Students from the nearby Santa Barbara City College love to hang out here during break time. Conveniently, there are lifeguards present on the beach during peak hours to guarantee the safety of your loved ones and others.
Don’t want to stay too far away from the beach? If yes, you’ll find ample accommodation facilities at the Beachside Inn, a walking distance from the Leadbetter Beach.
East Beach is one of the most popular places that locals and tourists love to frequent. Its expansive 1.6-mile shore stretches eastwards from the Stearns Wharf, hence the ‘East Beach’ label. It’s a prime spot for sunbathing, swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, and volleyball.
The East Beach prides itself on hosting the most professional volleyball tournaments. These games take part at different intervals throughout the year.
You’ll be lost for choice if you are looking for the best family-friendly accommodations close to East Beach. Thanks to its long shoreline, there are more than enough resorts and beach hotels you can stay in. The Spanish-style Santa Barbara Inn and Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort are barely a stone’s throw away.
There’s an art fair held at the beach every Sunday, an excellent chance for tourists and locals to sample the talent in this part of California. When your kids feel like the beach is getting too monotonous, you can take them to the Skater’s Point Skate Park, which is not too far away from the beach.
This location is easily accessible whether you come here by vehicle, bicycle, or foot.
It may be small, but make no mistake, the West beach has tons of fun in store for you. The West beach is not too far away from the east beach. This beach is a quarter-mile long and ideal for locals and visitors who want a taste of the sand and the sea without taking in too much visual noise and crowding.
The West beach is always bustling with activity. Its small size is less of a deterrent and more attractive to people looking to engage in numerous beach activities. You’ll see kids and adults sculpting in the sand, sunbathing, and tourists taking photos of the beautiful sceneries on the beach.
If you love beach volleyball, you’ll feel right at home at West Beach. Volleyball enthusiasts frequently host tournaments where locals and sporty tourists are welcome to play.
You’ll find it super fun to paddleboard and kayak at this spot. However, you may not get a chance to swim at West Beach. This location also serves as a harbour for sailboats. You are, therefore, likely to see more boats than people out in the sea. Feel free to take a dip in the nearby Los Banos Public Pool if you must satisfy your need to swim and cool off.
Your kids will enjoy eating at one of the numerous seafront restaurants. You may also take them to the Santa Barbara Sea Center or the Skater’s Point, which aren’t too far away from West Beach.
Carpinteria City Beach
A fantastic option for vacationing families, Carpinteria City Beach is an expansive beach that stretches from the renowned Stearns Wharf to West Beach. There are plenty of activities to enjoy for travellers who haven’t been here before.
Features that make this place far better than other places are the beach’s sloped shape, which extends deep into the water before getting to the reefs — an excellent natural safety feature, especially for younger inexperienced swimmers.
You’ll find plenty of picnic tables at the location, so there is no need to bring your own. You’ll also have access to other convenient facilities like showers, restrooms, and play areas. The beach is a revered tourist hub where people can surf the waves, build sandcastles, play volleyball, kayak, and sunbathe.
When you’re hungry, you’ll love what the cafes and little hotels offer while barely being steps away from the shore.
The long beach makes for a great stroll which leads to the nearby Carpinteria State Beach. If you go even further towards the southeast, you’ll find yet another gem, the Rincon point. The Rincon Point is a surfers’ haven because it boasts ecstatic surf breaks. Carpinteria City Beach has plenty of nature trails that lead to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park, where you can view exotic birds and other wildlife.
Santa Claus Beach
Like the proverbial Santa, Santa Claus Beach has many gifts to offer everyone who visits. It matters not what time of year it is; Santa Claus beach is ever bouncing with activity. Its crisp, clear waters glistening for miles and miles into the sea, tall palm trees, and the whitest sandscape are enough to make anyone never want to leave.
The gorgeous beach homes circling the beach are a welcome addition and a beautiful sight to behold. Locals and tourists who visit Santa Claus Beach participate in water sporting activities like boogie boarding, paddle boarding, stand-up surfing, and body surfing.
No need to tire yourself carrying gear from home. The management here offers all the water sporting gear you’ll need, albeit at a fee. There are also several surf shops along the beach that can rent gear to visitors. The Kids can head to the sandpit, which already comes with many toys for sand sculpturing and playing.
If you and your family are travelling with your pet dog in tow, you could have access to the beach if your dog remains leashed throughout.
Care for a bite? Why not try the Padaro Beach Grill located on Santa Claus Lane? This eatery prepares the most delicious burgers and fish tacos and has a calming garden design that makes you want to take it home with you. You could try many restaurants by the bay if you want a more elegant dining experience.
Access to this beach requires one to park a short distance from the highway101, after which you’ll have to go on foot past the railway tracks to get to the beach. Santa Claus Beach is by far the most exciting place to be for families in Santa Barbara.
Mesa Lane Beach
If beaches had personalities, the Mesa Lane beach would be the softest, most laid-back individual in Santa Barbara. Here, life is slow, calm, and anything but fast. Tourists from all over the world visit this beach when they are looking to enjoy a bit of wildlife and sea life.
Mesa Lane Beach is a hot spot for families and locals looking for the ideal plan for their summer weekends. The beach may be calm and quiet but don’t be surprised to find thrill seekers surfing away in the most breathtaking crashing waves.
When the tide is high, there isn’t much you can do by the beach because the water pretty much covers everywhere. However, you can see the shore come out with all its glory when the tide is low.
To access the beach, prepare for a workout session as you will have to take a steep hike downwards. After that, you’ll take even more steps down the stairway to get to the beach. By the time you are done, your thighs will be burning, and you’ll likely be panting heavily from exhaustion — a perfect excuse to take a quick dip in the water to cool off.
The Mesa Lane Beach is rarely ever crowded. The most activity you’ll see is a person or two, basking and relaxing on the sand, another distant person running or taking a stroll on the beach, and probably a few surfers eagerly waiting for the swell to pick up before getting into the water.
When you and your family want nothing but to be surrounded by sea greenery, spend some quiet time and enjoy the beach without crossing paths with too many people, the Mesa Lane Beach is your best bet.
Loon Point Beach
The fresh vibe here is unparalleled. Travelling often means mingling with the locals and getting to experience their lifestyle and culture. Nowhere else will you get a better opportunity to experience the true Santa Barbara spirit than at Loon Point Beach.
It is not too crowded but has just the right number of people to hang out with if you don’t mind sharing your space with others. The beach features a serene ambience and is located a significant distance away from other buildings, towns, and beaches.
This beach is fenced by cliffs making it a perfect hideout for merry seekers and vacationing families. It’s the ideal place to swim, sunbathe, stroll, and beach comb without worrying about who can see you. The Loon Point Beach is close to equally enchanting places like the Lookout Park and the Summerland Beach.
Bring everything you may need, including snacks and swimming gear, because, during weekdays, there is a chance you will not find shops renting equipment or selling snacks/food. The downside of the beach being less crowded is a small price to pay to enjoy the best beach in Santa Barbara all by yourself.
Best Beaches in Santa Barbara for Families-Final Say
Finding the best beaches in Santa Barbara for Families can be a mean feat. Santa Barbara is like a candy store, with different types of candy to taste; only this time, you have plenty of beaches to choose from. During the summer break, you want to find a place to go and have fun as a family unit. What better place to visit than Santa Barbara?
The crystal waters, fantastic climate, amazing people, and white sand are captivating. Santa Barbara feels like a home away from home. It’s not only because of the environment but also thanks to its welcoming nature. Everything here seems to want to keep you here for the rest of the year.
Above is a comprehensive countdown of 10 of the best beaches in Santa Barbara for families. Check us out for more insight into planning your next family vacation.
Want to have a read about some more great things to see and do whilst in Southern California? Check out the articles linked below!
- 12 Of The Best Family Hotels In Santa Barbara
- Top 10 Attractions And Fun Things To Do In California With Kids
- 19 Of The Best Family Campgrounds In Southern California
More about our TFVG Author
Karly is a The Family Vacation Guide guest travel contributor.