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/ January 6, 2024

48 hours in Santa Barbara

Planning a trip to the west coast? Here’s how I’d spend 48 hours in Santa Barbara.

We just got back from a quick stay in Santa Barbara. One of the best benefits of moving to California is having so many amazing locations close to us. Santa Barbara is about an hour drive from our house and ticks all the boxes of things our family loves; the ocean, mountains, and of course great food.

If I only had 48 hours in Santa Barbara, here is where I’d stay, where I’d go, and what I’d eat broken down into an easy itinerary for your next trip.

On Day One

Settle in to your home away from home

at the Mesa Beach House in the Mesa neighborhood of Santa Barbara.

As a family of 6 staying in an Air BNB just makes sense. We absolutely loved this house and will for sure stay there again. The Mesa neighborhood is awesome if you’re traveling as a family (or just on your own as a couple). It’s super “neighborhoody” (if that’s even a word). Kids out riding bikes, surfers, cute bungalows, all within walking distance to Mesa Lane Beach, parks, and a really cute downtown area with great restaurants and shops.

Coffee at Dart and an early morning beach stroll

Wake up and grab coffee (or my order, an almond milk matcha latte) from Dart Coffee and head to the beach for a sunrise stroll. We stopped at Dart Coffee twice on our last visit and there always seemed to be a line out the door, and is for sure where the locals go. Super chic cafe, great coffee and pastries, and a super friendly staff.

And either head to the wharf for a stroll along the beach, or head to The Rosewood Miramar hotel beach. While the hotel itself is stunning (and a great option for a place to stay), the beach is open to the public and a great place to stroll or sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. You can also get coffee/breakfast on the property too.

Lunch at Helena Bakery

We are a bread-and-butter kind of family. Yes I eat clean and healthy, but a good slice of fresh sourdough or croissant is my love language – and Helena’s hands down is the best around. We loved it so much we stopped there three times (I know, that’s a lot of carbs). We’ve had a lot of really good carbs in our life and eaten at some of the best bakers on the east coast, midwest and now west coast and I will go out on a limb here and say that Helena’s sourdough and croissant is the best I’ve ever had.

They also have great soups, salads and sandwhiches and is located right in the heart of the town in a super cute gelleria with other shops. Definitely worth a visit.

Head to the beach for sunset

There are a few great beaches in Santa Barbarba. Mesa Lane beach is great for watching surfers and 1,000 steps beach is as well. Both have very shallow so it’s worth taking a peak at the tide schedule before going down there. You can always find a spot on the rocks though if the tide is high.

I love both of those beaches with the kids becuase they’re a little more interesting and have fun nooks for the kids to play. And they’re just stunning.

The East Beach is great too and a much wider beach, volleyball nets, open spaces to fun/play and of course fun to watch the boats and see the pier.

Dinner downtown

At Oliver’s for an amazing vegan meal that will make you rethink vegan food. Oliver’s food is truly outstanding and the patio is gorgeous. For sure is worth a stop.

Or if that’s not your thing, and you want more comfort food, try Corazon for some truly outstanding Mexican food.

Day Two

Coffee and breakfast at Merci

Merci in Montecito, just a few miles south of Santa Barbarba is worth the hype it’s been getting. We stopped there to grab tea and ended up ordering just about everything on the menu. From the smoked trout, the ham and butter baguette (yes, I said ham & butter), to the carrot cake, lentil soup and apple galette – the food is all outstanding and unique. Plus the cafe is so chic. I was taking note of all the flatware and glasses for our next home renovation.

Stay at the Montecito County Mart for a little shopping

Merci is located in the Montecito Country Mart which is an upscale shopping center with great boutiques and restaurants. I picked up a few things at Clic and Hundson Grace while we were there. There’s a little something for everyone there.

Head to Summerland

To check out a few of the incredible antique and outdoor home stores. Summerland has probably the best outdoor home stores I’ve ever been too. The Well & Porch Summerland are my favorites and how I envision my backyard one day looking (a girl can dream).

There’s also a great public beach in Summerland that’s worth a visit. We’ve stayed in Summerland before and spent many hours with the kids swimming at that beach and watching sunsets. It’s a gorgeous beach where you’ll find people swimming, dogs running around and now and then even a few horses. It’s the quintessential Santa Barbara beach.

Finish your trip with a gorgeous dinner at San Ysidro Ranch

At the Stonehouse. San Ysidro Ranch is a gorgeous resort and 100% worth the hype. JP and I decided to have dinner there to explore the property and just enjoy a memorable meal.

We ate at the Stonehouse and it was truly magical. It’s hard to put into words the scenery. You have ocean views with the sun setting on gardens and the mountains behind you. It’s romantic, quiet and magical.

The food is outstanding, but most notably the service and staff go out of their way to make you feel at home and so special. Blankets brought to your table, fires started just for you, every attention to detail thought of. A great way to end your visit to Santa Barbara.

There are so many other great things to do in Santa Barbara County. If we would have had more time, we would have gone into Ojai, Goletta, or Carpenteria. All worth stops. But if you only had 48 hours in Santa Barbara, these are the things I would do.

Hope that helps you plan your next 48 hours in Santa Barbara.

for other travel inspiration, check out my latest post on our family trip to Costa Rica.



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  1. Katy I loved your review of Santa Barbara and I’m a local SoCal Resident that lives in the OC so through the years have gone to SB with my husband and family many times and look forward to trying some of your suggestions next time we go. I wanted to share a recent experience I had in Santa Barbara and that is this past October my husband and I stayed at the Baccari Ritz Carlton in Goleta, which is just outside of Santa Barbara we went for our 20th wedding anniversary and it was a hotel that it always been on my bucket list to stay say it was my favorite hotel I’ve ever stayed at in SB and the grounds were just beautiful so next time you go, you’ll have to check out that place whether it be to stay or try some of the restaurants found those to be a great culinary experience as well. Have a great rest of your week and thanks again for the great review of SB.


    • Oh wow, that is so good to know! Thank you, Tricia. Adding it to my bucket list now….we have our 20th coming up in a few years so I may copy you! Thank you again! xoxo

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