Daytrip Guide to Santa Barbara, California

Daytrips from Malibu: Santa Barbara

Tucked between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the boundless Pacific, Santa Barbara likens more to a Mediterranean village than your typical California beach town. Golden hillsides and white-sand beaches give rise to red-tiled roofs, porticos, and sprawling gardens, and nearby, a collection of world-class hiking trails offers spectacular views of the Channel Islands.

Just over an hour’s drive from Malibu Beach Inn, it’s the perfect daytrip destination for those who wish to explore more of the California coast. (And the comfortable driving distance means you can be back in your room or suite by early evening.)

Widely known as the American Riviera, the seaside village is a paradise for outdoor adventurers with hiking and rock climbing in the Los Padres National Forest, an array of pristine golf courses, horseback riding along the bluffs, and hang gliding high above the winding coastline. The beaches abound with watersports like paddleboarding and kayaking, and at Rincon Point, experienced surfers paddle out for a wave that travels for up to half a mile.

Santa Barbara Harbor with Sailing and Yachting

To start your day, make the drive to Santa Barbara by mid-morning for an easy hike above the city. The mountaintop Lizard’s Mouth is accessible by a scenic drive to West Camino Cielo and a half-mile, out-and-back trail. Climb up onto the sandstone outcropping for sensational panoramas of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.

(Channel Islands National Park in the distance is worth a daytrip in itself with its diverse marine life and expansive sea caves, considered among the best in the world.)

Lunch takes you back into the city to Toma Restaurant and Bar on West Cabrillo Boulevard. The waterfront eatery highlights Italian-inspired Mediterranean cuisine like capellini with scampi-style white prawns, and the views of sailboats and leisure yachts cruising into Santa Barbara Harbor are unparalleled.

Santa Barbara shopping at Julianne boutique

Photo: Julianne

The rest of your day is best spent in Montecito, a chic enclave in Santa Barbara that is the definition of effortless luxury with its stunning gardens and beaches, boutiques, and five-star restaurants.

Spend the afternoon discovering eclectic shops like Julianne (women’s luxury clothing), Maison K (lifestyle pieces such as hand-carved chairs from Indonesia), and Lily (one-of-a-kind jewelry, silk robes, and more). Then, take a walk through Lotusland, a 37-acre estate brimming with rare, exotic plants from around the world. The incredible diversity of flora is arranged throughout 25 beautiful gardens, each with its own distinct design.

Before you make your way back to Malibu, head to The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch for an exquisite dinner. The restaurant sets the stage for an unforgettable evening with a covered terrace surrounded by florals and lit up with twinkling lights at night. (Or if you prefer, indoors amongst the vaulted ceilings, warm woods, and cozy wood-burning fireplace.)

The Stonehouse restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, California

Photo: The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch

On the menu, you will find delectable offerings like wild mushroom risotto with shaved black truffle and oven-roasted rack of lamb, as well as decadent desserts such as Peach Financier with organic wild blueberry compote and peach sauce.

Best of all, the world-class cuisine is complemented by the light of the setting sun as you wrap up your day in Santa Barbara.

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