Dipping your toes into the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and the sun raise gently touching your face! Just open your eyes and you will understand that you are standing at East Beach, California. As Santa Barbara’s must-visit beach, East Beach should definitely be on your bucket list. Keep reading as we have prepared the ultimate guide with all the necessary information to plan your visit to East Beach! 

Location of East Beach 

Situated on the central part of the Californian coast, Santa Barbara is a popular tourist resort. The city is home to 4 main beaches, the most popular of which is East Beach. As you can guess by its name it is located on the eastern side of the town, but it is also fairly close to the downtown area. 

Getting to East Beach 

Santa Barbara Airport is only 11 miles away from East Beach, which means you can immediately start your holiday by hitting the coast. Something to have in mind is that, Santa Barbara Airport is just a small local air hub, with only limited number of airlines flying there. Los Angeles Airport, on the other hand, is approximately 82 miles away. Check out the best flight deals here.

If you will be driving from Santa Barbara Airport to East Beach, you will first need to follow Road 217, before merging to Highway 101. After driving for about 9 miles on the motorway, you will need to take exit 96A. At the traffic light on S Allisons Street, you will need to turn left and another left onto Calle Puerto Vallarta. Then you will just need to follow the road, which will take you directly to E Cabrillo Boulevard. 

Even if you need to rely on the public transport, Santa Barbara is a city with a fairly well developed bus system. From the airport you can take bus 11 or bus 20, and they will both take you directly to East Beach. You will need to plan around 1 hour and a half for the journey, but the ticket price is only between $2 – $6. Getting a taxi will certainly be a faster and more convenient option, but it will cost you up to $60. 

If you are looking for public transport options from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, you can use the Coast Strarlight train, leaving every 4 hours from Los Angeles Union Station. Keep in mind that the travel time will be over 2 hours, though. 

When to Visit 

A quick getaway to East Beach in California can be planned year-round. Even still, summer is considered as the peak season when the area gets quite crowded. If you would like a more relaxing and laid-back holiday, with less visitors around, you should visit between March to May. In this part of California, the weather is already warm and you will have long spring days to explore the area. An alternative, especially if you are traveling on a budget, is to visit in autumn from September to November, when you will also get much lower prices. 

Staying Overnight at East Beach

If you are a nature lover, you might be disappointed because staying overnight at East Beach is impossible as there are no camping grounds. Santa Barbara, however, as a very popular holiday resort, offers a wide variety of accommodation options that you can choose from. 

If you would like to be as close to the beach as possible and enjoy a luxurious stay, you can choose between Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort and Santa Barbara Inn. They both offer deluxe rooms,  fine dining experiences and excellent spa and swimming pool facilities. 

Cabrillo Inn at the Beach and Inn at East Beach, on the other hand, are fantastic options for those traveling on a budget. Do not get fooled by the simple rooms, though, as you will still have fantastic ocean view from your terrace. 

Where to Eat 

Along East Cabrillo Boulevard, visitors can find numerous local restaurants and bars. If you are craving some fresh seafood, you should certainly stop by Captain Groovy’s Raw Bar and Grill. Among the chef specialties, you will find the Oyster Gumbo Bowl and the Seafood Curry, which are both definitely worth the try! If you are a fan of Mexican food, you will certainly find the authentic Mexican taste at Jessy’s Tienda Y Taqueria. The Breakfast Burritos is perfect if you are just starting the day. The delicious Huarache and Fajita Nachos, on the other hand, are excellent choices for lunch. Visitors will also be surprised by the huge variety of traditional Mexican tacos! 

After a long day at the beach, the best place to have a romantic dinner is at the Ocean View Pier Restaurant. As you can presume by its name, the diner is located above the water on the pier and offers fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean. You will find a wide menu with various options, but the seafood dishes are must-tries! 

Facilities at East Beach 

As one of the most popular beaches in Santa Barbara, East Beach has all the necessary facilities, which will ensure your fantastic well-spent day at the coast. It is not just the basic lifeguard stands, restrooms, showers and picnic areas, but numerous other amenities such as kids play ground, skate park and bike path. In addition to that, the dozens of volleyball courts, make East Beach a local’s favorite. The free parking situated along East Cabrillo Boulevard, makes East Beach easily accessible as well. 

Things / Activities to Do / See 

Now that you have all the necessary information, are you ready to pack your bags and hit the beach? To make this guide even more complete, we are also sharing the best spots that you should add to your travel itinerary, so keep reading to learn even more! 

The Beach 

Soft sand and warm waters will greet you at East Beach. If you are looking forward to relaxing on the beach, swimming and sunbathing all day we suggest heading to the western side of the beachfront. It is less crowded and will allow you to fully immerse into the laid-back Californian beach life. Those who would prefer being active, can head to the wider East side of the beach. This area is popular with its numerous volleyball courts, offering the option for great sport activities all day. With its relatively calm waters, East Beach is not popular for surfing, however, it can be great for body boarding or stand-up paddle-boarding, especially for the little ones! 

If you visit early in the morning, you will notice a lot of people who like going for a run or just a walk down the beach. What you might be more surprised by, though, will be all the people with metal detectors. As East Beach is fairly popular area, there are constantly people visiting and dropping things around the beachfront. As a result, metal detecting has become a popular activity, especially with the locals. 

Another great way to explore East Beach and the nearby area, is by biking. The bike path is located on the other side of the road, and if you decide to follow it all the way to the West, you will find yourself at the popular Butterfly Beach. 

Note: Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed at East Beach, California 

The Zoo

A walking distance from East Beach, visitors will find another family-friendly attraction – Santa Barbara Zoo. Covering around 30 acres, the zoo is home to more than 500 animals from 146 different species groups. Among the most popular inhabitants are the giraffes, the native Californian condors and the Amur leopards, so make sure to stop by and take a closer look at them. The zoo organizes various live shows, throughout the days, so do not miss to check the program first and plan your visit accordingly. Children also enjoy climbing up the 26-foot wall and visiting the animal kitchen, where they can learn more about the food preparation process for each animal. 

The Refuge 

If you enjoy bird-watching, you should certainly add Andre Clark Bird Refuge to your travel itinerary when visiting East Beach. The entire park stretches over 42 acres, with a massive lake in the middle and various trails. In order to fully experience the refuge, people can choose between hiking or biking around the park. Along the paths, there are three viewing platforms, which once climbed on top of, offer beautiful views of the park and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Make sure to also bring your binoculars, as you can see over 200 different bird species at Andre Clark Bird Refuge. 

The Downtown

If you have spent an entire day at East Beach, you should certainly finish the day at the vibrant Santa Barbara Downtown Area. From hipster bars and cafes to a large shopping center, you will definitely find things to do in the city’s downtown. To make the most of your day, start at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Founded back in 1941, the museum impresses its visitors with the huge collections of European, Asian and American art pieces telling stories from the ancient times to the current day. Despite not being a large museum, the contemporary art gallery is one of the top places to visit in Santa Barbara. 

After your visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, you should go on a shopping spree at Paseo Nuevo. The open-air shopping center is truly picturesque with its Spanish-style architecture. Not only will you be able to find popular fashion brands, but you can also catch a movie after sunset! 

Before heading back, do not forget to just take a long stroll down the cobblestone streets of Santa Barbara’s downtown area. This is the ultimate way to immerse yourself into the laid-back and colorful vibe of the resort. Take your time and stop by the small local boutiques and antique stores. Make sure to also get some souvenirs to remind you of the fantastic holiday you have once had to East Beach, California! 

The Peak

For all hiking lovers, who prefer being closer to the nature, other than the city, the trail up to Gaviota Peak is a must-do! Do not be fooled thinking that it is just the beach and the ocean that you can admire when at East Beach. As the highest point in the area, Gaviota Peak is an excellent 7 miles hike both ways, which will allow you to admire the breathtakingly beautiful views of Santa Barbara and the surrounding Pacific Ocean, while being surrounded by the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains. Once you climb on top of the 2,458-foot summit, the jaw-dropping views will definitely impress you and you will know that the hike was all worth it! 

The Pier

Situated just next to East Beach, it would be a shame if you have not taken a stroll down the Stearns Wharf Pier when in the area. Not only does the pier serve as a divider between West and East Beaches, but it is also part of the Santa Barbara Harbor. At Stearns Wharf visitors will find great dining options, souvenirs shops and a world of marine life at the Sea Center. A museum as well as a small aquarium, Sea Center is a great place to have a close encounter with various sea creatures. Make sure to add it to your travel itinerary, as it is a fantastic location, where you can spend a few hours with your family! 

Despite the fact that taking a walk down the pier is a great idea for any time of the day, a long stroll as the sun is kissing the ocean goodnight, is the ultimate romantic thing to do, when visiting East Beach with your significant other! You will be astonished by the beautiful colors of the nightfall and the reflecting twinkling lights into the ocean! 

Stop wondering what should your next holiday destination be! As we have the answer for you – it is East Beach! From the soft sand and warm waters to the beautiful views of the Ocean, East Beach is Santa Barbara’s must-visit beach! 

East Beach Santa Barbara