You want to go to a place that beckons with adventure and discovery. A place that offers epic days full of enjoyment that end with feet kicked up as the sun sinks low. A place that is on the coast and down to earth, with wide-open beaches and hidden gems. Welcome to Goleta Vacations — where you GO for fun!
This attractive beach community has been called “the jewel in the crown” of the Santa Barbara coast. It is renowned for its typically sunny weather, while the fog that shrouds its well-to-do neighbor is rarely in evidence. The town happens to be the geographic location of both the University of California campus and the airport that serves the nearby city. Seals are rare on Southern California beaches, but you’ll find them here.
The 9 acre Coronado Butterfly Preserve and the Ellwood Main Monarch Grove, for which it serves as a gateway, are among the best locales to see the beauteous orange and black insects. Massive numbers of monarchs fly up to 3,000 miles to roost in the coastal eucalyptus trees; birds and wildlife also thrive here. The best viewing is between December and February.
Enjoy the many wonderful beaches of Goleta, (you’ll find a list here), then come visit Goleta. Our Goleta Vacations guide has all your answers to start planning your beach vacation. Just keep reading 🙂
Weather (When to Go)
The busiest month for tourism in Goleta, CA, US is July, followed by June and August. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you purchase well in advance. Tourists are unlikely to visit Goleta in November. Those willing to visit at these times will likely find it the least expensive month.
During spring (March – May) Humidity and temperatures combine to make this season feel moderate. Highs range from 73.5°F and 66°F with warmer temperatures in the later months. Rain is rare with 1 to 2 days of significant precipitation per month. Spring is the second busiest for tourism, which makes it a good time for those looking for things to do. June – August have comfortably cool weather with high temperatures that are comfortable. This is the busiest season for tourism in Goleta, so lodging and other accommodations may cost more than usual. Fall (September – November) daily highs range from 78.2°F and 67.9°F, which will feel comfortable given the humidity and wind. Tourism is the slowest during these months due to the weather, so hotels may be affordably priced. December – February weather is too cold in Goleta to be enjoyable for warm weather travelers. The average high during this season is between 68.7°F and 63.9°F. These times of year are fairly slow with tourists.
Camping in Goleta
Goleta offers a variety of ways to reconnect, but perhaps one of the most exciting, memorable, and serene is simply pitching a tent on its rugged-yet-inviting shores. That’s right; claim some seriously beachfront property for the weekend. Goleta coastline is one of the most spectacular in the country, with cascading cliffs and pristine beaches. These sandy shores and hidden coastal corners offer a welcome escape to nature with a variety of camping options. Pitch the tent or park the Airstream, and call this prime real estate your front yard for a few days. There are numerous camping locations to pick from. Top three are going to be El Capitan Beach State Park, Refugio State Beach, and Sage Hill Campground.
Things Not to Miss
Goleta Butterfly Grove
Monarch butterflies migrate to Goleta each November through February and this amazing sight is best viewed at the Goleta Butterfly Grove. The site is open sunrise to sunset with no admission fee, but the City of Goleta does accept donations to support the Monarch Butterfly Docent Program. The grove is adjacent to the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa. The Ellwood Mesa open space includes 137 acres of natural terrain with designated trails and beach access.
South Coast Railroad Museum
The South Coast Railroad Museum in Goleta, California, focuses on the history, technology, and adventure of railroading. Special emphasis is placed on the railroad’s contributions to local history, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and on the key historical role of the railroad depot in rural community life across America. The museum centerpiece is Goleta Depot, a country railroad station house built by the Southern Pacific in 1901 during completion of the Coast Route joining San Francisco and Los Angeles. Goleta Depot is listed on the National Register of Historic places.
Known for its long fishing pier and sunbathing beaches, these 29 acres are often a destination for bicyclists on the area’s paved trail system. Between the lively restaurant and BBQ picnic areas are volleyball, horseshoes and children’s playgrounds. The park features: BBQ Grills, Beach Access, Benches or Picnic Tables, Bike Trails, Bird Watching, Boating, Fishing, Group Picnic Areas, Horseshoes, Playground, Restaurant or Snacks, Restrooms, Swimming, art in the park, and seasonal lifeguards.
Coal Oil Point Reserve
The Coal Oil Point Reserve is part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. The reserve protects natural habitats to support research, education, outreach, and stewardship. One of the best remaining examples of a coastal-strand environment in Southern California, the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve protects a wide variety of coastal and estuarine habitats. Largely undisturbed coastal dunes support a rich assemblage of dune vegetation and rare wildlife, including the dune spider, the globose dune beetle and the threatened Western Snowy Plover.
Refugio State Park & Beach
Refugio State Beach offers excellent coastal fishing as well as trails and picnic sites. Palm trees planted near Refugio Creek give a distinctive look to the beach and camping area. Lifeguards patrol the beach year around while lifeguard towers are only staffed roughly from Memorial day weekend through Labor day weekend. Beach wheelchairs are available for use by the public at no cost. With this specially designed chair, wheelchair users may access the beach at several locations. Contact a ranger or lifeguard for additional information.
Things to Do
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch & Stables
They offer luxury cabins, rustic rooms, and horseback riding in a beautiful and scenic natural setting. Join them for horseback riding on some of the finest trails and horses in the Central Coast with mountain, creek, canyon, and ocean views! Go horseback riding year round, with rides ranging from 1.5 to 4 hours! Their amenities and activities include a full bar, outdoor pool and hot tub, library, horseback riding tours, hiking trails, game room, spa services, horseshoe pit, conference rooms and more. For more information call 805-968-1113, or visit them on the web at Circle Bar B Guest Ranch & Stables.
Santa Barbara Adventure Company
They offer Santa Barbara kayaking & Channel Islands kayaking, surf lessons, wine country tours by van or bike, mountain biking, rock climbing and team building programs. Our knowledgeable and friendly guides offer exceptional service and share with you a side of the Santa Barbara area few visitors ever get to experience. For more information call 805-884-WAVE, or visit them on the web at Santa Barbara Adventure Company.
Paddle Sports Center
The Paddle Sports Center is a premier Kayak | SUP | Surf rental, membership, instruction, and tour center. Explore the waterfront & view sea birds, sea lions, seals, dolphins, and even whales! We provide instruction and comfortable/quality gear. Their rental rates are the best in town and their local guides are extremely knowledgeable about the area. For more information call 805-617-3425, or visit them on the web at Paddle Sports Center.
Cal Coast Adventures
They offer stand up paddle board Lessons in Santa Barbara as well as Rentals, kayak rentals and tours, Santa Barbara Road Bike Rentals and Tours, Full Suspension Mountain Bike Tours in the mountains above Santa Barbara and in Santa Ynez, Mountain Bike rentals are available as well, kiteboarding lessons, boogie board rentals, surf lessons at many of Santa Barbara’s amazing beaches and surf board rentals as well. For more information call 805-628-2444, or visit them on the web at Cal Coast Adventures.
Condor Express Whale Watching
There is no better way to see marine wildlife in Southern California than to see it in the ocean from our spectacular boat! The eco-friendly Condor Express gives you a unique opportunity to see Southern California marine wildlife from a completely different angle. Since 1973 the Condor and more recently the Condor Express has been a part of the Santa Barbara waterfront cruising the Santa Barbara Channel. They offer a wide variety of cruises. For more information call 805-882-0088, or visit them on the web at Condor Express Whale Watching.
Best Rated Restaurants
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$ Red Pepper Restaurant
This secret little restaurant serves the tastiest Chinese food in Goleta (and possibly in all of Santa Barbara, too). Meals are served family style and sauces are made in-house to suit each dish; there’s none of that ‘same brown sauce on everything’ here. Colors and flavors are vibrant and prices are more than reasonable. Lunch combos come with soup, salad and an entre, with orange slices for dessert. The ladies who work here are super friendly, even if the service is, well, less than traditional. Do not escape without ordering the onion pancakes! For more information call 805-964-0995, or visit them on the web at Red Pepper Restaurant.
$ Goodland Kitchen & Market
This gem of a restaurant is located in the heart of old town Goleta. Breakfast and lunch are served Monday through Saturday. Everything is made in-house with the freshest ingredients in limited quantities. In fact, it’s not uncommon for some of their sandwiches and salads to sell out. Warm baked good are also available, like melty chocolate chip cookies and homemade poptarts. Their lemonade is legendary and the fresh-brewed coffee is delicious. Goodland also operates as a commercial kitchen, allowing community cooks to produce small-batch treats. For more information call 805-845-4300, or visit them on the web at Goodland Kitchen & Market.
$ Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch
The Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch serves up Mexican-style mesquite BBQ chicken and tri-tip. Try one or both with a side of tortillas, rice and chips. Try their burritos, they’re delicious. And don’t miss the salsa bar, it’s stocked with fresh salsas, pickled onion and jalapenos that will bring out the smoky flavors in your order. Sides of fresh guacamole can be ordered, too. For more information call 805-692-9200, or visit them on the web at Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch.
$ The Natural Café
This is a local favorite for vegetarian and vegan options. This restaurants serves up delicious chicken and fish entrees. Popular dishes include their fresh fish tacos, savory meatless burgers and signature Caesar salad generously topped with avocado. They offer beer, regional wine, natural sodas and delicious custom blended smoothies and shakes. For more information call 805-685-2039, or visit them on the web at The Natural Café.
$ Sushi Teri
The fish is fresh and the daily specials are fresher. Sushi Teri has a variety of sushi rolls, grilled fish and teriyaki plates on their menu. Try their chirashi bowl or sushi sampler if you want to sample different varieties. Sushi Teri also has ramen and udon noodle dishes. There is green tea (iced or hot) and your choice of sakes. For more information call 805-964-9909, or visit them on the web at Sushi Teri.
Mixing some of the Santa Barbara Area’s finest cocktails in the heart of beautiful Old Town Goleta. There’s a good selection of whiskeys here, as well as a specialty cocktail menu that includes such favorites as cucumber margaritas and marmalade sours. For more information call 805-967-3001, or visit them
on the web at The Imperial.
The Good Bar
An intimate, laidback lounge designed to invite you in and let the good times roll with a billiards table, backgammon boards and a coastal cool soundtrack. This is where spirits including premium whiskey, tequila and mezcal are mixed with local ingredients like lavender and mint to create notoriously delicious cocktails. There are also local craft beers and wines from vineyards just a cork’s throw away For more information call 805-964-1288, or visit them on the web at The Good Bar.
M. Special Brewing Company
Try some of the area’s best brews at M. Special Brewing Company. This brewery and bar serves up fresh drafts of their own beer crafted on site. Offering up lager, Saison, IPA and more… the menu changes with what’s available. This is a great place to pull up a seat at their long wooden bar and catch the game on TV. For more information call 805-968-6500, or visit them on the web at M. Special Brewing Company.
Break Time Sports Bar
Goleta’s best dive bar. Enjoy a relaxing bar (or cocktail), play a round of darts and maybe catch the game on TV. There are also pool and pinball tables, as well as the occasional live band. A true local’s favorite for years. For more information call 805-692-9911, or visit them on the web at Break Time Sports Bar.
This is a hidden gem in an unassuming strip mall. The Mercury is something of a haven, a dark velvet calm of a wine and beer bar complete with low couches, a single pool table, vintage glassware and a cozy rear patio. With dozens of beers to choose from and a wine list that leans local, it’s a connoisseur’s type of place – perfect for intimate conversations or dark solo musings. For more information call 805-967-0907, or visit them on the web at Mercury Lounge.
Hampton Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta
This California hotel is just 2 miles from Goleta Beach Park. Hampton Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta features an outdoor pool, a hot tub and rooms with flat-screen cable TVs and free Wi-Fi. The rooms have microwaves and refrigerators. They also include sitting areas and desks. Rooms with sofa beds are also available. For guests’ convenience, Hampton Inn Goleta serves breakfast. The hotel has a gym as well as a business center and meeting facilities. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit the Hampton Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta.
In a lush grove of trees off Highway 101, this all suites hotel features an outdoor pool and hot tub in a garden setting and offers a daily cooked to order breakfast. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is a 5 minute drive away.
Free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, a sofa bed and a refrigerator are offered in all of the contemporary guest suites at Pacifica Suites. The spacious suites are comfortably designed and include a work desk, a hairdryer, guest bathrobes and tea/coffee-making facilities. For guest convenience, Suites Pacifica offers free parking. An on site business center and a 24-hour front desk are also featured. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Pacifica Suites.
Kimpton Goodland features a year-round outdoor pool and terrace. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. All rooms include a flat-screen TV. Some units have a sitting area for your convenience. Every room comes with a private bathroom equipped with a bathtub or shower. For your comfort, you will find bathrobes, free toiletries and a hairdryer. You will find a 24-hour front desk at the property. You can play pool at this hotel, and free use of bicycles is available. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Kimpton Goodland.
Courtyard by Marriott Santa Barbara/Goleta
Just 4 miles from Santa Barbara Airport, this Goleta hotel features an outdoor pool and hot tub. A restaurant and fitness center is on site. Free Wi-Fi is included in all guest rooms. A flat-screen TV with cable is included in all rooms at Courtyard by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta. Tea and coffee-making facilities are provided. Guests of Goleta Courtyard by Marriott Santa Barbara can enjoy American cuisine at the Bistro. Breakfast and dinner is available. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Barbara/Goleta.
Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta
Featuring free WiFi, Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta offers accommodations in Santa Barbara, just 19 miles from Solvang. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Every room is fitted with a TV. You will find a 24-hour front desk at the property. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit the Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta.