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!
Goleta Weather – When to Visit
The busiest month for tourism in Goleta is June thru August. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you purchase well in advance. The warmest time of year is generally late August to early September where highs are regularly around 78.2°F with temperatures rarely dropping below 58.1°F at night.
Best Goleta Beaches
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.
Refugio State Beach
Refugio State Beach is a south-facing sandy beach in a cove that is backed by palm trees and has lifeguards in the summer months. At low tide there are tide pools to explore at both ends of the cove.
El Capitan State Beach
El Capitan State Beach has a large campground and a day-use parking area near the beach. At low tide you can explore both sides on foot. At high tide there isn’t much beach exposed. Surfers ride the waves on the east side of the point. Tide pools can be explored at the end of the point at low tide.
Haskell’s Beach is right below the huge Bacara Resort and Spa west of Goleta and Santa Barbara. It’s a fantastic beach and one that visitors to the Santa Barbara area should add to their “to do” lists. Follow the wide easy-graded path to a small park area with grass and picnic tables. There is also a beach house with restrooms, showers and a shaded area.
Near Ellwood beach is a Monarch butterfly wintering ground. Thousands of Monarch butterflies come here during the winter and hang out in a large grove of eucalyptus trees. The best time to see the butterflies is during December and January. The monarch butterfly preserve is something you won’t want to miss!
Goleta Area Tours & Activities
Santa Barbara Wine Tour with Picnic Lunch
See and taste the best the Santa Barbara coast has to offer on this leisurely paced wine tour and picnic lunch. You’ll sip on a variety of wines and visit at four local wineries in the area. Knowledgeable local guide will pick you up anywhere in the Santa Barbara area to begin the tour. Feast on a delicious picnic lunch at one of the wineries while enjoying the scenery of the rolling coastal mountains. Read more about Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Tour
Full-Day Iconic Sights of LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, the beaches and more!
From the Hollywood sign to the celebrity mansions of Beverly Hills, Los Angles is so full of iconic sights it can be tricky to see them all. This guided tour seamlessly transports you by coach to all of the city’s top attractions — from Santa Monica Pier to the Sunset Strip — so that you don’t need to worry about missing a thing. Read more about Los Angeles Tour with Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and beaches
Hollywood Hills Hike: Explore Griffith Park and Hollywood Sign
Griffith Park is California’s 2nd largest park, so we’re excited to take you on one of the best Los Angeles tours out there! Our team of CPR/First Aid certified guides are photographers, entertainers, history buffs, and (most importantly) professionals. Hike Griffith Park with us to discover the Hollywood Sign and tour Griffith Observatory as we regale you with how Hollywood became the entertainment capital of the world. Read more about Hollywood Hills Hike
Private Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara
This private Santa Barbara kayaking tour lets you explore the marine life and landmarks of Santa Barbara Harbor and the spectacular coastline on the ‘American Riviera’ along one of four different routes. Take in views of rugged shoreline cliffs and the Santa Ynez Mountains, and be on the lookout for dolphins and seals. This 1.5- to 2.5-hour tour is led by an experienced kayak guide who points out natural features and customizes the speed of the ride according to your skill level. Read more about Santa Barbara Harbor Private Kayak Tour
Surfing Lesson in Santa Barbara
There’s hardly a better place to learn to surf than the Southern California locale of Santa Barbara, which offers fantastic weather year-round. During this 1.5-hour lesson, an expert instructor shows you how to stand up on your surfboard and balance, offering tips on how to catch the perfect wave while ensuring your safety in the water. Wetsuit and surfboard rental are included, and all skill levels are welcome. Read more about Santa Barbara Surfing Lesson
Best Goleta Restaurants
Goodland Kitchen & Market Under $10
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. Telephone: 805-845-4300 Web: Goodland Kitchen & Market.
Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch Under $10
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. Telephone: 805-692-9200 Web: Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch.
The Natural Café $11 – 30
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. Telephone: 805-685-2039 Web: The Natural Café.
Beachside Bar Cafe $11 – 30
Beachside Bar Café in Goleta offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean as well as a fun atmosphere with great food. Whether you are visiting Santa Barbara for the first time or you are a longtime local, Beachside offers a unique dining experience that will keep you coming back for years to come. Telephone: 805-964-7881 Web: Beachside Bar Cafe
Sushi Teri $11 – 30
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. Telephone: 805-964-9909 Web: Sushi Teri.
Best Goleta Bars
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. Telephone: 805-967-300 Web: 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 Telephone: 805-964-1288 Web: 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. Telephone: 805-968-6500 Web: 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. Telephone: 805-692-9911 Web: 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. Telephone: 805-967-0907 Web: Mercury Lounge.
Best Goleta Area Hotels
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.
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.
Residence Inn Santa Barbara Goleta
Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta is one of the area’s only all-suite, extended-stay hotels. The 118 suites feature fully equipped kitchens, spacious bedrooms, separate workspaces and luxurious amenities. Relax in the outdoor spaces featuring a pool, fire pit and sports court. Or take advantage of a state-of-the-art fitness center, free daily breakfast and Wi-Fi, and The Residence Inn Mix™ evening social.
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.
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.
It’s refreshing, Leahrae, to see that in a coastal resource such as the lovely Goleta, activities are organised and catered for non-water lovers too, such as myself. Don’t get me wrong, I would love, I am sure, the stunning sightseeing of Goleta coast. But activities wise, I am pleased to hear that there are plenty of non-water based ones to do too.
What impresses me also is the number of relatively affordable restaurants. Santa Barbara area is renowned for being extremely costly. But Goleta seems to be affordable without missing out on outstanding natural beauty. My only concern would be the high levels of tourism. So, I guess, for me it would have to be in the Autumn months I would have to visit.
Thank you, Leahrae, for once again making me dream 🙂
You are welcome Giulia! You will find that the tourism here is not near as busy as Santa Barbara. And you are right, it is much more economical and just as beautiful with so many things to see. It’s a paradise for anyone, even the non beach lover 🙂 Thanks for reading Goleta Vacations.
Visiting the butterflies and tent camping on the beach would be my two favorites things in the Goleta beach area. Having several choices for biking or whale watching should also be on my list when visiting this area. Thanks for the information and inspiration to visit California beaches.
Good John, glad I could inspire you. Heck, I get inspired to return writing these posts! Thanks for reading Goleta Vacations!
Goleta is a great place to visit. Plenty to do. Good hotels and restaurants.
My wife would love the horseback riding at the Circle Bar B Guest Ranch & Stables and the Butterfly Grove. The cabins sound like the place to stay if your into horseback riding.
Yes, Goleta really is a great relaxed low-key beach town with gorgeous beaches. Everything there to have an enjoyable vacation and not get bored. Thanks for visiting beachtraveldestinations.com Mick!
Just like one of the previous comments says, I also feel like I’ve been on a vacation after reading your great post. So much useful and insightful information! The butterfly grove looks so amazing! I’d love to take my children to see it. It’s great to know there is a really good selection of accommodation on offer. However, my favorite is your suggestion to just pitch a tent on the beach and enjoy the weekend! Great!
Pitching a tent on the best, in my opinion, is the best. My kids love it too! Great way to enjoy the beach and nature. Thanks for reading Alenka!
This is my place:) I like being in nature. Goleta is not this type of overbuilt, and full of big hotels resort! You can go camping, go to the butterfly grove, and visit a real museum!
I will check this kayak service, you’ve mentioned!
Thank you for another beautiful place, you gave me a hint to visit!
You are very welcome Tony and I would have to agree with you! Glad you enjoyed. Let me know if you have any other questions about Goleta.
I have lived in California my whole life and have never been. Thank you for all of the info you have made it super easy for me to plan my trip with my family.
Thank you so much, oh any recommendations on things I can do with my kids there is greatly appreciated also.
Boy, I think they would really like the Monarch Butterfly grove. I am not sure how old they are, but most kids love wildlife. Also the Coal Oil Point reserve is interesting. My kids have always love playing at the beach, frolicking in the water, and making sand castles 🙂 Lotusland would be another great choice for families with kids. Thank you for visiting Goleta Vacations, and if you need any additional information, please let me know.
Wow, this is a really detailed guide on travelling to Goleta. I’ve not been there before and it seems like a really good place to visit. Anyway, your site is like a travel guide for me. Will definitely come back for more 🙂
Great Jerry, and if there is any area you want me to cover, please let me know. I am working my way around the globe 🙂
These places look beautiful! It would be great to travel here.
They are Jessica! You can visit one, and then there are so many options to visit the other beach communities that are close at hand. Thanks for reading.
Wow I feel like I just took a vacation. Great content. Thank you for this info. I now have added a few locations to my bucket list.
Good! Glad you enjoyed Lynette and thanks for visiting Goleta Vacations.
Looks like a beautiful place with plenty of things to do! I was drawn to the M. Special Brewing Company as I enjoy a good draft beer especially after spending a nice, warm day on the beach.
I’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding as it looks like a lot of fun. Is Goleta considered a tourist attraction or are local residents involved with all of the features that are offered? The reason I ask has to do with the students who attend the University of California and just wandering how much action Goleta receives from the college students.
You certainly have provided great detail in your article from when to go, where to stay, what to do, where to eat, etc. Thank you for sharing this article! You have taken out a lot of the guess work in planning for a vacation to Goleta.
Goleta is really just an extension of the Santa Barbara area, so you will find the college students everywhere. But, Goleta is probably a LOT more of a tourist town than other areas and would be quite enjoyable for sure. I am glad you enjoyed reading about Goleta Vacations. Thanks for stopping by!
This looks like a beautiful place to visit. My husband loves your site. He has been searching on your site for a place to go for our summer vacation this year. I will tell him to also check this place out. Thank you for sharing.
I do have a lot of options for you 😀 The whole Venture County area which includes Goleta has so much to offer. Not just gorgeous beaches for sure. You would love vacationing anywhere in this area. If you need any additional information, or need help with your planning, please let me know.
Wow, the butterfly grove looks amazing. I had no idea something like that existed out in the wild of California. I’ve always wanted to see a mass migration of butterflies, but the closest I’ve gotten is the exhibit at the Chicago zoo (which was still cool)!
This looks like a wonderful option and far more accessible than trying to make my way to Central or South America. Are there any specific things you need to do in precaution of visiting the butterfly park? I’ve heard recently they are starting to try and minimize visitors and stop them from bringing any type of bug spray etc nearby the butterflies. Just wanted to know in advance!”
They only ask to not touch or harass the butterflies, or make any loud noises. That is pretty much the only things to know in advance 🙂 You will absolutely love the place! Thanks for visiting Goleta Vacations.
I love to travel and beaches are my favorite destinations. We have a travel trailer and we would definitely look for a campground. How is the water temperature there? I’m more used to the water of the Gulf of Mexico, where the water is pretty warm in summer time, and it’s pretty shallow too. I imagine in Santa Barbara the water is more frigid?
Also, what about fires? Would that affect our beach vacation?
Yes, I live on the Gulf so I know what you are talking about. Our water temperature sits around 82 degrees in the summer. It’s going to be about 72 in the summer in the Pacific. Really that is not too bad at all. Thanks for reading !
I personally am not a beach person, especially beaches in the U.S., but I would definitely refer your page to the people that i know that love the beach. I also like the set up of your website overall. Great job!
Thank you so much Mike. The thing about a lot of these beach destinations, is that there is so much more to do than just lay around at the beach. Lots of history and wildlife. I think that even those that are not beach goers are going to enjoy visiting this area. Thank you for visiting beachtraveldestinations.com.
Hi Leahrae –
Your reviews always make me want to pack up and go! Goleta – first time I ever heard this town. I go to California but visit the more popular cities. That’s why I always appreciate your reviews because it educates me about other go-to places.
I hope to check this place out in September. My husband and I usually travel on the last week of September since its the week of my birthday. And also because it’s cheaper 🙂
Thanks for doing the homework for us!
I am glad I could help Gigi, and you will love the area. I think September would be a great time to go. It wont be hot and it won’t be too cold, actually just right. And if you go to the beach, the water won’t be frigid. Thanks for reading!
For some reason, I keep seeing butterflies in the water when thinking about going there. I wonder how many monarchs attempt the trip and how many come up just short of getting there. Goleta vacations sound like a pleasure if you want to go in the fall or even before spring to see the butterflies.
I think the main reason for going has got to be the butterflies. The gorgeous beaches, to me, come in second place. And I do love the beach, especially in this area. Thanks for stopping by.
The butterfly grove looks so much fun. I simply love to travel, and see new things. Sunsets in different parts of the world are so priceless to me. What a great post, We will be going to the bahamas in about 2 weeks, so look forward to it. This got me super excited to go. Excellent read.
Thank you AJ and you will enjoy the Bahamas for sure! I know what you mean about the sunsets in different parts of the world, it never gets old! Thanks for visiting Goleta Vacations.