Montecito Travel Guide

No other town does luxury or exudes an effortlessly chic vibe like Montecito. Walk among the stars, live a life of leisure, and learn a few things about what makes Santa Barbara so special with a getaway (or two) in this tucked-away seaside haven.

While the Montecito area is home to great restaurants and shopping, its natural assets are the real stars of the show. Lace up your hiking boots and head outdoors to the hills of Montecito, where on a clear day you’ll find epic views from the city of Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands and beyond. With over 15 different trails and a plethora of flora and fauna, the hiking in Santa Barbara ranges from easy nature walks to challenging climbs.

Montecito is home to some of the area’s most stunning stretches of coastline, from Fernald’s Point, past the calm waters of Miramar Beach and renowned surf break at Hammonds Point, to sparkling Butterfly Beach. Stand-up paddlers and surfers vie for waves, and sailboats sleepily bob against their moorings offshore. At Butterfly Beach, dogs are permitted on-leash, and its west-facing direction makes this swath of sand a perfect spot to soak in the sunset.

Enjoy the many wonderful beaches of Montecito, (you’ll find a list here), then come visit Montecito.  Our Montecito Travel guide has all your answers to start planning your Montecito vacation.  Just keep reading 🙂

Montecito Weather – When to Visit

The best time to visit Montecito is from March to May or from September to November. Temperatures are fairly mild year-round, hovering in the 60s and 70s, but traveling in early spring or fall ensures you won’t be fighting crowds and rates will be less expensive. Summer welcomes most of the city’s annual events and it’s also peak season if you’re looking for a beach vacation, but you’ll have to contend with more crowds. If you’re traveling during the winter months, make sure to pack an umbrella because Santa Barbara sees most of its rainfall between December and February. No matter when you decide to visit, pack layers as the as morning and late evening temperatures tend to be much cooler than the daytime highs.

Best Montecito Beaches

Butterfly Beach, Montecito Travel Guide, Montecito beaches, California beaches, best beaches in Montecito, best restaurants in Montecito, best nightlife in Montecito, things to do in Montecito, best hotels in Montecito, Montecito tours & activitiesButterfly Beach

Butterfly Beach is perfect for romantic strolls. Bring a bottle of champagne and take a seat on the rock wall that lines the upper part of the beach, offering a comfortable vantage point with stunning views (even on not-so-sunny days). Another perk to Butterfly is that it looks west, unlike most of Santa Barbara’s south-facing beaches.

Miramar Beach, Montecito Travel Guide, Montecito beaches, California beaches, best beaches in Montecito, best restaurants in Montecito, best nightlife in Montecito, things to do in Montecito, best hotels in Montecito, Montecito tours & activitiesMiramar Beach

A public beach located in front of a gated community in Montecito, Miramar Beach offers beach walking, swimming and surfing. At low tide, this south-facing beach features tide pools for exploration.



Hammonds Beach, Montecito Travel Guide, Montecito beaches, California beaches, best beaches in Montecito, best restaurants in Montecito, best nightlife in Montecito, things to do in Montecito, best hotels in Montecito, Montecito tours & activitiesHammonds Beach

Hammonds Beach is a locals beach and a surfing spot. The beach here is a nice sandy spot hidden away among homes on several private drives.  Behind the beach is an undeveloped open area known as Hammonds Meadow.



Summerland Beach, Montecito Travel Guide, Montecito beaches, California beaches, best beaches in Montecito, best restaurants in Montecito, best nightlife in Montecito, things to do in Montecito, best hotels in Montecito, Montecito tours & activitiesSummerland Beach

At Summerland Beach you will find volleyball courts, a kids playground, picnic tables, BBQs, restrooms, and grass lawns.  This is a great sandy beach with some driftwood and seaweed coming into shore at certain times of the year.  This beach is usually not too crowded.


Leadbetter Beach, Montecito Travel Guide, Montecito beaches, California beaches, best beaches in Montecito, best restaurants in Montecito, best nightlife in Montecito, things to do in Montecito, best hotels in Montecito, Montecito tours & activitiesLeadbetter Beach

Leadbetter Beach is Barbara’s most popular beach. This beach is popular with surfers, windsurfers, sailing enthusiasts and paddle boarders. It is a perfect place for socializing on the beach and picnicking on the grassy lawns with BBQ grills. A restaurant, restrooms and showers are available amenities at this beach.



Montecito Area Tours & Activities

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

Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

All Aboard Santa Barbara’s Original & Longest Running Trolley Tour and Charter Services See the American Riviera in 90 minutes or jump off and on ALL DAY! Santa Barbara sightseeing at its finest on the original, fully narrated Santa Barbara Trolley Tour.   Read more about Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour

Explore Santa Barbara by electric bike, covering plenty of ground on a morning or afternoon excursion. Ride your easy-to-use beach cruiser to key landmarks such as State Street and the Santa Barbara Mission as your knowledgeable guide shares the city’s history during this Santa Barbara bike tour. Have your camera ready as you glide along the renowned Pacific coastline. Numbers are limited to five people, ensuring personalized attention and a small-group experience.  Read more about Santa Barbara Electric Bike History and Sightseeing Tour 

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, Picnic Lunch

Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour

Walk right past the crowds on this food tour in Downtown Santa Barbara. Your guide leads the way as you pop into seven different restaurants and two wine tasting rooms. Savor dishes and drinks locals have made a staple in their everyday lives, and learn about other places to eat and drink during your stay. If you’re a gluten-free eater or a vegetarian, this tour can also easily cater to your needs.  Read more about Santa Barbara Downtown Food Walking Tour with Wine Tasting

Best Montecito Restaurants

Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch  $31 – 60

Located on the lush grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch (one of the area’s finest luxury hotels), the Stonehouse is comprised of two main areas. There is a lounge area, complete with full bar, and separate dining room with creek-side views. On temperate evenings, you can enjoy your dinner and gaze at the ocean from the peaceful deck. Their menu emphasizes regional cuisine prepared with fresh fruits and vegetables, harvested from the kitchen’s onsite garden. Reservations are recommended. Telephone:  805-565-1700  Web:  Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch.

Lucky’s  Above $61

Legendary Lucky’s ensures that diners get the best steaks and chops possible. Terrific ingredients make the difference, and everything is made in-house. Aged Midwestern beef in a variety of cuts draws rave reviews, as do racks of lamb, chops, Maine lobster, fresh fish and hefty shrimp cocktails. The stylish interior boasts black-and-white photos of classic film stars, and an outdoor patio adds to the charm. Well-received and always popular. Sit at the bar, rub elbows with Santa Barbara’s who’s who and order a plate of onion strings and a martini – now that’s an evening well-spent!  Telephone:  805-565-7540  Web:  Lucky’s.

Trattoria Mollie  $31 – 60

This popular establishment not only serves incredible food but offers a bit of star-gazing potential as well, thanks to celebrity regulars. Mollie’s skills are showcased in homemade breads, gelati and pastas (salmon lasagna!), although her hand is just as capable when crafting meat dishes and European-style pizzas. Patrons are constantly impressed by the creative food and inviting ambience, and quality always stands out as paramount. Jackets (and reservations) recommended for dinner. Located right on Coast Village Road, there is ample parking nearby, as well as a nice variety of shops and galleries.  Telephone:  805-565-9381  Web:  Trattoria Mollie.

Cava Restaurant  $11 – 30

A favorite with the locals, their menu features south-of-the-border favorites with a Santa Barbara twist – like locally caught seafood. Every table receives a basket of bottomless chips with house salsas (the black bean salsa is extremely popular). Regulars rave about Cava’s inventive, handcrafted cocktails, like elderflower margaritas and spicy, chili-infused martinis. The cheery dining room features close-set tables, a fireplace, a bar and live music on most nights. Telephone:  805-969-8500  Web:  Cava Restaurant.

Tre Lune Ristorante – Bar  $31 – 60

From the moment you set foot inside the restaurant, Tre Lune’s mission is clear: each of their patrons will walk away with a classic taste of Italy. And come back, again and again, as their many loyal customers already do. To start with, there is the decor – all warm wood and clean surfaces with nary a dusty grape leaf in sight. Black and white photos of vintage celebrities line the walls. And then there’s the food. Tre Lune’s menu celebrates the different regions of Italy, each dish made with the freshest components, highlighting a prestigious ingredient. Telephone:  805-969-2646  Web:  Tre Lune Ristorante – Bar.

Best Montecito Nightlife

The Honor Bar

A happening place to go for small bites and tasty cocktails in Montecito! Hit up the Honor Bar when you feel like catching up with friends – or making new. The social atmosphere at the bar is fun, and the sunny patio is ideal for soaking up the sun over lunch, dinner or drinks. There are lots of tasty appetizers to be had, like deviled eggs, and plenty of wines available by the glass. You can also pick up grab and go pizzas if you’re in a hurry. Located on one of the best shopping streets in the area, and the patio is dog friendly.  Telephone:  805-969-6964  Web:  The Honor Bar.

Cava Bar

Regulars rave about Cava’s inventive, handcrafted cocktails, like elderflower margaritas and spicy, chili-infused martinis. The cheery dining room features close-set tables, a fireplace, a bar and live music on most nights. Telephone:  805-969-8500  Web:  Cava Bar.


The stylish interior boasts black-and-white photos of classic film stars, and an outdoor patio adds to the charm. Well-received and always popular. Sit at the bar, rub elbows with Santa Barbara’s who’s who and order a plate of onion strings and a martini – now that’s an evening well-spent!  Telephone:  805-565-7540  Web:  Lucky’s.

Wine Bistro

Under Winemaker Bruce McGuire the winery and vineyards have grown in size and prestige producing outstanding wines that are now available throughout the country and exported to Canada, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and now China.  The Wine Bistro is both a showcase for these wines and for the culinary art of their Chef.  Telephone:  805-969-7520  Web:  Wine Bistro.

Best Montecito Area Hotels

Coast Village Inn

Built in 1935, Coast Village Inn offers a relaxing retreat for family vacations, romantic getaways, and wine-tasting tours. Plan your escape and get ready to relax and unwind on California’s Central Coast. With 28 guest rooms to choose from, they can accommodate nearly any size group.

Fess Parker Wine Country Inn

Amenities include breakfast, free self parking, free WiFi, The Bear and Star Restaurant, outdoor pool and spa treatments… a tranquil retreat for unique and relaxing experience.  Each of the 19 individually furnished guestrooms has its own fireplace and bathrobes. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available as well as turn down services with distinct and personalized amenities.

Blue Sands Inn

This property is 2 minutes walk from the beach. Blue Sands Inn is located in Santa Barbara, 29 miles from Solvang and 24 miles from Ventura. Free private parking is available on site.  All rooms come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Certain rooms include a sitting area where you can relax. You will find a coffee machine in the room. Every room is fitted with a private bathroom. Extras include free toiletries and a hairdryer.  There is concierge services at the property.  Bike rental is available at this inn and the area is popular for biking.

Harbor View Inn

This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. Spa Beaumontia, a full-service spa experience, is available on site at this hotel. Rooms feature a flat-screen TV and a minibar. Stearn’s Wharf is less than a 5 minute walk away.  The modern rooms at Harbor View Inn include terry cloth bath robes and free Wi-Fi. A safe and a work desk are also provided.  A swimming pool and fitness center, including a sauna, are available for guest relaxation at the Inn Harbor View.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

This property is 2 minutes walk from the beach. On 20 acres of lush coastal gardens and with a full spa, this beachside retreat features 3 on-site dining options. The guest rooms include Spanish-inspired furnishings and views of the grounds.  Thick terry bathrobes are available in the Spanish-tile private bathroom in each guest room at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.


  1. kmv

    My wife and I are always looking for new destinations that have beautiful scenery and tons of hiking trails.

    Montecito looks to have everything we are looking for in a destination. One question about the trails, do you know the distances of some of these hikes? We prefer something in the medium difficulty range that is at least 5 miles.

    Anyway, if you have links to more information on hiking in this area, we’d love to see them!

    Kim and Kari

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Ok, there are lots of hiking trails in the length range you are looking for.  Go to this link for a list of trails and information on each trail.  Glad you enjoyed reading, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Manika-Nia

    Wow you’ve covered everything here and made my upcoming trip all the more exciting. I am a Cali native but have been living overseas in Europe for 8 years. However, the mister and I are heading back Stateside for a visit this July and this is one of our destinations! He has never been nor have I. You listed great things for us, but would you happen to know of any great places there with any Vegan options?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Ok, here are three great choices with vegan options: Panino Montecito, Jeannine’s American Bakery Restaurant, and Olivers. You will love any/all of these. Enjoy your vacation back home!

  3. LYNNE

    A fantastic review of the area, hotels, and restaurants! It’s like you did all the footwork for us! You put a lot of great information here that will help me determine what I’d like to do when I’m there or where like to stay. I’m in a wheelchair, do you know if any of the hotel see listed have wheelchair accessible rooms? Thanks again for a great post!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      The Blue Sands Inn and the Inn at East Beach will both be able to accommodate you 🙂 Plus they are both highly rated hotels by customers. I am glad I could help in your planning you Montecito beach vacation! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Kaesi

    I’d love to visit Montecito one day. Lotusland especially looks amazing! I love gardens and this definitely on my bucket list now. 🙂

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Lotusland is amazing! Thank you for stopping by!

  5. Steve

    We are heading to California this summer for a vacation, and I have been thinking about spending some time in Santa Barbara. My kids are super excited about going to Universal Studios for a few days, and my wife and I are excited about the beaches. We haven’t spent any time in Santa Barbara, but have always wanted to. Thank you for pointing out so many great places, from beaches to restaurants, even paddle board rentals. This is just what I needed! Now all the research is done for me. Thanks again, I appreciate it.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You and your family will have a great time Steve. The whole area has so much to do for sure. Enjoy! Please let me know if you need any additional information or any help planning. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Craig

    Wow, it looks simply beautiful! What a wonderful destination to check out. I know you mentioned to go from May to say September for the best weather which makes sense. That being said, is that normally high season where everything is going to be packed?

    I’m happy to visit off season even if the weather is worse so long as there aren’t as many people…These days it seems like there’s a line or a wait for everything!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, it is going to be a lot more crowded during high season for sure. I don’t think that you will find the weather to be too terrible any time of year you go. Just depends on if you want to head to the beach or not. The water can get quite chilly during the winter months. But, there is so much to see in this area, that you can stay busy without the beaches. Thanks for reading!

  7. Don

    So many beaches and so little time. WOW.

    Thanks for pointing out the times to go and not fight the crowds. I hate fighting crowds. I will make sure not to go in June as I want to be able to see the beaches and not the fog.

    Great restaurant choices as I like to go to places with freshly caught seafood (Cava).

    Another great article. I joined your email list and I encourage everyone to do so.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Don and I am glad you enjoyed reading. Yes, sometimes I don’t mind a crowd, but not at the beach. I live on a crowded beach :(, it is beautiful but always crowded. So we drive 20 minutes down the road to find a less crowded beach, makes it more enjoyable. Thanks for joining my email list 🙂

  8. Byrd

    The travel guide you have made is very well structured, and the information provided gives me exactly what I need to know, so I can have a vivid idea of how it would be in Montecito. I also appreciate you giving me an understanding of when it is best to go to this area, whether it is going when it’s not as crowded and I can save money, or if I want to splurge and take in the full experience. Either way I feel that the experience would be enjoyable.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh, yes it would be an enjoyable experience 😀 The whole area is chock full of gorgeous beaches, things to do and amazing wildlife…not to mention all the great restaurants. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  9. Angie

    I live in Australia, but I have visited the States a few times. The Nashville, Raleigh and Chicago areas mainly. I hadn’t considered Montecito, but I might just have to put it on my list! I had no idea about the beautiful beaches, and Butterfly Beach sounds really magical. I have a toddler, how does Montecito rate as a family holiday destination?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, Montecito is a great family destination. Great for playing in the sand, seeing all the wildlife (turtles, whales, dolphins, different birds) will keep them occupied. And you will love it as well. Thanks for reading!

  10. Abraham

    Thank you for this interesting information I will bookmark your post to visit it next time. I am very interested in the different beaches uniqueness.I wish I have the money to visit them this summer.The butterfly beach caught my interest, especially with the sunset time.

    Thank you again,


    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed Abraham! Thanks for reading and come back again when you are ready to head to Montecito beaches!

  11. spargop

    Thoroughly enjoyed this great article, I love reading about different destinations and what’s on offer there and you’ve certainly described it in detail.
    I love the links to the various hotels, restaurants etc. it makes it so easy for people to see what they’re all about with one click.
    My son and I are very much into snorkelling, is there much marine life in the area?
    Being from the UK it’s a bit more difficult to get to the West coast of the USA but it’s definitely somewhere I want to visit soon.
    I’ll be sure to check back on your site before I do!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh my gosh, there is so much marine life here. You should check out my Carpinteria Travel Guide as well.  It is great for families and lots of things to do with the marine life for the area.  Thanks for visiting

  12. John

    The Butterfly Beach sounds like the beach I need to be on. I like to watch a sunset over the water. The last one I did see was at Key West, it was spectacular. The water stuff like Whale Watching and stand up boards are some of my favorite things to do. Thanks for the complete information for the Motecito Beach area of California.
    I did not see a great Seafood restaurant on your list, is there on close by.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      There is not a good seafood restaurant right in Montecito, but there several close at hand. The top choices are going to be Brophy Bros., The Drunken Crab, and Santa Barbara Shellfish Company to name a few. Yes, Butterfly Beach is a great choice. I have seen sunsets over it and over Key West. And they are both equally amazing! Thanks for reading!

  13. Cheryl

    Hi Leahrae, thank you for this great insight into what sounds like a beautiful place. I love the sound of Montecito and the names of the beaches make it sound amazing.

    You really got me with the butterfly beach and the thought of sitting on the wall with a glass of champagne while watching the sun sets sounds so romantic.

    Thanks for making me want to come and see Calefornia and Montecito. I will have to start saving now.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It’s a beautiful place Cheryl!  The whole area is beautiful actually.  Thanks for visiting my Montecito Travel Guide.

  14. Stephen

    Great post!

    I visited Santa Barbara several years ago and found the place to be an absolute paradise. I was there in the middle of December and still managed to get a tan on the beach 😀 there aren’t many places one can say that.

    Would you say this is one of California’s best beaches?

    Also, I didn’t realise those islands were called the ‘Channel Islands’, perhaps they have some historical relation to the Channel Islands between England and France? Who knows!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I’d say that yes, this area of beaches is some of the best in the state for sure!  Personal favorite of mine though, is La Jolla 🙂  Yes, I can get a tan in December in Florida as well 🙂 

  15. Luke

    Great article that offers something for just about anyone! Living in the midwest where we have finally gotten rid of the snow, your travel guide of Montecito certainly wets the appetite for the sun and beaches!

    Luck’s certainly caught my eye as I enjoy a good steak! Have you eaten there? The photos of classic film stars is definitely a nice feature as well.

    The hotels look quite nice as well and an added bonus it seems you are just minutes from the beaches. Are reservations difficult to come by?

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic article with the in-depth information. Montecio is definitely a place I will now consider on visiting!


    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Reservations are only hard to come by during their busy season, this goes for some of the restaurants too. I love a good steak (my favorite food) and Lucky’s is awesome! I am glad you enjoyed reading 🙂

  16. Mick Krug


    You have provided another great travel guide! I especially enjoyed the video on butterfly beach. Montecito has a lot to offer the tourist. As you have illustrated, plenty to do, great restaurants and hotels to go along with some superb beaches. A great tourist attraction.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I think it is a great beach destination Mick 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed reading my Montecito Travel Guide as well. Thanks for visiting!

  17. Eric

    This Montecito travel guide sums it up nicely by saying a getaway or two. The more I read about the area, the more I learn about what all there is to actually take in when not just looking for a beach day. Lotusland sounds like one of those places you simply must see but then there are the tide pools where you can relax and enjoy the evening out. One more area to put down as a travel destination, my list is getting quite long now.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree about Lotusland, and the tide pools actually. I love the beach, but I also like to get out and see and do things. I think that the entire Ventura County area has so much to offer. Thanks for visiting


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