What Is the Best Time to Travel to Santa Barbara?

The most popular time of year to visit Santa Barbara is summer, but if you’re looking for the greatest deals and the smallest crowds, head there in winter.
Written by Claire Beaney
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on Jun 27, 2022
Summer in Santa Barbara is the most popular time to visit, with dreamy weather, tons of events, and more. But if you’re looking to save on bookings and avoid the large crowds, visiting during winter might be right for you.
Santa Barbara's year-round Mediterranean-like climate, palm tree-filled scenery, and the soaring Santa Ynez Mountains beyond the city skyline make it a year-round paradise. However, depending on the style of
adventure you seek, there are optimal seasons for planning a trip. 
Whether you are a bargain hunter hoping to stretch your vacation budget, a festival-goer searching for distinctly Santa Barbara-esque events, or a sun-seeker looking to flee cooler temps, the time of year you visit can make all the difference.
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The best times of year to travel to Santa Barbara

The best time to visit Santa Barbara varies based on your priorities. If you want excellent beach weather and loads of events, go during the peak season, which is summer.
Travel to Santa Barbara in the fall or winter to save money on flights and hotels and skip the large crowds.

Peak season: June to August

The good: Tons of events, perfect beach weather
The bad: Large crowds, higher rates
The weather: High 70s to mid-80s
Santa Barbara's temps are as pleasant as its laid-back residents, with average year-round highs in the low-60ºs to upper-70ºs. However, with an increase in temperatures in July and August (and highs around 80º), there is an increase in hotel fees and crowds.
The summer crowds flock here for good reason. The water is the perfect temperature for swimming, surfing, and kayaking in the Santa Barbara Channel. Be sure to check out the
Old Spanish Days Festival
, one of Santa Barbara’s most popular celebrations, held between July and August.
Summer Solstice Celebration
Santa Barbara Wine + Food Festival
, and
Santa Barbara French Festival
are other fun, exciting events held during this time of year. 
Pro Tip If you want to visit Santa Barbara during the summer, book at least two months ahead of time to get the best rates and guarantee lodgings.

Off-season: September to December

The good: Less crowded, cheap accommodations
The bad: Strong winds
The weather: Mid-60s to low 70s
Winter in Santa Barbara guarantees spectacular sunsets, with skies lighting up in reds, oranges, and purples. Room rates will have also fallen from their summer peaks.
There are several must-see foodie events during these months, including the
California Brew & BBQ Festival
and the
Santa Barbara Harbor and Seafood Festival
Santa Barbara is also a surprisingly great getaway destination during Christmastime—there’s the Holiday Zoo at the
Santa Barbara Zoo
, the
Trolley of Lights Tour
, and an annual
Downtown Holiday Parade

Shoulder season: January to May

The good: Lowest prices
The bad: Most precipitation
The weather: Mid-60s
Santa Barbara’s shoulder season is the perfect time to take a stroll along
State Street
, cycle along the shore,
winery hop
, and more. 
This time of year is the ideal time to
whale watch
in the Santa Barbara Channel. Spring also makes for beautiful flower-filled tours through the
Old Mission Santa Barbara
or a visit to the
Santa Barbara International Orchid Show
And with the
Santa Barbara Restaurant Week
Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Festival
, food and wine-lovers will have endless things to do and see.

The cheapest time to travel to Santa Barbara

If you want to visit Santa Barbara at its most affordable, go between November and February. The
summer will draw most tourists to the city, shooting up hotel prices during the warmer months.
Booking in the winter almost guarantees reduced rates and fewer crowds. There's always something to do and see throughout Santa Barbara, so you can go whenever you want and know you'll have a great time!

Find the best month for your visit to Santa Barbara

Are you ready to figure out when the best time to visit Santa Barbara is? Check out the table below to determine the best time to take a holiday, depending on your preferred activities and events.
Best month to visit
Whale watching
The migration pattern of whales means colder months have a higher chance of you witnessing these beautiful creatures
Spring in full bloom
March and April
With purple jacarandas lining State Street and the International Orchid Show, this time of year provides some of the prettiest scenery
Winery hopping
In Santa Barbara, there is never a bad time for wine. May might be the best month, thanks to the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival and the end-of-spring weather.
Day at the beach
June to August
With pleasant weather and plenty of activities, there isn’t much better than a day at Santa Barbara’s beaches during the summer
Firework displays
Santa Barbara's 'star-spangled' 4th of July celebrations are the perfect way to end a warm summer day
Food festivals
As the summer cools down, food festivals abound at the start of fall, including the California Brew & BBQ Festival and the Santa Barbara Harbor and Seafood Festival
Holiday light shows
With the Trolley of Lights tour illuminating the streets and the Santa Barbara Zoo done up festively, Santa Barbara makes for a great holiday destination
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Pro Tip Santa Barbara has amazing food, lively events, and oceanfront excursions all year, so plan your trip around your budget and the weather if there aren't any specific things you want to do.

How to find savings on car and rental insurance

If your
Santa Barbara
visit ends up being a road trip, it’s important that you feel safe and secure on your drive down. Whether you use your own car or choose to
one, sufficient car insurance will always be a must.
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