The road from San Diego to Santa Barbara is the absolute beauty of the journey along the west coast of California. You can just take a flight between two cities, but where’s the fun in that? You will remember many great stops along the way on this trip.

The 220 mile drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes if you have an entry permit for Los Angeles. Stop along the Pacific Highway at San Clemente and Malibu and on the way look out for Venetian beach and Santa Monica.

To help you plan your great trip, the following information will give you more inspiration, information and things to do along the way.

What is the distance between Santa Barbara and San Diego and how long does it take to get there?

The journey from San Diego to Santa Barbara is about 220 miles and takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes if you travel non-stop, excluding stops and interruptions.

The traffic around Los Angeles is notorious for its hectic and unpredictable nature, which can cause a lot of time on the road, so be alert and be aware of this.

There’s no point in following the path if you just go from point A to point B. You have to take in that crispy California air with lots of stops along the way, don’t worry, this route is perfect for this kind of thing.

My personal recommendation for this route is to travel between the two cities for three days. This includes two overnight stays, one on either side of beautiful Los Angeles. You can add extra nights at any location if you really want to relax and enjoy the soft Californian sunshine.

The beach of Santa Barbara and the town with the mountains in the background, seen from the pier at dusk.
Santa Barbara and his neighbour Montecito are known for their relaxed atmosphere and for their rich and famous people.

S. Borisov/Shutterstock.com

Best routes by car from San Diego to Santa Barbara

There’s a direct link between San Diego and Santa Barbara. It is not only the fastest route, but also the most beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

Unless you really intend to deviate from the route, perhaps towards Joshua Tree National Park or perhaps further inland, you’d better stick to the breathtaking route along the Pacific and through Los Angeles.

Directions from San Diego to Santa Barbara

From San Diego, take the I-5 north to the lights of Los Angeles. Once you’ve gone through the suburbs of San Diego, the road begins to open with a beautiful view of everything that can be found in the area. Watch and see how the powerful waves of the Pacific break into a rugged coastline. The road rests comfortably on a beautiful blue ocean as you continue north through California.

Stay on the I-5 and take the CA-73N towards I-405N. Soon you will see tall buildings on the horizon in Los Angeles. You drive through some of the most famous streets in the world. If you’re going through town, take US 101-N. This road will once again embrace the beautiful California coast and eventually lead you to your destination, Santa Barbara.

Best ports of call between San Diego and Santa Barbara

As I said before, I recommend two nights on this beautiful route. In what follows, I have described the best stops that have something to do and where you can stay.

You can also combine the stops with other events and attractions along the route, I will list them below.

Overnight stay in Long Beach, California

If you’re looking for a place with pristine beaches, delicious restaurants and dazzling entertainment, Long Beach is definitely your best choice.

Long Beach is about two hours from San Diego and only 30 minutes south of downtown Los Angeles.

Long Beach is full of traffic jams, whether you want to visit the beautiful cruise ship Queen Mary or take a stroll through the many cafes and shops in Shoreline Village, or maybe you just want to sunbathe and relax on Junipero Beach.

This place is perfect as a stopover on your journey through California, there is something for everyone, no matter what kind of person you are.

There are some excellent hotel options to choose from, but I think the best hotel in Long Beach is the Hyatt Centric the Pike. The hotel is ideally located in the city centre, within walking distance of the main tourist attractions.

The Hyatt Centric the Pike doesn’t save money. With modern and spacious rooms, a rooftop solarium and a swimming pool, this hotel offers everything you need for a pleasant and comfortable stay.

The pier of San Clemente extends to the sea off the coast of California with a palm-lined beach.
Life in San Clemente is slower, so spend a few hours on the streets of San Diego.

Pictures of the sea/Shutterstock.com

Lost the life of a millionaire in Malibu, California

On my way to North Los Angeles, second stop for the night, I recommend a stay in Malibu, California. It is home to some of the most pristine beaches, not only in the United States, but all over the world. After a tiring day exploring the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, there is no better place to relax than beautiful Malibu.

Malibu is just 50 minutes from downtown Los Angeles and is beautifully located just 1 hour and 30 minutes from the Santa Barbara destination.

Malibu is a place that many people in the world know well. Once you visit him, you can see why. With its golden sand and clear, lush waters, you won’t be disappointed to stop in Malibu.

Downtown Malibu hotels can be terribly expensive, but I have an excellent recommendation for a property just five miles from downtown Malibu, on a beautiful 200-acre ranch with access to the exclusive Malibu Beach Club.

The Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club is one of the best presented facilities I have ever seen. They have absolutely everything in sight, incredible views of the ranch in beautiful Malibu wine country and can make up for their holiday in their beautifully decorated rooms. In addition, access to their exclusive beach club makes this property a beautiful promenade.

Malibu coastline with mountains in the background and hilly villas overlooking the beach.
Malibu’s beaches are world famous, but you can also see the Santa Monica Mountains for hiking and exploring the local vineyards.

turtix/Shutterstock.com

Places of interest on the road from San Diego to Santa Barbara

On the road between San Diego and Santa Barbara there are many great stops and sights along the way. You can easily extend your time on this track if you want to drive slower and quieter.

I will be here all day to describe every little point, so I made a list of the fifteen most important cases between San Diego and Santa Barbara.

  1. California Legoland – Just off the road from San Diego to Karlovy Vary is a great place to stop for children and the warm-hearted.
  2. San Clemente – Beautiful coastal town in Orange County with golden beaches, known as the Spanish seaside resort.
  3. International Surfing Museum – Located in Huntington Beach, a great place to explore and visit.
  4. Anchored Cruise Ship Queen Mary – You can board and dine aboard the beautiful Queen Mary, which has been anchored in Long Beach since 1967.
  5. Long Beach Harbour Cruise – Immerse yourself in the beautiful view of the long beach.
  6. Venetian beach – Walk along one of the most famous beaches in the world.
  7. Santa Monica Pier – Official end of Route 66. Grab an ice cream or jump on one of the promenades near the pier.
  8. Hollywood Alley of Fame – Search for Hollywood’s most famous stars and famous Hollywood character.
  9. In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles is a Californian classic, founded in 1948 and home to some of the best burgers in the region.
  10. Comedy Store, Los Angeles – This place is one of the most famous names in comedy, a visit that will make you explode with laughter.
  11. Beverly Hills – Discover some famous houses and maybe some famous faces.
  12. Malibu Surf Beach – Beware of surfers who ride some of the best waves in the world or decide to try it for themselves.
  13. Point Dume – Upon entering the Pacific Ocean, this location offers fantastic opportunities for photography.
  14. Zuma Beach is one of the largest beaches in California and offers a variety of activities.
  15. Malibu Wine Country – Treat yourself to a wine tasting in the beautiful vineyards of California.
  16. Ventura – Explore the streets and the church built in 1809 or relax on the beach.
  17. Norman Islands National Park – This small national park is a series of islands off the coast of California and is seriously underestimated.

There are still places you can find along the way, but in the list above you will find the most important sights between San Diego and Santa Barbara.

The Santa Monica Pier is one of the many great places we can see in Los Angeles on the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
The pier of Santa Monica and the nearby Venetian beach are incredible places to stop on the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

oneinchpunch/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel from San Diego to Santa Barbara

You can drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara any time of the year. There’s a reason they call California a golden state. With good temperatures and plenty of sunshine all year round, there is never a bad time to make this trip.

But if you really want to make the most of the California coast, I suggest you go there during the summer months. The temperature will be even higher, creating ideal conditions for swimming in the sea and sunbathing on the beach.

However, if you are careful, it may be useful to avoid the summer school holidays, as the places can be full, especially in the Los Angeles area.

It is one of the best areas in the country to visit during the summer holidays, many people come here during the school holidays. Spring and autumn are also an excellent season for a trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

One thing’s for sure: Your trip will include many delicious dishes, breathtaking views, great activities and lots of ice cream.

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