san francisco to santa barbara road trip

From San Francisco to Santa Barbara: part 2 of a Las Vegas to California Road Trip

November 3, 2021 /

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

It’s time to begin the second part of this itinerary. In the first 5 days, you departed from Las Vegas, then you crossed Death Valley, Bodie western town, and Yosemite National Park.

You have finally arrived in San Francisco (see the first part of the Las Vegas and California Tour in 15 days). The next 5 days will be more relaxing, but not less interesting by any means! You will travel mostly along the coast: from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

Days 6-8: Visit San Francisco

Three days in San Francisco may be enough to see much of the city, but perhaps it does not allow you to fully enjoy it (as we explained in our guide about how many days to spend in San Francisco). After all, we are talking about a beautiful and unique city, with its characteristic hills, elegant piers, historical streetcars, and extravagant ways of its inhabitants.

What can you do in 3 days? This topic would require a separate post (and you can find it here), so for now, we will try to just give you a short list of suggestions. In three days, you can visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, the Union Square area, Lombard Street, Ferry Building Marketplace, Chinatown, the Mission District, and Haight-Ashbury. You can also enjoy the nightlife, taste the excellent California cuisine and go to some live concerts. You’ll find that the city has a lot to offer!

Useful tips: In cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, parking is a business: often hotels don’t have parking or they charge you to park in their parking lot. Keep this in mind during your trip and read our tips for parking in San Francisco. If you really want to enjoy your visit to San Francisco, it is best to avoid bad areas of the city (Tenderloin, for example) and to be careful: the city has a large population of homeless people and not all of them are friendly (I speak from personal experience…).

Find accommodations in San Francisco

Day 9: from San Francisco to Santa Barbara via Highway 1

san francisco to santa barbara drive

DAY 9: If you want to experience an incredible drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, there is only one option: the drive on Highway 1, the highway that runs along the ocean and allows you to enjoy breathtaking views as you drive, is one of the most famous U.S. road trips.

Of course, this route takes a little longer compared to other routes (over 7 hours versus 5-6 hours taking the route further inland), but I really think it’s worth it. So let’s hit the road, listen to a nice Beach Boys album (the perfect soundtrack), and get on Highway 1. Soon you’ll be driving through the majestic Big Sur! It’s better not to give too much importance to the directions of the GPS (which will probably make you take the shortest route). Instead, follow the road signs. It will be a piece of cake!

Day 10: Visit Santa Barbara

DAY 10: Why spend a whole day visiting Santa Barbara? For two reasons. First of all, a stop halfway along Highway 1 is necessary, but more importantly, Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful coastal resorts in California!

What are some things to do in Santa Barbara? This would also require a post of its own, as you can see. For now, let’s just say that it’s a charming tourist destination, with a beautiful promenade with typical California palm trees along the sides and a distinctive pier where you can eat excellent freshly caught fish.

But there is much more to explore. The town is a very interesting place to visit, with several well-preserved historical buildings (the Mission is the most obvious example, but certainly not the only one) and State Street, both unique and lively, with great shops, boutiques, bars, coffee shops, bookstores, and nightclubs. Some museums and cultural centers of interest make Santa Barbara’s an even more attractive destination. In short, it has the ocean, history, and culture, so there is something for everyone!

Find accommodations in Santa Barbara

The second part of this itinerary ends here. In the next article, we will cover the last leg of the trip, which includes Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Joshua Tree National Park before returning to Las Vegas and concluding the trip!

If you have any questions, concerns or need clarification, please do not hesitate to write a comment below! If you missed the first part of the itinerary just click on this link: Las Vegas and California tour in 15 days: From “Sin City” to the National Parks. Until next time!

Third part of the itinerary: From Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

lorenzo puliti
lorenzo puliti

I am fascinated by the wonders of the world I never tire of going in search of them.

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