Anyone looking for a fun and scenic road trip will love the drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Close enough to be a fun day trip, yet scenic enough to become an epic weekend adventure, the drive is one of the best ways to explore the lovely California coastline. Every stop along the way has something fun to see, whether it’s a beautiful beach or just a great place to grab a bite and take a stroll. So buckle up and hit the road for one of the loveliest road trips around—Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.
About The Trip: The Essentials
- Total Distance: 95.1 miles
- Approximate Driving Time (no stops): About 2 hours
- How To Get There: The most scenic route to Santa Barbara is via California Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s the most scenic route by far and is easy to get off and get back on while making stops along the way. Since this route takes travelers along the coastline, it’s also the best way to scope out all the best scenic views along the way
- When To Go: The weather in CA is ideal for road tripping all year long, however, traveling in the spring and fall is best as the days are longer, and there’s a better chance at sunny skies
- Be Prepared: Pack comfortable walking shoes for hiking; flip flops for beachy treks. An extra layer like a light jacket or sweatshirt is also a good idea as the temps may vary. Plan on spending some time on the beach? Then don’t forget a towel or portable chair. It’s always best to be prepared when taking a road trip—as conditions can change fast, and you’ll want to have everything you need at arm’s reach
- NOTE: The best part of any road trip is the ability to customize! Make (or eliminate) stops that interest you, and keep in mind that this trip can be done in a single day without any stops. Travelers with more time can also stretch this trip into an overnight or weekend getaway quite easily—the choice is yours!
Sunny Santa Monica
Close to LA, Santa Monica is an ideal first stop on this coastal adventure. Those familiar with LA may want to skip this part, but first-timers to the CA coast will love checking out Santa Monica’s iconic pier and other attractions.
- Walk the pier and ride the Ferris wheel to scope some stellar views
- Head to the beach for an early morning stroll to beat the crowds
- Want to grab some breakfast before hitting the road? Then stop in at the Blue Daisy for a Croissant and Smoked Salmon Sandwich, or a delish Breakfast Burrito
Optional Side Trip: Getty Villa
Located in Pacific Palisades, Getty Villa is a fun museum complex that features a large collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman artifacts. It also has extensive grounds and gardens as well. The perfect pit stop for any lover of history and ancient cultures
Malibu Seaside Scenery
The next stop is Malibu—and with an iconic pier and plenty of scenic beaches, travelers will want to spend the afternoon soaking up the sun and sand.
- Check out Malibu Bluffs Park for some of the best views of the surrounding area
- Trek along Westward Beach until you reach the Point Dume Promontory—a famous spot featured in movies, music videos, and commercials—and known for its amazing views
- Take a stroll on Zuma Beach before taking in Malibu’s ’21 miles of scenic beauty’ with several stops along the way for snapping epic pics
Optional: Dinner And Overnight Stay in Malibu
For those that have more time, Malibu is a great place to stop for the night before moving on in the morning. Neptune’s Net, an iconic eatery with outdoor seating and fantastic views. Be sure to try one of their signature seafood baskets!
Where To Stay In Malibu
- The M Malibu: Rooms $235 and up/night
- Malibu Country Inn: Rooms $206 and up/night
Oxnard And Ventura: Signature Southern CA Vibes
After leaving Malibu, the next stop is Oxnard, a beautiful coastal city in Ventura County. Relatively quiet when compared to other beach towns along the way, Oxnard is still worth a stop because of its lovely beaches, laidback vibes, and stunning scenery. Have extra time? Then be sure to explore the nearby Channel Islands National Park
Channel those Southern CA surfer vibes and head to Ventura, just north of Oxnard. Grab a late breakfast at The Galloping Hen, and be sure to try one of their famous Eggs Benedicts
- Main Street is full of fun things to see and do, including the Mission San Buenaventura, the Museum of Ventura County, and the Majestic Theater
- Stopping on a Saturday? Then be sure to check out Ventura’s awesome Farmer’s Market
- Can’t get enough of that So-Cal scenery? Then head to The Cross, a famous viewpoint for spectacular area views; then head to Ventura Harbor to explore
Optional Side Trip: Ojai
Head inland to check out Ojai, a fun and eclectic spot known as an artist’s haven and retreat. Located in the Los Padres National Forest, the area has plenty of Spanish history and cultural hot spots to explore including art galleries and locally-owned shops selling artisanal goods. Before heading out, grab a late lunch at Ojai Beverage Company, a great place to grab a pint and a signature burger and side of truffle fries
Carpinteria: Quiet, Laidback Seaside Vibes
The next stop is Carpinteria, the epitome of a small, quaint, CA beach town. On the way, stop at the Carpinteria Bluff Nature Reserve to take a hike on one of their trails and scope some stunning cliffside views. There is also a seal sanctuary within the reserve, so keep your eyes peeled for some harbor seals basking in the sun.
- From the reserve, head to Tar Pits Park, to check out some of the huge, solidifies chunks of tar that come from deep inside the ground
- Linden Avenue is one of the main streets in Carpinteria and has a number of fun shops to explore
- Head to the public library to scope out the World’s Largest Torrey Pine
- Have dinner at the Rincon Brewery and stay the night before heading to Santa Barbara in the morning
Where To Stay In Carpinteria
- Casa Del Sol Motel: Rooms $102 and up/night
- Best Western Plus Carpinteria Inn: Rooms $151 and up/night
Whether you’re looking for a scenic day trip away from the city or a fun weekend getaway, the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Santa Barbara is filled with scenic stops from iconic attractions to lovely beach towns, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on this epic CA road trip.