Montecito is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the so-called American Riviera, with a sheltered shoreline that mimics a Mediterranean climate. Butterfly Beach is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, with plenty of sand to stretch out on and a west-facing orientation that makes it perfect for watching a Pacific sunset. Active travelers can take advantage of the breaks at Hammond’s Point and miles of scenic hiking along the Cold Spring, Tangerine Falls, and San Ysidro trails. Fernald’s Point and Miramar Beach are other popular places for a swim or stroll.
Things to know before you go
- Montecito was the site of deadly mudslides in 2018; most of the damage has been repaired, but some signs of the disaster remain.
- Top shopping spots include the Upper Village and Country Mart.
- If you happen to see a celebrity while out and about, resist the urge to ask for a photo or autograph.
- If you don't have the budget for the Biltmore or another of Montecito's 5-star hotels, get a glimpse of the city on a trolley or Segway tour from Santa Barbara.
- Leashed dogs are permitted on Butterfly Beach.
How to get there
Montecito is located on US Highway 101, just east of Santa Barbara and about 2 hours north of Los Angeles. Ample parking is available near most beaches and trailheads. Public transportation is somewhat limited, but the line 14 bus runs regularly from Santa Barbara.
When to get there
With a mild climate all year round, there’s never a bad time to visit Montecito. Check out the weekly farmers market on Friday mornings for farm-fresh produce and locally sourced treats.
Ganna Walska Lotusland
Created by Polish aristocrat Ganna Walska in the 1940s, this sprawling botanic garden in the Santa Barbara foothills is considered one of the finest in the US. Cactus, aloe, and other native desert species dominate, though the private gardens feature more than 3,000 different plant types. Reservations are required, and guided tours provide a botanist’s view of the carefully crafted landscape.
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