If everybody had access to the ocean, then everybody would be surfing like in California. Almost every surfer knows the surfing anthem by the ever-popular Beach Boys. In fact, they must have been inspired by the splendid surfing spots in California. The most famous ones are in Santa Barbara, located in Central California Coast, with the Santa Ynez Mountains forming an amazing backdrop. Surf City is about 145 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of Los Angeles, along Pacific Coast. With so many beaches to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down your favourite surf spots. Simply read on to know all about the best surf spots in Santa Barbara, California.
1. Hammonds Reef
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
If you’re having a bad day, catch a wave at Hammonds Reef. This sheltered reef break is known for its consistent surf and excellent wave quality. Located in the famed town of Montecito, Hammonds Reef is almost always crowded, especially when the surf’s up. Surfers can expect well-shaped, lined-up waves that reach considerable sizes. On good days, you can enjoy classic rides that make it one of the must-visit surfing spots here. Best of all, it is easily accessible by walking up from the smaller Miramar Beach. Parking is available along Eucalyptus Lane.
Address: Eucalyptus Lane and Edgecliff Lane, Montecito, CA 93108
Rise up to the challenge at Rincon, the surf spot situated in Carpinteria. Interestingly, Rincon, which means “angle” in Spanish, is world-famous for its well-formed waves and long, sweet rides. Little wonder why it is also known as “Queen of the Coast” and listed as one of the 100 best surf spots in the world. Surfers usually head here during the winter months to surf the swells coming in from the west and northwest. You can reach this spot via the public area on both sides of the gated residential community that lines the Rincon beachfront. Convenient amenities such as restrooms and picnic areas are available in the upper parking lot at Rincon Beach Park.
Address: Rincon Point Rd, Carpinteria, CA 93013
3. Leadbetter Beach
Surf to live at Leadbetter Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Santa Barbara, located below Leadbetter Hill. What makes this beach popular is the waves and light surf that are just right for beginner surfers to learn and hone their surfing skills. Better yet, the steady winds attract plenty of kiteboarders and windsurfers too. Thanks to its ideal location - within walking distance of Santa Barbara City College - this spot is easily accessible from a nearby marina. Best of all, this beach has on-duty lifeguards during peak times.
Address: Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Opening hours: 8am - 10pm (daily)
Make your surfing session an epic one at Sandspit, a popular surf spot located at the end of the breakwater on Santa Barbara Harbor Beach. It is also within walking distance from Stearns Wharf on the city waterfront, making it easily accessible to surfers. The dramatic changes in waves make Sandspit a favourite among beginner, amateur, and expert surfers. When the waves are small and tides are low, beginners can look forward to an enjoyable time. However, when the waves wrap around the point to create powerful curls, expert surfers move in to ride the epic surf breaks. For the most Insta-worthy surf shots, head to the end of the breakwater that offers the perfect vantage point to capture serious risk-surfers in action.
Address: 132 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
5. Fernald Point
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Unlike the more popular surf spots in Santa Barbara, Fernald Point is not as easily accessible as the rest because it’s surrounded by a private property. Nevertheless, avid surfers get here by walking south along Miramar Beach or paddling out from the creek. What’s wonderful about this spot is its exposed point break and offshore winds that create excellent surfing conditions. Hazards include rocks, and surfers should expect Fernald Point to be crowded.
Address: Fernald Point Ln, Montecito, CA 93108
6. Refugio State Beach
Clearwater creeks, swaying palm trees, and pristine sands define Refugio State Beach, a picturesque surf spot in California. This protected state beach park is located about 32 kilometres (19 miles) west of Santa Barbara and 4 kilometres (2 miles) west of El Capitan State Beach. Perfect for beginner surfers, the point here is sheltered from the wind and offers mellow waves, perfect for longboarding. When taking a break from the waves, surfers can be seen hiking the cliff above the point to capture awe-inspiring views of the bay. Lifeguards patrol the beach all year round.
Refugio State Beach
Address: 10 Refugio Beach Rd, Goleta, CA 93117
Opening hours: 8am - sunset (daily)
Price: from 8 USD
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Summerland is a seaside haven with a beautiful beach that has attracted surfers the world over. Located about five minutes away from Santa Barbara, Summerland is popular thanks to its flexible rules that allow dogs and horses on the beach. Equally amazing are the sea creatures you may meet while surfing, such as porpoises and seals. Compared to the other surf spots in California, Summerland is seldom crowded. Better yet, parking is available on both ends of the lovely beach for convenience. After riding the waves, surfers often head up to Lookout Park to gaze at the cliffside view of the beach below.
Address: Evans Ave. and Wallace Ave., Summerland, CA 93067
8. Drakes Beach
Another popular surf spot is Big Drakes. This place is usually crowded, especially on the weekends when surfers are all out to catch some good waves. What’s great about this spot is the wave quality. The regional classic waves rise from 300 to 500 meters (984 to 1640 feet) on good days and the swells hold up to 4 metres (13 feet). The tides are low to mid, making it ideal for amateur surfers keen on enjoying the best rides. This surf spot is private, but it has still attracted a lot of visitors.
9. Naples Point
Naples Point is a favourite among locals and surfers all over the world. It features an amazing winter surf on a west swell, with long, right-breaking waves that peel off the point. Just as amazing are the seals that hang loose with you beneath the cliffs. Other features of this spot are its rocky point laden with kelp; and its excellent wave quality. This remote surfing spot west of Santa Barbara is not easy to access, and that’s why it’s not crowded. The easiest way to get here is via Haskell’s Beach at Bacara Resort. A short walk during low tide will get you safely to Naples Point.
Address: 8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta, CA 93117
A park next to a beach makes surfing all the more enjoyable. Gaviota State Park Beach is a popular spot for surfing, camping, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors. Located about 48 kilometres (29 miles) west of Santa Barbara and 40 kilometres (24 miles) southeast of Lompoc, Gaviota is a south-facing beach with about 8 kilometres (4 miles) of beach and coastline. Not usually crowded, surfers seeking a relaxing surf session usually head here to grab good waves. Easily accessible, the beach also has a parking lot.
Address: Gaviota Beach Rd., Goleta, CA 93117
Hang loose and explore the best surf spots
There are a million ways to surf and as long as you’re smiling, you’re doing it right. When waves are regarded as toys from God by most surfers, make every session epic. Simply don your wet suit and brush up on your techniques. Enjoy an adrenaline-packed day at the best surf spots in Santa Barbara. When in doubt, just paddle out.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.