Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Montecito, CA

  • Published 2022/11/08

Montecito is an oasis of posh in a sunny, seaside corner of Southern California.

This chic, seaside town isn’t just about shopping and sunshine—Montecito is also the gateway for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and historical explorations.

It is abundant with alluring destinations, high-end boutique shopping, exquisite dining, and unforgettable views of the Pacific Ocean.

Do you find yourself planning your dream vacation in Montecito?

Then you should check out these 20 best things to do in Montecito, California!

Wade the Waves at Butterfly Beach

Scenic view of the Butterfly Beach waters

C.rosell /

This charming coastal town in Santa Barbara offers a stretch of pristine white sand beach great for water recreation activities.

Butterfly Beach is the perfect destination in Montecito, where you can enjoy an afternoon under the sun.

The beach is only 10 minutes away from Downtown Santa Barbara, which is ideal if you don’t want to stray away from the city.

Wade the waters, go kayaking, surf the waves, and spot whales and dolphins in the distance.

Sunset view from the Butterfly Beach

Aaron Volpe /

Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled because you might meet a few celebs who call Montecito their home.

Whether you want to try exciting water activities or simply bask under the sun while listening to the waves crashing to the shore, Butterfly Beach is the go-to destination!

Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen and other beach essentials for a relaxing day by the ocean!

Stone rail and the Butterfly Beach at the back

Jack N. Mohr /

Take a Trip Back in Time at Casa del Herrero

Do you want to transport back in time and have a glimpse of life back then?

If so, you should visit Casa del Herrero, a charming estate built in the 1920s.

Casa del Herrero was owned by George Fox Steedman and designed by George Washington Smith.

This Spanish revival-designed estate is located east of Valley Road, filled with history and scenic vistas.

You can tour this stunning 1920s home to see a collection of historical artifacts and marvel at the intricate architectural details.

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply adore exploring beautiful places, Casa del Herrero is a must-visit!

Hike the Trails Going to Tangerine Falls

Rushing waters of Tangerine Falls

matt marsili /

If you want to add a relaxed outdoor adventure to your itinerary list, check out the Tangerine Falls of Montecito.

A 2.5-mile hike to these roaring falls starts at East Mountain Drive, where you can find a wooden sign that marks the trailhead.

As you hike through the trails, you’ll see scenic natural vistas and serene woodlands.

Tangerine Falls water hitting big rocks

matt marsili /

The hike can be challenging with a few rocky paths, steep steps, and slippery rocks.

After you conquer the challenge of this hike, you’ll be rewarded with the breathtaking sight of Tangerine Falls.

Take a breather to enjoy the cascading sounds of the water, snap some photos, and delight yourself with the company of nature.

Have a Picnic at Manning Park

Are you looking for a place in Montecito where you can enjoy some quiet time on a sunny afternoon?

Then head out to Manning Park and bring along your picnic baskets filled with hearty snacks.

This hidden gem is located along San Ysidro Road, the perfect destination to take the entire family.

Manning Park features an expansive open space with ball fields, playgrounds, ball courts, and horseshoe pits.

The picnic areas have BBQ grills so that you can have a great picnic outing with friends and family.

Whether you prefer to read a good book under the canopy of the trees or get active and play some games, Manning Park is the place to go!

Appreciate the Arts and Culture at Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art

If there’s one thing Montecito never lacks in, it’s the number of places you can visit to appreciate the artistic works of talented locals.

The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art is an abode for artists and art enthusiasts looking to have an avenue for their creative minds.

This quaint art gallery is located on La Paz Road in the heart of Westmont Campus.

You can tour the gallery, see the well-curated exhibits made by talented artists, and join art events if you want to delve deeper into the arts.

Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art is dedicated to educating the community and showcasing the power of visual arts to the world.

Shop and Dine at Coast Village Road

A trip to Montecito calls for a bit of splurge in unique luxury items and a fine dining experience.

Coast Village Road is the most vibrant part of Montecito, where you can shop in locally-owned boutiques and experience the bustling restaurant scene.

This shopping and dining hub is the perfect place to explore if you want to get acquainted with the charming coastal community.

Have a cup of coffee in one of the cozy coffee shops, delight yourself with a tasty brunch, and shop for unique items at Coast Village Road.

Whether you’re looking for the best dining option, hunting for artisan items, or meeting new people, this is the place to go!

Have a Relaxing Hike at Hot Springs Canyon Trail

If you enjoy hiking and taking a dip in natural hot springs, the Hot Springs Canyon is surely a paradise for you!

You can access this 3.7-mile trail along East Mountain Drive—it’s the perfect destination to explore the beauty of nature.

Hot Springs Canyon is a remnant of the original hot springs resort from the 1800s, now a landmark along the trail.

The hot springs are surrounded by stone ruins and lush greeneries, making it a perfect destination if you want to get away from your daily cares.

Make sure to wear appropriate hiking clothing for a safe and comfortable hike to get to the hot springs.

Explore the Mystical Lotusland

A trip to Montecito calls for a serene exploration at Lotusland!

This mystical garden spans up to 37 acres located on Cold Spring Road.

The expansive gardens and historic estate were once owned by Madame Ganna Walska, who left her legacy to the opening of Lotusland in 1993.

Explore the stunning gardens of Lotusland filled with more than 3,000 plants, including rare cycads, cacti, and euphorbias.

Surround yourself with the serene atmosphere offered by lush greeneries and have a break from your daily stresses.

Lotusland is dedicated to educating visitors about the importance of plants in everyone’s lives and the planet.

Book Your Stay at Montecito Inn

Night view of Montecito Inn

Vmiramontes, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you looking for a place to rest your weary feet and get spent on a warm, cozy bed?

If so, you should book your stay at Montecito Inn for comfortable and elegant accommodation in town.

This quaint, upscale inn was built in 1928 and made possible by Charlie Chaplin when he fell in love with the coastal charm of Montecito.

Now, Montecito Inn is the perfect destination to make that dreamy vacation by the coast come true for people visiting California.

This chic, Spanish-style hotel combines modern comforts and elegant history to ensure the best experience for the guests.

The inn also offers a heated outdoor pool, a fitness room, and an upscale bar and restaurant to have all your needs in one place.

Climb the Montecito Peak

Marvel on the fascinating coastline view in the Santa Barbara Area at Montecito Peak.

If you’re an adventure junkie, you’ll surely appreciate the hike going to Montecito Peak.

You’ll get to see gorgeous mountain vistas, see the rich flora and fauna of the region, and enjoy the sounds of nature along the hike.

You can access the trailhead via East Mountain Road near other trailheads leading to scenic landmarks.

This 3,214-foot peak is one of the area’s highest summits, which you can reach after a 7.1-mile round trip hike.

The hike can be a daunting task, but once you reach the peak, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of coastal cities and the Pacific Ocean.

Cool down at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery

Rori’s Artisanal Creamery lies within the cozy confines of Montecito Country Mart.

It is pretty popular in the area.

Rori’s Artisanal Creamery began with the owner’s lifelong fascination with the science and art of making ice cream, which she nurtured as a pastry chef.

After experimenting with her recipes, Rori started selling her jarred sauces to the local grocery shops.

Almost every offer resulted from a personal experience and blended with handcrafted ingredients.

For instance, the Honey Almond Brittle flavor starts with a foundation of rich and smooth honey ice cream produced with honey from San Marcos Farms.

Roman’s Chocolate Coconut is a dedication to her son’s special diet, which excludes gluten and dairy.

There is a shady courtyard with outdoor seating, making it perfect for after-school and summer gatherings.

Have a Retail Therapy at Wendy Foster Sportswear

The Wendy Foster Sportswear store is the newest addition to the Wendy Foster family of locally owned shops.

Over four decades, Wendy Foster has been a trendsetter in Santa Barbara and Montecito, epitomizing the laid-back, sophisticated, and organic vibe that is so characteristic of the city.

Wendy Foster Sportswear is a casual clothing store in the Upper Village of Montecito, selling basics, including t-shirts, jeans, sweaters, and pajamas.

In addition, there are unique items from today’s most covetable designers, such as Ulla Johnson, CP Shades, The Great, White + Warren, and more.

The Wendy Foster department store group is responsible for bringing cutting-edge fashion from New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Asia, and other far-flung locations to the paradise city of Santa Barbara.

Go Wine-Tasting at Folded Hills Montecito Tasting Room and Wine Shop

Folded Hills Montecito Tasting Room and Wine Shop established Montecito’s first and sole tasting room in Lower Village.

Easily accessible for locals and tourists, it is a short distance from key attractions.

It provides wine sampling flights, glass, or by bottle for your enjoyment at the hotel or at your preferred restaurant in the neighborhood.

Come check out the buzz and sample some of its high-quality wines in a stylish, modern setting.

Thanks to its photo gallery, you may get a feel for the laid-back atmosphere of the vineyard.

Bid Your Stress Goodbye at Rosewood Miramar Beach’s Sense Spa

Visit Sense Spa if your idea of a perfect vacation is lounging on the beach all day and then indulging in a relaxing massage.

The Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel is home to a spa that provides a range of treatments.

Treat yourself to a spa day by scheduling a facial, massage, manicure, and more services.

Loosen your tight muscles and stress with the help of its experts, who will design a massage just for you.

Invigorate weary limbs before continuing with the nonstop shopping, traveling, and celebrations.

Spice up Your Home with Items from William Laman Furniture Garden Antiques

In 1995, Bruce Gregga, an interior designer, and William Laman, an art dealer, opened an antique store to provide residents of upscale Montecito with a one-of-a-kind shopping destination.

Gregga and Laman’s particular combination of items, culled from their travels across the world in search of the best deals, is known for its subtle elegance and meticulous attention to detail.

Many of today’s top interior designers, Hollywood celebrities, landscape architects, savvy tourists, and locals visit William Laman’s shop to see the latest inspirations for living in style.

You may see many of Bruce Gregga’s design projects in leading interior design magazines over the past few decades.

Take pleasure in the ever-changing assortment of tasteful yet practical furniture that fill a quaint clapboard cottage staged just as they would be in a real person’s home and garden.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Meet the Animals at Santa Barbara Zoo

A person feeding the penguins at Santa Barbara Zoo

Lilly P. Green /

Nothing beats the classic family bonding spent roaming around the zoo, so make sure to take a side trip to Santa Barbara Zoo!

The Santa Barbara Zoo is home to over 140 species of animals where you can get an up-close view of the animals.

Get to meet over 500 animals exhibited in open, naturalistic habitats to ensure the safety of both visitors and animals.

An elephant playing with water at Santa Barbara Zoo

Lilly P. Green /

This quaint 30-acre zoo is only 10 minutes away from Montecito, located along Ninos Drive in Santa Barbara.

Aside from meeting the zoo animals, you can also ride their miniature train ride or have a picnic at the picnic area.

Pink flamingos at Santa Barbara Zoo

Cassandra Faye /

Santa Barbara Zoo also organizes a series of events that you can join to learn more about preserving wildlife.

A trip to the zoo is a must if you’re visiting with the entire family for a fun, enjoyable experience that’ll delight the young and young at heart.

Get Lost in the Beauty of Nature at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Orange flowers of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

C.rosell /

If you can’t get enough of nature’s wonderful offerings, then you should visit the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden!

Located just 15 minutes outside of Montecito is the 78-acre botanical garden at Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara.

The botanic garden holds over 1,000 species of rare and native plants of California.

A bench near a pond at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

jmrainbow /

You can tour this magical garden to learn about California’s native plant diversity and support its mission to conserve nature’s gifts.

This mystical place is a gem in the Santa Barbara area, where you can enjoy quiet natural scenery under the canopy of lush trees.

Make it a point to visit the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to breathe in the fresh air and breathe out your stresses.

Rock stairs at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

C.rosell /

Learn about Natural Wonders at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Name sign and entrance of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

VDB Photos /

Delve deeper into nature by discovering scientific facts and uncovering the history of nature’s wonders.

You’ll get to explore different realms of nature all in one place, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

The museum is set close to nature in Mission Creek in the Mission Canyon area, just a few minutes away from Montecito.

A whale skeleton at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

VDB Photos /

Explore several exhibit halls featuring a variety of species that walked the world, learn about the planet and space at the planetarium, see the fluttering butterflies at the butterfly garden, and delve deep into marine life at the sea center.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a must-visit if you want an educational yet memorable experience to include on your trip itinerary.

Eat by the Ocean at Stearns Wharf

Pier at Stearns Wharf with many restaurants and eateries

This photo (C) Lars Aronsson, CC SA 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend that idyllic brunch with your loved ones and enjoy the relaxing sea breeze at Stearns Wharf, located just 15 minutes outside Montecito.

This storied wooden pier in the harbor of Santa Barbara is the perfect gathering place if you want to enjoy great food with stunning ocean views.

Stearns Wharf was named after its notable builder, John P. Stearns, who completed the pier in 1872 to cater to passengers and freight shipping needs on California’s South Coast.

Walk on the old wooden planks, take a ride on the water taxi, shop for souvenirs in specialty shops, and enjoy the best dining experience at Stearns Wharf.

Whether you want to eat out, hang out by the pier, or get away from the city’s hustle and bustle, this is the go-to destination in the Santa Barbara area!

Get a Glimpse of the Spanish Influence at Old Mission Santa Barbara

Scenic view of the Old Mission Santa Barbara church

Kit Leong /

This fascinating piece of history in Santa Barbara remains standing to remind the people about the region’s history.

Old Mission Santa Barbara was built in 1786 and founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén to convert indigenous locals.

A trip to this historic structure will take you on a historical and cultural journey.

Interior of the Old Mission Santa Barbara church

Nagel Photography /

You can walk the grounds to enjoy the relaxing ambiance of the place and take a tour inside to see a collection of historical artifacts and memorabilia.

A 15-minute drive to Old Mission Santa Barbara is worth it once you step inside this remarkable piece of history.

Church bell of the Old Mission Santa Barbara

Bill Perry /

Final Thoughts

The coastal charm of Montecito makes for an idyllic vacation where you can indulge in nature’s offerings and vibrant historic places.

So if you’re planning for that dream vacation soon, make sure to bookmark this list!

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