Set along the coast of central California, Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful and iconic areas in the state. Set apart from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, surf vibes of San Diego, and the tech business center of San Francisco, Santa Barbara is wholly unique and brings a flavor of the west coast that isn’t easy to find anywhere else in the world.
The unique atmosphere, diverse population, breadth of activities, and points of interest are just part of why so many people choose to live in Santa Barbara. Read our guide to living in Santa Barbara to help you determine if it’s the city that you should call home.
The Santa Barbara real estate market features homes and living situations for just about every walk of life. The city spans about 42 square miles and offers a mix of both urban and suburban areas with a population of just over 91,000 residents.
In general, the Santa Barbara housing prices can be more expensive than in other parts of the country, but many residents rent their homes. The median value for Santa Barbara homes is more than $1.05 million, while the median rent is over $1,780. These are both higher than the national median values.
Navigating real estate can be difficult in any area, and Santa Barbara is no exception. Having the right guidance, tools, and resources can give you the information you need to make an educated decision about your next dream home. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties can provide just that. The team of Santa Barbara realtors offers years of experience, along with in-depth expertise and a focus on providing superior customer service. From researching potential homes to making bids and closing on a deal, our California Properties team can guide you through the entire home-buying process to help you avoid pitfalls and settle into your new dream home.
Santa Barbara is known for its quality education system that includes both public and private schools with a wide range of academic, athletic, and extracurricular accolades. The public school system in the city is served by the Santa Barbara Unified School District. There are 12 elementary schools in this district:
The four junior high schools served by SBUSD include:
There are five high schools in the Santa Barbara district, and these include:
Santa Barbara and its adjacent areas also feature several different colleges and universities. UC Santa Barbara is perhaps the most well-known college in the city, but prospective students can also attend Santa Barbara City College or some of the non-research graduate schools in the area, including Pacifica Graduate Institute, Fielding Graduate University, and Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law.
Santa Barbara offers an incredible mix of activities and sites of interest for essentially every mood, hobby, and taste. While the network of freeways makes it easy for residents to visit Los Angeles (about 100 miles south) and other neighboring cities, residents of Santa Barbara can find an extensive selection of things to enjoy well within the assortment of Santa Barbara neighborhoods.
A characteristic part of most cities in California is the beach, and Santa Barbara features some of the best beaches in the world. The beaches here are broad and open for sunbathing, enjoying picnics, and partaking in all your favorite beach activities.
Arroyo Burro Beach, also known as Hendry’s Beach by the locals, is one of the most popular beaches in the city. It offers just about everything the average beachgoer could want, from sandy shores and grassy areas for picnics. It’s a great spot for surfing, watching whales, fishing, and seeing the sunset. Arroyo Burro Beach is also dog-friendly, though it is encouraged that dogs stay on a leash.
Located in the village of Montecito, residents can also visit Butterfly Beach. This local favorite offers the perfect spaces for swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. The east-west orientation of the beach also offers some amazing sunsets and sunrises. The Channel Islands are easy to spot 20 miles west of Butterfly Beach, and visitors can sometimes spot pods of dolphins and whales.
Leadbetter Beach is a combination beach and park located between Shoreline Park and Santa Barbara Harbor. While walking and jogging are popular on land, Leadbetter Beach is a popular destination for beginner surfers, kayakers, and sailors.
Just off the Pacific Ocean shores of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands comprise five independent islands and the brilliant waters surrounding them. The five islands are:
Thousands of years of relative isolation have allowed some unique flora and fauna to thrive on the islands, which are now inhabited by some plants and animals that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth.
That sense of isolation continues to this day, making Channel Islands National Park a true haven for people trying to escape the hectic buzz of everyday life. Each island offers its own special vibe, but hiking, camping, and fishing are standard fare throughout, along with wildlife and wildflower viewing. The scenery, vistas, and atmosphere are truly unmatched. Just remember that there are no services on the islands, meaning that you should have everything prepared for your trip beforehand. Don’t expect to find amenities like a large, fully stocked supermarket on any of the islands.
If you want to learn about the local and regional natural history, the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum should be your go-to. Initially established in the 1880s, the museum now sits along Mission Creek and features ten expansive indoor exhibition halls, along with the John & Peggy Maximus Art Gallery, a research library, and the only full-dome planetarium on the Central Coast.
The collection today comprises over 3 million different specimens, and the museum is best known for its incredible dioramas of birds and mammals in Southern California habitats. Many of the backgrounds of these were illustrated in the 1930s and 1960s and still remain today. The museum is also home to one of the largest extant collections of Chumash basketry.
The museum also adopted the Ty Warner Sea Center, now known as the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum Sea Center, which is located offsite on the historic Stearns Wharf. The Sea Center features numerous exhibits highlighting the marine life endemic to the region. This includes a plastinated dolphin, a life-sized model of a gray whale and its calf, and a tide pool with waves that rush in every 60 seconds.
For even more history, residents can easily visit the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Established in 1964, this museum is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the city. The museum offers a closer look at the human history of the region with exhibitions featuring artifacts, photos, textiles, relics, and furniture from Chinese, Chumash, Mexican, and Spanish cultures. These cultures played an important role in the roots of Santa Barbara and continue to influence the city in big and small ways.
The museum is also home to the Gledhill Library, a research library that is open to the public. The collection is available to students and anyone who wants a better understanding of the city’s history. The collection itself focuses on Santa Barbara County with other materials that look at California and the American West. This includes books, photos, maps, audio recordings, periodicals, clippings, and more.
The food and drink selection in Santa Barbara is sincerely unbeatable. The mix of tastes throughout the area is as eclectic and diverse as the population itself. The Santa Barbara Public Market is in the heart of downtown, and it offers an incredible range of delicious, handmade cuisine. From fresh Mexican food at Corazon Cocina to sushi and Japanese fare at Wabi Sabi, it’s hard to find something that you won’t like. The Garden is an urban contemporary beer garden that offers over 41 different beers on tap. For modern steak and seafood in an upscale setting, Angel Oak is hard to beat, featuring a wide range of dishes that use the finest local, organic ingredients.
Of course, one of the main draws to Santa Barbara is its growing wine scene. The city has dozens of wineries and tasting rooms scattered throughout, including a few right in Downtown Santa Barbara, like Jaffurs Wine Cellars and the Sanford Winery & Tasting Rooms. Those looking for even more from their wine can take a quick trip to the famous Santa Ynez Valley, which features some quintessential wine country experiences.
Santa Barbara is an easy place to fall in love with, thanks to its incredible range of activities and unique atmosphere. If you ever want or need help finding a home in Santa Barbara, consult our agents at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Our team’s guidance can help you avoid the annoyances of the real estate market so that you can find the home of your dreams and become a resident of beautiful Santa Barbara.