San Diego to Santa Barbara Road Trip Guide


This drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara could easily be knocked out in just three and a half hours but that would be a shame, as you will be driving along some of the most beautiful coastline in America. The worry with these family trips is that it can be difficult to find things to do that are going to entertain both the kids and the adults in the group. Well, worry no more; this region has you covered as far as families are concerned.

Aim to leave no later than nine-thirty but not too much earlier either. Too early and you will get snarled up in traffic, too late and you risk missing out on some of the many things there are to enjoy.

You should skip the highway and travel along the coastal route. With more than two hundred days of sunshine, you may well want to break the journey with a quick dip in the ocean and there are plenty of places to pull over on your way.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 1 days
Recommend rig: van
audience: family

Point of Interest

Ventura Harbor Village

From Malibu you are going to have been treated to some stunning views, but hopefully, you still have some room on your memory card. Set between the Topatopa mountain range and the ocean, Ventura Harbor Village is one of the largest harbors in North America and it is teeming with things to do.

In addition to shops, restaurants, and galleries, you have plenty of boats to admire and sea lions will probably be basking on one or two of them. You can hire a pedal boat and explore the harbor from a different angle or, if you are a little more daring, you could hire some sea kayaks and explore some of the nearby coastline. Before heading on for the short hop to Santa Barbara, grab a Taiyaki fish cone from Coastal Cone and choose from one of forty different flavors to fill it with.

Malibu Wine Safari

The kids are going to want to stop in Disneyland but that is something that would take a day in itself so, instead, focus on getting past LA and then head inland to LA Safaris. This is a place that offers something for everyone.

The safari park is only thirty minutes from LA but you would never know that you were that close to the city. Once there you will be driven around in an open-top jeep to by a guide who will know all about the animals you are about to meet. There are alpacas, water buffalo, zebra, bison, and giraffe, and many of these animals are retired movie stars which means you can get up close.

California is famed for its wines and the tour includes a tasting of both a local red and a local white along with some expert advice on just what notes to look out for as you savor each sip.


As road trips go, this run-up to Santa Barbara is one of the most scenic day trips you could hope to do. There are so many different options along the way that keeping younger members of the family entertained won’t be a problem and so many of those activities include something for the adults as well.

Top this off with great weather and magnificent views and what more could you ask for? Santa Barbara with its Spanish style architecture and pretty coastline makes even the end of the journey something to look forward to.

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