15 Top Dog-Friendly Beaches in Santa Barbara CA

Published on
Fluent Woof is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Located on the Pacific coast in southern California at the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is a well-known city popular for its arts and tourism. The village of Santa Barbara also loves its dogs. With almost 90 thousand residents, you can expect to find at least one fur baby per every three people, which is about 30 thousand. So it just makes sense that the town has plenty of dog-friendly places to go and things to do. 

Santa Barbara enjoys warm temperatures all year long and has over 50 parks to enjoy the gorgeous weather. Almost all of these parks are pup-popular, including Shoreline Park, Chase Palm Park, and the Douglas Family Preserve. Many of these have their own fenced dog sections where your pooch can also run off the leash. And out of the 36 beaches in the city, there are three off-leash beaches and many more that allow dogs on a leash. Here are our favorite 15 dog-friendly beaches in Santa Barbara. 

Arroyo Burro Beach

Located right in Santa Barbara, Arroyo Burro Beach, also known as Hendry’s Beach, is located in the southwest corner of the Douglas Family Preserve. You and your fur puppy can choose between the ocean and the Arroyo Burro. On the eastern side is the dog beach, where all dogs can run and play off the leash, and on the other side, dogs are still allowed but have to be on a leash. You will just have to go by what the signs say. 

Either way, the beach is nice and clean, with golden sand and clear blue waters. There are picnic areas with tables and barbecue grills if you want to make some food, or you can grab some food at the Boathouse and sit on the beach and eat with a stunning view. There are lifeguards during the busy season from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and you can fish, surf, swim, or hike while you are there. There is even a concession stand that has snacks and baits. 

Mesa Lane Beach

Right next to Arroyo Burro Beach, dogs are not just welcome at Mesa Lane Beach, but they are allowed to play off-leash anywhere on the sand. And one of the best things about this beach is that it is basically a secret to out-of-towners. You will notice right away that this is not a tourist beach because it is so peaceful and serene, even on weekends. The people you will likely run into at Mesa Lane Beach will be locals, and most of them are pet parents. 

Now for the bad news. To get to this hidden beach gem, you must walk down 241 steps. Going down is not that bad. But remember, you have to walk back up eventually! It is funny that this set of stairs has more steps than the Thousand Steps Beach stairs, but what’s in a name anyway? Once you get down to the beach, let your fur puppy loose, and he can romp and play all day in the sand and surf. 

Thousand Steps Beach

Just a couple of miles east, you will find Thousand Steps Beach, which is also popular with the pups. Your canine companion is allowed to play off his leash everywhere on this beach, too so it is perfect for pup parents. The only drawback is that, like Mesa Lane, it takes a lot of steps to get down to the sand and water. Although they call it Thousand Steps Beach, it is really about 150 steps, which is still a lot. These steps were built in 1923 and are a historic site in Santa Barbara. 

The beach is stunning with its huge boulders and bluffs, making it a wonderful place to enjoy the day and get some awesome selfies with your fur baby. When the tide is out, there are some fascinating tide pools full of marine creatures to see. Just keep your pup from getting too close to them, and be sure to pack some doggie bags to pick up after him. 

Shoreline Park Beach

Right next door, Shoreline Park is a long beach with grassy areas for picnicking, playing catch, and tossing around a frisbee with your pup. On the sand, your dog is allowed to play off the leash so he can swim and dig in the sand, run up and down the beach, and enjoy himself freely there. It is best to keep him close, though, just to be on the safe side because the waves here can be a bit rough at times. 

In the grassy park section, your fur baby will have to be on a leash, but there is plenty to do anyway. There is a playground for the kids, picnic tables to enjoy a meal, and restrooms and showers to clean up afterward. Head up top on the cliffs, and you may get a chance to see some whales, and you will almost always spot some dolphins playing in the surf. 

Leadbetter Beach

Right next to Shoreline Beach, there is a large patch of white sand called Leadbetter Beach. With close to 18 acres, this large park has all sorts of space to stretch out on the sand with your pup for the day. You can pack a picnic or bring something to barbecue. Or, you do not even have to worry about packing food because there is a restaurant on-site where you can get something. The park also has picnic tables so you can enjoy your meal on the water. 

There is a lifeguard on the beach from Memorial Day until Labor Day, restrooms, showers, and several volleyball courts. You can enjoy sunbathing, surfing, windsurfing, and swimming here as well as sailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The beach stretches from Santa Barbara Point to Santa Barbara Harbor and has a cafe with outdoor seating where your pooch is welcome. The light surf is perfect for letting your pooch swim, but he has to always stay on a leash. 

Butterfly Beach

Located in Montecito, past West and East Beach, just after the Santa Barbara Zoo, Butterfly Beach. It is a favorite place for locals, with rows of vibrant flowers that attract thousands of butterflies, hence the name. It is a simple place, without restaurants and showers, so you and your fur puppy can enjoy the water and sand unspoiled. Because it is so simple, most of the tourists go elsewhere, making this a nice hidden gem for a peaceful day with your pup. 

Your dog will need to stay on a leash, and you have to bring your own doggie doo bags, but swimming and playing in the sand are still fun. And being across the street from the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, you may just see some celebrities while you are there. Stay until the sun goes down so you can see how gorgeous the sunset is over the water. 

Hammond’s Beach

Hammonds Beach is right next to Butterfly Beach, and the flowers and butterflies know no boundaries here. That means there is always an abundance of beautiful flora and winged wonders along here. This is a basic and undeveloped spot, for the most part, with no facilities, but your fur puppy is allowed here on a leash. You will not see a crowd here as you would at the more popular touristy beaches, so if you are looking for a peaceful place to be with your pup, this is it. 

Also, like Butterfly Beach, you will often see some famous faces at the nearby resorts, and being in a secluded area with private homes, you do not have to worry about partying and rowdiness. Pack a lunch and spend the day on the beach with your pup but keep him in the shallows here because the waves can sometimes be brutal. 

Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach is a public beach in front of a private community also in Montecito. Although it seems like it should be a private beach being right in front of the Miramar By the Sea Hotel (now known as Rosewood), it is actually a public beach that anyone can enjoy, even your furry friend. Just be sure to keep him on a leash and bring doggie cleanup baggies to pick up anything he drops while you are there. 

There is almost 16 acres of golden sand here with tide pools, sensational surf, and a lot of room to spread out a blanket and enjoy the day. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you will not be able to use their facilities though, so you will have to go for a bit of a walk if you need a restroom. Bring a cooler with food and drinks, so you do not have to worry about hiking to one of the eateries. 

Summerland Beach 

Just east of Miramar Beach, Summerland Beach at Lookout Park is a small but beautiful park and beach to enjoy with your pup. As long as you keep him on a leash here, you and your canine companion can enjoy the park and the beach as well as the crystal clear ocean water. The surf is not too rough, but it is still a good idea to keep your pooch close to shore just in case. 

From up top in Lookout Park, you will find a great place to get some incredible views of the ocean and will often be able to spot seals, dolphins, and porpoises playing in the surf. You may even see some whales. There are picnic tables with grills, a playground, and horseshoe games to enjoy here too. You can even clean up your pup in the dog wash station before getting back in the car. 

More Mesa Beach

On the western side of Santa Barbara, More Mesa Beach is a narrow beach tucked below the bluffs of More Mesa Park just west of Arroyo Burro Beach. The huge space is 300 acres and includes the park above the beach as well. Up top is the grassy area with tons of space undeveloped and unspoiled for those who like to see the native flora and fauna in its natural state. This is one of the only places in the state where you will see white-tailed kites, and they are a protected species here. 

Your pup will have to remain on a leash at this park due to the protected wildlife, but he will not mind because he still gets to play in the sand and surf all day long. This is known as a clothing-optional beach, though, so if you are uncomfortable with that, you may want to choose a different beach to take your canine companion. 

Goleta Beach Park

Goleta Beach Park is just a few minutes down the beach from More Mesa Beach and allows dogs year-round as long as they are leashed the whole time you are there. You should also bring your own puppy poo bags to clean up after your pup. This 30-acre park is sandwiched between the calm waters of the Goleta Slough and the stunning waves of the ocean, so you have your choice of where to swim and play. If your pooch is not a swimmer, it is best to stick to the shallows of the slough. 

Besides swimming and playing on the beach, you can also find over 50 picnic tables with barbecue grills, a restaurant with outdoor seating, a playground for the kids, a huge fishing pier, and horseshoe courts. There are also some trails to explore where you will most likely see some wildlife so keep your fur baby on a short leash. 

Campus Point Beach

Right next to Goleta Beach, Campus Point Beach allows your fur buddy to play on the beach and in the surf as long as he is leashed. Also known as Goleta Point Beach, you can plan on spending the whole day there with your canine companion so pack a cooler with snacks and beverages for you both. The locals consider this a surfing beach for beginners because of its small surf so your pup can splash away without worry. 

If you are in the mood for a walk, go up the steps to the Labyrinth Trail that meanders along the bluffs above the beach, giving you some fabulous views. You can often see dolphins and even some whales out in the water if you are patient enough. The trail takes you around the UCSB Lagoon (Campus Lagoon) and around some of the college campuses that gave the beach its name. 

Sea Lookout Park

Being in a college community, both Campus Point Beach and Sea Lookout Park Beach can be a bit rowdy on the weekends. But if your pup loves to party, he will fit right in. This is a nice-sized beach area that allows your fur baby to enjoy the entire stretch of sand and ocean without being held back by a leash. You will have to take the steps down to the beach, but they are nowhere near as long as the other two beaches previously mentioned. 

Whether it is the weekend or any day, you will often find college students soaking up the sun and locals walking their dogs along the beach. In the park above the beach, your pup will have to be reattached to his leash, but there is a lot to do here, like picnicking, hiking, and biking as well as plenty of grassy space to toss around a ball. 

Devereux Beach

Another pup-popular beach, Devereux Beach, is just a few minutes down the coast from Sea Lookout Park by the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Even though you will have to keep your canine companion on the leash while you are here, there is plenty of fun to be had. When the tide is low, you can find all sorts of tide pools filled with fascinating marine creatures, amazing rock formations, and cool caves.

You can even find the remains of a beach house made of stone. The locals call it The Jailhouse, and it is decorated in surprisingly beautiful graffiti. This is a popular surfing beach with a nice point break but beware of the large rocks jutting from the ocean. Do not let Fido go out too far, and keep him close by during high tide. It can get pretty gnarly here. Take a walk up on top of the beach along the bluffs, where you can almost always see some whales. 

Mussel Shoals Beach

Just a few minutes down the beach from Summerland past La Conchita Beach, Mussel Shoals Beach is one of the local favorites in Ventura County. Right along 101 Highway, this is not a large beach, but it has a lot to offer. Many people come to surf the breaks to the south of Rincon Island PIer, while others like to meander along the sand north of the pier, looking for seashells and tide pools. Your canine companion is welcome to join you as long as he is leashed at all times. 

Although there are no lifeguards or fancy amenities here, the locals like that it is not as crowded as the other beaches where the tourists hang out. Here you can swim, fish, kayak, and surf all you want without worrying about a crowded playing field. The waves can be a bit rough though, so keep your fur puppy close to shore. 

The Final Woof

Being in such a dog-friendly city, you will not have any trouble finding fun things to do in Santa Barbara with your canine companion. The city boasts many wineries and vineyards so if you love wine, you can find dozens of pup-friendly wineries like Kunin Wines, Grassini Family Vineyards, and the Santa Barbara Winery. Or you and your fur buddy can go boating on Sunset Kidd Sailing Cruises, rent your own kayak at Paddle Sports Center Santa Barbara, or visit some of the awesome off-leash dog parks like Hale Park on Eucalyptus Hill Road, MacKenzie Park on State Street, or the El Carro Off-Leash Area.

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

Leave a Comment