Dog-Friendly Santa Barbara – Complete Travel Guide

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dog is feeling happy in santa barbara

Santa Barbara is a popular California city about 100 miles northwest of LA. It is well-known for its wineries, excellent restaurants, and calm beaches. It is the perfect place to enjoy fishing, sailing, hiking, biking, and even surfing. The city is home to the Santa Ynez Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the University of California, as well as the Los Padres National Forest, Channel Islands, and some ancient cave paintings. 

One out of every three households has at least one fur baby, so it only makes sense that the city has a lot of dog-friendly places and activities. You can visit some of the best vineyards to taste local wines, have a five-star meal at a popular restaurant, and even take your pooch to the beach. 

There are more than 200 hotels and other vacation rentals, 74 restaurants, a dozen dog parks, several dog beaches, numerous hiking and biking trails, and seven pet stores you can peruse with your pup. In this guide, we list some hotels, dog parks, restaurants, and other fun places to go as well as laws, safety tips, and the best times to visit in the best neighborhoods. 

Things dog parents need to know about Santa Barbara

No matter how dog-friendly a city is, there are always specific laws, rules, and regulations to know before you go. Santa Barbara loves fur babies but to keep them safe, you need to know the facts. From leash laws to poop pickup, here are the most important things to know.

  • All dogs over four months old must have a license and be up to date on all shots, including rabies. Tags should be displayed on your pup’s collar at all times.
  • Dogs have to be protected by a protective seatbelt or cage when being transported by vehicle. And you should never leave your pooch in the vehicle alone. 
  • Canines are not allowed on Santa Barbara Beach or the Santa Barbara Harbor, whether leashed or unleashed. 
  • You must keep your fur baby on a leash no longer than six feet when out in public unless you are in an off-leash area.
  • Always bring along doggie bags and pick up after your pup, or you can be fined up to $500.
  • Dogs are not allowed in public stores unless otherwise stated. 
  • Only service animals are allowed on MTD buses. Small dogs are allowed on other public transportation if they are in a carrier. 

Dog friendly Hotels in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has over 200 vacation properties that allow dogs, including 25 hotels and several campgrounds. Many of the hotels even offer gift bags, dog beds, toys, and treats for your pooch. Some even let you bring your dog to the on-site restaurants and other amenities. Here are some of our favorites. 

  • Motel 6 Carpinteria is the best place for pup parents on a budget with rooms under $100, no fee for dogs, and it is on the beach, too! Kids even stay free, so bring them too if you have any. Each room has a microwave, fridge, and a flat-screen TV. They even have a swimming pool!
  • Kimpton Canary Hotel is another dog-loving pick where they do not charge a pet fee and offer your pooch his own dog bed, mat, bowls, and treats. He is also welcome at the nightly wine receptions. And they do not care how big your pup is, either. All are welcome.  
  • El Encanto Hotel has special suites with private backyards, so you and Fido can sit out on the lawn and enjoy the gorgeous weather. They also have a large dog-friendly park across the street, Orpet Park, where you can take your canine companion for a walk or have a picnic. 

To really enjoy the lovely weather and natural beauty of Santa Barbara, why not stay in a campground or RV park? Sun Outdoors has over 100 RV sites and campsites with a dog park, pool, playground, beach, and store. Rancho Oso, also known as Thousand Trails, has 190 campsites on 310 acres with hiking trails, horseback riding, basketball, minigolf, playgrounds, pickleball, and a dog park as well as a pool, store, volleyball, a restaurant, and showers. 

Santa Barbara Dog Parks

Even for such a small area, Santa Barbara has over a dozen dog parks, as well as many more parks that are dog-friendly. From parks with lots of open space to cozy parks with agility equipment, you can find what you need for the perfect play day with your pup. 

  • Tucker’s Grove Park is dog friendly for leashed dogs and has an off-leash dog park as well. Enjoy a picnic or hike with your pupster on a leash, and then take him to the dog park where he can romp around with all the other fur babies. They even have a dog wash in case your pooch gets dirty.
  • Mackenzie Dog Park is also a dog park inside a park where your cuddle buddy can play fetch, frisbee, or just run wild with the other pups. They have a separate side for small and shy dogs, and there are some agility obstacles to climb on. And there is plenty of seating for the pup parents. 
  • The Douglas Family Preserve boasts over 70 acres of space above the pup popular Arroyo Burro Dog Beach. And with three miles of trails, your pooch can get rid of all the zoomies. Then, go down to the beach and let him cool off in the ocean. 

Dog Friendly Restaurants and Dining

Before you grab your pup and his leash to head out for dinner, make sure you know where you can eat that dogs are allowed. Most Santa Barbara restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses have outside areas where you can bring your fur baby. The Cruisery is one of those places that loves dogs so much they even have a dog menu featuring Fido’s doggy burger with potato chunks and peanut butter pupsicles. They even host dog birthday parties!

For a more casual spot where you can enjoy some adult beverages with your pooch, the Lama Dog Tap Room features 20 different craft beers on tap, as well as a dog-friendly patio. They also have a cafe called The Nook that serves burgers, fries, seafood, and even vegan dishes. The Santa Barbara Brewhouse is a brewery that actually makes the beer on-site, so you are sure to get the freshest stuff! And they have an eatery with a dog menu!

Those who would rather enjoy a glass of wine can visit the Santa Barbara Wine Therapy Bar with its pup popular patio. Choose from 14 different varieties or have a hand-crafted cocktail. They have a dog menu as well, with beef bones, salmon, and chicken. Need some caffeine? Take your canine companion to Vices & Spices, where they have tables for pup parents outside and a variety of coffees, teas, and spices to choose from. . 

Things to do in Santa Barbara with a dog

Dogs are popular in Santa Barbara, so you will find many fun things to do with your pooch while you are in town. From biking to hiking and boating to swimming, there is something for all pet parents here. The Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens allows pups, and it is gorgeous all year long with all sorts of flora and fauna to be seen. But keep him on a short leash and bring baggies for pickup. 

You can also take a sailing cruise with Sunset Kidd to see the whales. It is a two-hour trip on a 41-foot yacht that you and Fido will love. Or take an island cruise to the Painted Cave. This one lasts six hours, so it is an all-day affair.  If you would rather stay on solid ground, Arroyo Burro Beach is a dog-friendly beach that lets your pooch run and play in the water and on the sand without a leash.  

If you are looking for some exercise, take your dog to Aliso Trailhead where you can enjoy a 3.25-mile hike in the Los Padres National Forest. It takes about two hours to complete, so make sure you bring extra water and doggie bags. This trail has some steep hills and canyons, but the view is worth it! Also, the Sheffield Reservoir has more than 20 acres with its own trail system to explore. 

Daycare and Boarding

Looking for a pet sitter? Nobody likes to leave their fur babies behind, but it is good to know that there are some experienced pup people to care for them in Santa Barbara. The Pets Pal is the number one most trusted pet sitter in Santa Barbara and has been for over a decade. They are CPR-certified, insured, and licensed too. 

Or take your pup to Dioji, a cage-free daycare and boarding resort with a pool, activities, and a huge dog park. The award-winning K-9 resort has hundreds of 5-star reviews and happy dog customers. PamperPet is a pet concierge with a love for all animals. They care for everyone, from fish to goats. They offer dog walking, pet sitting, overnight care, grooming, and special in-hotel care for travelers.

Dog Care and Safety

It is essential to know where you can turn if your dog needs any kind of medical attention while you are in town. Whether it is a hangnail or a major illness, there are dozens of vets and animal hospitals to pick from. White’s Pet Hospital has made Santa Barbara their home for over 100 years. They have four different veterinarians and eight vet techs to help with anything you need, from diagnostics to emergencies.

La Cumbre Animal Hospital has been caring for Santa Barbara animals for more than 60 years with an excellent record and high reviews. They do everything from deworming to surgery. They even have a pharmacy. And Montecito Pet Hospital prioritizes your pup’s short and long-term health needs. They get to know your fur baby so they know exactly what he needs, even if you do not have a clue. 

Whether you are taking your dog for a walk, visiting a dog park, or hitting the beach, you need to know how to keep him safe. Although the climate in Santa Barbara is generally mild, ranging from 60 to 80 degrees F all year, some dogs cannot handle anything over 75 degrees. In fact, even at 70 degrees, rowdy play and running around outdoors can wear out any dog. Always bring extra water and take frequent breaks. 

Something to beware of at the beach is the current, rip tides, and high waves. Even the most experienced swimming dogs can be pulled out to sea if they encounter a rip tide. Always be aware of the swimming and tide alerts signage. Also, do not let him drink the water. Saltwater will make your dog sick even if he just drinks a little bit. 

Some wild animals to be on the lookout for include black bears, rattlesnakes, bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes. In the water, you should keep an eye out for sharks, jellyfish, stingrays, and eels. Also, be aware of insects like wasps and bees, as well as tarantulas, scorpions, and lizards. 

Best time to visit Santa Barbara with your dog.

Santa Barbara boasts over 300 days of sunshine per year so the weather is great almost all the time. However, in December, January, and February, it can be cold and wet. Shoulder season is the best time for a vacation in Santa Barbara with your pooch.

  • Shoulder Season: (March – June and September – November): This is the best time to visit Santa Barbara with your fur puppy because the crowds are thinning out, but the weather is still awesome. 
  • High Season (July – August): The high season is from July to August. If you want to hit the beach, this is the time to go. There are several dog-friendly beaches in Santa Barbara, including Arroyo Burro, Butterfly Beach, and Summerland Beach.
  • Low Season (December – February): If you are looking for peaceful beaches, parks, and other attractions, the low season is when to visit. It can be cool and rainy, but the crowds have gone home, so you and Fido may have the place to yourselves, more or less.

Monthly highlights

  • January: Bring a doggie coat for your pup if you plan any outdoor activities in January. It is the coldest month in Santa Barbara, with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-40s. 
  • February: Not much warmer. February is a fun time of year for daytime walks in the woods or hikes in the mountains. 
  • March: The flowers are blooming as temperatures rise. Take your cuddle buddy to the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden to see the new colors. 
  • April: Days are warmer now, in the low 70s, so you can plan any kind of fun outside except for swimming. It is still too cold for that.
  • May: Take your pooch to Stearns Wharf to get some fantastic views of the ocean. Just remember a jacket or warm sweater for your little buddy. It can get chilly down by the water. 
  • June: Some days this month may be warm enough to play in the water at one of the beaches. But nights are still cool in the low-60s.
  • July: Pack a picnic basket, sunscreen, and plenty of water, and head down to the beach. Be sure to put sunscreen on your pup, too. 
  • August: Another great month for swimming and other beach activities, but you can also enjoy the dog parks at night. 
  • September: Keep the jacket handy as the nights start dropping below 60 degrees. Daytime is perfect for a hike in the park. 
  • October: Go see the new fall flowers in the botanical garden or pick some apples at one of the local farms. Nights are cool enough for a coat again.  
  • November: You will want to be prepared for any kind of weather in November. Bring an umbrella and jacket during the day and coat at night.  
  • December: It will definitely be chilly at night, so put on your coats when you go out to see the holiday lights or do some Christmas shopping. 

Santa Barbara Neighborhoods

Santa Barbara is spread out along the coast from Isla Vista to Montecito. Some of them are more dog-friendly than others but they each have their own unique qualities. Try to get out and see some of the different areas while you are in town. 

  • Isla Vista: Next to UCSB in western Santa Barbara, this community is perfect for visiting the parks and beaches. Both Sands Beach and Devereux Beach allow dogs as long as they are on a leash. 
  • Goleta: Hit the beach or just hang out at Goleta Beach Park with your fur baby, but make sure his leash is always on. They have some awesome fishing areas here, and you may even catch something good for dinner!
  • Funk Zone: Just to the east, this artsy area is filled with brightly colored street art, wineries, and awesome trails. It is right by Stearns Wharf, where you and your pup can walk out on the water. 
  • Mesa: In southern Santa Barbara, right on the coast, Mesa has some terrific bluffs with stunning views. You can take your pooch for a walk in Shoreline Park or grab a bite to eat at Rose Cafe. 
  • Mission Canyon: Northern Santa Barbara also has some great things to do, including the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Mission, and the Rocky Nook Park.  
  • Downtown: Just like many downtown areas, Downtown Santa Barbara is where you will find a variety of shops, restaurants, bars, and other attractions. Many of the shops on State Street allow dogs, and some of the eating establishments do too. 
  • Montecito: In eastern Santa Barbara, Montecito is where the rich and famous hang out. But regular folks can have a good time here, too, at Hammonds Beach and Butterfly Beach or taking a walk at one of the parks. 

Be sure you pack plenty of doggie bags to pick up after your pooch, no matter where you go. It is also a good idea to bring along extra water, snacks, treats, and a few toys for your little fur buddy. And always keep your pup on a leash unless you are certain that it is okay to let him off.

The Final Woof

Santa Barbara has some great places to visit and a variety of hotels, motels, BnBs, and other vacation rentals that are dog-friendly. We shared our favorite places to stay as well as pup popular parks, restaurants, and other activities. We also listed some reputable vets, animal hospitals, pet sitters, and groomers. The important laws and regulations for dog owners are also listed above, as well as some of the neighborhoods in Santa Barbara to visit with your canine companion. Do not miss seeing the Chumash Painted Cave, with drawings dating back to the 1500s, or Seven Falls, where you can see some awesome waterfalls.  

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.

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