15 Awesome Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Santa Barbara, California

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dog is feeling happy in santa barbara ca

Once known as Saint Barbara, this southern California city is known for its splendid weather all year long, some fantastic beaches, and thousands of acres of recreational space in the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Ynez Mountains, and over 100 parks. Santa Barbara also has some excellent attractions, like the Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara Harbor, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

The city is also home to over 200 dog-friendly vacation rentals like hotels, motels, and resorts, 81 pup popular restaurants, and over a dozen off-leash dog parks. Here, you can take your pooch shopping, get him or her a new hairdo, or go hiking in the mountains. With high temps in the low 80s and low temps in the 60s, the whole year is full of outdoor possibilities. You can go to the beach, kayak on the river, take a cruise or see some whales and dolphins. Here are 15 awesome dog-friendly things to do in Santa Barbara that we think are worth the trip.

Play Off the Leash at the Beach: Arroyo Burro Beach

Also known as Hendry’s Beach, this is a dog-friendly beach where your pooch can swim and play off the leash all day long. It starts at the Mesa Lane Steps and ends just east of the slough. From 8 a.m. to sunset, your pooch can dig in the sand, splash in the water, play fetch with his favorite ball or frisbee, and just romp around with other fur babies. The beach is wider than the others, so you do not have to worry about the tide coming in and washing it out. 

In fact, the beach has more than 13 acres of fun space to play for both of you. They also have picnic tables with barbecue grills in case you get hungry, or you can visit the snack bar to grab something to munch on. They do have doggie bag dispensers, too, but bring your own anyway, just to be sure. There are restrooms and water fountains, but it is also a good idea to bring your own water.

Explore the Trails: Los Padres National Forest

The Los Padres National Forest has over 1,250 miles of trails, and most of them are dog-friendly. There are 125 trails within five different ranger districts, including Monterey, Mount Pinos, Ojai, Santa Barbara, and Santa Lucia. If you want a challenging route, take your fur baby on Hot Springs Canyon Trail. The 3.5-mile trail has an elevation gain of 1,184 feet and takes about two and a half hours to complete, ending at the hot spring. 

Beginners can take the one-mile Clover Ridge Trail through the oak trees. The elevation gain is only 104, and it only takes about 25 minutes to complete. For a lengthier trail that takes a little bit more energy and skill, try the 7.4-mile Santa Paula Canyon to First Falls. It takes you along Santa Paula Creek, where you will find several swimming spots, ending at a 25-foot waterfall. Always remember to bring plenty of doggie bags and extra water with you. 

Dine with Your Dog: Downtown Santa Barbara

The city of Santa Barbara has more than its fair share of dog-friendly eateries, from small American cafes to large steakhouses. In fact, almost any restaurant with outdoor seating allows your canine companion to join you. The Habit Burger Grill on State Street is one of them that serves Charburgers any way you like them, as well as a variety of sandwiches and side dishes. On the Alley is another great place for burgers and fries as well as fish sandwiches. 

Breakwater Restaurant has 95 seats on its patio for pup parents and offers a lovely harbor view with your food. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including pancakes, waffles, eggs, fresh fish, burgers, tacos, and steaks. For something a little fancier, State, and Fig serves grilled lamb chops, mushroom risotto, and their signature fig burger topped with fig jam, arugula, caramelized onions, bacon, and blue cheese dressing. You also get a gorgeous view of the water from the patio, where dogs are always welcome.

Taste the Local Wines: Santa Barbara Winery

Located in the Funk Zone of downtown Santa Barbara, you do not need a reservation to visit the popular Santa Barbara Winery on Anacapa Street. It was Pierre Lafond who opened the business in 1962, and he has been a part of the SoCal area with several outlets, including the Pierre Lafond Market & Deli, Montecito Wine Bistro, Wendy Foster Clothing Stores, and Lafond Winery & Vineyards. They have won many medals for their wines and prides themselves in using the best quality grapes. 

Dogs on leashes are welcome as long as they are well-behaved and pup parents pick up after them immediately. Those who are true wine lovers can join the wine club that includes four shipments of their finest wines per year as well as discounts at all of their stores, invites to local events, and two complimentary tasting flights per visit. There is no enrollment fee, and you even get to attend the annual barbecue and open house. 

Walk Through the Garden: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Just a few miles north of downtown Santa Barbara on Mission Canyon Road, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has close to 80 acres of more than 1,000 species of both native and indigenous plants, as well as many rare and endangered types. Your pooch should be on a leash no longer than six feet, and you have to bring doggie bags to pick up after him. There are almost six miles of trails inside the garden, so wear comfy shoes. 

Opened in 1926 by Beatrix Farrand, the garden has been a popular attraction with millions of visitors every year. Besides all the sensational flora, there is also a rock dam built by Canalinos Native Americans in 1806. The Living Collection features plants like the yellow pond lily, annual arroyo lupine, and banana yucca. The Meadow Pond is another great feature in the Desert Section, and then there are the Caretaker’s Cottage and Ceremonial Teahouse. 

Go for a Sail: Sunset Kidd 

Have you ever wanted to go sailing on a yacht with your best buddy? The Sunset Kidd is a 41-foot Morgan Out Island Ketch with more than 30 years of sailing experience. They do everything from short daytime trips to moonlight sails to private charters, and they are all dog-friendly. As long as your pooch is friendly and leashed, he is welcome to join you. However, you will need to bring doggie bags to pick up after him.

The Sunset Kidd is certified by the Coast Guard as a 16-passenger vessel and has been everywhere from the Caribbean to the Islands of Cuba. The yacht has two staterooms and restrooms with showers, as well as a complete bar. All trips are 1.5 to 3.5 hours, whether you are doing a day trip or a sunset sail. Pack whatever you need, from food and water to sunscreen and towels. They ask that you let your dog relieve himself before boarding, but accidents happen, so bring baggies. 

Enjoy a Picnic with your Pup: Douglas Family Preserve

The 70-acre recreational space, Douglas Family Preserve, is just three miles southwest of downtown Santa Barbara, and your leashed canine companion is welcome to join you as long as you pick up after him. Just remember to pack extra water and doggie bags. The park features numerous different picnic areas with picnic tables, covered pavilions, and barbecue grills for you to enjoy. So you can bring some burgers to cook or pack some sandwiches, whatever you prefer.

The bluff area has some extraordinary views of the ocean and is a popular spot for viewing dolphins, whales, sea lions, and other marine animals. There is also a walking trail that goes around the perimeter and several smaller connector trails. What’s more, Douglas Family Preserve also has two sections for off-leash dog play. Look for the signs to find the off-leash areas, and keep your fur puppy leashed until you get there. 

Take Your Pooch Hiking: Aliso Canyon Trail

Put your cuddle buddy on a leash and head for Aliso Canyon. Just north of Santa Barbara, you and your pup can enjoy one of several hiking trails in the Aliso Canyon Area. The one-mile Aliso Creek Trail is easy and has a self-guided interpretive area. Starting at the trailhead in the northern section of Sage Hill Campground, you can follow the trails wherever they go. Do not forget to bring some cleanup bags to pick up after your pooch.

Heading north, you will cross the creek twice before running into the Aliso Loop Trail. Keep going straight if you want to take the longer and more challenging 3.5-mile Loop Trail. The path takes you across the creek a few more times throughout the canyon before climbing into the hills to a meadow. Here, you will have some stunning views of the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains. Pack extra water for both of you for this trek.

Kayak the Coast: Santa Barbara Kayak & Paddleboard

Santa Barbara Kayak & Paddleboard is the only dog-friendly kayak rental company in Santa Barbara. They even have their own doggie life jackets, in case you do not have one. There is no extra charge for your fur baby to join you, but they do ask for you to make reservations just in case. Also, bring plenty of water, snacks, and doggie cleanup baggies. You can find them right next to the fish market at the Santa Barbara Harbor, and they are open all year long.

You can choose your own destination or try what they call the 90-minute Harbor Paddle. On this trip, you will get to paddle around Stearns Wharf and go visit the sea lions. Just paddle one-half mile to the green buoy where the sea lions like to hang out. On the way, you will likely see a sandspit with a variety of marine birds, too. Then go under the wharf to West Beach and the Channel Cat to get back.

See Some Marine Creatures: Martin’s Private Sunset Cruise

Another way to get out and see some of the marine creatures in the Pacific Ocean is to take a Sunset Cruise with Martin. Fur babies are welcome as long as they are well-behaved and kept on a leash. You also need to bring your own baggies to pick up after him if he has an accident. Martin will take you on his private boat from where he has been doing charter runs for the past 10 years.

You can choose from a two or four-hour cruise where you will start at the Santa Barbara Harbor and head south past West Beach to the historic Painted Cave, where there is a sea lion sanctuary. Then, you will cruise around the coastline to see the famous beaches and stone arches as well as the local fauna like dolphins and even whales. Bring your own snacks, drinks, and a blanket because it gets chilly on the water. 

Ride a Bike: Cal Coast Adventures

In eastern Santa Barbara, just off of Highway 101, you will find Cal Coast Adventures, a dog-friendly bike tour and rental company. They have 10 different bike tours, from mountain biking in the hills to leisurely electric bike tours of the city, and they are all pup popular. They even have kids’ bikes. The main e-bike Santa Barbara Tour is about two to three hours and includes a scenic ride on the Cabrillo Path along the ocean to several attractions and State Street.

Just put your pooch in a pet trailer and secure him with a leash, and you are ready to explore. The tour guide will give you a narrative during the ride, assuring that you get the most enjoyable visit to the city. They also do surf lessons, kayak tours, and a bike and beverage tour that takes you to two of the best beer and wine-tasting rooms. Pack plenty of cleanup bags to clean up after your pup.

Have a Brew or Two: The Brewhouse Santa Barbara

The Brewhouse is not just a brewery. It is also a fully functioning restaurant with everything from filet mignon bites to peanut butter pie. Not only that, but your fur buddy is welcome to join you on the patio, where he can also enjoy some of the delicious tastes like brewhouse burgers, seared salmon, tri-tip sandwiches, fried chicken Milanese, and chipotle goat cheesecake. They even have a doggie menu for Fido with burgers, chicken, and peanut butter biscuits. 

The brews are the main attractions, though, with more than 20 different lagers and ales. 

They are handcrafted right here at The Brewhouse, so you get the freshest taste possible. With small batches that only have to travel a few feet, you know your beer is going to taste exceptional. Just keep your poochie on a leash, bring bags to pick up after him, and keep him under voice control at all times. 

Take a Ride in Style: Golden Limo Santa Barbara

Treat yourself and your cuddly canine to a treat at Golden Limo Santa Barbara, where leashed and well-behaved pups are always welcome. If you have a destination you need to get to but do not have a vehicle, Golden Limo will pick you and Fido up and take you there, no questions asked. They have everything from a three-person luxury sedan to a stretch limo that seats eight and a huge party bus that seats 18 people and a dog. 

Try a tour of the stunning Santa Barbara wine country and vineyards. The wine-tasting tours include refreshments and complimentary champagne, as well as water for your pooch. You can book an all-inclusive trip with food, tasting fees paid for, and transport, or choose your own wineries and vineyards you want to try. Their professional and experienced chauffeur will get you to wherever you want to be and look good doing it!

Taste Some Wine and Chocolate: Perfect Pairing 

Speaking of wine, you and your cuddly buddy can enjoy a Perfect Pairing trip to the best chocolatier in Santa Barbara, Chocolats du CaliBressan, where Jean-Michel Carre will offer you five different wines to taste and chocolates that pair with them. Your leashed pupster is welcome, but he cannot have wine or chocolates. They will provide water for him if you ask. The chocolate and wine-lover, Kym Slone, provides you with insight into everything you can imagine about both. 

The chocolatier will fill you in on how his chocolate and wine pairing passion came about for him and how he manages to make the richest and creamiest milk chocolate in the world. He has been in many magazines, won several awards, and is featured in travel magazines. His wife, Jill, is also a chocolate and wine fan and may also come out to meet you and your pooch. Please remember to bring doggie bags and pick up anything your dog drops.

See the Ancient Artwork: Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

The Chumash Native American tribe has been living along the California coastline for more than 14,000 years and has left their mark on many caves. Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park has one of the largest displays of original cave art and rock art in the world and dates back to the 1500s. Just off Highway 154, the state park is easy to get to and welcomes leashed dogs as long as they behave well and are cleaned up after. 

The site in the canyons above Santa Barbara is preserved in a smooth, shallow sandstone cave with several amazing works of art done in mineral dyes. Some call the works ancient graffiti, while others believe they are there to tell a story. You will be in awe when you see the red, white, and blue colors so vivid and visible that it proves that humans have been patriotic from the beginning. 

The Final Woof

Santa Barbara, with its fantastic weather year-round, is an ideal destination for a vacation with your dog. This city is a haven for furry friends, offering a variety of activities that both you and your pooch will love. You can enjoy unleashed beach time, embark on a sailboat cruise, kayak alongside sea lions, hike scenic mountain trails, and indulge in local wine and chocolates with Kym. Additionally, there are numerous dog-friendly dining spots, over a dozen off-leash dog parks, and even the option for a luxurious limo ride. Remember to always carry doggie bags and water wherever you go. For an extensive list of dog-friendly activities, dining, and more in Santa Barbara, check out our dog-friendly Santa Barbara travel guide. This guide is an essential resource for making the most of your trip with your canine companion in this beautiful city.

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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