A dog is supposed to be “man’s best friend” but frequently it can be a vacation’s worst nightmare. ” Finding places to stay with a dog is often a challenge. There are limitations on where you can eat and what you are able to do. But boarding a dog can end up costing as much as the vacation itself, and you have the added emotional baggage of leaving your furry family member behind. Thankfully, there are places like Santa Barbara, a picturesque beach town a few hours north of Los Angeles on the California coast. Visiting Santa Barbara with a dog is so effortless and enjoyable that you will actually feel like you got a proper vacation, not just a visit to a new dog park.

A few months before our trip to San Diego we adopted a little rescue pup. Part terrier, part chihuahua and 100% energy and love. We couldn’t bare the thought of leaving our newest family member, “Snoop” behind and decided he should be included in the family trip. (To be entirely honest I called around to various dog boarding facilities and couldn’t bring myself to pay upwards of $500 to board a dog that is the size of a large rabbit) Driving eight hours with two young boys is already an exhausting parenting endeavor so why not add a little rambunctious dog energy into the mix?

sunset at dog beach santa barbara

Santa Barbara With a Dog

We stopped in Santa Barbara for a couple of days on our way north from San Diego. We had braced ourselves for a disaster (two kids and dog… need I say more?) but were pleasantly surprised by how dog and kid friendly Santa Barbara is. The year-round sunshine means that many restaurants have outdoor patios (translation: lots of dog friendly places to eat) and there are plenty of scenic spots where you and your dog can burn off some energy.

Things To Do In Santa Barbara With a Dog

Hike to Inspiration Point: So many spectacular views, so many dogs! This approximately 3 1/2 mile hike will make everyone’s tails wag. Big views, spring wildflowers, and even a little creek midway for a quick cool off. There is poison oak so keep your dog out of the brush. The signs say to keep dogs on leash but many people let their dogs off leash. Forgot a poop bag? No worries, there’s a poop bag dispenser at the start of the trail. To reach Inspiration Point, park at the end of Tunnel Road, follow the paved road until it turns to dirt, take the fork on the left, cross the creek and continue straight. Read my article about hiking to Seven Falls for more information about hikes in this area.

Santa Barbara Shores/Ellwood Mesa: A network of little dirt paths on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this open space is heaven for dogs! Most people let their dogs run around off-leash. When you get tired of dirt, mud, and wildflowers, you can find a trail that takes you down to the beach.

Walk along the waterfront: The paved multi-use path along the beach is quintessentially California. Nestled between palm trees and the pacific ocean, ambling along on this path feels like something out of a movie. Channel your inner celebrity as you walk, jog, skate, or bike with your dog along the scenic waterfront.

Dog Beach: Arroyo Burro dog beach in Santa Barbara allows dogs to be off leash, and is a great spot to let your dog play. An hour at the beach and you’ll feel blissed out but your dog will be worn out. An exercised dog is always a good thing, especially if you want a well behaved dog for some afternoon wine tasting…

Wine Tasting in the Funk Zone: The “Funk Zone” is a ten block section of Santa Barbara that hosts a collection of art shops, eateries, and tasting rooms. Most of the tasting rooms in this area allow dogs, and some even have a jar of treats or a water bowl available. You get to sip outstanding local wine while Spot snoozes by your feet. Travel with a dog at it’s best!

Grassy hills with a view of the Channel Islands in the distance. Hiking is one the best things to do in Santa Barbara with a dog
The view on the hike to Inspiration Point
little black dog running behind people biking on a paved bike path in Santa Barbara, CA
Biking with a dog along the Santa Barbara waterfront is a fun way to sightsee with your pet
Santa Barbara coastline from a boat. blue ocean, beach, and mountains in the distance.
Santa Barbara has the sunny beaches of Southern California and the mountains of Northern California

Where to Eat in Santa Barbara With a Dog:

East Beach Tacos: There’s a lot of really scrumptious places to eat in Santa Barbara, but it’s not a weekend in California without noshing on some tacos. East Beach Tacos is a few blocks from the beach and has plenty of outdoor picnic tables. Serving up creative alternatives to your standard tacos as well as mainstays such as carne asada and carnitas, this is a great option for a casual lunch. I recommend the “triple play” which lets you try three tacos for less than $10.. Adjacent to the restaurant are the batting cages. After some tacos and beer you just might feel like tying up your pup in the shade and taking a few swings.

The Brewhouse: Tucked away from the bustle of the State Street area is this local favorite. One look at the reasonable food prices and expansive drink menu and you’ll quickly understand why locals love this place. Dogs have their own separate dog menu to order from and your dog will be offered a bowl of water. I can’t personally testify to what anything tastes like on the dog menu but it looked like some four-legged patrons were enjoying their steak bites.

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams: There is a lot of hype about this local ice creamery and it lives up to the hype. I tried the churro flavor and words can’t describe how delicious it tasted. Next time I’m in Santa Barbara I’m definitely going to McConnell’s on my first day so that I can go back a few more times before leaving!

Eat tacos and drink wine with your pup at East Beach Tacos
Treat your dog to something off the Brewhouse Dog menu
little black dog sitting in the window at McConnell's ice cream in Santa Barbara California.
A trip to McConnell’s is a must

Where to Stay in Santa Barbara With a Dog

Beach House Inn: Warm and welcoming, The Beach House Inn has everything that two and four legged guests might need. When you arrive you’ll be given a list of dog friendly places to eat and things to do in Santa Barbara which makes for effortless planning. The Beach House Inn is just a few blocks from the waterfront area and restaurants, making it a great location for exploring the area by foot and paw. Just a heads up, they don’t allow dogs to be left unsupervised in the units so plan your sightseeing accordingly!

grassy courtyard with bright colored chairs surrounded by yellow buildings.
Laid back and cheery, the Beach House Inn is a welcoming place to stay in Santa Barbara with a dog

The Inn at East Beach: With a fun retro-California vibe, beach cruisers available for guests to rent, and a location that can have paws in the sand in less then five minutes, The Inn at East Beach will make two-legged and four-legged guests happy. It’s a little further from State Street than other hotels but it’s also on a quieter stretch of beach. Definitely, walk down to the ocean at sunset and watch the sun sink into the ocean with your pup!

Tips/Tricks for Traveling With a Dog

I’m no dog travel pro but I have figured out a few things that make a getaway with a dog easier:

  • If your dog is crate trained, bring the crate! This can be a calming spot for your dog when they’re in an unfamiliar place… like a hotel room…
  • Give them a bath before the trip. Being stuck in a car or hotel room with a stinky dog is no fun.
  • Keep an eye on what your dog is eating. Unsupervized grazing under restaurant tables might lead to some unpleasantness later in the trip.

The Bottom Line: Not only does Santa Barbara have great food, hiking trails, beaches, and plenty of places to have an adult beverage, it’s also very dog friendly. You’ll have an awesome weekend here with or without a dog.

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