Distance from San Diego to Santa Barbara and other travel tips

The route between San Diego, CA and Santa Barbara, California offers spectacular views of California's coastal scenery, beaches, cuisine, nature, golf, history and some of the best amusement parks in the world. How far is Santa Barbara from San Diego? Approximately 220 miles. Photo: justasc / Fotolia

San Diego to Santa Barbara by train

San Diego to Santa Barbara by plane

San Diego International Airport (SAN) sees a large amount of traffic, about 20 million travelers per year. United Airlines offers flights to Santa Barbara with a layover in Los Angeles. One-way fares start at $350. Alaska Airlines also flies with a stop in Portland or Seattle. One-way fares start at $700. There are no nonstop flights.

Ample parking and a variety of transportation options are available at San Diego International Airport. The airport also hosts a variety of stores, cafes, restaurants, newsstands and stores. If you need something before boarding, you can find it at the airport.

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) is a smaller airport, but is connected to several destinations in California via Los Angeles International Airport.

Amtrak provides daily service between San Diego and Santa Barbara via the Pacific Surfliner, offering a breathtaking vantage point for California's seascapes. The journey takes almost six hours. The train has unrestricted coach seats (starting at $42) and premium business class seats (starting at $63). Train amenities include free Wi-Fi, checked luggage and a coffee shop? Car serves light meals. Bikes and surfboards can also be checked out. There are five daily Pacific Surfliner trains.

By bus

Greyhound offers four daily bus routes between San Diego and Santa Barbara, each with a transfer in Los Angeles. Departure times are: 11 a.m. arrival at 4:05 a.m., 3 p.m. arrival at 8:50 a.m., 7:15 a.m. arrival at 1 a.m. the next day and 22.3 p.m. Arrive at 8:35 a.m. the next day. Ticket prices start at just $28 each way.

On-board amenities include checked luggage, reclining seats and spacious legroom, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi and a bathroom.

Greyhound is a cost-effective way to travel. It also takes the stress out of driving and allows you to enjoy the scenery. Photo by SeanPavonePhoto / Fotolia

San Diego to Santa Barbara by car

San Diego is approximately 218 miles south of Santa Barbara. The fastest route by car is I-5 north from San Diego and connecting to US 101, also known as Pacific Coast Highway, in Los Angeles, which takes you directly to Santa Barbara. This option takes at least four hours with no traffic and no stops. It's best to allow five hours for the trip. Weekends usually see less traffic.

The Pacific Coast Highway is a direct north-south thoroughfare in California. It offers the most direct connection between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and is also very scenic, hugging the California coastline. Once in Los Angeles, why not stay a few days to see the sights?

Before you leave San Diego, visit some of the amazing attractions. San Diego is home to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. There are many other exciting sights to visit.

For a day trip from San Diego, Borrego Springs is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. The desert community is surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and offers a slower pace of life. Sculptor Ricardo Breceda has created dozens of large metal sculptures that grace the landscape. To get there, take CA-67 North to Ramona, CA and then CA-78 East to Santa Ysabel, where you take CA-79 North to the intersection with San Felipe Road. Follow San Felipe Road to the turnoff for Montezuma Valley Road, which will take you directly to Borrego Springs.

Back in Sand Diego, head north on I-5. Your first stop on the way to Santa Barbara should be the Carlsbad Flower Fields. In fact, you don't really have to stop, but can take a slow drive along Armada Drive for a look at the beautiful flowers. Photo: R. Roth / Fotolia

San Diego to Santa Barbara By Car – Continued

Also near Carlsbad is California Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium. Several ticket options are available for Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium, including multi-day passes and passes that combine both attractions.

Continue on I-5 and you should make San Juan Capistrano your next stop. The 230-year-old historic chapel, landmark and museum are perfect for history buffs. Ticket prices, including a free audio tour, are: $9 for adults; $8 for seniors 60+; and $6 for children ages 4-11. Children under three are free.

If you want to catch some sun, a stop at the Laguna Beach resort area along I-5 and the southern end of Orange County is a must.

Read more: Best Beaches in San Diego

Los Angeles offers countless opportunities for adventure and diversion. Staying in the City of Angels for a few days is a must. L.A. is home to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Hollywood.

West of the city, the Topanga Canyon Loop offers a scenic drive through a famous part of L.A. Historically a weekend getaway for Hollywood's rich and famous, this area of Los Angeles was developed in the mid-20th century. The city has become an enclave for artists and musicians th century. From L.A. take I-10 West to Santa Monica and connect with the Pacific Coast Highway. Then head north on CA-27! Follow the road through the mountains. There are quirky stores, restaurants and saloons. Enjoy views of the San Fernando Valley from the Topanga overlook.

Once you reach Los Angeles, head north on the Pacific Coastal Highway (US 101)! The state beaches of Malibu and Ventura offer the perfect place to enjoy some surf and rays before heading to Santa Barbara.

If you're interested in wildlife, a stop at the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Rookery offers the chance to see more than 100 adult seals.

When you reach Santa Barbara, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful city that sits on the Pacific Coast with the Ynez Mountains providing a picturesque backdrop. It is a popular tourist destination and offers countless opportunities for surfing, sand and adventure. Photo: Surasako / Fotolia

San Diego CA to Santa Barbara CA by bike or walking

Google Maps highlights three different bike routes between San Diego and Santa Barbara. One follows the Los Angeles River bike path. All three routes follow the Pacific coast for the majority, switching inland in portions. Google does a very good job of providing turn-by-turn directions.

The Pacific Crest Trail offers hiking and walking opportunities on an inland route. The Hikespeak website offers information on the best hiking, biking and walking trails in Central Coastal California. No roads directly connect San Diego and Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara has so much to offer. Participate in a variety of outdoor sports – swimming, kayaking, hiking, biking and camping. Sample some of the best food and wine around. Enjoy a variety of cultural influences. Or just relax on the beach and soak up the sun. There's so much to do when you visit Santa Barbara.