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Hidden Beaches in Santa Barbara Without Crowds

With its ideal location between the stunning mountains and the breathtaking Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara, CA is called the American Riviera with good reason. The sparkling sand and glistening waters offer a variety of luxurious seaside havens. As treasured venues of rare beauty and allure, they attract visitors from across the U.S. and around the globe. With this list, we focus on the secluded beaches in Santa Barbara that are perfect to visit for those who wish to enjoy this spectacular coastal region without crowds.

Anett Victoria - Author of SeaSpiration

Written by Anett Victoria

When it comes to a beach vacation, Anett is the person who certainly has tips on where to go and what to do no matter it is a luxury tropical holiday, a romantic seaside getaway, or a fun family trip to the ocean. As a world traveler with years of experience in exploring tropical countries and a water sports fan, she creates this inspiring site where she writes travel guides, reviews and recommends beach gear, and gives travel tips to make planning your trip quicker and easier! Are you curious about where She wanders now? Follow her adventures on IG too!

El Capitan State Beach

This splendid beach adjoins an attractive campground. Although moderate in size, it is a scenic combination of sand and rocks, offering peace and privacy. Not far from the city of Santa Barbara, this venue is also known for its tide pools and tree growth.

The spacious El Capitan State Beach campgrounds offer family-friendly, year-round camping facilities for RVs and trailers. Some large sports vehicles as long as 42 feet can also be accommodated at El Capitan. Without question, this is one of the truly unique secluded beaches in Santa Barbara.

El Capitan State Beach

Just across the highway is the El Capitan Canyon private resort, stretching over 300 glorious acres. The cabins are equipped with en-suite bathrooms and electric power. This resort is perfect for anyone seeking outdoor adventure and hotel-style creature comforts.

To reach El Capitan State Beach, follow the 101 Freeway just 20 miles northward from downtown Santa Barbara. You will then see signs with directions to the beach.

Refugio State Beach

Lying nearly 20 miles from Santa Barbara, Refugio State Beach is adorned with small palm trees and provides an abundance of grills and picnic tables. With tide pools and paved biking paths along with areas for fishing, surfing and camping, it is one of those secluded beaches in Santa Barbara that the whole family can enjoy.

For super-adventurous guests, this is the perfect spot to enjoy diving and snorkeling. Hiking and biking are quite popular here, and the scenic southern beach offers pristine sand and a charming cove. This area is complete with palm trees and grass, and kayaking tours are available during summer.

Refuigo State beach

This 1.5-mile stretch of popular beach includes a family-oriented camping ground offering 66 sites and three more group sites. In addition, these sites can accommodate RVs as long as 35 feet.

To get to this campground, take the 101 Freeway from Santa Barbara. At Refugio Road, take Exit 120 leading to the stunning beach.

Haskell’s Beach

Haskell’s Beach (once Tecolote Beach) has always been a secret beach in Santa Barbara offering a quiet oceanside getaway. It is located in western Goleta near the base of the The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. Above the charming beach is a grassy area for picnicking and a convenient beach house. At high tide, the sandy area becomes quite narrow. Yet at other times, you can walk on the plentiful stretches of sand.

This place is ideal for enjoying water sports like some light surfing. The waves can be somewhat weak for surfing except during windy weather, but swimming is popular here.

The beach is named for Mike Haskell who was the key keeper to a private beach at Tecolote Canyon Ranch. Locals who liked to surf had to seek hos approval to access this private area. This led to the beach being renamed Haskell’s Beach.

During the late 1920s, oil was discovered in this coastal area. The Goleta beaches were transformed into an industrial zone. However, Mother Nature reclaimed the area by the 1960s with her unpredictable stormy weather and turning it into one of the best secluded beaches in Santa Barbara.

You can reach Haskell’s Beach by exiting 101 Highway at Winchester Canyon Road. After crossing the bridge, make a right turn onto Hollister and drive to Bacara Resort. Here you can gain access to the area for a unique beach vacation in California.

Jalama Beach County Park

This versatile beach offers surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding and sunbathing. Other favorite activities are fishing and whale watching, walking and camping. You can catch fantastic views of California Grey whales from February to May and September to December as they migrate.

The Jalama Beach Store & Grill are well-known among beach enthusiasts in this area. The store is fully stocked with camping supplies, groceries and convenience items. In addition, the Grill is famous among locals for its “Jalama Burger.”

Jalama beach

Stay at one of the 98 campsites offering spectacular views of the ocean and secret beach. Twenty-nine of these campsites are equipped with electrical connections for trailers. Since the wind can be quite strong here, consider renting a cabin or arriving in your trailer or RV rather than sleeping in a tent.

Jalama is near Vandenberg Air Force Base. Subsequently, if your camping excursion coincides with a satellite launch, you will delight in a splendid outdoor “front row seat.”

To reach this place from Santa Barbara’s downtown district, drive 35 miles north on the 101 Freeway to the Highway 1/Lompoc/Vandenberg exit. Take a left turn, and within 14 miles, you will see the Jalama Road exit.

SeaSpiration Tip: Would you explore more quiet spots? Then check out Los Angeles Secret Beaches, the less crowded beaches in San Diego and Orange County hidden beaches!

Gaviota Beach

Gaviota means “seagull” in Spanish. It was named by soldiers in 1769 during the Portola Expedition who are said to have killed a seagull while there.
This land has a towering trestle of the Southern Pacific Railroad that stretches across Gaviota Creek. Surfing, swimming, fishing, picnicking and camping are popular here.

As one of the least crowded beaches in Southern California, this spot is a favorite of campers. There are 41 campsites for tents, RVs as long as 27 feet and trailers up to 25 feet long.

Gaviota California

This beach has biking and trekking trails leading to many acres of oak forests and backcountry. Since mountain lions live in these regions, guests should heed the safety tips offered by forest rangers.

You can enter Gaviota about 2.5 miles from the point where Highway 1 separates from U.S. Highway 101. The beach is about 33 miles from Santa Barbara.

Point Sal State Beach

With a scenic location in the northwestern region of Santa Barbara County, the 80 acres park of Point Sal State Beach near Guadalupe city is an excellent site for viewing the coastal mountain ranges and splendid shoreline.

Near the beach are some very steep slopes and lovely areas of plant growth, including sage and the wildflower, giant coreopsis. Offshore is Lion Rock, a favorite bird-roosting spot that is also a popular area for spotting sea lions and other marine life.

Popular activities here are beach combing, sunbathing, fishing and picnicking. Hiking, photography and nature studies are also offered. Yet due to hazardous rip currents, the absence of lifeguard protection and periodic shark sightings, guests are asked to refrain from swimming.

Camping is prohibited due to the close proximity of Vandenberg Air Force Base. Maybe these are the reason why this spot remains one of the less visited secluded beaches in Santa Barbara.

Should you want to access this spot, take the Pt. Sal Road from State Highway 1. Brown Road has been blocked periodically due to heavy rainfall. However, permanent access roads are being restored for visitor use.

Summerland Beach

This beautiful stech of sand is considered one of the very best spots along the South Coast and a hidden beach in Santa Barbara. Some visitors assume that Summerland Beach got its name from the gorgeous weather. However, it was named by spiritualists in the region over 100 years ago.

The main park on the beachfront is Lookout Park in Summerland, and its bluff-top location offers a glorious southward view. The beach is just below the park with BBQs, benches, picnic tables, a playground and a popular volleyball court.

Summerland Beach

A favorite watersport here is paddleboarding, especially since this place is secluded and not crowded with visitors. Fortunately, the waves are moderate here, typically breaking near the shoreline.

This makes it relatively easy to maneuver past them for boarding in calmer waters. Yet when the onshore breezes gather strength in the afternoon, a surprisingly bumpy ride may result, so pay attention to the weather and sea conditions.

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Quiet beaches in Santa Barbara