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Things to Do in Santa Barbara Cruise Ship Visit

Old Mission in Santa Barbara is a great place to visit on a cruise ship excursion.

There are vacations, and then there are escapes. Along the gently rolling California coast is a seaside paradise known as Santa Barbara. Unlike its fast-paced neighbors of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Santa Barbara is a town of charm and tranquility nestled in the American Riviera. The sun-splashed stucco city is a seaside escape where mountains meet the ocean. Known for its world-renowned vineyards, golden valleys, arts and culture, and exceptional culinary scene, Santa Barbara is a haven for exploration and adventure. Santa Barbara has near-endless amount of activities and experiences that make it hard to plan a day trip itinerary. Here are 5 cruise shore excursions to experience the best of Santa Barbara.

Take a Guided Tour of American Riviera Highlights

Kick-off your time in Santa Barbara with a historic tour of Santa Barbara. You will learn all of the historic highlights of the town. Learn about the unique architectural history of the town, influences heavily by the initial presence of Spanish colonists. Breathe in the life of the city as your tour guide takes you through the charming streets of Santa Barbara, lined with tropical gardens in the yards of the town’s signature whitewashed stucco and red-tiled roofs. The tour will travel on to Mission Santa Barbara. Originally founded in 1789 by Spanish Franciscans that sought to convert the area’s Indian population into Christians, it is now home to Franciscan friars. The Mission features a historic church, museum, mausoleum and breathtaking gardens.


Pick and Choose from Seven Sparkling Beaches

Sure, a visit to the beach is a must-do on a California cruise shore excursion. However, Santa Barbara has 7 stunning beaches on its sandy coastline that each features its own aesthetic. The azure ocean views from these pristine beaches are a must-see – well, as many as you can fit into a day trip – when visiting Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara’s seven top beaches: Arroyo Burro Beach, Butterfly Beach, East Beach, Goleta Beach Park, Leadbetter Beach, Summerland Beach and Refugio State Beach.


Santa Ynez Valley Winery Tour

Take a trip to the golden valleys just outside the heart of Santa Barbara and spend some time at the renowned vineyards of the area. The Santa Ynez Valley is home to two of Santa Barbara’s finest wineries. This half-day trip includes a coach ride to the valley through the golden foothill outside the city limits of Santa Barbara. Guests will learn about wine production and viticulture while also taking a journey through the history of prohibition and how it affected and eventually transformed wine production. Each winery will present a tasting of its finest, award-winning wines. Guests will also learn proper tasting techniques. The winery tour is designed to be an exciting immersion into the wines of the Santa Ynez Valley.


Explore the History and Impact of Ronald Regan

History buffs with an interest in the political will enjoy exploring a bit of Regan history in Santa Barbara and tours to Rancho del Cielo and Simi Valley's Regan Library are also available depending on how long your ship will be in port. However, there is also the Regan Ranch Center located right downtown with exhibits and artifacts celebrating the history of our 40th president. 

Reagan Rancho de Cielo is located about 30 miles nothwest of Santa Barbara and offers an experience to walk in the Gipper's footsteps. As the 40th President of the United States, Regan’s political career and the lasting effects of his time in office shifted the face of the American landscape. The Ronald Regan Ranch Center provides an hour-long deep dive into what the center has to offer, followed by the visitor’s choice of more than 6 hours of multimedia exhibits to experience. A visitor favorite is the 28-foot-long timeline that is completely interactive and allows visitors to visually tour the White House as it was during Regan’s time in office. Visitors can also see President Regan’s famous blue Jeep, which still features the famous “Gipper” license plate.

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Visit the Historic Santa Barbara Courthouse

While a trip to a courthouse may not seem like an exciting activity at first, the elaborate courthouse is a true Santa Barbara experience. Inside the courthouse visitors will be guided on a tour of hand-painted murals, rooms with historic significance and ornate design pieces of the original era. Perhaps one of the biggest draws of a visit to the Santa Barbara Courthouse is the ability to climb up into the clock tower for an unparalleled panoramic vista of Santa Barbara and the ocean beyond.