Roadtrip with RVshare San Diego to Santa Barbara

Driving from San Diego up to Santa Barbara is an adventure. You'll travel along the Pacific Coast Highway and see stunning landscapes, fun historical sites, and some of the best amusement parks in the country. While you could technically completely a San Diego to Santa Barbara RV road trip in an afternoon, make sure to plan plenty of time for the drive. You'll want to savor the journey by enjoying fun stops along the way.

San Diego to Santa Barbara Road Trip Itinerary

  • Trip Length: Your road trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara will take about 3 hours and 20 minutes without stops.
  • Mileage: It's 214.7 miles from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
  • Fun Fact: Interstate 5, which covers roughly the first half of the San Diego to Santa Barbara road trip, extends through 796 miles in California.

Nearby National Parks

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park covers five beautiful islands and the surrounding ocean environment. This is a refreshing area to get away from the urban world for a bit. Take a break and explore, take pictures, and hike on all five islands. If you want to visit just one island, check out Anacapa Island. You'll travel up by boat, but be well-prepared because there are no services on the island. You will need to bring food, supplies, and water for yourself. 

Nearby State Parks

San Clemente State Beach

San Clemente State Beach has been in the state park system since 1937. It's a great place to escape the inland heat, especially if you enjoy water sports. This beach is a mile long stretching between the surf and a steep bluff. The gate closes at 10:00 p.m., so you cannot camp there, but it's a nice stopover point for a day. 

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Before you leave San Diego, check out the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. There is a wide variety of historical houses to visit as well as places like the Seeley Stable Museum and San Diego Sheriff’s Museum. When you work up a healthy appetite, you'll be near a wide variety of dining choices. Before you go, check out a calendar of events to see what entertainment acts are coming.

Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

The Chumash Painted Cave is fairly small, but it contains some of the best rock art made by Chumash Native Americans. You have to climb a steep trail to the entrance of the cave that's protected by grillwork made of iron. According to some experts, these paintings date back to the 1600s or even earlier. The parks department, local high school, and Chumash elders have all worked to preserve images of the paintings.

Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park is one of the largest natural coastlines and open beach areas left in California. It includes a little over 3 miles of beach as well as 2,400 acres of wilderness and some offshore underwater area. Be sure to check out the vintage cottages that were built around the 1930s. You can also enjoy tide pool walks, guided hikes, and geology talks. 

Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park is about 121 acres in size and the perfect spot for people who love the water. The beautiful beach is a fun spot for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, or fishing. Get some exercise on the multi-use trail or by using the volleyball and basketball courts. If you just want to relax, there are fire rings available for bonfires. This is definitely a great place to take a healthy break. 

Along the Way

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a two-story building full of fascinating educational exhibits. You can learn about the Chumash, whaling, early explorers, and much more. It features interactive stations as well as an art exhibit area. There are multiple programs specially designed for children’s education. There are also science nights, field trips, and lectures. 

San Diego SeaWorld

Before you leave San Diego, you should plan at least one day to visit SeaWorld. If you are a thrill-seeker, you have lots of rides to choose from. You will also want to reserve your seats for the animal encounters. There are dolphins, orcas, and sea lions as well as Polynesian Fire Dancing. The highlight of SeaWorld is animals. Whales, dolphins, walruses, penguins, and sea lions are all available to see. Be sure to check out the underwater viewing tunnel.

Flight Deck Flight Simulation Center

When most people think about what to do in Anaheim, they first imagine Disneyland. If you do not have children, however, you might want to try something different. The Flight Deck Flight Simulation Center is a fun choice. You can choose from different types of flight training. The flight instructors can guide you through the experience of a 30-minute, 60-minute, or 90-minute flight. Be sure you reserve your spot ahead of time and wear light clothing for this breathtaking experience. 

Main Cities You Will Pass Through

San Diego

Your starting point in San Diego has a few attractions you may want to check out before you take off on your road trip. If you enjoy animals, you will want to visit the San Diego Zoo. There is also Balboa Park, which is a 12,000-acre historic area. You can enjoy walking paths, gardens, and historic buildings. The USS Midway Museum, which is located at the Navy Pier, contains a collection of aircraft.

Before you head out on your trip, you may wish to rest up and use a dump station to get your RV ready. Consider stopping in El Cajon at the Circle RV Resort, a place that offers many amenities as well. If you need a beautiful place to park in the area, you can stay at the San Diego RV Resort. They offer a swimming pool and a 10% discount for many of the area's attractions.

Long Beach

If you want a great pit stop, you will want to explore Long Beach. It is a beautiful coastal town. You can visit the RMS Queen Mary, which is a retired ocean liner and now a museum. Long Beach also has the Aquarium of the Pacific with touch tanks and a lagoon of sharks. If you want to take a side venture, reserve a boat tour off the coast of Catalina Island. This little island is enchanting and worth the extra time to experience. 

If you need a dump station in this region, check out one of the RV parks in the area. Most offer dumping service for free when you settle in overnight. The Golden Shore RV Park features full hookups and a pool/hot tub where you can rest up and use the dump station as well. 


Carlsbad is another fun town in San Diego County to visit. It is the home of LEGOLAND and LEGOLAND Water Park, the first of its kind in the world. If you enjoy LEGOs, this is a must-visit. You can also take to the air and enjoy Fly Carlsbad Air Tours or Fun Flights Biplane Rides. Another option is the Icon Helicopter tours. You can also enjoy go-karts, golfing, skate parks, or water sports. If you are a fan of enjoying nature, check out the Aviara Trails and Buena Vista Lagoon. Since there are so many great campgrounds near Carlsbad, you may want to make this an overnight stop. 

Santa Barbara

Once you reach the destination of Santa Barbara, there is still plenty to see and do. If you enjoy waterfalls, you can explore Nojoqui Falls, Tangerine Falls, Seven Falls, and San Ysidro Falls. Santa Barbara has been described as the American Riviera. Be sure to check out East Beach near State Street, which is one of the main shopping areas. You'll also want to see Stearns Wharf, the oldest working pier in the state. Near there, you will discover a grassy picnic area and volleyball courts. If you have a dog, Arroyo Burro Beach is the perfect pet-friendly spot. 

Once you get to Santa Barbara, you will probably be looking for a place to park, a dump station, and a nice spot to stay while you explore the area. The Ocean Mesa RV Park is a wonderful choice. This is a beautiful spot that's right near the ocean and even pet-friendly. It is peaceful and well-maintained, and the sites include a fire pit and picnic table. 

Find Adventure from San Diego to Santa Barbara

Rent an RV

Driving from San Diego to Santa Barbara will be a fantastic adventure. You can experience ocean beaches and mountains. There are also plenty of adventures to be had at the theme parks, zoos, and museums. You may also want to go out to an island for peace and quiet. Prepare your road trip itinerary from San Diego to Santa Barbara well, and plan to take your time because there is plenty to see and do on the Pacific Coast Highway. Whether you want to get an RV in San Diego or Santa Barbara, RVshare has you covered.

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