We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

San Simeon - Santa Barbara

Nottingham, United...
Level Contributor
9 posts
8 reviews
Save Topic
San Simeon - Santa Barbara


I am in California next week and am planning on driving Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles as many of course do.

Currently I have allowed 2 days for exploring Monterey and Carmel then a full day driving through Big Sur to get to San Simeon.

The next day I plan to do Hearst Castle and the elephant seals etc.

The next leg is where I need help, I ultimately want to end up in Santa Barbara before hitting LA but am not sure where to stop and how long for.

San Simeon to Santa Barbara seems a long way and SB is of course expensive to stay. Is there anywhere worth stopping on the way - Santa Maria, Solvang for example?

Or should I just push on through to SB and stay there for the night? Is there enough in the SB to warrant a 2 night stay?

Thanks a lot in advance!


Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Level Contributor
10,976 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: San Simeon - Santa Barbara

Pismo, Santa Ynez and Solvang are all interesting places to stay (with a variety of prices to pay - but Pismo isn't very far from where you're starting out - presumably San Simeon or Cambria - that day).

Some people don't like Solvang, say it's touristy. My family loves it (and so do our out of state friends). It's kitschy, but still retains an Old World feel given by a group of Danish immigrants who came to the Santa Ynez Valley in the early part of the 20th century. There are beautiful horse ranches (you can stop and look and talk to the horses), and good wine tasting rooms right in town. I'm not overly fond of Danish food (there are other options), but love breakfast and lunch in Solvang (and Danish buffet once or twice a year).

Santa Barbara indeed has enough to see and do to make it worth two nights. It has some nice museums, great shopping, great beachside strolling/bike/surf rentals - and harbor cruises. The drive to the north past the harbor takes one past several scenic beach overlooks. The Natural History Museum has a new butterfly (live) enclosure that my daughter says is amazing. We like just hanging out on State Street, shopping and looking for good restaurants. There's nightlife on lower street (live music) and many scenic walks. There's a great zoo, a mission, an art museum and the pier (you can drive onto it; mixed reviews on the restaurants out there - but the view can't be beat). Some of the downtown architecture (like the Old El Paseo and the courthouse, with its murals) is memorable.

Santa Barbara also has wine-tasting rooms (the urban winetasting walk).

Edited: 5:49 pm, July 19, 2011
Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
20,410 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: San Simeon - Santa Barbara

San Simeon to Santa Barbara does seem far apart, but it's really only a 2 1/2 hour drive without stops.

Between the two, there's Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach & Solvang. Santa Maria is a farming town with nothing of note, so I can't recommend as an overnight stop.

While I'm not a big fan of Solvang anymore, it is a cute town with a historical California mission nearby and Nojoqui Falls Park just west of town with a short trail through a canyon to a pretty waterfall. The Los Oliivos/Santa Ynez wine country is also in that area, if you're into wine tasting at all.

los angeles
Level Contributor
156 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: San Simeon - Santa Barbara

The drive from San Simeon to SB should only take you about 2 or 2.5 hours without stops. Leaving San Simeon, you go on Highway 1 South, then transition to Highway 101 South in San Luis Obispo.

You may want to make a stop in SLO; its a great small town with a significant college town feel as its the home for Cal Poly SLO. The downtown area is worthwhile checking out and finding a brew pub for lunch. Cal Poly SLO is a beautiful campus.

As you head south down the 101, you have some other choices for sightseeing. Pismo Beach is a small beach community with cool sand dunes. 45 mins south is Santa Maria - not much there mostly a residential outpost for people working in the area.

45 mins south of Santa Maria, you have a choice. You can stay on the 101 South and you'll be in Santa Barbara in another 45 mins or so. The alternative is to get off the 101 at Highway 154. This is a great scenic route that takes you through Los Olivos and the wineries there; definately worth a stop. As you proceed on Highway 154, you have another choice. You can head towards Solvang, visit Solvang then make your way to the 101 south to Santa Barbara or backtrack to the 154. If you backtrack to 154 or just stay on 154, you'll go through a forested area and Lake Cachuma, eventually, the 154 ends at the 101 in northern Santa Barbara. From the intersection of the 101 and the 154, plan for about an hour to 1.5 hours to the end of the 154 in Santa Barbara.

As for places in Santa Barbara, if you stay away from the beach front hotels, the prices are much more reasonable. Another alternative is to find a place in Goleta, about 15-20 mins from the heart of Santa Barbara. Goleta is the home for UCSB and has a lot of accomodations for visiting parents.

Nottingham, United...
Level Contributor
9 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: San Simeon - Santa Barbara

You have all been so helpful, that's absolutely brilliant advice.

Thanks so much for taking the time to give such detailed replies, I can't wait to get over to California now!

Thanks again

5. Re: San Simeon - Santa Barbara

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 2:15 am, October 10, 2012