Summer is here, and there’s no question that Santa Barbara is the place to be! There is nothing better on a hot summer day than exploring nature and finding a secluded swimming hole to cool off.
To help you celebrate summer in Santa Barbara, we’ve featured seven secret (or not so secret) local swimming holes to help you have fun in the sun.
This beach is a local hot spot, where celebs and the uber good-looking are found roaming in their natural environment. The lower village is just a hop and a skip away. After a day at the beach, you can go get lunch and continue to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Ocean at its finest.
From Santa Barbara
South on 101
Get off on Olive Mill Rd
Turn right, and about ¼ mile down, the road will bend and Butterfly Beach is on the left.
Montecito Hot Springs
The trail starts at Mountain Drive, and we recommend using All Trails to help guide you.
Finding the hot springs is slightly tricky, and you might want to write the instructions down before you set off. At the first fork in the trail, stay left, take another left at the second fork, right at the third and left at the fourth fork, which you’ll see just after the sign about water conservation. You’ll cross a riverbed, and the hot springs will be off to your left.
Pro Tip: Make sure you are parked legally. Nothing will ruin a beautiful day out in nature more than coming back to find you’ve been ticketed or towed.
Red Rock – In the Los Padres National Forest
Red Rock is one of the most popular swimming holes — it’s deep, and there are several places to swim along the way. The hike to Red Rock is about a mile after you park your car. Once you’ve enjoyed this beautiful spot, you can continue along the trail to a couple of other swimming holes. If you feel like walking a little farther, three miles along the trail, you’ll reach the Gibraltar Dam, which is the reservoir for the City of Santa Barbara. Always remember to check with the Forest Service before you set off to find out about any park or road closures. You will need an Adventure Pass to park your car at the end of Paradise Road.
According to the Santa Barbara Trails Council, this is one of the most popular hikes and swimming holes. Here’s how to get there.
To get to Seven Falls, drive to the end of Tunnel Dr. in Mission Canyon. The trail begins on a paved road. Follow the Jesusita Trail for 200 yards until it drops into the west fork of Mission Canyon. About a 1/4 mile up this fork, you will reach Seven Falls. From the beginning of the path, it’s about 1 1/2 miles to Seven Falls and 1 1/2 miles to Mission Falls, depending on if you take the fork or keep going.
Keep following the creek, and you will reach Seven Falls. If you are an experienced hiker, you could continue up to the upper canyon. Once you get past the falls, there are several waterfalls, and ¼ mile up you will see another set of pools that are made of coldwater sandstone … It’s well worth the extra hike!
Elevation Gain — 400’ to Seven Falls; 1750’ to the intersection Tunnel Trail at Mission Falls
Difficulty – Easy to Seven Falls; hardcore to Mission Falls
Gaviota Hot Springs
This is a great swimming spot, short (but uphill) hike. It’s a 1-mile hike to the hot springs, and the track is wide and usually well maintained. Be warned, though: It is a steep incline the whole way. The springs are full of minerals, and it’s a wonderful place to take a nap. You’ll need one after your hike. You can also extend your day out and go to Gaviota Peak, which will make your hike around 6 or 7 miles.
North up the 101
Take exit 132 for CA-1 toward Lompoc/Vandenberg AFB
Turn right toward Gaviota Park Boundary
Turn right into Gaviota Park Boundary
Pro Tip: A $2 daily parking fee is required at the self-pay station
Arroyo Burro Beach
Arroyo Burro Beach has another name you may hear from the locals — Hendry’s. Located off Cliff Drive, it has a fantastic restaurant and bar, Boathouse. You can also bring your four-legged friend to enjoy the walk with you — there is an off-leash area to the left. That means you can enjoy a good long walk without worrying about your furry pal being stuck at home alone.
Address: 2981 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Miramar Hotel – Pool Day Pass
If you don’t like hiking or nature and you want to dip your toes with the rich and famous, the Miramar Hotel offers a luxurious day pass, which includes:
The family-friendly Manor Pool
Adults-only Cabana Pool
Poolside food and drink service from the Cabana Bar
Bocce ball (subject to availability)
The cost for a pass starts at $95 a person, or $500 if you want a cabana. This luxurious spot is highly recommended, but unsurprisingly, places fill up fast, so be sure to book early. For more info, click here.
Address 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108