Planning your trip to Santa Barbara? There’s so much you can explore in Santa Barbara on your own, but some of the best tours are led by the pro’s. Downtown Santa Barbara and its surroundings can be seen and experienced through a variety of guided tours that aim to entertain, educate and excite or relax. From hot-rod vehicle tours to leisurely trolley tours along the American Riviera to intrepid kayaking, spectacular whale watching or tasty wine and food tours, there’s a fun guided tour for everyone. 

So get to know Santa Barbara a little bit better without having to research and do the planning all on your own. Leave it to these local sightseeing tour companies to show you around during your next vacation in Santa Barbara.

best santa barbra tours kayaking

photo courtesy Captain Jack’s Santa Barbara Tours

Captain Jack’s Santa Barbara Tours

Celebrate any occasion in Santa Barbara with Captain Jack’s Santa Barbara Tours. Choose from a variety of local sightseeing tours that include wine tasting, vineyard tours or beer/distillery tours, or for the more active, there’s horseback riding, ocean kayaking and hiking trips, and even whale watching. And not to leave out the intellectual, there’s also a historical/architectural tour where you will visit important local sites and learn all about the history and architecture of Santa Barbara. Our list here is by no means comprehensive, so check out Captain Jack’s website for a full list of tours. Interested in trying more than one adventure? No problem. Combine activities or design a custom tour. Captain Jack’s staff and expert guides aim to make your local day tour as special as can be while showing you the rich beauty of Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Trolley Company

If you’ve spent some time in Santa Barbara before, you might have seen this cute red trolly around town. Santa Barbara Trolley Company is Santa Barbara’s original and longest running trolly tour and charter service. See Santa Barbara in comfort while seated on one of these newly renovated trolleys. These fully narrated tours hit all the local hot spots, such as the Santa Barbara Courthouse, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Mission and more, and are ideal for those who aren’t able to do full walking tours. Visit Santa Barbara Trolley’s website to view a sneak peak of tour highlights. Tickets for the 90-hour daily tour are surprisingly affordable. And for special occasions, such as corporate events, engagement parties or weddings, trolleys can be chartered, too. The SB trolley tour is a classic the whole family will enjoy.

Santa Barbara Hot Rod Limo

Here’s another way to get around town that both kids, teens and parents will equally enjoy. Oh yeah! Who can resist this long, yellow beauty? Cruise around town with seating for eight people, this convertible hot rod limousine will certainly turn heads and is a fun and unique way to see Santa Barbara. Past tourists rave about the expert and knowledgable drivers who are also your personal tour guides. Tours include narration and background music by the Beach Boys! Tours last approximately 60-minute or 2-hour +/-, and there are options for holiday tours and charters. Check the Santa Barbara Hot Rod Limo website for more details, FAQ and to view the photo gallery and video of a past tour taken by an enthusiastic guest.

Land Shark Tours

Voted “best city and harbor tours of Santa Barbara” and one of the “top 10 cool things to do in California,” the Land Shark is Santa Barbara’s original amphibious tour vehicle. And if you’ve spent any time in Santa Barbara, you might have seen it pass by full of giddy UCSB college kids celebrating a 21st birthday. It’s true, the Land Sharks can be reserved exclusively for a group of up to 42 passengers, and includes a digital sound system with LED lighting – perfect for those private birthday parties! But the Land Shark’s public tour isn’t just for bright young college things. Fun for all ages, the 90-minute narrated land and sea tour adventure begins just west of Stearns Wharf and winds through the streets of Santa Barbara to view historical landmarks and SB attractions and beachside. But the fun doesn’t stop there, as this  amphibious tour vehicle then enters the ocean via Santa Barbara harbor for the second leg of its tour. Learn about Stearns Wharf and see marine life, such as sea lions, dolphins and sometimes whales. The Land Shark Tour in Santa Barbara is a must-do. Visit to check tour times and to make reservations. 

Santa Barbara Adventure Company

Featured in numerous press and winner of USA Today’s 10 Best, as well as a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor, Santa Barbara Adventure Company has been creating fun-filled adventure tours for 20-plus years. Visit their website and choose the type of tour and adventure you seek. Do you want to explore the Channel Islands National Park vis sea cave kayak tours, snorkel tours or a combination of both? Want to try surfing or stand-up paddle in the Pacific Ocean? There are even wine tours and cupcake and wine tours! You can even book a private wine country shuttle, a popular trip for a bachelorette party. Whether you’re a single traveler to Santa Barbara, a couple, or soon to be married, there’s a tour for you at SB Adventure Co.

Free Santa Barbara Walking Tours

A winner of the Tripadvisor Travelers Choice award and voted #1 walking tour, Free Santa Barbara Walking Tours is a gem. Choose from three free walking tours – yes, we said free! 

The Waterfront Tour 

The Waterfront Tour is the most comprehensive tour offering insight into Santa Barbara’s rich history and the people and events that shaped the city and its fame as the American Riviera. The walking tour is about 105 minutes with 11 stops and discusses topics ranging from the Channel Islands, construction of the harbor, Santa Barbara’s rich Spanish-Colonial architecture, the Chumash and more. Guests will also view old 11×17 photographs that help illustrate the story. 

The Funk Zone Tour 

The Funk Zone Tour takes guests on a walking tour of the former warehouse district now dubbed The Funk Zone, a vibrant and artistic area brimming with wine bars, craft beer pubs and gastro eateries, art galleries and boho-chic boutiques. This 90-minute tour has 12 stops where you’ll learn about the evolution of this district and events shaping local history, as well as Santa Barbara’s identity as a premier wine lover’s destination. This tour allows guests a chance to win a McConnell’s ice cream and get a copy of a Funk Zone Map listing more than 60 wineries, brew pubs, restaurants and art studios in the district.  

Old Town Tour

The newly added Old Town Tour combines history and architecture in a 90-minute tour exploring Santa Barbara’s original town center – the 400-600 blocks of State Street. Learn about important historical events that defined the Spanish-Colonial character of the city, view the Brinkerhoff Victorian District of the late 1800’s, and finally, come back into the 21st century with a visit to three of architect Jeff Shelton’s buildings, popular attractions in their own right. 

All tours are led by long-time and passionate residents of Santa Barbara. All three tours include an option to buy a wine tasting voucher at just an additional $10/person, good for a five-taste flight at Santa Barbara Winery. Now, you can’t beat that! Visit Free Santa Barbara Walking Tours website for information on how to book one of the three free tours and for more details and video. Tours are indeed free and if you enjoyed your tour, feel free to tip the tour guide. Private tours can also be booked for a fee. Check the website for more information.

Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours

Eat and drink your way through Santa Barbara. Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours will bring out the foodie in you. These fun and delicious tours are a great way to experience Downtown Santa Barbara. Along with food (and some alcohol) tasting experiences, guests will learn a little about local history. These Santa Barbara walking food and drink tours offer something for even the most discerning palates. View the Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours website for a list of tours and private tour options, as well.

Totally Cali Tours

If you’re looking for a tour but have no idea what to do or are stumped for ideas, check out Totally Cali Tours. They offer an abundant variety of tours in the Santa Barbara and Central Coast areas. With tours covering Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez wine country, Solvang, Los Olivos and down to Ojai, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip to the Central Coast with a trip by Totally Cali Tours. Most tours focus around wine, breweries, food and/or history and walking tours. Visit the website for an extensive list of tours, including private charter options and holiday lights tours in December.

Tour Santa Barbara and book a vacation rental home

Whether it’s your first trip to Santa Barbara or whether you’re a returning guest, there’s always something new to experience. Don’t just stop at one tour, there’s endless beauty along the American Riviera, so keep coming back for more! Each tour will help you and your party experience as much as possible during your time in Santa Barbara. 

Santa Barbara sightseeing tours are also the perfect way to celebrate a special event, anniversary or birthday. Bring your friends, family and even pets and rent a short-term vacation rental home with Haller Coastal Homes. Enjoy comfort and plenty of space fit for several guests under one roof.