If you’re looking for a road trip that’s low on driving time yet high on quality destinations, then a trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara may interest you. Your route takes you within reasonable driving distance of some great national and state parks. Since you’ll be driving through the Los Angeles area, you will, of course, go through multiple cities full of exciting attractions on your road trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is located about two hours east of Irvine, California. As its name implies, it’s a great place to see the distinctive yuccas known as Joshua Trees. Cacti, rock formations, and desert animals also call this 1,200-mile national park home. The rugged terrain of the Mojave and Colorado deserts is ideal for backcountry camping, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and more. At night, the dark skies showcase the heavens for stargazers.
Death Valley National Park
If you want to experience a more extreme desert environment than the one found at Joshua Tree, then you definitely need to drive three hours and 15 minutes from North Hollywood in order to visit Death Valley National Park. Temperatures can exceed 120 degrees here, so features like Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin, and Desolation Canyon are aptly named. Each year, many adventurous hikers, bikers, and horseback riders take advantage of the marked trails and off-road opportunities for desert exploration. Even if you want to go on a simple, safe adventure, you can easily stroll on a couple of short trails that give you great views of this amazing national park.
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is also only three hours and 15 minutes from North Hollywood, but it’s a drastically different park from Death Valley. You can’t take a San Diego to Santa Barbara RV road trip without taking in some of California’s legendary giant sequoias, so visiting Sequoia National Park is a must. Mountains, forests, caves, waterfalls, and more await you here. There are more than 800 miles of trails in this national park, so you won’t have to worry about finding a way to explore this stunning California destination.
Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is four hours from North Hollywood, but its entrance is only an hour and a half from Sequoia National Park. Since you’re already in the area, how could you pass up the chance to add this gorgeous national park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to your road trip itinerary from San Diego to Santa Barbara? Ancient forests, clear mountain streams, and numerous hiking and biking trails await at Kings Canyon National Park.
Channel Islands National Park
Five minutes from the outskirts of Ventura, you’ll find the visitor center for Channel Islands National Park. This unique island park is only accessible by boat, ferry, or seaplane, but the extra travel pales in comparison to the beauty of the Channel Islands. Diving and snorkeling are popular here, as are canoeing and kayaking. You can go hiking, backcountry camping, and wildlife viewing on these islands. The isolated nature of the islands provides a habitat for some unique species found nowhere else on Earth. With nearly 250,000 acres of islands to explore, you won’t run out of adventures to pursue at Channel Islands National Park.
San Onofre State Beach
San Onofre State Beach is only about 10 minutes from the outskirts of San Clemente, so it’s a logical addition to your road trip itinerary from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Surf Beach and Trestle Beach are both great venues for surfing and swimming. Sunbathing, fishing, camping, and hiking are all popular activities here.
Doheny State Beach
Another gem of a state beach that’s only a short drive from your route is Doheny State Beach. It’s located just five minutes from Interstate 5 in Dana Point, so it’s easy to reach. This beach is known for its gentle swells and laid-back atmosphere, so it’s a great place to relax or to catch some easy waves. Playing beach volleyball, soaking up the sun, and checking out the visitor center are other fun things you can do at Doheny State Beach.
Crystal Cove State Park
A dozen minutes south of Laguna Beach, you’ll find lovely Crystal Cove State Park. Visitors often take advantage of the 3 miles of shoreline to swim, sunbathe, surf, dive, and more. This park offers much more than beaches, however, thanks to the 18 miles of trails in the park. Hiking and biking are both popular methods of exploring Crystal Cove State Park.
Point Mugu State Park
Point Mugu State Park is about 15 minutes south of Camarillo. The rocky cliffs, canyons, and valleys of the Santa Monica Mountains provide plenty of beautiful scenery and exploration opportunities via a 70-mile trail network. You can also bodysurf, surf fish, and swim in the lovely waters off of Point Mugu Beach.
Carpinteria State Park
Carpinteria State Park is five minutes from Carpinteria and 20 minutes from Santa Barbara, so you should definitely stop here in order to prolong your road trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara. The white sand beaches are a big attraction here; you can spend plenty of time swimming, beach-combing, and surfing there. If you head here in the winter, you might be able to see some whales.
Five minutes from Interstate 5 as it passes through Oceanside, you’ll find historic Oceanside Pier. There’s been a wooden pier here since 1888, and both locals and visitors love it for its picturesque loveliness and nostalgic value. There’s a great little restaurant at the end of the pier, so be sure to stop by for a bite to eat.
Downtown Disney District
How could you pass within 20 minutes of the Downtown Disney District and other Disney attractions without stopping by on your San Diego to Santa Barbara RV road trip? If you want to shop till you drop and then eat till you pop, then the Downtown Disney District is right for you. This shopping area has everything from formal place settings to traditional Disney souvenirs. Craft burgers, shakes, ice cream, and more are available at multiple restaurants.
Battleship USS Iowa Museum
The Battleship USS Iowa Museum is only about 15 minutes south of the Long Beach Freeway in Long Beach. You can explore the USS Iowa’s decks and learn more about this ship’s service in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. Whether you want to explore this battleship by yourself or with a guided tour, you’ll enjoy learning about this historic vessel.
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Unsurprisingly, Disney isn’t the only theme park franchise in the Los Angeles area. Six Flags Magic Mountain is a little over 20 minutes from Sherman Oaks, California. Exciting rides like Apocalypse, Full Throttle, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, and more await you at this thrilling theme park in Valencia.
Ventura Botanical Gardens
You can find the Ventura Botanical Gardens only five minutes from Highway 101 as it goes through Ventura. This botanical garden is nearly 110 acres in size, so there’s plenty of room for the 10,000 plants. You’ll be able to see plants from California, the Mediterranean, and Africa in this lovely garden.
When you’re not chilling at the Oceanside Pier, you can visit great locations like the California Surf Museum and Mission San Luis Rey. There are some quality campgrounds in the area that will welcome you and your RV.
The Irvine Spectrum Center and the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary are just a few places where you can spend your time in Irvine. There are also plenty of reliable dump stations and campgrounds in the area.
Huntington Beach, California
Whether you want to explore Downtown Huntington Beach or get lost in nature at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, you’ll easily find plenty to do in this interesting California town. If you decide to stop and to stay awhile in Huntington Beach, you’ll be able to take advantage of some lovely local campgrounds.
Long Beach, California
At Ventura, you can visit the Ventura Pier and Promenade and the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Island National Park. There are some lovely RV campgrounds in the area at which you can park your camper.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from San Diego to Santa Barbara, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in San Diego or Santa Barbara.