Weather in Santa Barbara: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Santa Barbara Marina shoreline breakwater with recreational boats, CA
Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

Santa Barbara has strong ties to the arts and the creative community (Oprah, Rob Lowe, Dick Wolf, among others live there.), bustling boating and wine scenes, and sits between towering mountains and the coast much like its French counterpart from which its nickname, the American Riviera, is derived. That aforementioned bit of geography is partially responsible for another similarity—a year-round mild Mediterranean climate. From season to season, there isn’t much temperature fluctuation. Average daytime temperatures range from the mid-60s to the high 70s Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures range from high 40s to low 60s F. 

Summer is the peak season for visitation, but the city boasts an average of 300 days of sunshine a year. Winter brings the rain that leads to spring’s wildflowers.  The region receives about 18 inches of rainfall annually, with a majority of it coming between November and April while fall has wine harvest and great water conditions.

Fast Climate Facts

  • Hottest Month: August (76 F/ 24 C)
  • Coldest Month: January (65 F/ 18 C)
  • Wettest Month: February (4.69 inches)
  • Driest Month: July (0.02 inches of rain)
  • Sunniest Month: July (averages 11 hours a day) 

Summer in Santa Barbara

This is peak tourist season on the American Riviera for a reason. It’s almost always in the pleasant 70s Fahrenheit. Although June gloom regularly darkens mornings, the afternoons are known for bright blue skies. Most summer days average 10 or 11 hours of sunshine. The Pacific Ocean is also at its most palatable in July and August with smaller waves, making it an ideal time of year to try surfing, kayaking, or other water sports. The average sea temperature is 62 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the rest of the year when it falls into the 50s.

What to pack: Swimsuits, rashguards, sunscreen, wetsuits (the water is still far from tropical!), a hat, sunglasses, sneakers, hiking boots, and anything else you need to ensure you can safely spend as much time outside raking in the vitamin sea and D as possible.

Average Temperatures by Month

  • June: 71 F / 58 F (22 C / 14 C)
  • July: 75 F / 61 F (24 C / 16 C)
  • August: 76 F / 60 F (24 C / 15.5 C)

Fall in Santa Barbara

While the weather cools only slightly, the crowds dissipate greatly come autumn. Nighttime temperatures range from 50 to 60 degrees F (10 to 15.5 degrees C). The ocean remains warm through September and part of October. This is also when most locals say the surfing conditions are at their best with a magical mix of long-interval swells and offshore winds. Fall usually ushers in the grape harvest in the six official AVAs in Santa Barbara County. While coastal areas are uniformly pleasant the inland Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, and Los Alamos Valleys tend to be at least 10 degrees F warmer by day and almost that much colder after sunset

Thanks to pervasive drought and longer, hotter summers, the region and California as a whole has a growing issue with large wildfires. The last few years have seen a lot of devastation and sometimes active blazes or their aftermath, like when a mudslide closed Highway 101, can affect vacation plans. Wildfires can’t be planned for and most of the time don’t get to the point of affecting travelers, but it is something to be aware of. 

What to pack: Throw a jacket in for early morning walks on the beach and post-dinner strolls between the restaurant and the hotel. You might consider an umbrella, especially in November as the average rainfall jumps up to 1.79 inches. If you plan to go over the mountains and into wine country, you’ll want a lighter outfit option.

Average Temperatures by Month

  • September: 75 F / 60 F (24 C / 15.5 C)
  • October: 73 F / 56 F (23 C / 13 C)
  • November: 69 F / 50 F (20.5 C / 10 C)

Winter in Santa Barbara

Like much of coastal Central and Southern California, this area also experiences relatively mild winters. January, with its 65-degree F days and 46-degree F evenings, is typically the coolest month. February is the wettest month with a very manageable 4.69-inch rainfall average. Important to note that the temperature is noticeably cooler on mountain hiking trails and in the valleys beyond that range that make up the county’s viticultural area.

What to pack: A puffer jacket is usually enough in these parts unless you get cold easily and plan to spend a lot of time outside or on a whale-watching tour out on the water. Umbrellas are a good idea as there's slightly more than 12 inches of rainfall over those three months. Many hotels have heated pools and spas so don’t forget a swimsuit.

Average Temperatures by Month

  • December: 65 F / 47 F (18 C / 8 C)
  • January: 65 F / 46 F(18 C / 8 C) 
  • February: 65 F / 48 F (18 C / 9 C)

Spring in Santa Barbara

Springtime is only slightly cooler than summer. Overcast skies caused by the pesky marine layer that rolls in overnight are more prevalent in June, but May gray is not unheard of. It usually burns off by late morning, leaving you plenty of time to go in search of a super bloom on Figueroa Mountain or at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Prompted by December through March rains, wildflowers like lupine and poppies decorate the landscape throughout spring. Blooming jacaranda trees add serious color within city limits as well. It’s also the best time of year for whale-watching as gray whale moms and their new calves hug the coast on their return trip to Alaska from Baja California. On occasion, they can even be seen from land. Caution is urged before going for a swim in the sea as April clocks the coldest water of the year (56 F/13 C average).

What to pack: Boat shoes, binoculars, and a captain’s hat as you should definitely hop aboard a whale-watching tour. Wetsuits and other protective aquatic gear if you plan to play in the Pacific. Toss in a pair of comfortable shoes to shop along State Street or to hit the trails. As always, the coastal breezes and chilly nights often demand layering, sweaters, or light jackets.

Average Temperatures by Month

  • March: 66 F / 50 F (19 C / 10 C)
  • April: 69 F / 52 F (20.5 C / 11 C)
  • May: 70 F / 55 F (21 C / 13 C)

Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours

  Avg. Temp. Rainfall Daylight Hours
January 65 F / 18 C 4.36 inches 10 hours
February 65 F / 18 C 4.69 inches 11 hours
March 66 F / 19 C 2.92 inches 12 hours
April 69 F / 20.5 C 1.24 inches 13 hours
May 70 F / 21 C 0.33 inches 14 hours
June 71 F / 21 C 0.09 inches 14 hours
July 75 F / 24 C 0.02 inches 14 hours
August 76 F / 24 C 0.05 inches 13 hours
September 75 F / 24 C 0.14 inches 12 hours
October 73 F / 23 C 0.90 inches 11 hours
November 69 F / 20.5 C 1.79 inches 10 hours
December 65 F / 18 C 3.04 inches 9 hours
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