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There is really no bad time to head to Santa Barbara. This area enjoys remarkably consistent weather throughout the year and the ocean location makes it a perfect spot for year-round sea activities.
Santa Barbara shares a few qualities with the nearby desert communities – namely, about 300 sunny days a year and only about 15 inches of rain each year. What Santa Barbara doesn’t share with them are extremely hot summers with no respite even at night. Santa Barbara also is not plagued with humidity, and there is almost always a gentle ocean breeze.
The annual average temperature in Santa Barbara is about 64, with the average high about 74 and the average low about 58. Many places can claim similar average temperatures, with winter days in the teens and summer days in the 100s. But Santa Barbara's extraordinarily temperate climate makes its averages truly descriptive. Come to Santa Barbara in July and you’ll very likely enjoy a high right around 75. Coming in January? It will be around 65 (nights about 50).
Although most of the year it’s warm enough to enjoy the beautiful beaches and pristine Pacific Ocean waters, be aware that the Pacific can be chilly. If scuba diving or surfing are on your list of things to do, bring a wetsuit in the winter and spring. The water temperature peaks at 75F in August and September.
Most of the time the water off the shore earns its original name, "Oceano Pacifico", sheltered by the Channel Islands, 28 miles to the south. But on some winter days when there is a big storm positioned just right, way off in the South Pacific, the really big waves skirt the islands and move in. Usually about mid-December, and sometimes in January and February, as in winter 2007-08, waves 20 ft. high move in. Ironically, at these times, the number of wetsuits in the water thins out considerably as only the best perform for the hundreds who migrate to the cliffs to marvel.
Another special weather condition visits Santa Barbara some years: The "Sundowner", Santa Barbara's own particularly focused form of Southern California's infamous Santa Ana winds that visits Santa Barbara in the fall at about ...sundown. At these times, the temperature may reach 100F and humidity approaches 0% all night long as the wind shifts from the typical ocean-to-land direction to blow at 50-100mph through the mountain passes from the hot dry deserts. During these periods, the fire departments issue their "Red Flag Alert", mobilize forces from elsewhere around California, and patrol the "wildland-urban interface" round-the-clock. Fortunately, these episodes only last 2-3 days.
While there’s not a "best" time to go to Santa Barbara, there might be better choices depending on where you’re coming from. If it’s February and you’re a resident of Wisconsin, then the 67 degrees or so on the beach in Santa Barbara can seem almost tropical. By the same token, if you’re a Florida resident looking for a getaway in July, that predicted high of 75 just might make you – gratefully – reach for a sweater.