Known for the glitzy lifestyle of its residents and picturesque landscapes along the California Coast, Santa Barbara is a destination that promises the glamor of the world’s rich and famous while maintaining the region’s idyllic natural beauty.
Whether touring the streets’ Spanish-styled architecture or venturing into the intrepid mountainous terrains surrounding the city, Santa Barbara offers something for everybody and even boasts numerous of the state’s hot springs promising a quiet serenity.
From lavish luxury resorts to rustically simple primitive pools, visitors can unwind in the soothing mineral waters of these six hot springs near Santa Barbara, CA. (Distance from Santa Barbara city center in brackets).
6 Hot Springs Near Santa Barbara, California
1. Montecito Hot Springs (5.3 Miles)
Visitors staying in Santa Barbara won’t have to travel far to submerge in the region’s famous mineral waters. In fact, the closest hot springs near Santa Barbara are located directly within the community’s eastern reaches and are just over 5 miles from downtown.
While rumored to have once been host to a thermal resort in the 19th century, any sign of development on the site of the springs has since been lost, and the property is now maintained by The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.
Despite its close proximity to town, the Montecito Hot Springs is a relatively remote primitive pool and require a four-mile scenic hike to access. Still, those willing to brave the venture are rewarded with a mineral soak in one of the region’s most pristine natural settings.
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The Montecito Hot Springs is a collection of primitive thermal pools that feed one another through a series of cascading waterfalls. The pools vary in size and temperature, with the pools closest to the source being warmer than those found further downstream.
The most popular soaking pool is found at the peak of the cliff. Along with boasting the most room for soakers, this pool also features the warmest waters, averaging about 112 degrees throughout the year.
2. Gaviota Hot Springs (33 Miles)
Also known as the Las Cruces Hot Springs, the Gaviota Hot Springs are nestled within the preserved environments of the Gaviota State Park and offer a soothing respite for unwinding after engaging in one of the region’s numerous hiking trails.
Located about a half hour along the California Coast, the Gaviota Hot Spring require just a brief half-mile hike to reach from the trailhead. The trip from Santa Barbara features plenty of coastal vistas and pristine landscapes that culminate in the serene natural setting of the springs themselves.
The Gaviota Hot Springs consists of two cement pools with rock walls and mud bottoms. The pools vary in temperature throughout the year but are consistently warmer than the external air temperature.
As a primitive site, the Gaviota Hot Springs does not feature any onsite amenities, and no camping is permitted in the region surrounding the springs. Instead, visitors looking to spend the night in the area can either day trip from Santa Barbara or stay in one of the nearby camping areas.
3. The Big & Little Caliente Springs (40 Miles)
Tucked away at the end of a nine-mile dirt road in the mountainous terrains of the Los Padres National Forest, the Big and Little Caliente Hot Springs are another collection of primitive hot springs near Santa Barbara that promises a soothing mineral soak in a pristine natural setting.
The complex consists of three rustic thermal pools. The first is a large cement pool known as Big Caliente, which averages about 115 degrees from the source. However, the pool features control valves, and visitors can manipulate the pool’s temperature by redirecting the water flow.
Located just a short distance from the larger pool are two smaller pools along a nearby creek known as the Little Caliente. These smaller rock-lined tubs feature slightly cooler temperatures averaging about 105 degrees throughout the year.
While it is possible to drive to the Big and Little Caliente Springs when the weather is clear, the dirt road leading to the site is often closed leading up to days of projected rainfall. While the wet and muddy conditions make the road unsuitable for driving, the path remains open year-round for hiking, horseback riding, or biking.
4. Oja Hot Springs (38.2 Miles)
While once open to the public, the Oja Hot Springs is a privately owned thermal destination whose owners have converted the thermal pools into a reservation-only attraction to preserve the water feature’s natural integrity and cleanliness.
Now known as Ecotopia, the Oja Hot Springs is comprised of five rock-bottom pools that range from 100 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Each pool boasts a breathtaking natural setting surrounded by foliage and other natural designs, including waterfalls, streams, and a small rustic bridge.
To complete the overall quiet relaxation of the environment, the property rules do not permit the use of any technology, drugs, alcohol, or any other outside sources. Additionally, the property limits its occupancy to 10 guests at a time, allowing for a serene escape into the idyllic California countryside.
Visitors hoping to submerge in these thermal waters must first contact the owners for a reservation and make a donation that goes towards upkeeping the facility. While no accommodation is offered onsite, camping can be found nearby at the Wheeler Gorge Campground.
5. Willett Hot Springs (71.3 Miles)
Like the Big and Little Caliente Springs, the Willett Hot Springs is another primitive thermal pool near Santa Barbara tucked deep in the Sespe Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest. Also like the Caliente Springs, this rustic thermal pool requires a long ten-mile hike to reach from the trailhead and features plenty of natural vistas to admire along the way.
From the Piedra Blanca Trailhead, visitors must follow the Sespe River Trail along its scenic route next to the river for the entire journey. While the trek can be long, the scenery is breathtaking, and the mineral spring pool at the end is a fantastic spot for soothing your worn hiking muscles.
Despite its remote location, the Willett Hot Springs is actually a man-made pool that contains water sourced from a nearby natural spring. The pool averages around 100 degrees throughout the year for a comfortable bath.
Unfortunately, the Willett Hot Springs’ primitive nature also means the pool can often become dirty. If this is the case, visitors are welcome to drain the pool and scrub it with the provided brushes. However, visitors should note the pool takes about an hour to refill after it is drained.
6. Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa (87.2 Miles)
While located a little further from the city, the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa is one of the most extensive hot spring complexes near Santa Barbara and is well worth the hour-and-a-half drive to access.
Along with offering a tranquil setting for enjoying the region’s mineral waters, the Sycamore Mineral Springs also boasts an idyllic corner of California’s coastal landscapes and serves as a fantastic base for exploring the area’s natural wonders.
The resort features many mineral soaking options, including 24 open-air hillside hot tubs, in-room thermal baths, and a large oasis waterfall lagoon capable of seating up to 20 guests.