usa backpacking

Stunning Scenes in Sunny SoCal – Santa Barbara, USA

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Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking: 6.5/10

usa backpacking
There’s no doubting that America is an amazing place to visit. It has a wealth of attractions and the full range of climates and environments to suit nearly everyone’s needs. However, i always find myself coming back to the question of how suitable it is for a backpacker. The huge distances often make travel challenging and whenever i have visited i’ve found the need to rent a car in order to make the most of the small time i have there, an issue which wreaks havoc on a backpacking budget.

Having said this, Santa Barbara is a beautiful place for any traveller to visit. Everything is immaculate, fom the coordinated white buildings with terracotta roofing to the sun kissed people that characterise Southern California. It stands out from the majority of other towns in the US that i’ve visited in its feel as a proper ‘town’ in the English sense of the word. It has a town centre full of shops and small individual stores that you won’t find splattered across every postcode in the US. This compares to most other ‘towns’ which are really just huge grids of streets with the occasional mall or row of three shops on a corner. It can also be enjoyed on foot without the constant need to jump in the car and has plenty of spots to explore, whether its the stunning Mission or the views from the town hall. Add to this a huge, well kept beach and a mountain back drop and you’re starting to get a fairly attractive proposition.

But this all comes at a price and Santa Barbara is one of the more expensive stop offs along the coast of Southern California. I was fortunate enough to have a friend to stay with but it was clear that backpacker accomodation wasn’t cheap and this was echoed throughout the shops and eateries around town. If you’ve paid out to rent a car or for an expensive Greyhound then the last thing you need is to have the travel purse attacked further.

Backpacking in Santa Barbara - MissionI loved this place – it’s stunning all round, is full of things to keep you busy and if the rankings here were judged purely on the place and not the wider context then it would have a much higher score. Unfortunately, it’s the standard travel issues that affect everywhere in the US which hold it back. If your pockets are bulging and you want to sample one of America’s prettiest towns then Santa Barbara should be near the top of your list, but if the purse strings are starting to tighten then this one might be a step too far.

Look for other spots to go backpacking in the USA here.

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2 replies
  1. John Braeburn
    John Braeburn says:

    I agree, Santa Barbara can be pretty pricey for backpackers. I have been through there many times and have discovered some hidden gems that offer affordable and budget-friendly accommodation. If you are a younger, college-age kid I would suggest stopping through Isla Vista, the nearby college town, and couchsurfing at one of the co-ops. The students are very friendly and welcoming. The hostel is okay, but a bit dirty in my opinion, and you can find some very affordable inns down in the tourist district if you don’t mind walking a bit. Also, if you have a bit more to spend and want to have a really nice night, I suggest the Sandman Inn ( It’s a budget-friendly hotel that is a great property, with two pools, comfy beds, and excellent service! Happy travels.


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