Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo hails itself as "The World’s Most Beautiful Zoo." This is a claim that is easy to defend, considering that it can be found on a 30-acre plot near the ocean in scenic Santa Barbara. An appealing atmosphere isn’t the only reason to visit this relatively small zoo, however. It is reassuring to know that most of its approximately 500 animals live in natural, open settings. The Santa Barbara Zoo can also be respected for its conservation efforts. Among other things, it has partnered with other organizations to help save the California Condor.

Santa Barbara Zoo Location

Santa Barbara Zoo Location
Santa Barbara Zoo Location  Image: David Orias

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s location is one of its many delightful aspects. You can find it off Highway 101 and Cabrillo Blvd. at 500 Ninos Drive. To the near west is the Dwight Murphy City Park and to the near east is the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Beaches lie to the near south, and zoo visitors can enjoy wonderful ocean views while wandering around the attractive grounds. Parking is available for a fee at the zoo. The lot tends to fill up early on weekends and summer days, in which case visitors can find auxiliary parking outside of the zoo.

Animals & Exhibits

Animals & Exhibits
Animals & Exhibits  Image: SB Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s more than 400 animals represent 160 different species and come in the form of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Add a zoo visit to your list of things to do in Santa Barbara, and you can expect to see elephants, giraffes, gorillas, lions, penguins, and a variety of other fascinating creatures. Of course, the California condors also figure among the main attractions. You can see all of the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo in about 30 minutes if you are in a hurry. The average visit lasts closer to two-and-a-half hours, however, and due in part to the beauty of the grounds, many guests linger even longer. Zoo maps are available and they highlight what are considered to be the "Must-See" exhibits should you be short on time. Those with time to spare can interest themselves in more than just the zoo’s animal exhibits. Other features include a miniature train ride, a special Discovery Area, a small carousel, guided tours, and food outlets. Also worth noting is the Santa Barbara Zoo’s role as an event venue. Among other things, it plays host to weddings and birthday parties.

Hotels near Santa Barbara Zoo

Hotels near Santa Barbara Zoo
Hotels near Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s location on the fringes of downtown Santa Barbara puts it within easy reach of so many Santa Barbara hotels. Among the closest lodging establishments are the Inn At East Beach, the Santa Barbara Inn, and the Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. A little further off, yet still within close proximity of the Santa Barbara Zoo, are the Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara (pictured), the West Beach Inn, the Lavender Inn by the Sea, and the Brisas Del Mar Inn at the Beach. Travelers are also encouraged to keep the Canary Hotel in mind. One of the best luxury hotels in the land, it is situated downtown approximately two miles from the zoo. For the RV crowd, there’s the Santa Barbara Sunrise RV Park. This well-equipped retreat can be found to the near north of the zoo just across Highway 101.

Top image: Chuck Graham

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