The Santa Barbara Harbor has a small strip of sand and rocks at the end of the breakwater. It overlooks the harbor and has a great view of the city. Mostly a resting spot for stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers, the beach has a sandy area to the east facing the wharf and a rocky area to the west facing the harbor. You may encounter tourists here, but not many locals make their way here.
Directions: Take the 101S to the Castillo exit. Turn right onto Castillo St and then right onto Shoreline. Turn left onto Harbor Way. Park there (90 minute free if you can find it) and walk the Harbor Walk past the many flags all the way to the end.
It is easy to socially distance here since you may be the only ones there. (We wore masks along the breakwater, but took them off at the beach.)
It is a beautiful view of the city.
My kids loved poking around in the rocks, finding hermit crabs.
There are no bathrooms near the beach but there are near the parking lot.
There is a short walk (.4 miles from where we parked ) which can add up if you bring a lot of stuff.
The amount of sand varies greatly by tide and season, one of the times we were there it was almost all rock. (The harbor is dredged periodically so that it does not fill in with sand with the sand being relocated beyond the wharf.)