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santa barbara santa monica pros and cons

Santa Barbara vs Santa Monica 🏖️ | Living in Santa Monica vs Santa Barbara + Pros & Cons

Last Updated on: 1st August 2023, 03:31 pm

If you’re planning to move to the Los Angeles area of Southern California, two of the best cities to choose from are Santa Monica or Santa Barbara. Both are situated on the beautiful Pacific Coast, have great weather year round, and are close to all the amenities of Los Angeles.

Santa Monica, located west of Los Angeles, is home to many celebrities. Santa Monica Beach is home to Palisades Park, with pristine views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll want to visit The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome (a National Historic Landmark), Pacific Park amusement park, and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium on the famous Santa Monica Pier, which is right next to Muscle Beach.

Hulu, Universal Music Group, Lionsgate Films, and The Recording Academy, are just some of the major companies headquartered in Santa Monica. The city also has several art galleries, an annual film festival, and world-famous restaurants.

Santa Barbara is about 92 miles up the coast from Santa Monica, nestled between the California coast and the Santa Ynez Mountains. The city has a Spanish-Mediterranean style with white stucco buildings with red-tile roofs. Alliant Techsystems, Channel Technologies Group, FLIR Systems, and Raytheon are some of the many aerospace and defense companies located in Santa Barbara.

Motel 6, the Egg McMuffin, and Kinko’s all got their start in Santa Barbara. You’ll also find upscale boutiques and restaurants in the city. The Arlington Theatre hosts the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Santa Barbara Bowl is a 4,562-seat outdoor amphitheater in the city. Santa Barbara also has a symphony orchestra, a professional opera company, and many classical music groups. Famous tourist attractions include Mission Santa Barbara. The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos provide plenty of sports in town, including men’s soccer and basketball.

Pros & Cons of Living in Santa Monica vs Santa Barbara

Santa Monica in comparison to Santa Barbara, both are beautiful cities and great places to live. Here are some of the major advantages and disadvantages of living in Santa Barbara vs Santa Monica:

Living in Santa Monica Pros

  • Beaches – the world-famous Santa Monica Beach is divided into North Beach, with lots of sand and exquisite views of Santa Monica Bay, and South Beach, where the Santa Monica Pier is located. The Southern California beach culture thrives in South Beach with surfing, beach volleyball, rollerblading, skateboarding, and awesome sunsets.
  • Location – Santa Monica is only 19 minutes from Los Angeles and all the first-class amenities it offers.
  • Schools – The public school system in Santa Monica is very good. If you’re moving to the area with children, all the schools here are highly rated. Santa Monica College is a great place for graduating seniors to start their post-secondary education. The transfer rate to the University of California from the school is the highest in the country.
  • Weather – the weather is nearly perfect all year round in Santa Monica, with an average of 310 days of sunshine throughout the year. The temperatures rarely drop below the mid-fifties.
  • Jobs – Santa Monica has a booming tech scene and is known as Silicon Beach, a reference to Silicon Valley in the San Francisco area. Snapchat, ZipRecruiter, Bird, and Hulu all make their home here.


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Living in Santa Monica Cons

  • High Cost of Living – Santa Monica is a very expensive place to live, even in southern California. The cost of living there is 204.5% higher than the national average.
  • Housing – One major factor that makes Santa Monica such an expensive place to live is housing. The average price of a house in Santa Monica is $1,822,525, more than double the California average and 7 times higher than the national average.
  • Crime Rate – Santa Monica’s crime rate is 103% higher than the national average. Property crime in the city is 105% higher.

Living in Santa Barbara Pros

  • Weather – Just like Santa Monica, Santa Barbara has almost perfect weather all year. The daytime temperatures average in the 60s to 70s, and the sun shines here over 300 days a year.
  • Outdoor Lifestyle – Santa Barbara has world-class beaches, like Arroyo Burro Beach County Park, where residents enjoy surfing, sailing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, fishing, and more. But the city also is close to stunning mountains that offer many hiking and mountain biking trails. There is always a park close by no matter where you are in Santa Barbara.
  • Great Colleges – Santa Barbara has the best community college in the country, Santa Barbara City College. The University of California Santa Barbara is one of the top 50 universities in the country. Other great post-secondary schools in the city include Westmont College, Antioch University, Fielding Graduate University, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Barbara College of Law.

Living in Santa Barbara Cons

  • High Cost of Living – Santa Barbara isn’t quite as expensive as Santa Monica, but it’s close. The cost of living in the city is 123.4% higher than the national average.
  • Housing – Like Santa Monica, housing prices in Santa Barbara are very high at almost twice the California average. A home in the city costs an average of $1,468,019. Rents are also very expensive.
  • Natural Disaster Risk – Residents of Santa Barbara live with the risk of natural disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes. The 300+ days of sunshine are awesome, but the lack of rain means everything is very dry, especially during the fire season from late May through October. On average residents experience at least one wildfire every 10 years. Santa Barbara is not directly on the San Andreas fault line, but it is close enough that earthquake preparedness is essential.

Comparisons Between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara


  • Santa Monica – 93,076
  • Santa Barbara – 88,665


  • Santa Monica – 70.8% White (62.7% non-Hispanic), 16.6% Hispanic, 4.5% Black or African American, and 9.6% Asian.
  • Santa Barbara – 70.7% White (55.5% non-Hispanic), 36.2% Hispanic, 1.7% Black or African American, and 3.7% Asian.

Cost of living in Santa Monica vs Santa Barbara


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The table below shows the income a family of four needs in Santa Monica (Los Angeles Metro Area) compared to Santa Barbara to maintain an adequate standard of living, using the EPI Family Budget CalculatorAccording to the data, it is slightly more expensive to live in Santa Barbara than in Santa Monica, but the overall income needed to live comfortably in both cities is very similar.

Santa Monica Santa Barbara
Housing $2,058 $2,374
Food $864 $859
Child Care $1,323 $1,434
Transportation $1,200 $1,386
Healthcare $972 $1,433
Other Necessities $1,059 $1,172
Taxes $1,042 $1,541
Monthly Total $8,519 $10,200
Annual Total $102,226 $122,397

Crime in Santa Monica vs Santa Barbara

The overall crime in Santa Monica was 4,856 per 100,000 in 2020 compared to 2,810 per 100,000 in Santa Barbara. Violent crime was 598 per 100,000 in Santa Monica and 424 per 100,000 in Santa Barbara, making Santa Barbara a much safer city to live in.

Santa Monica Santa Barbara
Total crime 107% over national avg 20% above national avg
Violent crime 54% over national avg 9% above national avg
Property crime 117% over national avg 22% above national avg

Things to do and eat, and nightlife

Both cities have many interesting things to see and do, as well as excellent dining opportunities. Here are some of the top attractions in Santa Monica vs Santa Barbara:

Santa Monica:

Santa Barbara:

Climate and weather

  • Santa Monica – the city has warm, arid, and clear summers and long, cool, wet, and partly cloudy winters. The annual average temperatures range from 49°F to 76°F. The best time to visit Santa Monica is from early June to early October.
  • Santa Barbara – Summers are warm, arid, and clear and the winters are cold, wet, and partly cloudy. The typical average temperatures vary from 42°F to 77°F. The best time of year to visit Santa Barbara is from mid-June to late September.

Traffic (public transportation)

  • Santa Monica – ​​The Metro E (Expo) Line rail system runs from the Santa Monica Pier to downtown Los Angeles and stops at attractions along the way. The Big Blue Bus system has a fleet of 195 buses that serve Santa Monica and the greater Westside region of Los Angeles County.
  • Santa Barbara – the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District offers safe, environmentally responsible, and inexpensive bus service to the city. They have 42 routes, 719 bus stops, and 114 buses.

Jobs in Santa Monica vs Santa Barbara

Santa Monica employs 50,959 workers. The largest industries are professional, scientific, & technical services, information, and educational services. The highest-paying industries are utilities, finance & insurance, and finance & insurance, & real estate & rental & leasing. The median household income is $98,300.

Santa Barbara employs 49,656 workers. The largest industries are professional, scientific, & technical services, accommodation & food services, and health care & social assistance. The highest-paying industries are utilities, public administration, and finance & insurance. The median household income is $81,618.

Professional Sports Teams

Santa Monica:

Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara to Santa Monica Distance

The distance between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara is about 92 miles and the trip takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The fastest route from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara is to take Interstate 10 east to Interstate 405 North. Follow I-405 to US-101 West. Take US-1010 all the way to Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara vs Santa Monica: Where Are You Moving?

Both Santa Barbara and Santa Monica offer near-perfect weather, excellent beaches, good schools, culture, and entertainment. If you have settled on life in the American Riviera, the highly-rated Santa Barbara movers at Martian Movers can help make your move stress free. Call us today at 805-779-3844 or fill out our online form to request a free quote.


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