top of page

Santa Barbara Coffee Crawl

By Shruthi Vasudevan, ft. Sanaya Shah


Welcome to beautiful Santa Barbara, where breathtaking sunsets meet the invigorating aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, this vibrant Californian gem offers a thriving coffee culture that delights locals and visitors alike. From cozy, artisanal cafes to trendy espresso bars, Santa Barbara has an array of coffee establishments waiting to awaken your senses and satisfy your caffeine cravings.

In this Santa Barbara coffee guide, we will take you on a delightful journey through the city's thriving coffee scene. Whether you're a seasoned coffee connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, this guide is designed to help you discover the finest coffee spots, hidden gems, and unique experiences that Santa Barbara has to offer.

Dart Coffee

Dart is located in the Funk Zone, away from the bustle of State Street, but still situated in between a block of popular breweries and boutiques. The coffee shop itself is bright, airy, and functional — ordering is simple and drinks come out fast. There’s about seven tables, between Dart and the restuarant they share a space with, as well as a pretty wooden bar that looks out across the street to the garden they own. Unfortunately, the space gets a little tight and noisy for studying, and there’s only wifi in the garden, not the actual shop.

The garden itself is gorgeous, studded with citrus trees and ample seating for patrons to linger with their drinks. It’s a good place to study with a friend or a small group, or just to spend a while unwinding after shopping or walking around the downtown area. The wifi is decently fast, but its the laid-back, picturesque, and constantly summery ambiance that makes this place so unique to Santa Barbara.

Instagrammability: 10

Coffee Ratings:

Shruthi: Beach Brew - 8.9

Sanaya: Beach Brew - 8.5


Nestled in the heart of this vibrant college town, Caje is a popular gathering spot for students, locals, and visitors alike. With plenty of outdoor seating, it is a great spot to study, catch up with friends, or simply enjoy a moment watching the hustle and bustle of Isla Vista. For those seeking a light bite, Caje offers a tempting array of bagel sandwiches, avocado toast, acai bowls, and more! Open till 8:00PM, Caje is the perfect place to get your coffee craving satisfied at any time of day. The constant rush of customers does create a loud and vibrant atmosphere and with limited indoor seating, Isla Vista’s Caje creates a social atmosphere you are bound to love.

The Arlington location is easily the most beautiful stop we go to. Benches, lounge chairs, and loveseats are scattered around a fountain that sits in the middle of Caje’s bohemian patio. On a Saturday morning, it is bustling with couples on dates, a large party for what seems to be a birthday brunch, and friends stopping in with their dogs. The Arlington location closes at 1 pm, which isn’t the most convenient for college students on a weekend morning, but if you make it downtown early, this would be a fantastic place to spend a morning. I expect that on weekdays, it doubles as an quieter, inviting study spot too.

There are two menus, one with your standard espresso drinks, and another with more expensive specialty beverages. Though they may not be a weekly indulgence, these specialty drinks are unlike anything you’ll get at other coffee shops in the city. They boast unique syrups and bitters, garnished with gold foil dusted flowers, citrus slices toasted with blowtorches, and rose petals. The fact that they taste delicious too is the cherry on top.


IV location- 4

Arlington location- 10

Coffee Ratings:


Jupiter’s Forest- 8.5


Caje Blended - 8

Yemen - 8

Bella Rosa - 6

Burnout - 9

Caje Thai - 6


The first time we go, it’s closer to their closing time and volume is pretty low as people buckle down to finish up their assignments. The second time, it’s earlier in the afternoon and bigger groups have settled down to chat, so it’s a little noisier, but nothing that prevents us from working. Wifi connects quickly and remains stable over the two hours we spend there. They have two main spaces, one with the order counter and a few booths, and a bigger room in the back with tons of natural light, large round tables, and sofas. This is definitely a great place to come for a group project, or more than a couple friends.

The coffee itself is solid, but nothing special. The flavored lattes are slightly sweet, but there isn’t as much mocha flavor as I usually prefer. The menu is pretty limited in terms of “fun” flavors or syrups but they have all the standard espresso and regular coffee-based drinks, and even a decent matcha.

Instagrammability: 7

Coffee Rankings

Shruthi: Iced mocha latte - 8


Matcha Latte - 6.5

Vanilla Latte - 7


Lighthouse left me REALLY torn. They had a great range of flavors, and I finally settled on the hazelnut, which I reliably love. This latte was no different, they hit the perfect ratio of toasted sweetness to espresso to milk, and I wished I got the bigger size because of how delicious it was. However, it took us almost forty minutes to get the wifi to connect, derailing our study plans for the day. It may have been because the shop was pretty crowded when we came, but the baristas had to reset the modem in order for our phones or laptops to connect, and even then it was really finicky. We haven’t been to the downtown location, but if it combines the great coffee quality with a better ambiance, I would go back in a heartbeat.

Instagrammability: 5

Coffee Rankings

Shruthi: Iced Hazelnut Latte - 9.5

Sanaya: Hazelnut Latte - 8

Old Town Coffee

Old Town had a solid latte, but the reason I keep returning is because of their hours. The Goleta location is the only coffee shop that’s open past 4 pm, so students can come in to work without constantly checking the clock until 10 pm. It’s a large space with a main room by the order counter, a brewery, and an outside area. There’s tons of seating and the noise level never gets too high. They play music that’s mellow but still interesting— and the ambiance definitely seems more geared towards patrons who come here to work or study over socializing.

I remember them having a lot of different flavors, so I’d like to branch out and try something new the next time I go. I also hear they have an EXTREMELY caffeinated coffee slushy, which might come in handy right before a big exam or assignment deadline.


Goleta location - 7

Downtown location - 4

Coffee Rankings


Iced vanilla latte - 8


Matcha Latte - 10

Mocha Slushy- 7

Dean: A Coffee Shop

Dean is a really cute, modern space among the Goleta coffeeshops we visited. Their interior reminds me a little of a Glossier store, with a prominent pink theme going, and walls adorned with pantone color swatches and a large mirror with ever-changing messages that flash over it. On our first visit, I get the vanilla latte and it has a little more milk than most other lattes I have, but the espresso is strong so it balances out well. The second time I go, I get their hazelnut latte in the larger size and it is HUGE. I definitely like this drink even more, and it lasts me for my entire two hour study session. It’s definitely quieter earlier in the day, and by 2:30 pm it gets pretty noisy as bigger groups come in to chat, but it doesn’t really disrupt me. Their wifi however does get slow as the place gets more crowded, and both times it takes a while to get devices connected.

Instagrammability: 7.5

Coffee Rankings


Iced hazelnut latte - 9.3

Iced vanilla latte - 9


Vietnamese Coffee - 9


I was so excited when I heard that there was a new coffee spot opening up in IV, as I’m always down to try non-Starbucks options when I’m feeling fancy. Before I even visited I heard that Kozy was pretty cute inside for an Isla Vista establishment, and that they had a good range of flavors. I went with my old reliable Salted Caramel, but I couldn’t taste the syrup until maybe the last two sips. The first half of the drink was dominated by the taste of burnt espresso, which is hard for me to get over but after some added sugar and aggressive stirring, it took on a somewhat smoother taste. Still, I don’t think I’d return here in the future, unless I heard multiple rave reviews indicating that they changed their blend.

Instagrammability: 6

Coffee Rankings

Shruthi: Iced Salted Caramel Latte - 6.5

Sanaya: Salted Caramel Blended - 8

Hook and Press

I could talk about this place forever. I’ve been going here since last year for their amazing donuts with a rotating lineup of unique flavors, but for some reason hadn’t tried their drinks. I definitely felt like I had been missing out after having their iced salted caramel latte, because it was probably the best flavor I had yet. I could really taste the slightly salty caramel syrup and it melded perfectly with the espresso flavor. I got this drink twice and both times it was perfect. The one strange thing was that we both got the same drink albeit on separate occasions, but they definitely tasted a little different. I’m not sure if they changed their syrup, or it was just a different person making the drinks, because mine definitely had a more prominent caramel taste to it. I know they also have speciality espresso, matcha, and even vegan milk-based drinks that they switch out every so often, so I would definitely go back to try those. The place itself is colorful, bright, but still really casual. As a bonus, it always smells like fresh donuts inside and you would be remiss to not get a snack to go with your coffee.

Instagrammability: 9.5

Coffee Rankings

Shruthi: Iced Salted Caramel Latte - 9.5

Sanaya: Iced Salted Caramel Latte - 7


The tres leches latte here is definitely one of the more unique specialty drinks I’ve come across. I think they use condensed milk in addition to regular milk to give it a sweeter, creamy taste. This drink is a great gateway order for anyone that’s not a huge fan of coffee or strong espresso drinks. In terms of studying though, both locations have pretty minimal seating and there’s no outlets. You could maybe come here to meet up with a group for a project just to touch base, but it’s not the best for hunkering down to work for a few hours (unless your laptop is on 100% battery).


Goleta Location - 7

Downtown Location - 6.5

Coffee Rankings

Shruthi: Iced Tres Leches Latte - 9

Sanaya: Iced Latte - 8

bottom of page