If you’d rather skip the drive into the countryside, head downtown to the The Funk Zone -- I swear to God it's called that -- a warehouse-turned-arts district with 10 walkable blocks of excellent restaurants, galleries, and shops. Take the gang to a brewery, distillery, beer bar/bottle shop, and multiple wine tasting rooms that compose part of the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Stay at the boutique Hotel Indigo, or go full college dorm throw-back at the Wayfarer, provided your friends would enjoy shared hostel-style rooms, and “on-site amenities” like inflatable oversized red pool chairs, giant Jenga, and cornhole.
While you’re here you can also kayak through sea caves, hike to waterfalls, bike down the coastline, surf, get open-air rooftop terrace massages at Bacara Resort & Spa, or play bocce on one of Pure Order Brewing Company's two Olympic-sized bocce courts. The drawback: it's California, so it's expensive. Beware the May Gray and June Gloom (California’s foggy season). Early spring and fall are lovely, with the added advantage of being a bit cheaper and less crowded.