What you can find: Petrified whalebone, fish fossils, agates, jasper, travertine onyx
Ease of access: Easy
Equipment needed: Backpack or specimen bag, rock hammer & safety glasses if you want to collect fish fossils, newspaper for wrapping fossils
Safety considerations: Remember to keep an eye on the ocean. Don't dig into the cliffs, as this may cause them to collapse. And beware falling rocks if working below these cliffs.
Where, exactly? From downtown Santa Barbara, take the 101 freeway north and drive 35 miles until you reach the Highway 1/Lompoc/Vandenberg exit. Turn left and drive 14 miles, until you reach the Jalama Road exit. Turn left on Jalama Road and drive 14 miles until you reach Jalama Beach
Jalama Beach is a popular destination for rockhounds and fossil collectors in Central California. The beach is a bit remote - about an hour's drive from Santa Barbara, or 45 minutes from Lompoc, but I've always found it well worth the trip.
There's a small day use fee to enter the park, and camping is also available, should you desire.
There are natural tar seeps that trickle out of the bluffs onto the sand in sticky black rivulets - interesting to look at, but beware of getting it on your clothes or shoes! It is quite difficult to remove again.
Walking up and down the beach in the surf zone will net you pieces of agate and jasper, and perhaps the occasional bit of fossil whalebone. Head north along the beach if you want to find the onyx, and south for the best fossils.
If you want to find the fish fossils, take your hammer and begin splitting open the chunks of sandstone that have eroded out of the cliffs. They break open into flat layers quite easily, and you will probably find more than a few fish fossils with little effort.
However, please don't dig in the cliffs themselves - they are quite unstable, and may collapse on you. Besides, it encourages erosion, and damages the plant and animal life that lives in those bluffs.
When you're done rockhounding, stop by at the Jalama Beach Store and Grill for a delicious Jalama Burger to cap the day off before you head home. I promise you won't regret it.
Happy hunting and enjoy your trip!