Photo by Elliot Hawkey, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara
Here’s where outdoorsy travelers should explore in Santa Barbara, beyond the beach
Here's where outdoorsy travelers should explore in Santa Barbara, beyond the beach.
Your standard Santa Barbara getaway might involve hopping in your car, spending the weekend bouncing between wineries, and relaxing on the beach. While those are seriously great reasons to visit this cool coastal city, there are a ton of other experiences you might be missing out on if you stick strictly to the “wine trail, beach, repeat” game plan. Looking beyond the beach, you’ll discover some of Santa Barbara’s hidden gems and local finds, from galleries and museums to hiking trails and a leafy urban oasis. Of course, there will still be plenty of time for epic morning surf sessions and jaunts to wine country.
Part of what makes this train trip so special is the jaw-dropping scenery. The tracks run parallel to the Pacific Coast and in the final stretches, you’ll have views of the sea on one side and Santa Ynez Mountains on the other. Depending on how you want to spend the weekend, you could book a rental car, or go completely car-free and enjoy the bliss of not having to drive anywhere for an entire weekend. You can also show your train ticket for free rides on the electric shuttles serving State Street and the waterfront. Adding to that, Santa Barbara is one of the most walkable cities in southern California—and many wine country tours and other excursions pick up and drop off around town.
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Departing from the Sea Landing in Santa Barbara Harbor, the Condor Express will get you to prime whale-watching spots in about 45 minutes, with stops along the way for geological wonders like the Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. Onboard, there’s a comfy main cabin with a galley menu and full bar, as well as a spacious upper sundeck. During a typical cruise, you might spot dolphins, seals, sea lions, orcas, and even humpbacks, which are similar in size to gray whales. Voted the best whale watching vessel in Santa Barbara every year since 1979, Condor Express also hosts charter tours, dinner cruises, and private parties.
For a taste of the hiking scene, head to Lizard’s Mouth, an easy, one-mile trail featuring a reptile-shaped sandstone formation, or try local favorites like Seven Falls and Gaviota Peak. Within Santa Barbara’s small radius, there are a number of challenging trails for more experienced hikers such as the seven-mile Jesusita Trail in Los Padres National Forest. After hitting the trails or touring wine country, the hotel’s year-round solar-heated pool and whirlpool is the perfect place to unwind—or alternatively, you could just kick back on your room’s private patio or balcony with a bottle of wine.
For more information about Santa Barbara, visit SantaBarbaraCA.com.
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