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With the longest southern-facing coast in California and with the protected Channel Islands offshore, Santa Barbara offers a premier whale-watching environment. Humpbacks, gray and blue whales and other magnificent marine mammals squeeze through the aptly named Santa Barbara Channel, upping the chances of spotting them feeding, breaching and playing. Travelers can relax on swift and stable catamarans while also admiring cute pinnipeds (seals, sea lions) and seabirds.

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