3 Bucket List Adventures in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Adventure Company is one of Santa Barbara’s premier adventure outfitters, specializing in creating epic experiences in stunningly beautiful locations on land and at sea. They’ve got the guides, gear and know-how to help you revel in the great outdoors while on The American Riviera®, whether you’re flying solo, traveling with the whole family or celebrating a special occasion with a group of friends. When you book one of their adventures, or one from their sister companies Channel Islands Adventure Company or Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours, you can rest easy knowing all of the details of your day will be taken care of and you’ll be in very capable hands. All you have to do is show up ready to make memories and have a blast. We’ve rounded up our top three picks from Santa Barbara Adventure Company’s robust menu of day trip experiences, along with some equally appealing alternatives.

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Island Adventures

Channel Islands National Park & Marine Sanctuary sits 25 miles offshore and is one of the region’s most incredible natural treasures—exploring it under the guidance of local experts will ensure you experience its majesty to the very fullest. Santa Barbara Adventure Company can help you access the pristine environment and dive deep into its abundant wildlife and marine ecosystem through an array of specialized tour packages. Their Channel Islands Adventure Company is the sole kayak guide and outfitter concessionaire for the park at Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Anchorage, where standard 1.5- and 3-hour guided kayak tours depart. (These are also a good option if you have children five years old and up; double kayaks are available.) The Ultimate Sea Cave Kayak is a more intensive offering geared towards confident coastal kayakers and explores the less visited Potato Harbor. If kayaking just isn’t your thing or you’re more curious about what lies beneath, every Saturday and Sunday they offer 1.5-hour guided snorkeling excursions. And all of the sea-centric activities can be rounded out with hiking and relaxing on the beaches at the island. Important to note, access to Santa Cruz Island requires departure from Ventura Harbor through Island Packers and are available most months of the year.

One of their most exclusive signature offerings is the seasonal Painted Cave Kayak tour at Santa Cruz Island. The trip departs via boat from Santa Barbara Harbor on specific days during summer months (June through September) and features kayaking into North America’s second largest sea cave.  In addition to kayaking in and around the cave and nearby coves, snorkeling gear is available if you want to swim through the kelp forests and see the 1,000 different species of marine plants and animals. The all inclusive day trip  includes breakfast and lunch and all the gear you need like wetsuits and paddle jackets. The boat even has a hot shower so you can clean up for the ride home. It’s also pretty common to see whales and dolphins on the boat ride to and from the islands—how’s that for added value?!

Coastal Paddles

The blissful serenity of paddling along the shoreline with the sea lions and birds is easily accessible from many points in Santa Barbara. Kayaking with a local guide enriches the experience significantly—not only will you have someone who understands the currents and conditions, you’ll get a natural history lesson and learn some cool new tricks to improve your paddling skills. Santa Barbara Adventure Company’s Coastal Kayaking options range from two to four hours and easy to moderate difficulty. The popular Coastline Kayak excursion explores the breathtaking undeveloped Gaviota coastline north of the city. You’ll meet your guide Haskell’s Beach, where the waters are generally calm. After a briefing on the beach, you’ll embark upon the three-mile kayak adventure, passing over kelp forests and stopping to admire the beauty from from the water. Throughout the 2.5 hour experience, your guide will educate you on the thriving natural ecosystem and create entertaining challenges to help you up your kayaking game. You’ll want to bring a water resistant pouch for your smartphone so you can capture images of the dolphins and sea lions known to make frequent appearances.

Alternative coastal kayak adventures include Harbor Wildlife Kayak, moderate 3-4 mile kayak from the Santa Barbara Harbor and along the waterfront; and a two-hour Sunset Kayak to take in the magical sunset show with epic city views from the water. Santa Barbara Adventure Company also offers surfing and  stand up paddle boarding lessons if you’d prefer to be vertical while paddling.

Wine Country excursion

With well over 200 wineries in Santa Barbara County, wine tasting is a must-do when on The American Riviera®. Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours offers three wine tour options and all include pick up and drop off from any hotel or alternative lodging on the Santa Barbara South Coast—designated driver secured! Each tour features 2-3 winery stops, where you’ll savor private tastings and a gourmet picnic lunch. Throughout the day, your guide will educate you on the wine growing region as well as the human and natural history of the Santa Ynez Valley. Tour options include Cupcakes & Wine, Santa Ynez Tour or Wine Country Shuttle. Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours can also customize a tour for your group based on your preferences, tapping into their close relationships with area winemakers.