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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.

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 deservedly wildly popular Refugio State Park excursion explores the breathtaking undeveloped Gaviota coastline north of the city. You’ll meet your guide at Refugio State Beach, where the waters are generally calm in the palm-lined crystalline cove. After a briefing on the beach, you’ll embark upon the three-mile kayak adventure, passing over kelp forests and stopping at a secluded “secret” beach only accessible from the water. After resting on the beach and savoring a picnic lunch, you’ll get back on the water for more seafaring fun. Throughout the four-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 an easy one-mile Fun Paddle from the Harbor; a longer yet equally relaxed Santa Barbara Harbor kayak along the waterfront with a stop for lunch on the beach; 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 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! The adventure factor is highest on their highly rated, wind-in-your-hair Wine Country Biking tour. You’ll bike approximately 8 miles on back roads through bucolic countryside, passing by vineyards, horse farms and scenic ranch lands. The tour features two winery stops, where you’ll savor private tastings and a gourmet picnic lunch. Don’t be daunted by the physical challenge—an air-conditioned van will be trailing the group all day, water is always on hand and no one will judge you if you need to take a break from your bike! 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.

If wine touring is calling but pedaling your way to the wineries doesn’t appeal to you, Santa Barbara Adventure Company can customize a tour for your group based on your preferences, tapping into their close relationships with area winemakers. They also offer a standard Santa Ynez Tour featuring three wineries and lunch, as well as a Cupcakes & Wine tour for those with a sweet tooth.

Check out the Santa Barbara Adventure Company site for availability, pricing, additional details on these tours and more! And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to chat with them if you have something special in mind—they can customize and combine experiences to your liking.