It doesn’t technically have to be summer to embrace the “Endless Summer” lifestyle in Santa Barbara—maybe that’s what inspired the late Bruce Brown, filmmaker of Endless Summer and Endless Summer II, to make The American Riviera® his longtime home. You can have beach days and get out on the water nearly all year round here. And the opportunities to get outdoors are pretty much endless. Whether you’re looking to satisfy your craving for Mother Nature, catch waves or tee off, Santa Barbara has all of your outdoor recreational bases covered. To start, here we offer you six ways to channel your endless summer spirit amidst the beautiful backdrop that is Santa Barbara.
Get on the Green
Given the mild climate, conditions here rarely prevent golfers from getting out on the green. Lucky for us, Santa Barbara is home to one of the United States’ Top 100 ranked public courses—Sandpiper Golf Club. The waterfront course beloved by Golf Digest editors has epic mountain and ocean views at every single hole, which makes booking a tee time here well worth the investment of your vacation time. Designed by William F. Bell, the course features beautiful rolling fairways and challenging greens in a seaside links style layout. Sandpiper’s dynamic design and championship rating of 75.1 attracts players of all skill levels, including pros of the highest caliber—Sandpiper has played host to The PGA Tour Tournament Players Series, The LPGA Tour Santa Barbara Women’s Open and the prestigious final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying school. When you’re done playing, relax over a meal at the Sandpiper Grill to keep enjoying the sweeping ocean views. Learn More
Go Out to Sea
Spending time on the water is par for the course in Santa Barbara. A year-round whale-watching season means the Condor Express can make your wildlife viewing dreams come true any time of year. The high-speed, eco-friendly boat has no spinning propellers, allowing the captain to get up close to dolphins and whales with no risk of harm. The boat layout enables passengers to get their best photo ops thanks to unobstructed views. In the spring and summer season, expect to see Blue and Humpback Whales. Fall and winter migrations also include Gray Whales heading south. The excursions go all the way out to the spectacular Channel Islands National Park & Marine Sanctuary located 25 miles off shore of Santa Barbara. The crew’s commitment to delivering whale sightings is serious—on the rare occasion no whales are spotted on your cruise, they’ll give you a pass to go out another time. Learn More
Follow the Sun
Sunrise and sunset hikes in Santa Barbara can deliver a downright spiritual experience. They can also yield some incredible photos! Consider trekking up to Inspiration Point timed to see the sunrise and watch the city below come to life. If a nature walk is more your speed first thing in the morning, take a trail in the Douglas Family Preserve out to the viewpoint overlooking Arroyo Burro Beach (aka Hendry’s). From there, you’ll catch the sunrise over the sea. At the end of the day, Lizard’s Mouth delivers a dreamy sunset vantage.
Be a Beach Bum
Santa Barbara beaches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so choosing where to plant yourself in the sand comes down to what type of vibe you’re after. Thousand Step and Leadbetter beaches are the spots for a sunrise photo op. Butterfly Beach is a local favorite for swimming and sunning all day long, as is East Beach, which also sports beach volleyball courts. At West Beach, plan to spend the day under the sun as you make your way to and from the Santa Barbara Harbor to Stearns Wharf. Arroyo Burro Beach is popular for beach walkers—if you’re traveling with a pup in tow, one side is for dogs off leash and one side is on leash. Refugio State Beach north of Goleta has a tropical feel with its palm-lined crescent of a beach, and is very family-friendly.
We can’t reference Endless Summer without sharing some surfing spots—especially given surfing recently became the official sport of California. Santa Barbara generally doesn’t have huge swells, which makes it a great spot to learn to surf or SUP. Several outfitters offer lessons, or you can rent a stand up paddleboard at the Harbor to try it out on your own. If you’re a seasoned surfer, popular breaks that do get bigger with seasonal storms include Campus Point in Goleta, Sandspit at the Harbor and Rincon Point. If you’re really adventurous and highly skilled, seek out the secret breaks at the Channel Islands. After your surf or paddle session, head to the Endless Summer Bar-Café on the Harbor to revel in your stoke surrounded by vintage surf memorabilia.
Riviera Towel Company is a homegrown local gem of a boutique dedicated to impossibly soft, premium Turkish towels. The perfect travel companion for beach-y vacations and days spent alfresco, Turkish towels are versatile and dry quickly. Riviera Towel Company carries the largest selection on the entire West Coast and every purchase generates a donation to a marine organization dedicated to healing and protecting our oceans—just in case you needed an extra incentive to make a purchase. Support for local organizations include Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and Channel Island Park Foundation. Pop into their new boutique location at 17 West Gutierrez in the “Hub”, where you can can start and end your day shopping and eating local. Revel in the rainbow of hues on display as you choose your signature print from the dozens of different collections inspired by desirable destinations around the globe. Learn More