Fall is one of Santa Barbara’s most sublime seasons. Warm, sun-soaked days are paired with refreshingly cool evenings, and the faintest hint of autumn lingers in the morning air. The sunsets get more vibrant, the vineyards turn to gold and orange and our seasonal bounty is celebrated at charming local festivals. It’s a time to be outside, take full advantage of the season’s sensory delights and savor the incredible vistas from the mountains to the Channel Islands.
This fall, epic outdoor activities await, whether you feel the need for speed, crave a fitness challenge or seek more mellow and restorative open-air experiences. See below for our guide to getting outside and making the most of this fall in Santa Barbara.
Channel your inner explorer on a bucket list-worthy excursion to the Channel Islands. Sitting 25 miles offshore, the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary is considered the Galapagos of North America. The remarkably pristine, uncrowded environment is ripe with adventure potential on land and at sea. Santa Barbara Adventure Company is a leading outfitter providing exclusive access to the islands with a variety of guided daylong group tour experiences, including spectacular sea cave kayaking and snorkeling. Santa Barbara Sailing Center offers private, customizable sailing charters to the islands on luxurious cruising yachts. Opt for a simple day jaunt or a multi-day trip that can be packed to the gills with hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, free diving, scuba and more oceanic adventures. Departing directly from Santa Barbara Harbor, Channel Islands Expeditions runs guided Channel Islands day trips for beginning and intermediate kayakers as well as more elaborate liveaboard trips for scuba enthusiasts.
Santa Barbara is home to the nation’s longest-running paragliding school, Fly Above All Paragliding. Whether you’re a first-time flier or want to level up your existing skills, you will be in very good hands booking a lesson or session with Fly Above All Paragliding at its Elings Park launch site. Newbies can partake in an hour-long tandem flight experience with an instructor at the helm or enroll in a full day of training to prepare for solo flights. If you’re more serious about learning the ropes and want to get certified, book a two-day course or P2 Novice Certification Course to earn your wings.
For a less intense, but equally invigorating aerial adventure, book a flight with Santa Barbara Parasail. Up to three people (ages five and older) at a time can take flight—reaching 1,000 feet—while being pulled by a speedboat along the picturesque Santa Barbara coastline. An adrenaline rush is guaranteed. In the heart of Santa Barbara, you’ll find Santa Barbara Trapeze Co., which provides a different kind of adrenaline rush—combining aerial arts and a thrilling workout all in one. Trapeze your way through the air with this unique and exhilarating way to see Santa Barbara from above. Last but not least, visitors over the age of 16 can “levitate” above the sea with iSurf Santa Barbara’s eFoil boards. With the power of an electric board and top-notch lessons, you’ll be equipped to hover over the Pacific and experience a new version of riding the waves.
Santa Barbara’s mountainous front country and backcountry abound with potential for outdoor adventuring on land. Both Cal Coast Adventures and Santa Barbara Adventure Company run guided mountain biking excursions catering to different ability levels and featuring diverse terrain types. You can take things a little slower and soak up the sights and scents of the season on a horseback ride with Los Padres Outfitters, whose knowledgeable guides will lead you through the foothills and along the shores of Summerland’s beaches. Hiking through our region’s distinctive chaparral is equally splendid in fall. See our guide to the best hikes in Santa Barbara for tips on trails ranging from easy half-milers to grueling 10-mile out-and-back treks.
If you’re looking for a restorative and grounding outdoor activity, bring your yoga practice into the great wide open. Santa Barbara Beach Yoga offers a regular schedule of outdoor classes enjoyed by locals and visitors. Choose from morning and evening classes held right on the sands of East Beach or on the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion’s rooftop deck overlooking the beach. Become more attuned to Mother Nature on a guided Bird Walk at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. An experienced local naturalist leads these monthly walks through the garden’s meadows and woodlands, where you’ll learn to spot quails, woodpeckers, wrens and other fine feathered friends. More “secret” meditative walking opportunities can be found at the Lagoon Island Labyrinth on the UCSB Campus in Goleta and on the grounds of the Vedanta Temple in Montecito.
SPECTATE in Style
Here in Santa Barbara, we consider pausing to watch the nightly sunset show an “event,” too. Find a perch on the beach or a hillside park and settle in to watch the sky change colors as the sun drops below the horizon—in the fall, after the sun disappears, the deep pinks, oranges and purples tend to get even more saturated and dramatic, so it’s worth waiting around for a spell.
The colors of the season are also on full display at weekly Santa Barbara Certified Farmer’s Markets. The community ambiance is just as good as the produce picking as you stroll along the booths displaying locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and more. Markets are held in Downtown Santa Barbara on Tuesday and Saturday, Montecito on Friday and Goleta on Sunday.