Mother Nature wasn’t messing around when she made Santa Barbara an outdoor recreationalists’ paradise. Mountains? Check. Pacific coastline? Over 100 miles of it. Islands? Yes, we’ve got those too. The landscape list goes on and on. Even better, these phenomenal playgrounds for adventure are very easy to access and abound with a diversity of ways to push your limits while having fun under the sun. These inspiring outdoor adventures promise to put a huge smile on your face and be embedded in your memory for years to come.
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A trip to the majestic Channel Islands National Park & Marine Sanctuary is as epic as it gets—the islands are considered the Galapagos of North America. Book a daylong trip with Santa Barbara Adventure Company for the ultimate Santa Cruz Island adventure under the guidance of the region’s premier outfitter. Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers a few different Channels Islands kayaking excursions of varying length and style. Most are suitable for ages five and up, so previous experience isn’t required and the whole family can get in on the action.
After a quick ferry ride, traveling 25 miles from the mainland—spotting whales and dolphins en route—expect to have your breath taken away by the pristine environment. Your jaw will continue to drop as you kayak over crystalline waters, along jutting cliffs, and through sea caves. (Fun fact, Scorpion Anchorage happens to have the highest density of sea caves in the world.) Your adventure doesn’t have to stop when the kayaking ends. Snorkeling gear and wetsuits are available so you can explore the marine life from the underwater perspective. Hiking and learning about the flora and fauna on land are also possibilities, depending on your tour type.
Head to Elings Park to embark upon an aerial adventure that will get your adrenaline pumping and elevate your perspective. The 230-acre wonderland’s South Bluffs are renowned as one of the United States’ premier training hills for hang gliding and paragliding—complete with ocean views. With gentle prevailing winds coming in from the Pacific, it’s a relatively reliable spot for novices and experienced fliers alike to take off. Three park-sanctioned outfitters can get you soaring: Eagle Paragliding, Fly Above All and Fly Away Hangliding.
Santa Barbara is a quintessential California surf town. If you’ve never tried to catch a wave, make your Endless Summer dream come true here. (The late filmmaker Bruce Brown was a longtime local.) Surf Happens offers year-round private and group surf lessons, plus seasonal surf camps. With an endorsement from the World Surfing Lead, I Surf School is another great outfitter with private and group classes. They also specialize in helping beginning and intermediate surfers up their game.