Santa Barbara is an epicenter of outdoor adventure and water sports. Between the diverse and dramatic landscapes and the mild climate that makes it possible to play outside anytime of year, it’s an epic place to get your adventure on—especially if you’re drawn to the ocean. There are myriad ways to fill your days with the grandeur Mother Nature bestowed upon The American Riviera®, from ship to shore. And we’ve got several outfitters who can help you get your sea legs—in effortless style, no less. Adventure photographer Emily Thomas of @emitoms recently captured just how magical seafaring Santa Barbara escapades can be with this three-day “Outdoor Adventure Vacationist” itinerary. As you’ll see, the decompression experience back on land is equally enticing, with delectable cuisine and cocktails always on tap.
Check into Hotel Californian, a luxurious and stylish boutique hotel that feels equal parts urban glam and beachy chill. Take the custom house bikes out for a spin along the Cabrillo Bike Path and around town. Or, if you’d prefer to soak up some sunshine and relax on the beach, borrow a set of the hotel’s complimentary beach chairs and towels and catch a quick lift in the house car to East Beach. There, you can watch the beach volleyball players—ask to join a game if you’re feeling outgoing—and take a dip in the Pacific. Back at the hotel, go up to the rooftop to watch the sunset over the waterfront. The photos will not disappoint! And then wrap up the night with a walk up State Street to The Good Lion, where you can sip on perfectly mixed drinks in the supremely photogenic speakeasy.
Rise early to head out to sea with Santa Barbara Adventure Company on their Channel Islands Sea Cave Kayak tour. The adventure will begin with a 25-mile ferry ride out to the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary—considered one of the world’s best kept “secrets” for its incredible SCUBA diving and snorkeling! After the ferry drops you at Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Anchorage, you’ll get to explore the incredibly rich marine ecosystem on a 3-hour guided kayak in and around the island’s dramatic sea caves. If you’re up for it, there will be enough free time after kayaking to do some snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. Once you get back to town, take a soak in the hot tub at Hotel Californian and then get ready for a low-key night out. Savor a leisurely dinner at The Black Sheep Restaurant, a local favorite for eclectic fusion cuisine. Order the seven-course tasting menu (only $65!) if you’d like to put the decision-making responsibilities in the chef’s hands. Trust us, it’s worth the “risk!”
For day three, sleep in a bit later, and fuel up for the day at Hotel Californian’s buzzy, casual, all-day dining spot, Goat Tree. Then pack your bag for another day out at sea. This time, charter a sail boat—captain included—through Santa Barbara Sailing Center and spend a full, glorious day on the water. While on board, you’ll anchor and be able to SUP, kayak and swim in the Santa Barbara Channel. Expect to see dolphins! Watching the sunset as you head back to the harbor is guaranteed to make you ooh and ahh, too. There’s truly no better vantage to watch the spectacular Santa Barbara sunset color show. If you still have room for dinner, Brophy Brothers will be steps away once you get back to Sea Landing. A no-frills seafood feast is the perfect way to wrap up a day of sailing and swimming and ease back into to life on land.