Goleta is an easygoing, working-class town that attracts beach-goers, outdoor enthusiasts and craft beer connoisseurs. Its rich agricultural lands produce premium exotic fruits, lemons, and avocados. Goleta “Like a Local” insider David Reynoso, Owner of Dave’s Dogs, tops his signature “Santa Barbara Style” gourmet hotdogs with locally grown avocados, bacon, sour cream, and cilantro—among other tasty ingredients.
Santa Barbara’s relaxed neighbor to the north is also home to the University of California Santa Barbara campus and several innovative tech companies. No matter what you come to town for, Goleta is very approachable and makes everyone feel welcome. Here’s a guide to help you tap into the good life, “Good Land” style.
THINGS TO DO
Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound in Goleta, between its beaches, nature preserves and fertile foothills. Rent a bike and follow the 21-mile Obern Trail bike path loop for the grand tour of the area. Or, opt for a spin through the Ellwood Mesa Recreation area out to the rugged bluffs above the Pacific. Learn more about the natural ecosystem on Paddle Sports Center’s guided Goleta Wildlife & History Tour as you kayak from Goleta Beach to the Campus Point conservation area. Further up the coast, both Paddle Sports Center and Santa Barbara Adventure Company offer guided Refugio Kayak Tours along the largely undeveloped Gaviota Coast.
If hitting the green is your happy place, tee-off at Sandpiper Golf Club and Glenn Annie Golf Club—both courses have ocean and mountain views. Lake Los Carneros is another scenic spot to stretch your legs with a 1-mile nature walk. And Goleta Pier at Goleta Beach Park is an equally picturesque place for a leisurely stroll with crashing waves as your soundtrack.
Cultural adventurers and history buffs can step back in time at the 1872 Rancho La Patera & Stow House landmarks, the original hub of Goleta’s lemon trade. Run by the Goleta Historical Society, the ranch home, gardens and museum are open for tours on weekends. Continue your local education at the neighboring South Coast Railroad Museum, situated in the 1901 Goleta Depot station house.
Discover Goleta farmers’ deep-rooted commitment to organic growing on a self-guided tour of Fairview Gardens Farms. The 12.5-acre farm was established in 1895 and is considered the oldest organic urban farm in all of Southern California. After touring, pick up some produce from the farm stand.
PLACES TO EAT
Beer is the centerpiece of Goleta’s culinary scene, as Goleta insider Joshua Ellis, Brewmaster at M. Special Brewing, attests to.
Families, pups, and local workers come together for a refreshingly good time at the M. Special taproom, which hosts a regular rotation of gourmet food trucks. Captain Fatty’s Brewery also brings in good eats with pizza, barbecue, and taco nights. Draughtsman Ale Works pairs their beers with pop-up partners like Poe & Co. and John’s Hot Dog Express.
Speaking of hot dogs, the Dave’s Dogs Turnpike location is a must stop when heading to the Goleta area. The “Like a Local” expert and hot dog connoisseur concocts playful and unexpected combinations in his creative menu of decadent dogs—think mac n’ cheese, hot Cheetos, pulled pork, and buffalo barbecue chicken, to name a few of the wilder toppings on offer.
Goleta is home to some other noteworthy sister restaurants of popular Santa Barbara go-to’s, like Jane at the Marketplace, beloved for their wood-fired pizzas, salads, pasta, and sandwiches. Operated by seafood purveyor Brophy Brothers, On the Alley does excellent fast-casual breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their Camino Real Marketplace location.
On the other end of the spectrum, Goleta’s hotels serve up some of the city’s most elevated dining experiences. Book an ocean view table at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara’s Angel Oak steakhouse for a luxurious, artful feast paired with local wines. The Leta Restaurant is a hip, stylish seasonal eatery with a buzzy social scene. The Rooftop Bistro & Bar at the Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta specializes in craft cocktails and farm-fresh fare with city views.
Beyond beer, you can try a variety of other locally made libations in Goleta. Sip on hard ciders at Santa Barbara Cider Co. Try small-batch artisanal spirits at Goleta Red Distilling Company, makers of rum, gin, and agave spirits. Sample SAMsARA Winery’s current releases in their urban winemaking facility. The winery is open to the public for tasting flights Thursdays through Mondays—it’s by appointment only Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Where to SHOP
Goleta’s retail scene is a mix of locally-owned mom-and-pop shops and national chains. Camino Real Marketplace, the biggest shopping center, offers a blend of major retailers, eateries and a movie theatre with stadium seating. Camino Real also hosts the city’s Certified Farmers Market featuring 45-plus vendors and entertainment every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Old Town Goleta is home to the largest concentration of independent family-run shops like Santa Barbara Gift Baskets, Paperback Alley and Bicycle Bob’s. One store you definitely won’t find anywhere else on the planet is the Deckers Brand Showcase located in the footwear company’s Goleta headquarters on Hollister Avenue. Here you’ll find outdoor, surf lifestyle, fashion and running shoes by their suite of brands, including UGG, Teva, Sanuk, Hoka One One and Koollaburra.
The pioneering family-run farm, Good Land Organics, was the first coffee farm in the Continental United States. They also grow exotic fruits like caviar limes, cherimoya, and dragonfruit. Find them at local farmers’ markets or purchase direct online to have a taste of Goleta delivered to your doorstep.
Another homegrown Goleta brand, Bragg Live Food Products is the world’s largest and most renowned apple cider vinegar producer. Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom recently bought a stake in the health food company established in 1912. While you can’t visit their Goleta headquarters, you can definitely pick up some of their salad dressings, oils, and aminos at local grocers including Sprout’s and Lassen’s.
Stop by M. Special Brewing Company to taste your way through a flight of beers made by “Like a Local” insider, Joshua Ellis. Follow his recipe for the perfect day and head to the beach to soak up the sun or catch a wave at Campus Point. Need a surf lesson or gear? Hit local surf shop Surf Country to get outfitted with boards, wetsuits and an instructor. After you’ve worked up an appetite on the water, beeline to Dave’s Dogs to savor one of the loaded dogs imagined by our other Goleta “Like a Local” insider, Dave Reynoso.