ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Santa Barbara-The Perfect Beach Retreat

Updated on June 28, 2011

If you are looking for a beach vacation that offers relaxation as well as exhilaration, then Santa Barbara might be the answer for you. This beautiful gem in Southern California offers plenty of outdoor activities, world class dining and excellent shopping. The area has a fascinating history to explore along with many cultural activities. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Location and Weather

Santa Barbara sits along the coast of California about 90 miles north of Los Angeles. Temperatures stay a balmy 65-70 degrees F for most of the year with the rainy season occurring between December and March. Spring and early summer usually start with fog hanging over the coastline until late morning or early afternoon; what some locals refer to as the “June Gloom”. According to Hastings and Shobe, the authors of Insider's Guide to Santa Barbara, late summer can see temperatures occasionally hit the 90-100 degree range. On a recent visit our group experienced the foggy, overcast weather typical of early June. Only one day out of five was sunny. We didn’t get much of a tan but we were able to enjoy all of the activities that we had planned. Dressing in layers is a good bet for this area. Early morning and evening can be quite cool.

Outdoor Activities

The choices are almost endless in Santa Barbara. Walk along the beach, rent a bicycle, jet ski, kayak or sailboat. Surfing, kiteboarding and diving are also popular options. Join a beach volleyball game on East Beach or take a whale watching tour. East Beach is located on East Cabrillo Boulevard and is one of the most popular beaches in the area. The East Beach Bathhouse offers public toilets, outdoor showers and a casual restaurant.

Most equipment can be rented in Santa Barbara Harbor. We ventured down the highway to Ventura Harbor for our boating experience. Ventura Harbor is a beautiful place with several shops and restaurants. We rented kayaks and had fun around the harbor spotting starfish, a small sea lion and many gorgeous boats. By the time we returned our kayaks, we had all built up an appetite.

Kayaking in Ventura Harbor


We asked around about good places to eat in Ventura Harbor. Some locals suggested Brophy Brother's, Margarita Villa and The Greek at the Harbor. Greek food appealed to all in our group so it was an easy decision. Lunch began with a dazzling presentation of flaming cheese that was simply delicious. Each entree was fabulous and we were not disappointed. I highly recommend the vegetarian sampler.

Santa Barbara has even more dining options to choose from. According to John Dickson's Santa Barbara Restaurant Guide, Olio Pizzeria was voted as the best new restaurant. The best overall restaurant was Julienne and the two other finalists were Bouchon and Ca' Dario. California Pizza Kitchen won most kid friendly and the best burger award went to The Habit. When the teenagers in our group got the late night munchies, we ordered from Rusty's Pizza Parlor. They were voted the best pizza delivery and I have to agree. The delivery was prompt and the prices were reasonable.

Flaming Cheese

Our waiter igniting the cheese appetizer.
Our waiter igniting the cheese appetizer.
The vegetarian sampler.
The vegetarian sampler.


The Paseo Nuevo Mall is a must see for shopping in Santa Barbara. It is an outdoor mall located between State and Chapala Streets with stores such as Nordstrom's, Lush, lululemon athletica and Juicy Couture. We spent several hours shopping and saw about half of the stores. Paseo Nuevo also has many dining options, including a store just for cupcakes. Now that's my kind of an eatery! Local tip-don't overlook the cafe in Nordstrom's.

History and Culture

History buffs will enjoy reading about the original inhabitants of the area, the Chumash Indians and the first explorer to come ashore in 1542. One historical must see site is the Santa Barbara Mission which was built in 1786. It is the only mission in California that has been continuosly occupied.

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum hosts an impressive collection of original manuscripts. Their website claims that it is the world's largest private collection of documents and manuscripts. Einstein's description of his Theory of Relativity and the first draft of the Bill of Rights are among the documents.

The Cabrillo Pavillion Arts Center is located at the East Beach Bathhouse. The center hosts a new exhibit every month. Combine shopping and art when you stroll along Cabrillo Boulevard during the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show. This show began in 1965 and showcases the work of local artists every Sunday from 10 am until dusk. Allow plenty of time to peruse the 250 artist displays. We were amazed at the variety of unique items and the quality of craftmanship.


The ocean front resorts and hotels are on Cabrillo Boulevard, but the hotels do not have direct access to the beach. You must cross the boulevard to get to the beach.

Ala Mar Motel

Free continental breakfast

High speed wireless internet available

The Best Western Beachside Inn

Free internet (hard wired)

60 rooms, pool

Free continental breakfast

Cabrillo Inn at the Beach

Free continental breakfast

40 rooms, pool

Across fromEastBeach

Hotel rooms or Spanish Vacation Cottages with weekly and monthly rates

Harbor View Inn

Coffee shop and restaurant on site

Fitness room and pool

Hotel Mar Monte

This property is managed by Hyatt

172 rooms, pool and therapy spa

Fitness center and restaurant

Guest rooms have wired and wireless high speed internet

West Beach Inn

Free continental breakfast

Free wireless internet

46 rooms, pool and spa

Free parking

Fess Parker Doubletree Resort

24 acres

Several restaurants

Pool, spa and fitness room

Wireless internet access

We stayed at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort. The grounds are immaculate and the staff was very friendly. The breakfast buffet was such an extravagant offering that we skipped lunch each day. This seems to be a popular place for weddings as there were five wedding parties there during our stay. Along with the wedding parties were a few celebrities.

The city of Santa Barbara offers more information about places to stay.

Fess Parker Doubletree Resort

The Dahlia Building
The Dahlia Building


Nightclubs and restaurants are available for those seeking an after hours adventure. If you are looking for something other than a brew pub or sport's bar, consider Cafe Buenos Aires where you can tango, waltz and have a great time. Our group headed over to the Carrillo Recreation Center Ballroom for an evening of swing dancing with live big band music.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Tiffany Regan profile image

      Tiffany Regan 6 years ago from Colorado

      Thank you Gordon! We had a great time and I would love to go back.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      I have heard of Santa Barbera before but until I read your Hub, that was about the extent of my knowledge. It looks great and I am surprised by its relatively temperate climate, which would suit me as I'm not used to and don't like heat. The dining in particular sounds excellent. Great Hub and very informative.