Imagine spectacular scenery where steep mountains meet white sandy beaches in combination with sunshine all year round. Add a relaxed lifestyle and Spanish inspired architecture and there you have the beautifully southern Californian city – Santa Barbara, also known as the American Riviera.
Santa Barbara is located 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles along the Pacific coast and has a Mediterranean climate. Apart from the enviable weather and the ability to surf and hike in the mountains on the same day, the city offers a picturesque architecture with red brick-tiled streets and famous wine regions. There is plenty of wine tasting tours so it would be a shame not try one out.
A vacation in Santa Barbara does not require much planning due to its comfortable size and location. Downtown Santa Barbara is the ultimate paradise for the pedestrian since you can walk comfortably everywhere. From downtown, you will be near State Street, which is the main street that offers a wide range of restaurants and shops. Along State Street is the outdoor mall Paseo Nuveo that offers more than 50 shops and restaurants. Two local favourite restaurants with affordable price tags and relaxed atmospheres are Sandbar and Sharkeez. Both restaurants are Mexican inspired and are located on lower State Street. Ice cream and frozen yoghurt are also two musts when visiting Santa Barbara. McConnell’s fine ice cream is definitely a local favourite.
“It is considered to be the United States party capital for college students”
Located at the end of Lower State Street is the beachfront, which is ultimately breath taking. In the middle of the beachfront is Stearns Wharf that is also known as the Santa Barbara pier. Whether you are looking for beach and water activities or just sunbathing, the beachfront has it all. On East beach there are several volleyball nets and a running trail, while on West beach there are kayaking and paddleboard rentals for under $8. Kayaking in the harbour is relaxing and it is almost a guarantee that you will see seals and sea lions. Along the beachfront are also several hotels, which can be found at decent prices if booked in advance.
Not only is Santa Barbara known for its beautiful beaches and easy to navigate location, it is also considered to be the United States party capital for college students. University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Santa Barbara City College are located in the city and both have been ranked as top party schools. UCSB is located in Isla Vista which is an almost too-good-to-be-true college student location. It is more or less the definition of the ultimate American party college culture. Del Playa Drive also known as DP stretches four blocks starting at the UCSB campus and ends at Sands Beach. DP is where all the house parties are hosted and if one party does not meet the expectations you can just move on to the next one. However, if you are looking for a more sophisticated way of drinking, downtown offers several relaxed bars such as Santa Barbara Brewing Company and Joe’s Cafe. But remember the legal drinking age in the States is 21.
Whether you are looking for a relaxed beach vacation, college party or sophisticated cultural experience, Santa Barbara offers something for every type of traveller. You will not be disappointed.