Aug 15

A Local’s Guide to the Perfect Sunday in Santa Barbara

My skin is sun drenched and my brain is fuzzy with blissful exhaustion. I’m not on vacation, I’m not on some remote tropical island, I’m not even celebrating anything–today was just another Sunday afternoon here in Santa Barbara. And yet, it was perfect. It never ceases to amaze me how lucky I am to live in a place that is actually a tourist destination, but I also like to think that I take full advantage of the opportunities that surround me. In another round of crossing things off my Santa Barbara Bucket List, my friends and I embarked on an outdoor adventure that took us from cheersing beers at the top of a mountain to paddling alongside dolphins and sea lions.

Here is how the day went and my tips for creating a perfect day, yourself:

Collect your fun, adventurous friends
We all know that the people around us can make or break an experience. Luckily for me, I have a fantastic group of adventurous and fun-loving friends who were up for an active day. Peer pressure is also a beautiful thing, though… at 3am while we were still karaoking and far past our limit of wine consumption, we were still hollering at each other– “We’re going hiking at 9am! NINE AM! No backing out, I KNOW where you live!” So after four hours of sleep, we roused ourselves for a morning hike at one of Santa Barbara’s most popular hiking spots, Inspiration Point.


Take a Hike
Santa Barbara has a wealth of fun and beautiful hikes, but Inspiration Point is one of my favorites because it is so easily accessible (a five minute drive from town), it’s a well-worn trail, and it’s a reasonable distance. It takes about 45 minutes to the top (my friend and I made it up in 33 minutes one time… but I was planning my funeral in the process because I wanted.to.die) and the view is quite rewarding. The only drawbacks to this hike are the limited parking and how crowded the trail can get on weekends. There are a lot of other great trails in Santa Barbara that I love and recommend, and I will write about them as I hike each of them again in the coming months.

Hiking in Santa Barbara

Hiking in Santa Barbara

Bring Beer

Who has two thumbs and buys beer at 9:00 in the morning? This girl, oh yeah. I felt like a real classy lady doing it, but it was absolutely worth it. This past weekend Santa Barbara experienced a bit of a heat wave and we found ourselves climbing a mountain in 90 degree heat, so that delicious beer at the top was the ultimate reward. I don’t usually combine drinking with my athleticism (I’m not into that hashing stuff), but since it was on my Bucket List to drink a beer at the top of every hike, I was merely fulfilling an obligation. (Wink). We had fun taking photos and resting at the top of the hike, with incredible birds eye views of the town and out to the Channel Islands.

Hiking in Santa Barbara

Hiking in Santa Barbara


Eat Delicious Food
The first thing we wanted immediately following our hike was to stuff our faces. Of course, since we had just exercised and were feeling quite healthy, we wanted to keep the streak going, so we went to our favorite “healthy” joint, Sojourner. They have incredible salads and sandwiches and a great variety of vegetarian options for meatless people like me. But then, since we felt SO healthy, we started craving a little sweet treat… well, actually, Rhonna had a headache and the only prescription was–not more cowbell–gelato. We headed to Spoon, a delicious gelateria on State Street that reminds me of the gelato places I frequented every day I was in Italy.

Explore the Waterfront
Santa Barbara has an incredible waterfront with a ton of fun things to do, such as riding surreys and strolling the wharf. Today we wanted to enjoy the perfect weather and actually get out on the water, though, so we went to the Sea Landing and rented kayaks for only $15 each. I absolutely adore kayaking outside the Santa Barbara harbor because it provides a stunning view of the waterfront and the mountainous backdrop. You can also kayak out to a buoy that sea lions lounge upon and get a close up look of the lazy guys. Hint: they smell. We paddled past the sailboats anchored out in the water and wondered about the people who own them and/or live on them; there seem to be some real characters out there in the salty brine. On the way back in Rhonna was even lucky enough to have a few dolphins swim right past her kayak!

Kayaking in Santa Barbara

Kayaking in Santa Barbara

Kayaking in Santa Barbara

Ship anchored in Santa Barbara

Ship Anchored in Santa Barbara

Oh hey, Jesus.

Harbor seals in Santa Barbara

Kayaking in Santa Barbara

Eat More Delicious Food… Eat All You Want, Really
Ahhh, Santa Barbara has SO much yummy food! After paddling like Olympians for two hours we were starving and stopped by the Shoreline Beach Cafe at Leadbetter Beach and ordered some fish tacos to go. We drove to the rose garden at the Santa Barbara Mission, laid out a towel and plopped down to, once again, stuff our faces. Even at 6:00pm it was still warm out and with the peaceful garden surrounding us we snoozed a little on the cool grass. When we woke up we thought to ourselves, “Frozen yogurt sure sounds delicious right now!” Just down the road happened to be McConnell’s on Mission, Santa Barbara’s famous ice cream and yogurt shop. Coincidence? I think not! They have the most amazing low-calorie frozen yogurt called Wow Cow, and I go there so often I have a rewards card. I am not ashamed. So we loaded up on our second round of well-deserved dessert and finally called it a day.

Fish tacos in Santa Barbara





















Santa Barbara Mission

The Santa Barbara Mission: colorful like the dreams I was having on the lawn


There are many ways to spend a day in Santa Barbara with outdoor activities, waterfront sports, delicious  restaurants, wineries, museums, and more. But this was my favorite day in a long time and a great way to take full advantage of the beautiful weather while getting some exercise and spending time with friends–all on a reasonable budget!

Lunch, dinner, kayaks, and ice cream: $45

Hours adventuring: 9

Friends participating: 6 (+2 children)

Memories, photos, and sunburns: priceless

Here are some resources that I use all the time when planning my Santa Barbara outings:

Guide to Santa Barbara Hikes

Sea Landing: Waterfront Rental Gear

Santa Barbara Sailing Center: Sailing, Coastal Cruises, Boat & Gear Rentals

Santa Barbara Dining Guide



  • Dan

    What a lucky girl you are ! to have such a sense of adventure and wonderful friends to enjoy it with !

    • Yes, I’m quite lucky–gee I wonder where I got that sense of adventure? 😉

  • keeley

    so fun!! I miss SB and you!!!

    • SB misses you, and I do, tooooooo!

  • looks like you had loads of fun! love the pic with beers and the view! perfect. And your advice applies to my turf as well. thanks!

    • yes, it was loads of fun! and beers were key! 😉 the advice can definitely be generalized to other places–where is your turf?