Photograph by Kevin Steele, Aurora Photos
GPS: 34°26’N; 119°43’W
Its breaks have inspired such surfing legends as Bruce Brown and Tom Curren. Jack Johnson was a film student at UCSB and first performed around town. Even Patagonia-founder Ivon Chouinard cut his teeth climbing in the mountains that seem to rise straight up out of the Pacific around here. Why all the fame? In a temple of nature so grand, it seems, one can’t help but aspire to greatness, too.
Too many things: Bike the waterfront up to the Mission; hike in the San Rafael mountains; surf; climb; stargaze. Whatever your pick, the Santa Barbara Adventure Company can get you there. The best intro to the city is their daylong paddle along the spectacular coastline that gives SB its nickname, the American Riviera. Watch for sea lions ($85; www.sbadventureco.com).
Stock up on fresh avocadoes and strawberries and locally-caught seafood at one of Santa Barbara’s eight weekly Farmers’ Markets (www.sbfarmersmarket.org). And Julia Child’s favorite “fast-food” restaurant, La Super-Rica Taqueria, cannot be missed: The muy auténtico Mexican shack serves one of the best bean, bacon, and cheese dishes you may ever taste (+1 805 963 4940).
The Canary Hotel, centrally located downtown, just off State Street, is luxurious, tasteful, and (most importantly) far enough away from the rest of the tourists staying by the beach ($250; www.canarysantabarbara.com).