Santa Barbara is the perfect weekend getaway. It boasts one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country. With exotic hanging flowers always in bloom and the Spanish influence in the architecture, Santa Barbara is a perfect whimsical getaway— especially from nearby Los Angeles.
Cupcakes & Wine Tasting Tour
I rarely enjoy taking tours, as I love exploring on my own, but wine tours in Santa Barbara are a must. I have experienced the vineyards in Santa Barbara both by driving and by taking a tour, and tours are a lot more fun. Taking a tour is easier logistically, and you don't have to worry about drinking and driving. As an added bonus, the guides are filled with knowledge and history about the area, this makes the experience richer than just visiting on your own.
I went on a wine and cupcake pairing tour with the Santa Barbara Wine Tours by the Santa Barbara Adventure Company. The Santa Barbara Adventure Company has been in business for over 20 years, so they have strong relationships with some of the best vineyards in the area. The cupcake + wine tour consists of stops at three separate vineyards, a tailored picnic lunch from Channel Island Provisioners, a barrel room tour, and transportation to/from your hotel. If you decide to come up for the day via train, they will even pick you up at the train station to begin your tour!
The three vineyards we visited were all unique. The first one was Vincent Vineyards where visitors are fully immersed in the Vineyard while wine tasting on the outdoor patio. The second was Rideau, which has the most amazing flower garden I have ever seen at a vineyard. It was the perfect stop for lunch because of the amazing outdoor seating. The third spot is a tasting room in the center of Los Olivos, called Saarloos & Sons. Saarloos & Son's is a little trendier and located in a cute downtown area– perfect for walking around after eating the cupcakes!
Based on the tour and the day you may or may not visit these same three vineyards, but you are definitely able to request them. Just let Santa Barbara Adventure Company know your requests in advance and they will tailor the day to fit your group!
Visiting the Channel Islands National Park makes for a perfect weekend or even day trip from both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Known to be the Galapagos of North America, the Channel Islands are home to a multitude of endemic species that can only be found on this chain of islands.
Activities on Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are made up of five separate islands, each with its own characteristics and species. The island I visited was Santa Cruz. It's well known for kayaking, 15 hiking trails, sea caves and it's crystal clear water which is perfect for snorkeling or diving.
I also took the Channel Islands trip with the Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Although you can do it on your own, they are the only company licensed to provide kayaking tours around the island. So, if you don't have your own kayak you are kind of out of luck if you don't book a tour. The water in the Pacific Ocean is cold, so I also recommend using them because they provide wetsuits. In addition, their tour guides are amazing and filled with all kinds of knowledge about the islands.
With over 300 sea caves, the most popular experience is the sea cave kayaking. Kayaking in and out of the caves is a great way to spot wildlife and add little thrill to the kayaking adventure. The water can get a bit more wavy inside the caves, making the experience feel more adventurous. Although kayaking around the islands is relatively mild, the caves can be unpredictable with tide changes and swells. Unless you are an expert kayaker, I urge you to hire a guide to go into the sea caves as a precaution.
Kayak Tip: I'm not much of a kayaker, so I didn't realize there are footboards that are actually a huge help. Until my guide adjusted my posture, I was working twice as hard– it's always good to let your guide know your experience level so they can give you some tips to make the experience more enjoyable!
Lunch on the Island
You can bring your own lunch, or you can have breakfast and lunch packed for you from Channel Island Provisioners. I recommend getting the breakfast/lunch add on. Neal, the owner and chef will meet you at the dock with your breakfast and lunch. All trash has to be carried back from the Channel Islands, and Neal makes it very easy with your lunchbox, which you drop off at the end of the day when you arrive back to the dock.
The ferry ride to and from the island can be a great experience as well. Sometimes dolphins will swim along with the boat. Although I didn't spot any, I saw whales and sea lions on the ferry ride back while enjoying a well-deserved beer which is also available on board!
Santa Barbara Hotels
There are many beautiful hotels to choose from in Santa Barbara.
On my most recent trip I stayed at the Brisas Del Mar. Located directly across the street from the beach, the Brisas Del Mar is an affordable option, with a great location and nice staff. It is apart of the Santa Barbara Hotel Group, who owns several unique properties in the area.
Where to Eat in Santa Barbara
One of my favorite spots to grab a bite after a day of adventures is the Lucky Penny in the FunkZone district of Santa Barbara. The low-key atmosphere but quality food was exactly what I needed after a long day exploring with the Santa Barbara Adventure Company.
This post was written in partnership with the Santa Barbara Adventure Company. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.