Top 10 Places to Explore Outdoors in Santa Barbara

By theloverspassport | Feb 6, 2020
North America > United States > California > Santa Barbara

About the Area: Santa Barbara lies in the heart of the American Riviera. Sometimes overlooked as it’s two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is full of hidden gems. Surrounded by the Santa Ynez mountains on one side and beautiful stretches of beach and ocean on the other, there’s a plentiful amount of activities available. SB has got it all from plentiful wine tasting and breweries in the Funk Zone, fantastic outdoor shopping on State Street, to stunning mountain peaks that overlook the water, and an abundance of hikes for all levels! Not to mention it’s perfect to visit year-round since it has perfect weather for the majority of the year. Here’s our top couple’s outdoor activity guide for Santa Barbara! Make sure to keep an eye out for our Food & Drink Guide coming soon!

Santa Barbara Sunrises & Sunsets

Lizard's Mouth Sunrise

Lizard's Mouth Sunrise

Lizard’s Mouth

To this day, Lizard’s mouth is a favorite sunrise spot! Minimal hiking is required, we’d say it’s more of a walk, so it’s perfect for a nice relaxing morning together! G brings a blanket, Stephen brings snacks and we’ll make the short 10-minute walk over to Lizards Mouth point and enjoy the sunrise together! There are arrows graffitied all over the ground to help you find the rock! If you are into rock climbing and bouldering this is also a fantastic spot with loads of climbs! Make sure to check it out if you have the chance for some of the most spectacular views of the ocean you will see in Southern California.

Knapps Castle

If you take a windy road up past Lizard’s Mouth off the right side of State Route 154, you’ll have the chance to find the hidden gem that is Knapps Castle. It’s a privately-owned landmark ruined mansion in the Santa Ynez Mountains that is currently under renovation; however, it’s the perfect spot for sunset (you won’t see much for sunrise since it’s facing the wrong way). We have ventured up here several times for great photography and great talks. Since it’s only a 5-minute walk from where you park, it’s the perfect spot for a lovely sunset picnic with your BFF. It also has a really fun rope swing! It truly is a lovely romantic spot, especially if you get lucky and it isn’t crowded! It also holds a special place in our hearts because it’s where we both first said I love you over a gorgeous sunset with wine and a cheeseboard.

La Cumbre Peak Sunset

La Cumbre Peak Sunset

La Cumbre Peak

A truly amazing spot for both sunrises and sunsets, just a little bit past Knapps Castle. AND it’s a drive-up spot so there’s only a little walk required (there is a hiking trail that gets here, however, we haven’t tried it yet!). This was where we had our first sunrise alone together and it was spectacular because it was cloudy and the peak is so high that we got above the clouds for a really incredible view! There’s nothing like sharing that view with your best friend. For sunset, it really gives you an overview of all of downtown SB, but it does get chilly due to the elevation so make sure to bring a jacket or a blanket! There’s plenty of places to sit and take in the view!

Beaches

East Beach

This beach is perfect if you are already exploring Downtown Santa Barbara. It’s our go-to Spikeball spot. Most popular with the local college students, so if you’re visiting during a school break, make sure to get to the beach early to find a good spot!

Butterfly Beach

A great beach for sunsets! If you are staying in any of the downtown hotels like the Four Seasons or the Rosewood Miramar, this beach is especially close to you! Calming waves, really nice sand, and the perfect area for a romantic walk down the beach with your significant other!

Hendry’s Beach (Arroyo Burro)

If you love dogs, this is the beach for you. One side of the beach has off-leash access while the other side has on-leash access. It’s pretty busy a lot of the time, so make sure to get there early to reserve a coveted parking spot. If you have the chance to check out the restaurant Hendry’s Boathouse which resides next to its parking lot, you should cruise their happy hour! Nothing like drinking cocktails watching an amazing sunset beachside for a nice price! At night, if you’re careful, you can throw a bonfire on the beach due to the giant seaside cliffs providing the right environment for a really fun night!

Hiking

Inspiration Point Hike

This was the first hike, let alone one of the first dates we ever did together while we both lived up in Santa Barbara. We both agree it’s the perfect hike for all levels as it’s a 3.75-mile round trip hike with 825 feet of elevation change. It leads up to a gorgeous overlook over all of downtown Santa Barbara and is the perfect spot to bring a homemade picnic to enjoy together. Check out the All Trails data for more info on how to get there and where to park!

Seven Falls Hike

This was our second hiking date together! Unknowingly, we realized it starts in the same spot as the Inspiration Point Trailhead so it was very easy to find and the area was a little bit more familiar to us. Seven Falls is the place to go after it recently rained so that the falls are more full. It’s 3.2 miles round trip and you can take either the high road and repel down with a rope which is super fun (very steep and easy to miss trail) or walk up the creek. I’d recommend walking up the creek if you’re not into the very steep terrain, however, there is one point in the trail that does involve a tiny bit of rock climbing.

*PSA: If you don’t like snakes, make sure to check the water before you jump in the refreshing water because during the warmer months, there’s a bunch of water snakes inhabiting the area.* Overall, really awesome trail regardless of the route you decide to take to get to the top levels of the falls!

Gaviota Wind Caves

We really liked to hike together when we first started dating! SO this was our third hike together, and probably the easiest of them all. Gaviota lies a little bit more north out of Santa Barbara, but is still right in the region! It’s about a 20-minute drive and has really interesting rock formations due to the high winds reshaping the rock over the years if you are into bouldering! You get a really nice view of the ocean once you get up to the top of the wind caves. The Gaviota Wind Caves hike is definitely a beginner’s hike and is 2.5 miles round trip with 600 feet of elevation gain. After you complete the hike, we recommend cruising down to Refugio beach for a nice lunch beachside!

Other Activities

Kayaking in the Downtown Santa Barbara Harbor

One of our most amusing and fun dates for sure! We decided to rent a double Kayak one beautiful day to paddle around the harbor. We always use Paddle Sports Center because their prices are affordable and they are right in the middle of the harbor (and they offer student discounts)! PSA it’s super hard to paddle when it’s really windy; we didn’t think about this since it was so nice outside; so make sure to check the weather before indulging in this beautiful way to see Santa Barbara from the water!

Have you checked out Santa Barbara yet? It makes for a great couple’s weekend getaway, or even just a day trip! Let us know which of these spots is your favorite or if you have any more recommendations!

Hidden Gems Sunset Hiking Holidays Travel Blog Sunrise Outdoors Couple Beach

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Written by theloverspassport
We are Giselle and Stephen, a couple of California natives with a HUGE passion for outdoor adventure & travel! We thrive on exploring everywhere from the beach to the backcountry, and we just can’t get enough of it! From backpacking and camping to traveling abroad, we’ve got your couple’s travel inspiration covered!

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