Just Traveling Thru Santa Barbara, CA

The American Riviera - Sun, Surf, and Spanish Flair

Santa Barbara sits between the Los Padres National forest and California’s central coast about an hour and a half northwest of Malibu. It’s Spanish roots are apparent throughout the city with an abundance of red tile clay roofed homes and several Spanish style buildings such as the Old Mission and county courthouse.
We chose to stay in Santa Barbara to enjoy the beach, wine and food before heading up the coastal highway. One of our old friends came back from Santa Barbara many years ago and told me that his wife was ready to move there. We can see why. The beach is situated so that you get morning sunrise views, there are long bike paths and walking and jogging paths, and a skateboard park along the beach. There appeared to be daily yoga classes happening right on the beach too! Between the ocean and those daily activities and the abundance of good food and near perfect weather… what is not to like (other than the price of homes there). We enjoyed our two nights in Santa Barbara and I expect we will return some day.

Interesting Historical Facts about Santa Barbara
  • In 1602, Spanish maritime explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno gave the name "Santa Barbara" to the channel and also to one of the Channel Islands in gratitude for having survived a violent storm in the Channel on December 3, the eve of the feast day of Saint Barbara.
  • The first Native Americans ( the Chumash people) arrived in Santa Barbara approximately 13,000 years ago.
  • Santa Barbara was destroyed by earthquakes in 1812 and 1925 and had to be rebuilt.
  • The first Europeans in Santa Barbara were part of a Spanish expedition in 1542 led by the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. On his return voyage, he injured his leg during a fight with native indians and died from gangrene.
  • The United States conquest of California in the Mexican–American War broke out in May 1846 over the annexation of Texas. The Mexican Army initially repulsed the takeover of Santa Barbara until Major John C. Fremont attacked on December 24, 1846 with a force of 300 men. Click here to read the John C. Fremont Wikipedia Article.
  • In 1850 California became the 31st State in the United States.
` Click here to visit the Wikipedia Page where the above information came from.


Fun or Interesting facts about Santa Barbara
  • Sims Skateboards was started in Santa Barbara by Tom Sims in 1975.
  • Katy Perry was born in Santa Barbara on October 25th, 1984.
  • The Urban Wine Trail refers to about 28 tasting rooms located within just a couple blocks from each other in the downtown area of Santa Barbara.
  • The typical home value of homes in Santa Barbara is $1,552,803 as of October 2021.
  • Portions of the movie "Scarface" were filmed in Santa Barbara. The crew used two different estates as Scarface shooting locations to create extravagant views and the luxurious estate "Coral Cables" that was supposed to be located in Miami where Tony lives after becoming a kingpin was actually located in Santa Barbara.
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort   Map

We stayed at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort which is directly across the street from East Beach and the Pacific Ocean. The location really can’t be beat if you enjoy being close to the Ocean and being able to walk or bike along the bike path or walk to area restaurants. The hotel hosts many functions and weddings. There were several being held while we were there. The rooms are a good size and each room has a balcony or patio. The pool is large and the area has a small bar serving drinks during the day. There is a jacuzzi as well. In addition there is a bar and restaurant serving food and drinks. One evening we had a charcuterie and a couple of glasses of wine which made the perfect light meal.

Included in the resort fee is a daily bike rental for 2 hours. It was nice that it wasn’t an extra fee for the bikes and we got our money’s worth. Overall we really enjoyed staying here and recommend it for anyone visiting the area. No, we don’t get any money from Hilton for saying that and this is not a sponsored post. We try to be honest in our reviews.

We splurged to stay at this hotel, the hotel's location was a big plus, the beach was just across the street and perhaps 200 yards from Stearns Wharf.

Click above image to visit the Hilton Website
Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara was established on December 4, 1786 by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen (1736 - 1803), and was the tenth of the 21 California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. So this Mission is not part of the Junipero Serra mission construction efforts, as he passed away in 1784.

Today the Mission operations include a museum, gift shop, cemetery and mausoleum, and several historic gardens, as well as being the home to a community of Franciscan Friars on about 15 acres. The Mission is also home base for Saint Barbara Parish, which operates under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library, a separate Franciscan-sponsored non-profit, and a training center which provides the first year of education for Friars from across the United States.

 Quick Historical Facts 
  • The early missionaries built three different chapels during the first few years, each larger than the previous one. The Mission was destroyed several times by earthquakes and rebuilt until 1950, when the exterior was demolished & rebuilt to it's current appearance.
  • As the center for the Franciscans, the Mission played an important role in education. From 1854 to 1885 it was chartered as an apostolic college and from 1869 to 1877 it also functioned as a college for lay men. Thus making it Santa Barbara's first institution of higher education.
Click here to visit the Wikipedia Page where the above information came from.
Skater's Point Park

Built in 2000, this concrete skate park in Santa Barbara serves both locals and tourists. Next to West Beach and Chase Palm Park, the 14,600-square-foot concrete park features ledges, rails, hips, quarterpipes, banks, a “taco” bowl, and pyramid. Admission is free, and helmets are required. Since skating is illegal in many parts of town this is a popular spot for local kids and draws attention from passers-by.

We came across this park as we were exploring our way to West Beach, and we stopped to watch some skaters have fun. Note that it has its own free parking lot. One of the more inspiring things about this park, is that the design came from Mike Taylor at Powell Skateboards nd different local pros like Sammy Baptista. Apparently, Shorty’s clothing company donated funds for the construction, and team manager George Nagai was also involved with the project. The location has to be one of the better ones ever chosen for a skatepark in California.

  • Image # 1 is the property of Alex M. via Yelp.
  • Image # 2 is the property of Yvette B. via Yelp.
  • Image # 3 is the property of Jared S. via Yelp.
  • All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
Cabrillo Park
Cabrillo Park

Cabrillo Park is a multi-use park situated adjacent to the Hilton Santa Barbara Resort and across the street from East Beach. It is equipped with a baseball field and a 1/3-mile health and fitness walking path that features 13 pieces of fitness equipment arranged in a circuit for circuit training. There is a baseball field and it is a popular location for many locals. Every time we came by this park, there were a number of people enjoying various sporting activities, including one game that we had never seen, called "Spikeball".

Santa Barbara Beach

If you examine a map of Santa Barbara, you will see that there are 4 main beaches; Farthest east is Butterfly Beach, central to our hotel is East Beach separated from West Beach by the Marina and Stearns Wharf. Leadbetter Beach occupies the West Beach area.

There is quite a bit of free parking available for East Beach, but locals will tell you that it goes fast on a nice day. Parking is also allowed along Cabrillo Boulevard, and there is a parking lot near the marina & Stearns Wharf.

 Stearns Wharf Quick History 

When Stearns Wharf was completed In 1872, it became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns, the wharf served the passenger and freight shipping needs of California's South Coast for over a quarter century. Before the wharf, passengers and cargo had to be rowed ashore through the breakers and kelp.

The Harbor Restaurant was built on the wharf in 1941, marking an end to the shipping and transportation era of the 19th century. The restaurant proved to be the economic backbone of the wharf.

Click here for a complete description of activities & amenities at both East & West Beaches.

Santa Barbara Coastline

One of Santa Barbara's main attractions is the Cabrillo Boulevard bike path. It connects Leadbetter Beach and Shoreline Park to Butterfly beach in Montecito. It passes by Stearns Wharf which is the perfect place to stop and eat lunch or get your tourist shirts. It's perfect for families as it's completely paved and flat. If you are staying at the Hilton you can get your bikes there and head out. If not there are numerous places to rent from in the area.

This section of East Beach (directly across from the Hilton) has two trails, one near Cabrillo Boulevard and the other just before the sand area of the beach. Image # 1 shows how large the grassy area is, and there are occasional events or festival within this area. In fact, there was a 5k being held along Cabrillo Blvd the second day of our visit.

Images 2 & 3 show Stearns Wharf in the near distance, where you can find several restaurants. The wharf is a good location for pictures of Santa Barbara & East Beach.

Image # 2 also shows you the bicycle path as it proceeds west towards Santa Barbara Harbor and Leadbetter Beach.

NOTE: Click here to view a complete list of the Santa Barbara bicycle trails.

East Beach Tacos

One evening we weren’t in the mood for a “formal dinner" so we looked up some informal options and came across East Beach Tacos. It had some good reviews and it was close enough to walk from the hotel. When we arrived they were doing a brisk business and were surprised to see that it was not only a taco joint but a taco and batting cages joint which brought a bit of fun to the meal. We got to watch kids practice while we ate our tacos. One of the things that I really liked was that they offered individual tacos for a very reasonable price so you could mix and match your tacos. We had fish tacos and shrimp tacos and a side of guacamole and chips with a couple of beers. The guacamole was fresh and the chips tasted homemade. The tacos were some of the better tacos we’ve had. If you are in town, give them a try.

Click here for their website.

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  • History timeline of Santa Barbara on the "City of Santa Barbara" Website
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Northern and Central California; A Two Week Driving Itinerary Trip Stops
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San Francisco
Bonita Point
Santa Rosa
Muir Woods
Rush Creek Lodge
Yosemite National Park
Forestiere Gardens
Santa Monica
Santa Barbara
Pacific Coast Highway
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