A few weeks ago we spent the weekend in the most awesome little town you’ve been never heard of, just a short 2.5 hour drive south east of home. This time, I headed the opposite direction, about 2.5 hours north to the lovely beach city of Santa Barbara, California, for some luxury, wine and adventure.

Let’s be honest though, I’d follow you anywhere with the promise of wine.

With so much to do, see and eat – here is my recommended recipe for the perfect weekend getaway in Santa Barbara.

Where to Stay

Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara Weekend Ideas
Credit: Belmond El Encanto

Nestled quietly away in the hills of the Lower Riviera, right smack on a butterfly migration route for Pete’s sake, you’ll find Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five-Star resort.

The iconic Belmond El Encanto is a sprawling 7 acre ranch-like property with a certain charm that comes with it’s unique and some would say, legendary history.

I love that each of it’s 92 suites and bungalows offer slightly different layouts (many with balconies or patios!), offering posh amenities and touches for even the most discerning guest. 

Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara Weekend Ideas
Credit: Belmond El Encanto

While I could spend all day splashing around the salt water infinity edge pool, there is also a beautiful spa, to be sure to save some time for. Drawing from the surrounding landscape to create their soothing, signature treatments, my favorite are the ocean-inspired therapies infused with calming sea elements.

If your back and shoulders are riddled with knots from all that relaxing, go for the deep tissue massage – the therapists really know their craft and will have you back to lounging in no time.

TIP: Hop on one of the resort’s complimentary electric bikes to explore the town!

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800 Alvarado Pl.
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Phone: (805) 845-5800

Where to Eat

Channel Cat Dinner Cruise

channel cat Santa Barbara Weekend Ideas
Stefanie (Mommy Musings) enjoys the harbor views

One of the best views for a sunset in California is undeniably while on the ocean. If you’re looking for something extra special (and are hosting a group or special event) you may want to look into chartering the largest luxury sailing catamaran ship in Santa Barbara Harbor, the Channel Cat, for a stunning sunset dinner cruise.

Available for special occasions or corporate events, you’ll be impressed by the food as well as the views. 

TIP: It’s your dinner, order what you want, but I’d say if you don’t include the Rincon Potatoes Au Gratin (with caramelized red onions and three cheeses), you’d be missing out on one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. Ever.

Santa Barbara Sailing Center
Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Phone: (805) 898-1015

What to do

Sunstone Vineyards & Winery

In the sun-filled Santa Ynez Valley, Sunstone Vineyards & Winery is a retreat built from stone and shale that is like a summer oasis. Visitors can take a walk in the courtyard filled with lavender and rosemary while they sip on wine or explore the stone barrel aging caves then have lunch in the shade of the giant oak and olive trees.

Sunstone is also available for private events like a culinary retreat where a guest chef teaches your group how to create a delicious meal while everyone gets to enjoy wines created from the highest standards in organic viticulture.

They offer hosted events as well with a Grape Stomp in October and Eros Weekend in February.

When you join their membership club, you can have their elegantly created wines delivered to your home and enjoy discounts on wine, olive oil and merchandise. You will also have exclusive access to the members only lounge known as “La-Cav”. The wines of Sunstone have an even tone and soft mouth feel that appeals to everyone from novice to connoisseur.  

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If you like big red cabs definitely give the “Mason” Cuvee a go. Named after the founder’s 11 year old grandson who is said to have created the recipe, this wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Syrah.

125 Refugio Road
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
Phone: (805) 688-9463

Brave the Shark Infested Waters

About a 45 minute drive south of Santa Barbara, you can catch a ferry to the Channel Islands National Park. Made up of five incredibly beautiful islands, their unique location has isolated them from modern development while creating a variety of wildlife that is only found within the islands.

The islands are only accessible by air and boat. Island Packers Cruises offers several ferries daily to the islands, as well as numerous day cruises for whale watching.

Channel Islands Ocean Kayakers Santa Barbara Weekend Ideas

The Channel Islands offer more sea cave kayaking than any other park, and Santa Barbara Adventure Co. has a Discovery Sea Cave Kayaking Tour that is a perfect trip for first-timers and allows for the chance to do multiple activities on the island. This shortened tour only has about 1.5 hours of paddling, leaving some time to go snorkeling, hiking or simply exploring on the islands.

The tour meets on Santa Cruz Island daily at 10:30am AND 1:30pm. The earlier tour requires a ferry departure of 9 am or earlier from Ventura Harbor. However, if you want to go later in the day, you’ll need to be on the ferry by noon or earlier from Ventura Harbor with a return time from the island at 4:30 or later.

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NOTE: While it is possible to tour the caves on your own, the conditions can make it difficult and even dangerous. A guided tour is highly recommended, and Santa Barbara Adventure Co. has multiple sea cave kayak tours to accommodate your skill level.

Phone: (805) 884-WAVE

Checklist of what to bring and wear on the ferry with you for an ocean kayak trip. *If you take a tour with SB Adventure Co, you will be required to wear a helmet and life preserver, and if desired, they will loan you a wetsuit, dry jacket or water shoes. You will be able to store your bag in lockers at their campsite. 

  • Swimsuit – wear it under your clothes to save time
  • Long sleeve rashguard
  • Water shoes
  • Waterproof Sunblock
  • Brimmed Hat (You can wear a baseball cap under your helmet!)
  • Sunglasses with a floating retainer
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Backpack
  • Change of Clothes
  • Towel
  • Watch
  • Camera (preferable waterproof and with a wrist leash)
  • Hiking Shoes (there are amazing views from the islands and quite a few hiking trails from easy to difficult to choose from)
  • Cash (to tip your tour guide)
  • Food – There are no food vendors on the islands so you should pack your own lunch, drink and snacks. There is one other option to order a gourmet sandwich/salad which I HIGHLY recommend. It’s lovingly hand made, a large portion and quite delicious!

Santa-Barbara-Adventure-Company-Ocean-Kayaks

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With so much to do, see and eat - here is my recommended recipe for the perfect weekend getaway in Santa Barbara. Travel ideas include Luxury, Wine & Adventure.

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9 comments

  1. I have been to Santa Barbara only once and did just a bit of sight seeing, it is absolutely beautiful countryside. I would love to do the kayaking with the sharks!

  2. To be in all these places is a truly luxurious vacation. I would love to do all that in one weekend so I am adding it to my bucket list and start saving for a trip to Santa Barbara!

  3. Santa Barbara looks like a beautiful place to visit. I want to swim in the salt water pool. Looks like you had a great time there.

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