To put it simply, Santa Barbara is stunning. From every angle, at any time of day and from any vantage point, the landscape here leaves locals and tourists in awe. While most people think the best view requires hiking to a mountaintop, the city is often its most attractive from the perspective of the ocean. Here are the best ways to see Santa Barbara from the water:
Paddleboard / Kayak
If you’re looking to not only view but also experience Santa Barbara from the water, your best bet is to head to the beach and rent a paddleboard or kayak for the afternoon. Nothing compares to looking up towards the mountains while floating in the ocean. With several rental companies right on the beach it is easy to do! For the best views of Downtown and the Riviera, stick to the beaches right outside Hotel Milo’s front doors along Cabrillo Boulevard. Check out Santa Barbara Sailing for paddleboard and kayak rentals, plus optional instruction for beginners.
Santa Barbara Sailing. 133 Harbor Way. 962 2826.
In addition to paddleboards and kayaks, you will find several beachside companies renting jet skis by the hour. For a faster-paced, more extreme water sport, try this for a stellar view of the city. Although the more expensive choice, you will get to see the entire coastline in under an hour. Try leaving from the Harbor and heading east towards Butterfly beach and beyond. SEA Landing is ideally located at the Santa Barbara Harbor and rents two or three person jet skis, plus up to 7 passenger jet boats!
SEA Landing. 301 West Cabrillo Boulevard. 805 963 3564.
The Land Shark
The Land Shark tour bus is a funny sight in Downtown Santa Barbara, but actually a great way to view the city from land and sea. Tours begin at Stearns Wharf and cruise through the streets highlighting the most significant attractions in the city, including the Courthouse, the Arlington Theater and favorite local restaurants. Referred to as an “amphibious vehicle,” the bus then turns into a boat for the last 30 minutes of each ride. Comparable to the Duck boats in Boston or the San Diego Seal tours, the ride is fun for the whole family. Certainly a unique view of from the water, a Land Shark tour could be the perfect experience for your vacation.
Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children, and tours run every day a week at 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm.
Land and Sea Tours. 99 West Cabrillo Boulevard. 805 683 7600.
For the most relaxing and romantic way to view the city from the water, book a sunset cruise and watch as the sky turns from blue to pink. Santa Barbara is famous for its sunsets, and as you watch Downtown light up from the water you will quickly understand why. There are several options when picking a cruise, from sailboats to yachts. The Sunset Kidd is a sailboat that offers daily rides for $40 a person. For a more luxurious experience try Celebration Cruises for a 46 person-yacht with full bar and appetizers, also $40 a person.
With plenty of shops, restaurants and the Santa Barbara Sea Center, the historical Stearns Wharf is a true destination. For visitors who would rather stay on land for a great view, head to the end of State Street and take your pick of places to enjoy the cityscape. For a glass of wine with a view, head to the Deep Sea Winery tasting room. If you’re looking for a casual and fun restaurant and bar, the upstairs Longboards Grill is a nice place to relax; for finer seafood dining, make a reservation at The Harbor Restaurant. Don’t forget to take a picture from the end of the wharf, as this view is one of the most memorable of all.