Road Trip:
Destination Santa Barbara, California

The Place: Northern California, USA

Your Starting Point: Los Angeles

Your Destination: Santa Barbara, California



The Road Map

While the Capwell’s and the Lockridge’s are long gone, the Santa Barbara you see today is a multi-layered place of art, modern farm-to-table, delectable dining, and colorful culture in an active community.

Drive up the coast from Santa Monica for a night in Santa Barbara.  Get on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and head north for some day tripping.  It’s the best way to see the other (and lesser frequented) part of Los Angeles and see a different part of the coastline.

Once you get on PCH, the coast is on your left, the Santa Monica Mountains on your left, the fresh air all around you and the easy road ahead makes for a fantastic drive.  Take in the beauty and all that there is to do and see along the way.

There are beautiful beaches, great places to eat, heaps of outdoor activities that encompass the stereotypical So Cal lifestyle, and some great attractions to take in.  You’ll head through Malibu, Zuma, Oxnard, Ventura, Carpinteria, with the final destination of Santa Barbara.


This said, if you don’t have the time to drive to Santa Barbara, you can also take an Amtrak train to the Funk Zone, a neighborhood filled with artisan shops, hip restaurants, wine tasting rooms that make up the Urban Wine Trail, microbreweries an other hidden hot spots.  Take a pedicab or cruise around on foot, this hip, eclectic neighborhood is one of the destination spots you’ll want to check out.


Favorite Towns:

Malibu Malibu is a somewhat removed part of Los Angeles, mainly due to its location, which is quite a bit away from the gridlock traffic and all of the goings on in the sprawling metropolis that is LA.  It is sun-kissed, cooled by a sea breeze, complete with beautiful beach goers (aka residents) and access to an active lifestyle.  There are also a few cultural spatterings, such as the famous Getty Villa Museum, Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum.

Carpinteria This is a quirky, tiny town north of Ventura and part of Santa Barbara County, just East of Santa Barbara the town.  It is best known for its beautiful sea life – large and small, the Santa Barbara Polo Club, the Avocado Festival held in October, and its supreme Mexican food.  In fact, it is ALWAYS worth going out of your way to eat at La Super-Rica Taqueria.

Santa Barbara Located between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Coast, and one of California’s first Mission settlements, Santa Barbara is a laid back town with a lot going on: festivals, great dining, wine tasting, arts, museums, gardens, markets, outdoor sports, and markets.  It is also one of the most over-looked places to visit in California.


Favorite Accommodations:


The M Motel – A boutique style motel – which is seemingly a conundrum, but they pull it off!  It’s clean and contemporary, as well as walking distance to anywhere you would want to go.

A White Jasmine Inn – A charming B&B, comprised of three cottages, including gardens and a parlor.

Agave Inn – Located centrally on State Street, this is a comfortable neighborhood inn where Mexican pop meets modern.

San Ysidro Ranch (pictured above) – Nestled amongst the Montecito foothills, this is a legendary hideaway that provides a tranquil, classic luxury retreat.

Belmont El Encanto – This is an iconic property from the early 20th century, set in California-styled bungalows on a hillside of terraced grounds with views of the Pacific.


Favorite Restaurants/Bars:


Malibu (by location) – 

Reel Inn (lower) – Divey with really fresh fish, fab fish tacos.

Moonshadows (lower) – Surf and turf, sits on the ocean, great sunset deck. Pictured above.

Paradise Cove Beach Café (mid) – Set on the beach, off of PCH, good California beach fare.

Zuma Beach

These are technically in Malibu, straddling Zuma and considered Zuma far by the locals:

The Sunset – The nicest beach “shack” for fresh seafood, great menus from breakfast to dinner, including happy hour, with a direct view of the ocean

Kristy’s – Set on a bluff overlooking Zuma, with both garden and beach views, wood oven and wine bar.

Carpenteria – 

La Super-Rica Taqueria – This is serious Mexican fare, from the daily hand made tortillas, to the rajas, tacos, frijol Super Rica, special tamales and aqua frescas, there is a reason why this was Julia Child’s favorite Mexican restaurant.

Santa Barbara – 

The Lark – Located in the Funk Zone, there is great central coast fare and great cocktails with indoor and outdoor seating.  Dinner only

Les Marchands – Adjacent to the Lark, this is a wine bar and shop with fab snacks and a seriously fun list.

Lucky Penny – In the same complex as Les Marchands and the Lark, this hotel resto has a solid build-your-own breakfast, good coffee, and woodfired pizzas and fresh salads that make a great lunch.

Bouchon – Intimate, local-centric menu comprised of produce from farmer’s markets, meat from local ranchers, a wine list of California legends and optional patio seating.

Olio Crudo Bar – Cool crudo combos (Italian style raw fish and meat with olive oil and accoutrements), first come/first serve no reservation policy.  There are also fun small cooked plates in this sister restaurant to Olio e Limone.

Finch and Fork – Comfort with a twist set amongst a sexy classic décor.

Hungry Cat – Contemporary seafood and oysters are the specialty here, with fantastic brunch and the Monday special of half off oysters.

Restaurant Julienne – Seasonal, regional, rustic cuisine with tasting menus available in addition to the a la carte.  Dinner only.


Things To Do:


Surfing – Malibu and Topanga are best for beginners, but mind the crowds at Malibu and be careful not to drop in on locals.  Also, Leadbetter Point in Santa Barbara is a good beginner break with a friendly crowd.

Sailing – Chart sail, catamaran or fishing boats in Malibu at Malibu Coastal Adventures or in Santa Barbara at the Santa Barbara Sailing Center.

Paragliding – Go for a tandem glide at Malibu Paragliding & Paramotor.

Tide Pools – Bates Beach south of Carpinteria and Coal Point in Santa Barbara are your best bets.  Remember to check for the low tides so you can actually see the pools and sea life!

Golfing – Everywhere (it is essentially still So Cal, afterall).

Art – Lots of galleries, museums, and shows all over Santa Barbara, including the Arts & Crafts Show every Sunday.

Wine Tasting – Some of California’s best wine is coming out of Santa Barbara County.  If you’re unable to make it to the wineries themselves, there is an Urban Wine Trail located centrally in the heart of downtown.  Some standouts are Kunin, Au Bon Climat, and Grissini.

Hiking – In Malibu you can stop along your way up for a hike at Escondido Falls, Point Dume Nature Preserve, the Grotto or Zuma Canyon.  And in Santa Barbara, check out 7 Falls, Inspiration Point, Jesusita Trail, or Montecito Peak.

Farmer’s Market – Every Tuesday late afternoon-evening downtown, the whole town comes out for some of the best produce around.

Events and Festivals – Check the town event calendar for everything from ballet, movies in the park and participating galleries, to culinary events, art exhibitions and live music.


Sightseeing Recommendations:


* Experience the beaches of Malibu (Malibu Lagoon, Point Dume, Leo Carillo, Zuma) and Santa Barbara (Arroyo Burro, Arroyo Hondo, Butterfly Beach, Carpinteria Bluffs and Douglas Preserve).

* Lotus Land – Botanical gardens with spectacular collections of exotic plants, founded by a celebrated Polish opera singer in the 40’s.

* Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens – Sweeping views from the Santa Ynez Mountains to the Channel Islands, this is 78 acres of historic landmark.

* Santa Barbara Zoo – Located near the ocean and considered one of the nation’s best zoos.

* Stern’s Wharf – Located in the harbor, it is one of the longest deep-water wharfs in CA

* Market Forays (“Cooking Classes and Culinary Adventures”) – This is the ultimate locavore experience

* Old Mission – Considered one of the most prominent of the 21 missions founded by the Franciscan order.

* Santa Barbara Museum of Art

* Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Santa Barbara



Lead-In Image Henrik Lehnerer/
Palm Tree Photo: Holbox/
Rooftop Photo: Bill Perry/
Accommodation Photo: San Ysidro Ranch
Restaurant Photo: Moonshadows
Surfing, Malibu Beach, Photo: egd/
Old Mission Photo: sashahaltam/


Also in our Road Trip series:

* Destination Laguna Beach, California


As a career sommelier, Kimberley Drake has overseen some of the finest wine programs and operations in America and Asia. Her accomplishments range from working as a sommelier at Jean Georges in NYC to opening Hong Kong’s Café Gray Deluxe as their chef sommelier. Kimberley can be reached at