Deep blue waves of the Pacific kiss the sandy beaches of Santa Barbara, a hip California city framed by the steep, stunning Santa Ynez Mountains. Graced with sunshine and perfect weather, this SoCal town is what California honeymoon dreams are made of. Dubbed the “American Riviera” due to its Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara is reminiscent of the French coastal retreat Côte d'Azur. Situated just north and west of Los Angeles with a south-facing coastline, many consider Santa Barbara to be one of the most beautiful places in California. So grab your bikes, car, or beach towels and get exploring!
The first thing you’ll want to do, of course, is hit the beach. Santa Barbara has ample opportunities for seaside frolicking and there’s beach access right in town. For honeymooners who like to be in the center of it all, go to East Beach, right downtown and close to everything with lifeguards and a volleyball net. If you’re looking for a little more privacy (or you brought your pup along for the adventure), dog-friendly Arroyo Burro Beach’s gorgeous, rocky shore is the perfect haven. To relish ultra romantic sunset views, west-facing Butterfly Beach in nearby Montecito will take your breath away.
Santa Barbara is full of Spanish-era history, cool architecture and cultural retreats. Honeymooners should pay a visit to Mission Santa Barbara, known as “The Queen of the Missions”, for a glimpse of the area's rich history and the incredible view from the landmark. Stop to admire the gorgeous architecture and design of the operational Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where you can summit the famous El Mirador bell tower. Aside from wonderful architecture, Santa Barbara honeymooners can enjoy excursions to the Museum of Art, the charming Botanic Gardens, and the 30 acre Santa Barbara Zoo, ranked one of the best small zoos in the country.
Once you’ve had enough of the surf, sand, and local history, take some time to poke around the city’s extremely walkable downtown area.Wander the quaint, cobblestone State Street, lined with chic boutiques and cozy nooks to explore. Be sure to include a visit to the Stearns Wharf, a deep-water pier with photo-worthy views and plenty of restaurants, shops and even an aquarium. Fantastic shopping opportunities abound on a Santa Barbara honeymoon.
It’s true that honeymooners in Santa Barbara have it all: the mountains, the city, the sunshine, and the sea. Gently take the hand of your other half and have a little “us” time in this coastal California wonderland on your honeymoon. Here you get some of California's romantic best -- explore it to your heart's content, but beware...once you're back in "the real world," things might seem dull in comparison. However, isn't that what perfect honeymoons are all about?
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The Best Parts of Santa Barbara
- EL PRESIDIO STATE HISTORIC PARK: This former military installation was built in the late 1700s in order to defend this part of California from invaders when it still belonged to the Spaniards. Now that those dangerous days are over (and California has been taken over and declared part of the USA), El Presidio has been turned into an historic park that's a must-visit for history buffs.
- RELAX AND ROMANCE ON BUTTERFLY BEACH: This stretch of beach in front of the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel is quieter than most in Santa Barbara, as it's less frequented by tourists, making it a pleasant spot to relax like the locals. Sunsets here are stunning, and if you can visit on off-hours on weekdays, you can avoid crowds.
- KAYAK THROUGH SEA CAVES: Part of a national park system, the Channel Islands are peppered with enchanting sea caves, making for a perfect half-day kayaking expedition where you can discover wildlife like native birds and playful dolphins, and goofy sea lions. One tour from the Santa Barbara Adventure Company takes you to one of the most enormous sea caves on earth, with perks like hot breakfast and lunch included in the price.
- PERUSE GALLERIES & BOUTIQUES ON STATE STREET: Shop, browse, gaze at artwork, or just enjoy some first-rate people watching on State Street, one of Santa Barbara's charming shopping district. It's one of the most pedestrian-friendly downtown areas in the country, and you'll love shopping 'till you drop or just enjoying the view.
- STROLL THE GARDENS AT LOTUSLAND: Ganna Walska Lotusland, known locally simply as Lotusland, is a botanic garden with catci, succulents, Japanese orchids, and -- you guessed it -- blooming lotuses. The gardens are a miniature Zen paradise where you can either book a guided tour or explore on your own, enjoying a romantic stroll or stealing a smooch amongst the bright flowers and Buddha statues.