From Carpinteria west, the Santa Barbara County shoreline extends to Point Conception, one sandy and mellow beach after another. The coastline’s southern exposure results in clearer water, smoother sand and warmer sun than other California communities. Or so the locals like to boast, anyway.
Awaiting the walker are miles of pleasant sand beach with the ocean and islands on one side and the mountains on the other. The beach is lined by a narrow coastal terrace that seems to protect it from residences, traffic, the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Enhanced by the Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara’s beaches have long been world renowned for their beauty and a as a place to play.
Here’s a closer look at Santa Barbara County beaches by the TrailMaster.
Rincon Beach County Park:
Both a wooden stairway and a ramp lead from the steep bluffs to the sandy beach. The park provides access to Rincon Point, one of the best places to surf on the entire California Coast. East of the point, surfers catch the swells refracted around the point and ride them near-parallel to the shore. Some of Southern California’s best waves break here in a foamy maelstrom, a true challenge for skilled kayakers and surfers. Check out the tide pools at the point and the sandy beach.
The Surfers Code: Keeping surfers civil (left).
Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve:
The Carp Bluffs, one of the last stretches of undeveloped coastline between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, were preserved after an epic late twentieth century conservation battle. The bluffs offer some great walking paths that lead across to an observation point overlooking the Harbor Seal Preserve, then over to Carpinteria.
Carpinteria State Beach: “The World’s Safest Beach”
This is one of the state park system’s more popular beachfront campgrounds. A broad beach, gentle waves, fishing and proximity (walking distance) to downtown Carp are among the reasons for this popularity. The state beach adjoins Carpinteria City Beach, which extends down-coast along a line of homes. Carpinteria residents boast they have “The World’s Safest Beach” because, although the surf can be large, it breaks far out, and there’s no undertow.
Summerland Beach Lookout Park:
This park, perched on the bluffs, offers all of the amenities from playground to picnic area and even a historical plaque commemorating the first offshore oil well drilled in the Western Hemisphere in 1896 in the waters off Summerland Beach. Reach the beach shore via a long ramp and enjoy long walks on beach in either direction; you’ll need to walk at low tide to get around the rocky points that bracket this lovely beach.
Santa Claus Beach
This beach is still known by locals as Santa Claus, though the kitschy enormous Santa who once stood on the rooftop of a nearby business was removed some years ago and Santa Claus Village re-named Padaro Village. It’s a popular shore for surf camps because of the relatively dependable waves found here.
One Thousand Steps Beach
A long stairwell, but nowhere near a thousand steps, leads from Santa Barbara’s Mesa neighborhood to the beach located just up-coast from Shoreline Park. The venerable steps, built in 1923 and overhauled in the 1990s, lead to a narrow sand and cobble beach, best enjoyed at low tide when some intriguing tide pools are revealed.
Mesa Lane Stairway Beach
The only coastal access point between One Thousand Steps and Arroyo Burro County Park leads down steep bluffs to a beach popular with surfers and other locals in the know. Since this is the only access for a mile in each direction, Mesa Lane is particularly valuable for the beach-goer looking for something a little different. This is best enjoyed at low tide.
Surfers, wind surfers and surf fisherman have claimed this remote, windswept beach. Jalama wins the prize for the Southern California beach located the farthest from Highway 1. When it’s not windy, particularly in the morning, the surfing is good. The beach is known to be notoriously tar-covered, but that does not dissuade regulars who frequent the popular campground. Try the famed Jalama Burger at the camp store/snack bar.