One of the greatest experiences traveling in California are the wonders of the Central Coast. Stretching from Ventura in the south to Monterrey in the north, the central coast includes famous destinations like Santa Barbara, Carmel, Ojai and San Luis Obispo. Conveniently located a few hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is packed with things to do, amazing beaches, restaurants, hiking and horseback riding, scenic mountain retreats and the night life of historic State Street and Old Town. 13,000 years ago, the Chumash people lived in five villages in the area. Mispu (site of the present-day Santa Barbara City College) the site of the El Baño pool along west beach, Syukhtun, chief Yanonalit’s large village located between Bath and Chapala streets; Amolomol was at the mouth of Mission Creek; and Swetete, above the bird refuge. Anthropologists say that these villages were inhabited for eight thousand years by the Chumash, one of the few truly ocean-faring cultures in California. Approximately 8,000 Chumash lived in the area in 1542 when Juan Cabrillo landed there. Syukhtun means “it forks“ in Chumash, possibly referring to the “fork“ visible in the Milky Way. The Chumash realm stretched as far north as Big Sur, as far inland as the San Joaquin Valley, and as far south as Malibu. Most of the channel islands were inhabited by the Chumash, and the major town for this vast and ancient realm was Syukhtun. The plaque on the right is located on one of the main streets in downtown Santa Barbara and explains the spiritual significance of the area to the Chumash where prayers for food, good health, protection from bears and rattlesnakes and a host of other human needs and desires were conducted on the summit of such shrines. One of the most interesting places to visit to see pre-Columbian Chumash art is the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park a short drive north of Santa Barbara. The smooth and irregularly shaped shallow sandstone cave contains numerous drawings apparently depicting the Chumash cosmology and other subjects created in mineral pigments and other media over a long period ranging from about 200 up to possibly 1000 years or more. [1] [2]

“The first permanent European residents were Spanish missionaries and soldiers under Felipe de Neve, who came in 1782 to build the Presidio. They were sent both to fortify the region against expansion by other powers such as England and Russia, and to convert the natives to Christianity. Many of the Spaniards brought their families with them, and those formed the nucleus of the small town – at first just a cluster of adobes – that surrounded the Presidio. The Santa Barbara Mission was established on the Feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, 1786. It was the tenth of the California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. The Mission fathers began the slow work of converting the native Chumash to Christianity, building a village for them on the Mission grounds. During the following decades, many of the Chumash died of diseases such as smallpox, against which they had no natural immunity.” [3]

The Spanish period ended in 1822 with the end of the Mexican War of Independence, which terminated 300 years of colonial rule. The flag of Mexico went up the flagpole at the Presidio, but only for 24 years.

Santa Barbara street names reflect this time period as well. The names de la Guerra and Carrillo come from citizens of the town of this time. They help to build up the town so they were honored by naming not only streets after them, but the dining commons at UCSB are also named after them. Santa Barbara fell bloodlessly to a battalion of American soldiers under John C. Frémont on December 27, 1846, during the Mexican–American War, and after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 it became part of the expanding United States. Santa Barbara is located about 90 miles (145 km) WNW of Los Angeles, along the Pacific coast. This stretch of coast along southern Santa Barbara County is sometimes referred to as “The American Riviera”. In modern time Santa Barbara has become the playground of the rich and famous given its proximity to Los Angeles, mild climate, amazing beaches and beautiful architecture. Famous residents of Santa Barbara include: Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Douglas, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Whoopie Goldberg, Steven Spielberg and from the old days Ronald Reagan, Fess Parker, Carole Burnett and Brian Wilson. What is so special about the area that attracts the rich and famous? [4] First of all there’s everything that you can enjoy for free or affordably.

The amazing beaches:


Horseback riding:


Visiting the Channel Islands:


Or just hanging around downtown:

Now that  you got a taste of the history, scenic beauty and fun activities, you want to know where to stay and eat.

The Villa Rosa Inn

For a truly unique experience, try the Villa Rosa Inn. The Villa Rosa is one of the best boutique hotels in Santa Barbara. Its more like a bed and breakfast with only 18 rooms but it is close to the beach and a short walk to State Street and downtown. Its very affordable and double or single occupancy includes a continental breakfast plus complimentary evening wine and cheese with snacks. All rooms are furnished with king or queen size beds and private bathrooms. “Every room at the Villa Rosa boasts a spectacular view, whether of the ocean, the harbor, the mountains, or the beautiful garden courtyard. There are also deluxe rooms with fireplaces to make romantic evenings that much more special. Only 84 steps away from Santa Barbara’s East Beach and an easy stroll from Stearns Wharf, with its numerous shops, restaurants, and activities. The Villa Rosa Inn was originally called the “Hilton-by-the-sea,” this Spanish Colonial Revival building was designed by George M. Thomas Studios in 1931. Serving as off-campus housing during the winter season for the U.C.S.B. Riviera campus, the rooms were rented to tourists in the summer months. Acquired in 1981 by Mark and Beverly Kirkhart, Robert Young and Lisa Young, the Villa Rosa Inn opened to the public on July 11, 1982. [5]

The Bacara Resort and Spa

One of the newest additions to the luxury lineup is the Bacara Resort and Spa. Located a little north of Santa Barbara in Goleta. The Bacara is a destination resort. “Bacara’s beautiful hotel rooms are located within one, three, or four-story villas, connected by graceful garden paths, scenic courtyards, and picturesque fountains. Offering relaxed, coastal charm infused with modern amenities and current technology, Bacara offers a luxury Santa Barbara escape unlike any other. Located at the edge of the Pacific, The Bacara offers expansive ocean views and is the perfect retreat for get-togethers with families and friends. Bacara guests can indulge in a range of cuisine and ambiances at the resort’s many restaurants. Their acclaimed culinary team, led by renowned Executive Chef Vincent Lesage, blends locally grown ingredients with innovative techniques to bring you the unique flavors of Santa Barbara County. Escape to the bluffs and beaches of the Santa Barbara coast. While you are here, treat yourself to Bacara’s new oceanfront restaurant, Angel Oak. Bacara also features special events. Join wine pioneer Richard Sanford as the guide for a “Celebration of the Santa Rita Hills.” The evening traces the evolution of this unique Santa Barbara appellation, founded by Sanford, as eight wines from four Santa Rita Hills wineries will be paired with a special four-course menu created by Bacara’s Executive Chef Vincent Lesage. The vineyards include the Alma Rosa Winery Longoria Winery, Brewer Clifton and Diatom Wineries and the Tyler Winery. Bacara is recognized as one of the finest spas in the world, The Spa at Bacara is spectacular in every way, from its beautiful architecture and incredible array of services to its expert staff. With treatments, guests enjoy a wealth of amenities, including an adults-only pool, Jacuzzi, redwood sauna, eucalyptus steam room, fireside lounge areas, wellness classes and a rooftop terrace. The facilities at the fitness resort also include a 3,500 square foot cardiovascular and strength training center, yoga and Pilates studios, and four Har-Tru surface tennis courts. Bacara is ideal for corporate retreats and investor meetings, team-building and social events, any occasion is larger-than-life at Bacara. Bacara offers more than 70,000-square-feet of flexible space designed to promote creativity and exceed business goals, ensuring that your next event will be a true success. For a truly enjoyable experience try the Bacara. Santa Barbara never looked so good.

Visit the historic El Paseo Mexican Restaurant

If you have made it this far here is a nice little secret spot that doesn’t come up on the tourist maps that often and is truly “local”. For that unique dining experience in SB try the El Paseo Mexican Restaurant. This out of the way place is hidden down the El Paseo walkway between Anacapa and State Streets. The restaurant was first built in 1922 as part of an 1826 adobe complex. Architect James Osborne Craig designed and restored many of the existing buildings and added the Spanish village and “Street in Spain” surrounding the restaurant. The El Paseo complex was an inspiration for the revival of Spanish Colonial architecture in Southern California, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the oldest restaurant in Santa Barbara, and has been the host to many of Santa Barbara’s celebrations over the years. Over the years, the restaurant has been the site of many fiesta celebrations and host to numerous luminaries, including Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Jean Harlow, William Powell, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, Rita Hayworth, Edward G. Robinson, Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Salvador Dali, Stravinsky, Will Rogers, Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, Herbert Hoover, Quentin Tarantino and Jennifer Lopez. El Paseo is led by Alex Castillo one of Santa Barbara’s most talented chefs. The guacamole is awesome and made right at your table. The restaurant features an open air courtyard with a central fountain and a balcony. There’s a side bar to the right as you walk in that is very cozy especially in winter with a roaring fire in the massive fire place. Here is the get away for an intimate dining experience. The margarita’s are spectacular, the Huachinango delicious, the fajitas are sizzling and their tequila selection is extensive. Treat yourself to a fantastic dining experience and bask in the history of old Santa Barbara. This is really living.

Stay tuned for our next feature when Kaz Headrest brings you part 2 in the central coast series focusing on Ojai.

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