Santa Barbara, California
Known as the heart of the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is the gateway to the beaches, vineyards, and other wonders of the Central California coast. Cruise ships dock about a mile and a half offshore and tender into the harbor, where passengers are greeted by a row of royal palm trees for a variety of adventures on land.
What We Love
Rincon Beach Park: When the waves are roaring, Rincon is the best surf spot in town. On calm days, especially in summer, the beach is a popular place for bronze bodies to get even darker.
Urban Wine Trail: Though Santa Barbara Wine Country populates the foothills around the city, 26 local wineries have opened up tasting rooms within a short walk of where passengers disembark.
Best Known For
Channel Islands National Park: The northern end of this park sits just off the Santa Barbara coastline. Diving in the protected waters is first-rate, and there are great opportunities to spot sea lions, dolphins, whales, and other sea life.
Santa Barbara Mission: Erected in 1786, this mission continues to be the cultural and historical landmark of the city. Today the mission is home to a church, a cemetery, and beautiful gardens.
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Who It's Best For
Shopping Fanatics: High-end boutiques abound along either side of State Street downtown, making Santa Barbara a great place to indulge.
Wine Lovers: Between the Urban Wine Trail and the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez valleys, the Santa Barbara area has nearly 100 wineries. Nearly all of them welcome visitors for tastings as well as purchasing bottles to take home.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
School Daze: The University of California, Santa Barbara is just north of the city, and, depending on the time of year, twentysomethings can overrun downtown.
Hot Rays: Santa Barbara sees more than 300 days of sunshine a year. While it’s beautiful, sunscreen is a must even if you aren’t at the beach.
Matt Villano is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Wall Street Journal.