Santa Barbara area

My husband has spoken glowingly of the bird and other wildlife in/near Santa Barbara, CA. He had done some work there and wants to go back to visit, with me. I’ve never been there. A former housemate raved about it, too, so I’m primed for a trip there.

This would be in late winter, to combat winter weariness and time our stay with optimal birdiness and the chance of seeing whales.

If anybody here is familiar with that area, can you recommend some shops that rent kayaks to individuals (not organized tour groups)? Ordinary SOTs would be fine, since my husband stopped paddling a few years ago and I will have been off the water for several months.

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I had friends who owned kayaking businesses in Santa Barbara and Ventura, they both have gone out of business. I think there are places to rent at the small harbor area in Santa Barbara. Late winter can be dicey with winter storms and heavy rains. SB area always seems to get the worse of winter rain and consequently lots of flooding in Montecito area. Maybe you’ll see Harry and Meghan out on the town. My son has stayed a few times in Santa Barbara in the last few years, he mentioned hotels are very pricey lately.


Winter rain on the west coast…yeah, I remember spending a solid two days cooped up in a rental Aerostar minivan at my campsite in Point Mugu SP. At least it was the stretch version with plenty of room.

My husband earned a lot of airline mileage perks, among which are free nights at hotels. We’ll use those when possible. The rates at all kinds of lodging—not just hotels, and not just in CA—are crazy high.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending how you look at it, we did very little travel the last few years thanks to COVID. We didn’t blow those travel savings on junk to distract ourselves, and we aren’t getting any younger waiting to do things and go places.


There used to be a shop in Carpenteria just down the road that was the largest in the area (not saying much), but it appears too no longer be in business.


These replies are not encouraging. Good thing we have plenty of time to dig around for the latest info. At worst, we’ll still have a good time on foot, bike, or maybe on a commercial boat tour for wildlife watchers.

Just the change of scenery will be welcomed.

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Likewise, am thinking of a Jan/February trip to southern CA, somewhere between LA and San Diego. I’ve been to LA a number of times and San Diego several times. These two are easy to get to because of the airports. I’ve been to Dana Point once and liked it. Am open to other places in between since a rental car is pretty much required to get around in southern CA (although I found San Diego itself very walkable).

For paddle surfing, I picked up a Kalua SofT 8’ waveski a couple of years ago for travel surf but have yet to use it. Inflatable Surf-Kayak/kayak/waveski. This coming winter might be the time to actually do it.


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@pikabike - a boat tour out of Ventura/Oxnard to the Channel Islands and/or whale watch would be good fun. I think the kayak tour companies out on Santa Cruz island might still be running.

If you have car and ability to transport kayaks, worst case I should be able to make sure a shop in Shell Beach, up near San Luis Obispo (2 hr drive), could set you up. But paddling up there could also be fun, if you don’t want to drive boats both ways. They have a cave tour there. Or there are places that can rent for Morro Bay, which is a good birding spot.

For whales, gray whales should be going by in February (males and non-breeding females) and then April (mothers and calfs - and they stay very close to shore). Not as sure about the schedule for other whales (humpbacks, fins, blues) they get there.


Sent you a PM with some ideas

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If you plan on moving around much, I would stick to San Diego County for paddling/ surfing, Los Angeles traffic is a real drag and you can literally burn up hours trying to get up and down the coast. I can give you advice on where to go with conditions when you get in town. Unfortunately we are moving about December 5th, so I will not be around.

Sounds good for some intel. I actually like San Diego way more and enjoyed walking around town. I got weird looks walking around LA. Folks thought I was either homeless and/or have mental health issues. One time, it got dicey.

Figure we end staying at the northern edge of the city, or just outside, for easier rides to the beaches.

I actually thought you had moved already. Good luck with that process. Moving across the city, never mind across multiple states, is a real pain and time suck.


Were the weird vibes in LA, the city itself? I never got weird looks in CA, and Asians are common along the coast. Agree that SD is better for walkability! A lot better.

If you’re inclined to check it out, Orange County has some great beaches. But then if you head to SD, you’d have to slog through metro LA traffic.

This happened a number of years ago. Even then, walking seemed more prevalent for those on the socio-econmic margins in LA, except in the immigrant enclaves. Saw a guy making a beeline for me on what was a pretty empty sidewalk. Major human predator vibe. The vibe stopped when I gave off non-prey vibes of my own. I said, "Whoa!’ and raised one hand up in a stop gesture. Guy stopped about 25-30’ away from me. He scoped me out and said something of the effect that he and his daughter (didn’t see her) came up from Mexico and their car broke down. Wanted to know if I could “spare” some money. I said, “No.” I stood my ground. He turned and went back the way he came. After some distance between us, I turned and went back the way I came.


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Peter has some great ideas for this area and time of year! Have a great trip!

Your intuition was good. I know the vibes you’re talking about. Sometimes it is as simple as someone trying to catch my eye for seemingly no reason. They scope out what they think might be soft victims. Effem!

During the first COVID year, I was putting groceries in the Tahoe, when I felt my hackles rise. Someone had snuck up fairly close behind me. Maybe right at that magical 6’ boundary. I whirled around and yelled, “NO!” to a panhandler who at the same moment said, “Excuse me, excuse me.” He had the big cardboard sign on his chest just like promo sandwich boarders wear, except this one was marked, “Anything helps.”

But I had seen a bunch of these guys hanging around the parking lot countless times before, as well as that day. This guy was a “regular.” And not the good kind of regular.

My instant whirlaround and rebuff so surprised him that he stumbled backwards a little, before I heard all his buddies laughing. Maybe they had placed bets he had found an easy donor?

Fast forward to a week or two ago. Front page of the local paper had a mug shot of that same guy! He had tried to stab a police officer.


Jeeze… Talk about having your instincts verified.

Anyway, I am pretty convinced that I’ll likely head to San Diego. A long shot would be Costa Rica, but have to do a lot more homework before I consider the latter.


We were driving back to Gig Harbor from San Francisco on the 101 and had stopped at a rest stop around Eureka. We were walking towards the bathrooms, passing multiple cars with people doing drugs in the back seat, all zombies. We got closer to the building and there were men standing at the entrance to the women’s bathroom at which time we both pivoted at exactly the same second and returned quickly to the truck and dove off. We are both sure they planned to rob us. Those places are pretty much no-go zones for me now. We usually have a camper bathroom so it was a big wake-up, the state of rest stops across America.

I used to own a house and live in Santa Barbara but I never kayaked there, although the harbor would probably be nice. We used to kayak dive in Monterey.

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Rest stops are spin-the-roulette stuff. We’ve been to nice and not-as-nice ones in various places, including CA, and so far we’ve never felt anything creepy about them. BUT I think they could’ve had a completely different vibe on any different day or night.

We would do exactly what you did under those circumstances.