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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Young

A Glorious Day in Santa Barbara

Ever been to Santa Barbara? If not, put it on your Bucket List.

I’ve been to California a handful of times, but I never knew much about Santa Barbara. When I was assigned to work at UCSB (University of California at Santa Barbara) during their nutrition week, I checked it out online and was instantly excited. If you Google it, you see the ocean, mountains and beautiful sunsets. While there is all of that and more in SB, the pictures just don’t do it justice. It is truly an amazing place and exceeded my expectations.

Anyways, since I took lots of pictures, I’ll give you a recap of my one day off in SB (& a dinner in LA), plus a few tips along the way. If you like nature, good food and a little adventure, hopefully this will inspire you to add SB to a future vacation destination.

6:30 am: Woke up to stretch, take some deep breaths, say a morning prayer and read my devotional book. I always read it in the morning to help me start the day off remembering who’s in charge, and that He has my back.

I had half a banana for a little energy and grabbed a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Usually, if I go to yoga or run in the mornings (and it’s not longer than an hour-ish), I will eat something small like that, and then eat a full breakfast afterwards. It gives me enough fuel to sustain my energy but not too much to weigh me down. Sometimes, if I wake up extra hungry, I will add a spoonful of peanut butter to my half banana, for a little boost of protein and fat.

7 am: Met the shuttle driver at the hotel who took me to the Goleta Monarch Butterfly Cove. The night before, I had spoken to the woman at the front desk who suggested I go to this butterfly cove. Let me just say that this – I have stayed in a few Marriott Courtyards. While they aren’t the Ritz, the service at this one specifically was outstanding. Maybe it’s the fact that these people live in this beautiful place surrounded by mountains and the Pacific Ocean, but they are all so happy and helpful. My driver, David, was also friendly and helpful, and excited for me to see the cove and to explore SB. It was about a 10 minute drive from the hotel.

*Hotel tip: If you ever go to SB and are on a smaller budget, stay here. It’s not in downtown or in the center of everything, but it is close to everything you would want, including downtown (with shops, restaurants, bars, etc.), the beach, the Santa Barbara Mission, and all the wonderful outdoor activities. And like I said, the staff makes you feel like royalty and will help you figure out what you want to do during your stay. Plus, it’s clean and there is a café with decent wine. 😉

7:30 am: Went on a short run/walk through the butterfly cove. While I had just missed the Monarchs which are usually there between Nov. and Feb., it was still absolutely beautiful.

The winding trail takes you into a forest of towering trees with the morning sunlight bursting through the branches. Once you weave in and out of the woods, you come to a small hill that takes you out toward the Pacific. Once you reach the edge, you can carefully make your way closer to the shore.

At this time of day during the week, it was perfectly quiet. I saw a few wandering souls in the distance, but felt mostly alone. At the same time, I felt completely connected to everything. This place was full of natural and radiant beauty. Between the tall, tall trees, glistening sun, morning birdsong, the vast Pacific, seashell-covered beach and the dirt trails, I really felt like that’s what heaven must be like. I stopped a lot to find stillness and to make sure I took it all in … I could have stayed forever.

If you go to Santa Barbara and enjoy being in nature, visit the cove. Even better, visit when the Monarchs are there! I can’t wait to go back to see them one day. This is a great walk for any fitness level, as you can stroll or run through at your leisure. I also recommend going in the morning because it’s incredibly quiet and peaceful.

8:30 am: Made it back to the hotel after David came to get me. I showered, packed up and made sure to keep my snacks for the day handy. Regardless of what I’m doing, I always have some kind of snack with me – usually nuts, fruit (fresh or dried), chocolate or some kind of bar combining all of those things. I like to pack a lot so I have options :).

*Nutrition tip: When you go on trips, try packing some snacks with you that are easily portable, like dried fruit and nuts. Snacks are a great way to stay focused and energized between meals, and can also prevent getting “hangry” and/or overeating at meals. Shoot for a pairing of a carb (like fruit or a grain like bread, crackers, pretzels) with a fat/protein (like nuts or cheese). In short, the carb will give you energy, and the fat and protein will help sustain that energy.

Oh and, just a note… typically, I do not run and hike in the same day! This day was different since I had limited time and both places I wanted to go were in nature and included movement. I made sure to keep my morning run/walk short, so I would have energy to keep me going on my hike and so I didn’t totally overdo it (I also made sure to take the next day off to rest! #balance).

9 am: Breakfast. For the sake of time, I ate breakfast in the hotel café, which was just what I needed to fuel up for the day. It wasn’t far from what I usually have at home – oatmeal with soy, peanut butter and dried fruit … plus a coffee. This is a great meal for any day, and especially for before a hike, since it’s got lots of energizing foods. The oats have complex carbs for energy, the fruit has simple carbs and sugar for quick energy, the soy and peanut butter have protein and fat for muscle fueling/building and satiety/satisfaction. Most importantly, it’s frickin’ delish.

*Nutrition tip: EAT BREAKFAST! It’s called “Break-Fast” for a reason. You are breaking the fast after not eating all night, turning on your metabolism and getting your machine (your fabulous body!) going. It also helps to stabilize your blood sugar, among other things. Shoot for that combo of carbs, fat and protein.

I also took this time to figure out where I was going on my hike – the woman at the front desk helped me decide on Inspiration Point– a popular trail for both locals and tourists in the Santa Ynez Mountains. It wasn’t far from where I was and also was only about a 3.5 mile hike, which was perfect for my time frame.

9:30 am: Rented my car. I couldn’t believe how small and quiet the SB airport was! I strolled in, talked to the guy at the desk for a minute (who was also incredibly friendly and helpful, and filled up my water bottle!), and made my way to my temporary ride.

Driving through SB was another beautiful experience. It was still sunny and up to about 75 degrees. With windows down, I made my way up to the trail head, which was actually in a residential area of the city. Each house was cuter than the next, most with a Spanish-style influence.

10:30 am: I quickly realized I had a late start to Inspiration Point, since all of the (limited) parking was taken. I ended up having to park about .5 – 1 mile away from the start (and all uphill!), but it didn’t matter … the sun was shining, the breeze was still flowin’, and the houses were fun to admire.

*Parking tip: DO NOT park outside of the white line on the side of the road here. Your car will get towed. Luckily, I didn’t find this out from experience, but a few locals kindly let me know when I was trying to cram my car into a tiny spot. Don’t do it.

*Trail tip: If you go to Inspiration Point, just know that you’ll probably have to walk uphill before getting to the trailhead, so plan for about 15-20 minutes extra. Also, bring at least a full bottle of water per person (and of course snacks), because there is minimal tree coverage and it gets a little toasty moving uphill in that Cali sun!

11:15 am: It took me about 45 minutes to get to Inspiration Point- my destination. The first 20 minutes of the trail was on a small paved trail that reminded me of being in rural Spain or Italy. The entire time, you can see the Pacific and all of the houses of SB nestled in below you. The rest of the trail was steeper and on a dirt trail with a good bit of rocks, and there was one creek to pass over.

I was surprised by how many hikers were on the trail on a Tuesday mid-morning, but it wasn’t too much by any means – enough to feel like you’re totally safe but not too much that you don’t feel any solitude. It’s probably a different scene on the weekends, so if you prefer fewer people, go during the week.

*Trail tip: The trail is clearly marked, except for 2 or 3 areas where it’s a little unclear of which way to go. Luckily, there were people to tell me “Keep going left.” So, if you’re hiking Inspiration Point, and aren’t sure which way to go, go left!

The view from the top was again, breathtaking – the Pacific and the entire city below my feet … it was quite something. I found a rock to chill on for a few minutes, to hydrate, eat some trail mix, take some photos, and just take it in.

*Trail tip(s): Give yourself a solid 2 hours to complete the hike. I would say this trail is an intermediate level hike, and is for people who are in moderate to good cardiovascular condition. It’s probably a bit much for young kids, but should be fine for older children and preteens. It’s also very dog-friendly!! Met lots of canine buddies along the way. Oh, and lather on the sunscreen for this hike- there is a whole lot of sunshine (yay vitamin D!).

I love these trail mix packs I picked up at Trader Joe’s… This one has seeds, cranberries, and a bunch of different nuts. It was just what I needed – combo of healthy fats and protein from the seeds and nuts, and simple carbs for instant energy. And again – delish.

*Nutrition tip: If you’re moving for more than an hour, be sure to bring fuel in the form of carbs and protein sources (like trail mix!) and water with you. Shoot for about 4-6 ounces of water every 15 or 20 minutes. And make sure you have prepared your body before setting out (by eating and hydrating), and that you re-hydrate when you’re done.

12:30: I made it back down to my car, and took a few minutes to decide where I would eat lunch – a very important decision! My friend from LA had suggested 3 places to try in downtown SB. I picked one of them based on the website and headed down that way.

It was called SilverGreens. Their menu is extensive, inexpensive and high-quality. Whether you go alone or with a group of people, there is definitely something for everyone, from burgers to salads to bowls. The guy who took my order was incredibly patient with me as I went back and forth about what to get. I went with the housemade “Earth Burger” and a Thai peanut salad.

While I’m not a vegetarian and do like beef burgers from time to time, I chose the veggie this day because it just sounded good and hearty after an active day – it was made with chickpeas and croutons, which I thought sounded different and interesting. Also, the buns are homemade! AND they gave me so much avocado, which is a major plus, and it came with a delicious aioli sauce. The Thai peanut salad was full of flavor and crunch… plus, I really do love peanuts. 🙂 This meal was a good combo. of fats (from the avocado, peanuts and sauce), protein (from the chickpeas and peanuts), veggies (from the burger and salad), and carbs (from the bun and burger), and I felt 100% satisfied after finishing it off. Yum!

*Nutrition tip: Eating “plant-based” does not have to mean cutting out your beef, poultry, dairy, etc. I really prefer the term “plant-forward” (see my previous blog post) because it’s more about finding a balance and having room for ALL foods.

Plus, you can sit outside at SilverGreens and the service is quick. Oh, and my meal was 9 bucks… can’t beat it.

1:30 pm: Strolled around downtown SB—every storefront and restaurant has the same white stucco walls with red tile roofs, and lots of greenery everywhere. Classy beach town is the way I would describe it. There’s a healthy combo of chain stores/restaurants (and lots of Starbucks) with local eateries and retail shops. Since I was trying to hit the road soon and don’t need to be shopping ($$$), I enjoyed window-shopping and grabbed a coffee for the ride.

2 pm: Stopped in to this cute little café (Green Table) for a sweet treat on my way out of town. While my cacoa mint truffle was absolutely delicious, and the place was beautiful, the staff wasn’t the friendliest and I didn’t really care for the messaging. “Guilt-free food” was one of the messages that sticks out in my mind, and also made me cringe. I don’t like any messages that relates eating with guilt – they don’t go together. Nonetheless, I would still recommend grabbing a treat here, not because it’s “guilt-free,” but because it’s tasty and cute. You can also sit outside here!

*Nutrition tip: There is all sorts of noise on the internet, TV and even just out in society. Every other day (it seems!), some celebrity is saying they cut out gluten, dairy or sugar, and all their problems are fixed (really?). To avoid creating fear or stress around food, try to block out the garbage and rely on science-based nutrition knowledge from credible sources.

2:30 pm: Made me way out of SB and onto the PCH to make the 2-hour trip to LA. I honestly was dreading that drive until I realized that I would be driving along the Pacific almost the entire way. Silly me for not thinking about what PCH stands for (rolls eyes at self) – Pacific Coast Highway. This was definitely the best time I have ever had driving on a highway, for sure. It was absolutely beautiful (This is probably my 10th time saying that in this post, but it’s true!!). If you haven’t driven on the PCH, put it on your Bucket List too (and make sure it’s daytime!).

4:30 pm: Made it to LA just in time for rush hour!! But honestly, it didn’t matter. My day had been so full of some of my very favorite things – adventure, friendly people, sunshine, nature, a little sweat and delicious food. LA rush hour wasn’t about to ruin my day. If anything, it made me feel better about choosing to live in Atlanta, where rush hour also sucks, but not quite as much as LA.

5 pm: {This last portion is in LA} Got to my Air BnB with Johny and Mark, who are a fabulous gay couple with a great house. If you ever go to LA, stay with them. Their house is clean, safe, and near the beach. They also have bikes you can use and they are hilarious, so they’ll make you laugh. I wish I could have stayed with them longer.

Mark & Johny’s bathroom calendar- ‘The Daily Bitch”

7 pm: Met an old friend from my yoga teacher training in 2011. This girl is a true joy to be around and she spreads a beautiful light wherever she goes. It was the perfect person to dine with at the end of a wonderful day. We had a fun and very real conversation over a nourishing and yummy dinner at Café Gratitude in Venice, which is actually a vegan restaurant.

Again, I am not vegetarian, and definitely not vegan, but I can always appreciate vegan food done well. I thought I was going to get wine but ended up with a Kombucha since it hasn’t made it on many restaurant menus in ATL yet!

*Nutrition tip: Kombucha is a source of probiotics, which are important for maintaining healthy gut bacteria (which is necessary for things like regular digestion and immunity). Probiotics can also be found in other fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi.

Then I had a “Humble” warm bowl full of quinoa, brown rice, lentil dal, spinach, roasted garnet yams, coconut mint chutney and spicy tomato jam. Oh, and the waitress asked if I wanted extra avocado. YES is always my answer to extra avocado. Why wouldn’t I want more delicious-ness? Not to mention, more heart-healthy (unsaturated) fats?? At the bottom of the bowl, there was the question, “What are you grateful for?” If you’re in LA and want a delicious, plant-based meal, go here. The attitude is extremely positive (hence the name) and the food is fabulous, even if you aren’t a vegan – promise.

Well, that was my glorious day in SB (and dinner/stay) in LA. Oh, and there is A LOT more to do SB than mentioned here, obviously! The day before on my lunch break, my coworker and I visited Old Mission Santa Barbara, which was absolutely beautiful — another must see! Hopefully, if it wasn’t on your radar yet, you will pay SB a visit. I promise you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

With love and light,




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