Cristal's Blog


May 23, 2024

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Nestled along California's picturesque Central Coast, Santa Barbara County is a haven for natural beauty, boasting landscapes that can leave the most seasoned traveler in awe. For those fortunate enough to call this stunning region home, the daily grind can sometimes cloud the spectacular scenery that surrounds us. So, for you visitors from out of the area, and all of you Santa Barbara locals, here are three Santa Barbara day trips to exceptional locales where you can immerse yourself in the unparalleled splendor of Santa Barbara County. These aren't just scenic views; they are experiences that invite you to reconnect with the natural beauty that defines our region.

Palm Trees line up in front of the hazy Santa Ynez Mountains on a sunny day.
Photo by ChrisGoldNY, Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 2.0)

1. National Geographic’s Santa Barbara Loop

Few routes compare to National Geographic’s Santa Barbara Loop for an unforgettable Santa Barbara day trip. This 166-mile drive offers stunning sights and takes you through some of the county’s most scenic and culturally rich areas. The journey begins in Santa Barbara, known for its sun-soaked beaches and Spanish colonial architecture. As you head west, you’ll pass through the colorful flower fields of Lompoc, which are particularly vibrant in June and July.

The drive then takes you into the Santa Ynez Valley, a region famed for its rolling vineyards, world-class wineries, impressive dining, and equestrian culture. You’ll find several charming small towns that offer a peaceful retreat and a chance to taste some of California’s finest wines. The Gaviota Pass adds a dramatic touch to the scenery with its rugged rock formations, making every mile of this loop a feast for the eyes.

Returning to Santa Barbara, the second loop heads south on US 101 toward Montecito, an upscale enclave where sprawling estates and manicured gardens hint at the area's affluent charm. The drive showcases an array of architectural styles, from Tudor mansions to Spanish haciendas and Italian villas. If any of these homes are for sale and catch your eye, feel free to contact me at (805) 886-9378 or, and I’ll be happy to arrange a tour.

Continuing south, the loop takes you to Ventura, where the relaxed coastal vibe is infectious. Here, you can indulge in a unique culinary experience at The Jolly Oyster Shuck Shack inside San Buenaventura State Beach Park., where you can try your hand at oyster shucking right on the beach.

Next, head inland to the serene Ojai Valley via California 33 North. Ojai is renowned for its artistic community and organic agriculture. Don’t miss visiting the Ojai Olive Oil farm, a family-owned operation, the oldest producer of the region's finest extra virgin olive oil. Be sure to take a bottle home. Finally, conclude your loop at Lake Casitas, a popular spot for fishing and boating. Stretch your legs on the Castaic Lake Trail Loop, a dog-friendly 6.3-mile hike that offers stunning views and a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle.

Embrace the serenity of the present, and by all means, don’t rush. Allow yourself the time to leisurely unwind and immerse yourself fully in your surroundings, allowing each detail to unfold gently.

A birds eye view of the Channel Islands surrounded by deep blue ocean, with wispy clouds above.
Image by filippo_jean, Wikimedia Commons

2. Channel Islands National Park

For those seeking to discover untouched natural beauty, Channel Islands National Park presents one of the most unforgettable day trips in Santa Barbara. A short road trip south on the 101 to Camarillo Airport is all it takes to begin your adventure. From there, Channel Islands Aviation offers year-round flights to Santa Rosa Island, with seasonal flights to San Miguel Island.

The park encompasses five islands and a 175-mile coastline, home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, 145 of which are found nowhere else in the world. Each island offers a unique landscape and set of activities. Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island provides perhaps the most breathtaking view, but every island has its own allure, from sea caves and kelp forests to historic ranches and archeological sites.

Preparation is key for this day trip since there are no services such as food stores or gear rental shops on the islands. That is why I suggest you read about the Things to Do, including Outdoor Activities that interest you and Places To Go, to determine which island appeals to you most prior to setting out on your day trip. Also, stay updated by checking Alerts & Current Conditions to learn about any current restrictions or closures.

A man on a bicycle riding on a path on a bluff next to the ocean.
Image from Ray Ford

3. Ellwood Mesa

Ellwood Mesa, a 137-acre coastal bluff preserve in Goleta, is a hidden gem that even many locals overlook. Sunset magazine recognized it as one of the “7 (hidden) Wonders of the West,” and for good reason: it offers some of the best views in Santa Barbara County. Even more, the mesa features sweeping grasslands, seasonal vernal pools, and eucalyptus groves that are home to migrating monarch butterflies.

This protected area is a sanctuary for hikers, joggers, cyclists, surfers, and horseback riders. The relatively flat trails make it accessible for all fitness levels, and there are two beach access points for those looking to dip their toes in the Pacific. The 10-mile integrated trail system links various open spaces and communities, providing ample opportunity for exploration.

Embrace the Beauty

These three Santa Barbara day trips highlight the diverse and stunning landscapes of Santa Barbara County. From the winding roads of the Santa Barbara Loop to the remote beauty of the Channel Islands and the tranquil expanse of Ellwood Mesa, each offers a unique way to reconnect with nature.

If you're inspired by the beauty of these places and are considering making Santa Barbara County your home, browse through my Santa Barbara real estate listings or use the property search tool on my comprehensive website. Whether you’re looking for a cozy retreat or a luxurious estate, I’m here to help you find your perfect piece of paradise in Santa Barbara, Montecito, Hope Ranch, Summerland, Carpinteria, or Goleta. Let’s make your Santa Barbara day trip a journey to your new home.

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch