Knapps Castle: Hiking Santa Barbara’s Famous Mansion Ruins

Knapp’s Castle is a very popular hike in the hills above Santa Barbara both because it has fantastic views and because it is less than a mile round trip. The area is technically on private property so there is always the chance that the owner will revoke access to this popular spot but that has not been the case for the last few years. Be sure to treat the area with respect though. Here is all the information so you can hike it yourself.

Details

  • 1-mile round trip
  • 100 feet of elevation gain
  • Location: 3880 E Camino Cielo Santa Barbara, CA 93105 (Approx)

Getting There

Knapp’s Castle is located in the Santa Barbara hills, somewhat near Chumash Painted Cave State park. You will reach it by heading up Highway 154 and then turning off on Camino Cielo Road. After about three miles (one mile past Painted Cave Road) you will pass a gate on your left which marks the start of the hike.

The Trail

After parking along the road, you will want to walk past the gate and start down the dirt road. I went on a weekend, and there were a dozen or so other cars all parked there enjoying the hike.

The hike is all downhill on the way there so naturally, it is all uphill heading back. Just remember that if it is a hot day as there is not much shade.

As you hike downhill you will start getting better views of the canyon and hills in front of you. It is a pretty spectacular place spot for photography, especially at sunset. After turning the corner, you will see the ruins come into view.

These ruins are from a house built by George Knapp, founder of Union Carbide Chemicals, in 1918. The house stood until 1945 when it burned down in a forest fire and was not rebuilt.

The Ruins

The ruins here show that the house must have been pretty impressive with its huge floor plan and marvelous view.

There are at least four fireplaces that you can find around the ruins. It reminds me a little bit of the Wolf House in Sonoma County.

The most impressive part of the ruins are the arches though.

Accessed via a large set of stone stairs, the arches are still standing tall and are a photographers paradise on the property.

There is a lot to explore though so make sure to take your time and see in all.

Down from the main ruins is another room with a fireplace. The tree sitting outside of the room had a little rope swing on it which lots of people were enjoying. Be sure to be careful if you go on it though.

After exploring the ruins, make you way back up the half mile trial to your car. If you make it all the way up here, consider taking the short drive to Chumash Painted Caves State Park as well. It won’t take you longer then 10 minutes to see, but it’s still a fun little side trip.

All in all, I enjoyed Knapp’s Castle and can’t wait to check it out again the future. Let me know if you have been in the comments.

Point Castillo Walk in the Santa Barbara Harbor

Point Carrillo is a fantastic viewpoint on the harbor in Santa Barbara. It is accessed via an easy half-mile trail that is used by visitors and locals alike. If you are looking for a nice way to be active while staying in the city or a great viewpoint for sunrise then read on for all the information.

Details

  • 1-mile round trip
  • Flat
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Dog friendly
  • Location: 119 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Getting There

The walk to Point Castillo is reached from the Santa Barbara Harbor. There is paid parking and free 90-minute parking if you can find it. I recommend the earlier the better as that makes it easier to find parking.

The Trail

Setting out from the parking lot, you will proceed past the shops until you meet up with the paved cement path that will take you out to the point.

The path almost immediately passes a statue of a boy riding a Seashore which is a strong way to start the walk.

From here you just continue on the paved path as the views get better and better.

On your right, you will see the ocean and the beach.

On the left, you will see hundred of boats all lining the harbor.

I found both directions fun to look at while walking along the path. There are benches if you need seating while you are walking as well.

When you make it out to the end, you will see a small dirt area with two whale tails set up as benches.

There is also a statue out here dedicated to the people who have lost their lives at sea. I enjoyed sitting here and watching the waves crash on the rock jetty.

You will want to walk all the way to the end of the point which is only another 30 feet or so on the paved path.

From here you can get a good view of Sterns Wharf in front of you as well. After taking your time and exploring you will head back the way you came.

I would recommend you visit the maritime museum while you are here as well, which is near the shops. It’s a great quick stop with a lot of fun exhibits. Let me know what you think of this walk in the comments.

Los Agaves: Santa Barbara’s Best Mexican Restaurant

Over the last few years, Los Agaves has become a go-to spot for many travelers along Pacific Coast Highway, creating a raving fan club of which I am a part of. The restaurant shot to a whole new level though when it was #16 on the Yelp 100 best restaurants in 2016. Now, stopping by this modern Mexican food spot will almost always include waiting in a decent line just to place your order. It is worth the wait though as it has some of my favorite upscale Mexican food in California. Here is all the information so you can visit Los Agaves as well.

Details

  • Cost: $12-$15
  • Recommendation: I haven’t had anything I didn’t like here
  • Location: 600 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Getting There

After getting off Highway 101 at Milpas St, you will proceed about a mile and a half up the street before arriving at Los Agaves on your right. There is a small parking lot in the back, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Restaurant

After arriving and finding parking, you will proceed into the restaurant where it is an “order at the counter and find a seat” type place.

Luckily the restaurant itself is large, and I never have trouble finding seating. They are usually pretty fast getting the food to you as well which is nice. Do be prepared to wait if you go on the weekend though as this is one of the most popular places in all of Santa Barbara.

I have tried a lot of different things, but here are some of my favorites:

Guacamole – As simple as it comes but fantastic. Pretty much just mashed avocado, which works since there are so many different types of salsa to choose from. The salsas run the gauntlet between mild avocado and super spicy.

Burrito Mojado – A wet burrito with grilled chicken or steak, pinto beans and queso fresco topped with Salsa Roja. I always choose steak as it is perfectly cooked, thin cut steak that’s full of flavor and juicy. They give you an ample portion in the burrito as well. I also like that the sauce that comes on top is sweeter then traditional enchilada sauce. It’s a unique flavor, and of course you can add more spice if you want with the salsas.

Agaves Burrito – One of their most ordered dishes, the Agaves Burrito is covered with a rich chipotle sauce and full of fish and shrimp. If you aren’t generally a fan of sauce then just ask for it on the side and you can add as much as you want. It’s a simple burrito with fresh seafood and that makes the flavors stand out a lot more. Comes with a salad that has a nice citrus dressing and a side of rice.

Chiles Norteños – Two chilies hollowed out and stuffed with shrimp, cheese and a spicy chipotle sauce. After being cooked it is served on a tortilla. The sauce and cheese make the dish rich and decadent. The dish is spicy though so be aware of that if you don’t like spice, but for me it was perfect. It’s like a chili reneno but in a much better way as the chipotle sauce adds a subtle sweet flavor to the dish.

Mocajetas – Served boiling hot with nopales, avocado, onion and chili pepper. They have home-made blue and white tortillas that come with it on the side. It is a massive amount of food and could be shared. The flavor is robust and smokey with a good amount of spice. The shrimp that is sitting in it takes on the flavor and is fantastic when you add them to the tortillas. The tortillas are soft and taste like they were right out of the oven.

All dishes come with a basket of chips, and they have a eight salsa bar you can partake in.

As you can no doubt see, I am a huge fan of Los Agaves. It is one of those places that really lives up to the hype and I got pretty much every time I drive up Highway 1. Be sure to let me know what your favorite dish is in the comments.

Maritime Museum in the Santa Barbara Harbor

The harbor of Santa Barbara is one of my favorite parts of the city to explore. It has the pleasant walk to Point Castillo, Stearns Wharf, and the Maritime Museum. The latter of which is one of the better ocean history-based museums I have seen. Here is all the information so you can check out this small but significant museum.

Details

  • Cost:$8
  • Hours: Daily from 10 AM – 5 PM, closed Wednesday (as of Jan 2017)
  • Location: 113 Harbor Way #190, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Getting There

From Sterns Wharf you will want to head out on Cabrillo Blvd until you reach Harbor Way. Turning in here will put you right next to the harbor. There is a paid lot, or you can often find parking that is free for 90 minutes.

The Museum

The museum is only one large room with an upstairs walkway and a downstairs. While it doesn’t seem like it would be that cool, it packs a lot of unique things to explore and learn about into the small space.

I paid my entry fee, grabbed a map and set out to explore the museum. Here are a few of the things I enjoyed:

The JIM Suit

This suit greets you right when you walk in, and it is one of the suits they made to create an atmosphere the diver is used to while in the depths of the sea. It’s crazy looking.

The Chumash Boat

Next, there is an area with an old Chumash boat, and that talks about the Chumash history in the area.

Diving Exhibits

In the back, there is a selection of diving masks which I was intrigued by. These rustic metal masks are awesome to see up close and they looked really heavy.

Tattoos

There is an exhibit in the back on the tattoos that sailors get and what they mean which was fun.

The Point Conception Lighthouse Lens

Right in the middle of the museum sits the main draw which is the Point Conception Lighthouse Lens. This massive glass lens used to sit at the top of the lighthouse to guide ships in, and it is in immaculate condition.

Heading upstairs, they had a roving exhibit from Ernest H. Brooks II which they said was the Ansel Adams of underwater photography. As a photographer myself I enjoyed seeing his black and white photos.

Looking through the Periscope

The highlight of the upper part of the museum was the actual working periscope they had.

I had never looked through one before, and it was great to look through as it was pointed out at the harbor and you could move it around.

Surfing Exhibit

There was an exhibit on surfing history and how it interacted with Santa Barbara’s history in the other corner of the upstairs.

The Oil Spill

Lastly, there was an exhibit on the oil spill that happened in this area and its impact.

The upstairs is also a great place to view the lighthouse lens up close as well since you are at a higher vantage point.

When you exit the museum, be sure to stop by the Purisima which was used by offshore divers and which greets visitors by the entrance.

I didn’t get to spend as much time here as I would have liked, but you can see that this is an impressive museum with a lot to explore. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

One Thousand Steps Beach: Santa Barbara’s Best Sunset Spot

It’s hard to pick a favorite beach in the Santa Barbara area, but if you really pushed me, I would probably say One Thousand Steps Beach. Located close to Shoreline Park but with no real parking area, this beach is almost never busy and it has some of the best coastal views in the entire area; you do have to walk down a good amount of steps to get to it though. Here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Open sunrise to sunset
  • Requires you to walk down 100 or so steps
  • Only street parking around – read signs, so you don’t get a ticket
  • Location: 1429 Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Getting There

From downtown Santa Barbara you will want to head to Shoreline Drive and past Shoreline Park. Immediately past the park, there is a small street on the right called Santa Cruz Blvd. This street is where the entrance is to the park, and if you can find parking here then you are very lucky. If not there is parking on the streets around it but be sure to read the signs.

The Trail

After finding parking, you will want to proceed to the Santa Cruz Blvd which is where you access the trail down from. This is also an excellent viewpoint to look down at the beach from so check that out before heading down.

The trail from here is just stairs all the way down to the beach. I would say there are at least a hundred stairs, but I am not entirely sure.

Once you get to the bottom, you will be on the beach.

The beach here is not the traditional sand to water beach as it has mostly rocks leading out the water.

This makes it a lot of fun to explore for kids though as the rocks form makeshift tide pools all over the beach.

The coastal view down here is staggering, especially at sunset. You can usually see across to Channel Island National Park as well.

You can explore the beach in either direction to your heart’s content but do note you will be walking over big rocks, so it is somewhat slow going. I cannot stress enough how epic this spot is for sunset and it is a must visit in the city.

As you can see above this is a great place to spend some time in Santa Barbara. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think below.

Kimpton Goodland in Goleta / Santa Barbara Hotel Review

Located 15 minutes from Santa Barbara in the town of Goleta, the Kimpton Goodland is one of the most fun boutique hotels I have stayed at on the central coast. The property retains that retro vibe while having the fresh, modern amenities you have come to expect from destination hotels. I had a hard time even wanting to leave since the design helps you to disconnect and there was always something to do ranging from checking out records and taking a yoga class to enjoying sangria in the lobby. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

Details

  • Book Here
  • Amenities: Record players, pool, sangria in lobby, workout room, backgammon tables, etc
  • Location: 5650 Calle Real, Goleta, CA 93117

Getting There

Traveling up Highway 101 / Pacific Coast Highway, you will exit on Patterson Ave in the town of Goleta (10 minutes past Santa Barbara). After turning left on Calle Real, the hotel will be about a mile down on the right.

The Hotel

From the moment you pull up to the hotel, see the clean pastel logo and walk past the airstream to enter the lobby, you will know you are not at a traditional hotel.

The lobby looks like something you would see on Pinterest with the bohemian style that is so popular currently.

There is even a small room off the lobby with a fantastic neon sign and tons of records that you can check out for your in-room record player.

The lobby also has water and sangria available throughout the day, making it a great place just to sit and relax.

Off the lobby, are both the restaurant and bar which maintain the same style as the rest of the hotel (more on that later).

There are even a few tables near the bar where you can play backgammon and pool.

The Room

The rooms have been thought out just as well as the rest of the hotel, complete with a large bed, record player and chair.

The style is clean with white and wood tones which are immediately welcoming.

The highlight for me was the record player; I checked out a new record every night to listen to while in my room.

The only downside I found with the retro design is that the windows were thinner than normal which lead to the hotel being a little noisier than I would have liked. It wasn’t a huge deal but something to note.

The Outpost Restaurant

Since I was staying over the weekend, my wife and I decided to grab brunch at the hotel’s restaurant. This ended up being a huge win since it had the style we had come to love at the hotel and the food was equally great. Here is what we ordered:

Fritter Benedict – I really liked the nontraditional jalapeño corn fritter base instead of the English Muffin. Also, the chorizo is not the type you get to at a Mexican restaurant, it is prepared how ham would be in a traditional Benedict, and it is rich and full of flavor. I liked the chipotle hollandaise as well; it had a little spice that matched perfectly with the creamy sauce.

Avocado Toast – The toast had the same classic style you would expect with avocado toast while fun additions like pickled onions and cilantro. These enhancements added a great flavor to the dish that made it a nice, light brunch choice without compromising the taste.

Brioche French Toast – This dish came highly recommended as it takes the sweet style of French toast and tweaks it into a Mexican chocolate version. Mexican chocolate is traditionally less sweet, which works well in a heavy dish like this. The whipped cream has a hint of tequila in it which is a fun addition, and it is topped with cashew brittle, adding a nice crunch. My wife and I were both excited with this dish.

Overall, I was impressed with the food here as it is much better than you would expect from a hotel restaurant. I would totally eat brunch here even if I weren’t staying at the hotel.

As you can no doubt see, my wife and I enjoyed our time at the Kimpton Goodland. I could easily see it becoming a place we go to relax in the future, and I totally recommend it. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Disclosure: I was given a discounted rate during my stay, but all opinions are my own.

Mission Santa Barbara: The Queen of the California Missions

Mission Santa Barbara is second only to San Juan Capistrano in beauty and popularity for the California Missions. It was the tenth mission established by the Spanish Franciscans and it was planned to be established by Father Serra but he passed away before he was able to. Father Lasuen ended up founding it in 1786. Mission Santa Barbara is incredibly beautiful and one of the best missions you can see on the trail. I saw it during day 3 of my drive which you can read about here; you can read more about Mission Santa Barbara specifically below.

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Details

  • Cost: $8
  • Location: 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA

Getting There

Mission Santa Barbara is located about 5 minutes off the 101 Freeway. There are signs from the freeway directing you to the mission, and you can put the above address in Google Maps. There is a large parking lot with lots of room so you shouldn’t have trouble finding parking.

The Mission Exterior

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The exterior of Mission Santa Barbara is my favorite part of the entire mission. From the moment, you come around the corner and see this mission you will be blown away.

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There is a large grassy area out in the front of the mission with a cross right in the middle. This area is a great spot to take pictures of the chapel facade which dominates the view and is mesmerizing.

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While outside be sure to see the old stone lion carving done by a Chumash Indian, which is on the old cistern.

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Also, the fountain here rivals some of the fountains at San Juan Capistrano for beauty, and it is a great spot to photograph with the chapel behind it.

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There is a statue of Father Serra and a bell for the El Camino Real Trail out here as well.

The Interior

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After entering through the giftshop and paying your fee, you will be given a map to explore the grounds. It seems a lot bigger then it is though, and it will not take you too long to explore. Here are some of the things you will see.

The Sacred Garden

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The garden was originally used as a work area when the mission was thriving, but now it is just a large courtyard and garden. It is closed off so you can’t walk through it, but the pathway leading up to it provides beautiful views.

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I also found the plant life around the exterior, full of succulents, to be a nice touch to the sacred garden.

The Cemetery

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The cemetery garden is the central outside area for this mission. It is a large circular walkway that leads you around a large bay fig tree over two centuries old.

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Along the exterior, there are all sorts of different mausoleums and grave sites to various people of importance in the mission’s history.

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There is also a large cross right in the middle that is another highlight in the area.

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As you walk into the church, notice the skulls on top of the door. I was confused as to what this was but learned that the skull carvings were put there to symbolize a cemetery was near by.

The Chapel

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Of course, the chapel for Mission Santa Barbara is beautiful, as it matches the beauty of this mission as a whole.

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The alter piece is a combination of both colorful and ornate styles.

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There are two massive paintings on either side of the alter. These are the two biggest paintings in all of the California missions.

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When you have finished walking through and enjoying the chapel, you will make your way out the back door and on to the museum. On the way don’t forget to check out the above padre who is leading the way.

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Also, there is an area that shows how the chapel has been destroyed and rebuilt over the years that I found absorbing.

The Museum

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Much like the other missions, there are a half dozen rooms dedicated to the museum. The rooms themselves were originally used for living quarters for the missionaries and their guests. The area now displays different pieces of art, as well as recreations of what the original rooms would have looked like.

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My favorites were the old bells; there was a bell here from the early 1700’s. Also, near the end, there is an altarpiece made by a Chumash Indian, which was pretty cool to see as well.

Mission Santa Barbara is a fantastic example of a Spanish-California Mission; it is one of the missions I would recommend you go to if you can only see a few as eveythting from the exterior to the chapel has been recreated to provide a stunning example of what a mission should look like. Read more about my road trip to visit all of the California missions here and let me know what you think of Mission Santa Barabra in the comments.