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Rattlesnake Canyon Trail – Santa Barbara, California

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail near Santa Barbara, California

View of the cloud-covered Pacific Ocean from Rattlesnake Canyon Trail near Santa Barbara, California

Location: Foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara

Trail Length: 5.1 miles, out and back

Elevation Gain: About 1600 feet

Link: Rattlesnake Canyon Trail on AllTrails.com

Notable Features: Fairly strenuous trail heading up to Gibraltar Road. Some shade near the bottom of the trail, but exposed near the top. A good workout with great views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara.

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Carpinteria Bluffs Trail – Carpinteria, California

View of the train tracks and the Pacific Ocean along the Carpinteria Bluffs Trail

View of the train tracks and the Pacific Ocean along the Carpinteria Bluffs Trail

In the late 1990s, a citizens group came together to purchase the land at Carpinteria Bluffs so it can remain undeveloped. Which is great news for those who visit this wonderful area.

The trail that passes through this open area is wide and well-graded. You can walk from the east end all the way into Carpinteria State Beach, where there are swimming and camping areas. There is a fee to drive in to the beach, but it’s free if you walk in.

The trail also passes through the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Rookery and offers several lookout points to watch the seals basking on the beach or playing in the water.

And finally, this area also has the Carpinteria Tar Pits, located close to the state beach, and is one of only five areas of its type in the world (the more famous La Brea Tar Pits are located a couple hours’ drive south in Los Angeles).

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Gaviota Wind Caves – near Santa Barbara, California

Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park

Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park

The journey to the Gaviota wind caves is just over 2.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 700 feet. It’s a small price to pay for the amazing views of the Gaviota area and the ocean, as well as for the chance to poke around in the caves themselves.

The trailhead starts at a gate leading up a fire road, which you’ll follow for about half a mile until you reach a trail sign pointing in the direction of a dirt track to the left. There’s a fairly steep incline through a meadow and keep an eye out for a trail spur leading to the left toward a small rock-lined ridge. You’ll want to follow that instead of heading right on the more well-defined trail.

Shortly after that split, you’ll reach the first couple of caves. A little further on and you’ll reach several more – and these are the ones with the best views of Gaviota, the ocean, the railroad bridge and the oil rigs beyond. Most are big enough to duck into – you can even stand upright in some.

After reaching the caves, you can continue on to explore the network of trails criss-crossing Gaviota State Park or return to the trail head by reversing course back down the trail.

  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park
  • Hiking to the wind caves at Gaviota State Park

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Franklin Trail – Carpinteria, California

Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California

Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California

The Franklin Trail is one of the many hiking paths that lead north from the town of Carpinteria up into the Santa Ynez Mountains. The trail is fairly steep but very well-maintained. I turned around after about 2.3 miles and just over 1,000 feet of elevation gain at a swing made from a tree branch. However, the Franklin Trail continues on to connect with a network of other trails that spread throughout the foothills and into the Los Padres National Forest.

From the Franklin Trail, you’ll get amazing views of Carpinteria, the Pacific Ocean and (on a clear day) the Channel Islands.

There is an ongoing fundraising project aimed to continue the construction and maintenance of the Franklin Trail. Learn more at franklintrail.org.

  • Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California
  • Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California
  • Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California
  • Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California
  • Hiking the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California
  • A swing on the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria, California

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More Mesa – Santa Barbara, California

View of the Pacific Ocean from More Mesa

View of the Pacific Ocean from More Mesa

Much like other Santa Barbara blufftop preserves (such as the Douglas Family Preserve and the Ellwood Butterfly Grove), hikers can chart their own path through the forests, wetlands and grasslands of More Mesa, making walks as easy or as challenging as they like.

The More Mesa Preservation Coalition’s website has a comprehensive list of the plants, animals, insects and habitats found along the trails. And of course, More Mesa has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the outlying Channel Islands. Watch the waves closely and you might catch a glimpse of surfacing dolphins.

More Mesa’s trails are dog-friendly, and horseback riders are often seen as well.

  • Wildflowers and the Pacific Ocean at More Mesa
  • View of the Pacific Ocean from More Mesa
  • Tire swing at More Mesa
  • Trail through More Mesa
  • Yucca plants at More Mesa
  • View of the Pacific Ocean from More Mesa

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Goleta Beach Park to UCSB Lagoon – Santa Barbara, California

Pacific Ocean at Goleta Beach ParkGoleta Beach Park is far enough away from downtown Santa Barbara to be hidden from tourists, but right next door to the University of California, Santa Barbara and its large student body. Meaning it’s busy, but not overwhelmingly so.

This hike is more of a long walk: a little over 4 miles round-trip down the beach, up some small bluffs with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, then onto the UCSB campus and circling its 31-acre lagoon, featuring a wide variety of waterfowl and wildlife.

Make sure to seek out the Lagoon Labyrinth, a circular path defined by rocks and designed to be a reflective and serene walk.

  • Pacific Ocean at Goleta Beach Park
  • UCSB Lagoon
  • UCSB Lagoon
  • UCSB Lagoon
  • UCSB Lagoon
  • Iceplant at the UCSB Lagoon
  • Trail near the UCSB Lagoon
  • Pacific Ocean near the UCSB Lagoon
  • Labyrinth near the UCSB Lagoon

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Douglas Family Preserve – Santa Barbara, California

Douglas Family PreserveThe Douglas Family Preserve pretty much has it all. Perched on a bluff above the Pacific, it’s a popular spot for bikers, walkers, dogs, hang-gliders and kids. It’s an easy walk with trails that criss-cross throughout the preserve and amazing views of the ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance. The various trails cut through coastal oaks, grasslands and pines before opening to the ocean views. It’s also a few miles west of Santa Barbara’s densely packed downtown, and most tourists never discover this spot, making it a favorite among locals.

The story of the preserve is a fascinating one. The area – originally known as the Wilcox property – was slated for development with an upscale neighborhood and luxury hotel planned. That is, until a group of locals raised over $2 million to buy up the land, with a contribution of about $600,000 from actor Michael Douglas, hence the name.

  • Douglas Family Preserve
  • Douglas Family Preserve
  • Douglas Family Preserve
  • Douglas Family Preserve
  • Douglas Family Preserve

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Kalalau Trail – Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

View of the Na Pali Coast

View of the Na Pali Coast

The Kalalau Trail is often considered one of the most scenic and challenging hikes in all of Hawaii.

Starting at the end of the Kuhio Highway on Kauai’s north shore, the Kalalau Trail goes up and down ridges for 11 miles across the otherwise impassable Na Pali Coast.

The trail immediately goes up and within 1/4 mile, you come across a great viewpoint of Ke’e Beach near the start of the trail.

The trail climbs steadily until you reach about 600 feet in elevation, providing amazing views as you look west to the imposing Na Pali Coast. After reaching the top of this first ridge, the trail descends into the Hanakapi’ai Valley until you cross over a stream and see the wide-open Hanakapi’ai Beach stretching out in front of you, about 2 miles from the trailhead.

Hanakapi’ai Beach is the farthest I could get in the time I had, but the Kalalau Trail continues for 9 more miles up and down Na Pali’s ridges. The trail is part of Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, and starting in 2012 camping permits are required for anyone venturing past Hanakoa Valley, 6 miles in from the trailhead. There’s also a 2+ mile spur trail south from Hanakapi’ai Beach to a 300-foot waterfall.

  • View of Ke'e Beach
  • View of the Na Pali Coast
  • Red dirt of the Kalalau Trail
  • Entering Hanakapi'ai Valley
  • Stream at Hanakapi'ai Beach
  • Rock formations at Hanakapi'ai Beach
  • Hanakapi'ai Beach
  • Hanakapi'ai Beach
  • Looking down at Hanakapi'ai Beach
  • View of the Na Pali Coast

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Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge – Kauai, Hawaii

View of the Kilauea Lighthouse

View of the Kilauea Lighthouse

Heading from the parking lot to the lighthouse is an easy walk – less than 1/2 mile, almost no elevation change and even features a stop in the gift shop. But what amazing views of the Pacific and the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge!

The most prevalent animal on the day I was there was the nene, the Hawaii state bird. But some visitors are lucky enough to see those, as well as dolphins and humpback whales in the blue waters of the Pacific.

The refuge is only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on federal holidays. There is a fee of $5 per person for those over 16 (kids are free).

The lighthouse itself is no longer in use. It was built in 1913 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here for more information on the lighthouse.

  • View from the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge
  • View from the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge
  • View from the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kilauea Lighthouse
  • Kilauea Lighthouse
  • Kilauea Lighthouse
  • Kilauea Lighthouse
  • View of the Kilauea Lighthouse

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Kayak to Daku Bay – Kadavu, Fiji

Low tide off the beach at Papageno Resort.

Low tide off the beach at Papageno Resort.

Papageno Resort on Kadavu Island has kayaks and paddles for guest use… so use them!

The waters around Papageno tend to be pretty calm and clear, making for great kayaking. You’ll float above an abundance of sea life and coral, and you can paddle into a cluster of mangroves, where the tannen from the trees turn the water from crystal blue to a dark tea.

Once you head past the protection of Skipper Fish Island (we named it after the fish that skimmed along the water’s surface around the isle), the winds can pick up a bit.

You can paddle east around the point past the island into Daku Bay. If you continue on and hug the coastline, you’ll come to the village of Naivakarauniniu, Unless you have made arrangements with the village elders, it’s recommended that you respect the villagers’ privacy and not enter. They are extremely friendly to guests but would prefer to know of their arrival in advance.

  • Low tide off the beach at Papageno Resort.
  • Low tide off the beach at Papageno Resort.
  • Low tide off the beach at Papageno Resort.
  • Low tide off the beach at Papageno Resort.

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