Kayak to Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara

Kayak to Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara


From the issue Unabashedly Santa Barbara

Go West

You don’t have to stay at The Biltmore to enjoy a million-dollar sunset. Just across the way, Butterfly Beach is one of the only west-facing beaches on the Santa Barbara coastline and in the fall it makes for spectacular sunset viewing. One of the best ways to see this stretch of coast is on a 3.5-mile out-and-back kayak starting at popular East Beach. Paddle past a few volleyball courts, the Santa Barbara Zoo (keeping an eye out for a giraffe sticking up above the tree tops), and the 23-acre bluff-top Clark Estate, owned by a recently deceased, reclusive heiress who hadn’t set foot on the property in 50 years. The estate, known as "Bellosguardo," has prevented development in these desirable parts, so you’ll barely see a building. The Santa Ynez Mountains seem to melt into the crumbling cliff-side, which gives way to the dark blue sea. Continue as the cliffs recede and a wider sandy stretch appears upon rounding the corner to Butterfly Beach. Less than a mile long, the white sand beach is a popular place for weddings and a great spot to take a paddling break. Even if you’re not there to say "I do," time your trip so that you return to East Beach as the sun slowly sinks over the water in a swath of oils and pastels. Stay near the buoy line and wind your way through strands of kelp, lolling sailboats, and the occasional curious seal. So good it'll give you butterflies.

Rent a kayak at the Santa Barbara Sailing Center for $10/hour. Parking is available at East Beach.

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