UCSB is not only well known for its famous party scene and world-class academics, but also for the natural beauty surrounding its campus. Every freshman should take at least one moment to step back from the computer and check out some of Santa Barbara and Goleta’s most impressive natural wonders.
UCSB is one of the only college campuses in the United States that has its own beach. One beach is located on the east side of campus, with stairs right across the street from the Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Residence Halls. Although students do not frequent this beach – most prefer to play Frisbee or work on their tans on the campus lawns – it is easily accessible and quiet enough to get some homework done.
Next, head south from that beach a few hundred yards past the marine biology labs and you will hit Campus Point. This beach is popular with students, especially those who live on campus because of its proximity and its opportunities for surfing.
Fourth-year communication major Rachel Johns said days at Campus Point were one of the highlights of her freshman year.
“I always looked forward to getting out of class so I could head right out the door to the beach,” she said.
Goleta Beach is not part of the UCSB campus, but it is easily accessible from campus and Isla Vista. The beach is just north of campus and connected by a path for bikes and pedestrians. Goleta Beach is a family beach and is often regarded as one of the best beaches in the Santa Barbara area. Go there to fish off the pier, eat at Beachside Bar-Cafe or host a barbecue on the lawn.
Additionally, anyone who has visited the UCSB campus has surely seen – and smelled – the lagoon. The best piece of advice any UCSB student can receive, aside from “Don’t walk barefoot down Del Playa Dr. Drive,” is, “Don’t swim in the lagoon.” Although there are videos on YouTube featuring graduating seniors taking a dip, don’t do it. Swimming disturbs the sea life and the water quality is not suitable for swimming.
On a sunny day, hop on your beach cruiser and head into I.V. a few hours before the party scene begins and follow the crowd down to the beach. The beach that extends from Campus Point to Coal Oil Point – which is next to Manzanita Village and Del Playa Drive – is technically known as Sands Beach. On hot weekend days, students are likely to gather in front of the 6500 and 6600 blocks of DP to party. Viewed from balconies above, the scene looks like Cancun during Spring Break, complete with floating rafts, drinks with umbrellas in them and the smell of coconut tanning oil.
Fourth-year cultural anthropology major Adam Weinberg said he likes to paddle out and surf while there are parties going down on the beach.
“Even if the waves are flat, there is still something to look at on the beach,” Weinberg said.
During the week and on cloudier days, those beaches are utilized mostly by surfers and runners. There are multiple sets of stairs that provide access to the beach on DP.
If you aren’t in the mood to party, head south on the beach in front of Isla Vista. The coastline in front of the 6700 and 6800 blocks of Del Playa is less crowded, more suited for quiet walks or hanging out with a few friends. South of the 6800 block are Devereaux and Sands Beaches, both of which are popular surf spots for I.V. residents.
North and South of UCSB
There are wonderful, totally worthwhile beaches up and down the coastline in the Santa Barbara area.
Butterfly Beach is the southernmost beach frequented by UCSB students and one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Located just south of downtown in Montecito and accessible by the Olive Mill Road exit, Butterfly Beach is the only west-facing beach in Santa Barbara, and is perfect for sunset watching and romantic walks.
Downtown Santa Barbara, accessible by the Cabrillo Boulevard exit, is home to East and West Beaches. These beaches surround the Stearns Wharf and are always crowded. If you have visitors in town and want entertainment, head to these beaches there. You will find perfect spots for volleyball, tandem bike riding, eating and people-watching.
If you are at East or West Beach, check out the Santa Barbara Zoo – it is small, but charming and full of more animals than you think it could fit. The zoo is worth it, even if all you do is see Gemina, the crooked-necked giraffe. To access the zoo, turn left off Cabrillo Boulevard onto Niños Drive .
Drive north of UCSB for private beaches and famous surf spots. World-class surf spot Rincon Point is just 20 miles north and Jalama isn’t much further. Gaviota, El Capitan and Refugio State Beaches are known for their beauty and privacy.
East of UCSB
Los Padres National Forest, located about 30 minutes east of UCSB, is a popular spot for hiking and swimming. To get there, take California State Route 154 East and exit at Paradise Road. Los Padres is home to Red Rock and Seven Falls, both popular outdoor excursions for students.
Red Rock isn’t much of a hike, but try to drive an SUV, since sometimes you have to drive through water to get there. Once you reach Red Rock, lay out on the rocks and watch your friends make fools of themselves jumping off the higher rocks.
Meanwhile, Seven Falls offers an interesting hike through waterfalls and rivers. Once you reach the seventh waterfall, you will find a fun place to swim and splash around.
Seven Falls and Red Rock hikes take about half the day, but are perfect places if you need to escape dorm rooms and I.V.