Every now and then I'll be featuring posts from other travelers, because quite frankly..the best advice comes from other travelers. This week's feature is from Christina Nguyen, an avid writer and hiker who can kick your ass in any spelling bee or hoop dancing contest. (No, seriously - check out this rad video of her hoop dancing in the Grand Canyon)
This native West Coaster has made the leap over to the East Coast in Sunny Florida and is part of the new start up company, Wetravel.to. The company strives to make group travel as efficient, easy and free as possible. The next time you plan on making a group trip be sure to visit the site to build an itinerary, collect money and organize the group so no one's left stuck in the mud.
THE SECRET I'LL MISS OF SANTA BARBARA
EAST COAST VS WEST COAST?
Despite having grown up on the West coast my entire life I’m still figuring out which coast is my favorite. I definitely took it for granted.
Santa Barbara receives its fair share of tourists, particularly from European countries due to its beautiful landscape and year-round mild weather. It’s an ocean-front city of antique Spanish architecture surrounded by the Santa Ynez mountain range. I was lucky enough to spend an amazing 5 years there.
"FUNNY THING ABOUT LIVING SOMEWHERE: YOU DON'T REALIZE HOW BEAUTIFUL IS UNTIL YOU LEAVE IT."
When you have school and work and friends, how often are you really going to get out and explore everything in the vicinity? You think, oh next week I’ll go on that hike, or I’ll check out the other beach eventually. It’ll always be there.
It’s still there, alright, but now I’m on the other side of the country. Santa Barbara is well-known as a resort destination. There are plenty of tours that showcase around the downtown outdoor shopping area to the historic mission, take you out to the sea and even along the beach on Segways. Those were all certainly wonderful ways to enjoy the city, but the things I really miss about Santa Barbara were a bit more off the beaten path.
A SECRET LOCAL
One of the best things tourists miss out on when visiting Santa Barbara are the little trails that follow around the university towards the butterfly reserve.
Right next to the University of California Santa Barbara there’s a little town called Isla Vista, inhabited mostly with college students. Follow the most oceanside street, Del Playa and you'll reach the cliffs where the houses end and a pathway that leads all the way to Sands beach. TIP: Don’t call the street “Del Playa” in front of the locals because they ridicule anyone who doesn’t refer to it as “DP”. It’s a lovely trail with the ocean on one side and then trees and tall grassy lands on the other side with the mountains in the background. You’ll see locals jogging, biking, or bringing their surfboards along the little dirt road.
When you’ve reached the end of the road, off to the right is the access way to Sands Beach which even on the most crowded days still looks like a private beach. Sands beach is especially a treasure to the locals because the sands naturally experience less seaweed buildup than the bordering side, Goleta Beach. The stunning panoramic view of the ocean alongside the cliffs near the mountains is enough to inspire the soul into the sublime. I can still feel the breeze of the cool air from when I used to talk these scenic walks. The clear air was so refreshing that even the oil rigs in the horizon looked decorative.
There are several little dirt paths that branch away from the main dirt road which will lead you on a secluded nature walk. You would never believe that civilization was just around the bend. If you were to continue down Sand Beach not to far along is the Goleta Monarch Butterfly grove. It’s a precious haven that is free to visit for nature lovers. All these beautiful paths were just a walk away from my front door.
It’s now been about 3 months since I’ve moved to Miami, and I’m still adjusting to the culture-shock, hence all the nostalgia. One beach doesn’t quite exactly equal the other. Miami does deliver on warm waters in the ocean and humid weather. But visiting South Beach is very different than the scene I have pictured from the stock photos of the city. It is densely populated here and traffic is horrendous. I guess I just haven’t found my secret path here yet. Looking forward to finding out where the locals really get the most out of this tropical version of Los Angeles. There’s certainly one thing that I can give Miami kudos for:
It’s that they have the most majestic sunsets I have ever seen.