With international travel still in a state of flux, you might want to stick closer to home during the last few weeks of summer. Here are five ideas that will feel like a vacation but are only a few hours drive, or less, from Beverly Hills.
Marina del Rey
Sail away from the record-setting heat from the always-popular Marina del Rey. Its large harbor holds a host of sailing options for everything from whale watching to watersports, parties and sunset cruises. To charter one of these vessels, GetMyBoat has over 130 rentals and water experiences ranging from pontoons and wind power sailboats to luxury yachts. But cruising the California coast isn’t all the company offers, jet skis, kayaks and stand up paddle boarding are also available.
The average cost of a boat charter is about $250 per hour in Marina del Rey, but you can find boating experiences on GetMyBoat for less than $100, and most of the boat rentals are charters that come with a USCG-licensed captain, so you can kick back and relax while cruising around Marina del Rey.
According to Val Streif, Marketing Manager of GetMyBoat, “Boating is a top activity right now because it’s bringing people together to enjoy the outdoors in a relaxing way and it’s the perfect multi-generational family activity.” In addition, she sites Marina del Rey as a top location because there’s always a good chance you’ll see wildlife, including dolphins, whales, and sea lions. “Seeing a sunset from a boat is also a special experience, and you can cruise up to Santa Monica or venture to Venice Beach, two popular locations that are easily accessible by boat from Marina del Rey,” she said.
Before or after your chartered cruise, stop for brunch, drinks or dinner at the newly revamped SALT restaurant overlooking the harbor where you can order oysters, caviar and cocktails. Other recent local dining developments include KazuNori for sushi, HiHo burgers and UOVO for pasta, plus Alfred Coffee from Beverly Hills and West Hollywood is opening nearby.
Another popular summer activity is bike riding near the beach, and just up the coast in Santa Monica, Shutters and Casa del Mar hotels offer bikes for their guests. Cruise along the boardwalk which is easily accessible and the staff will even set up a picnic lunch right in the sand with cushions, tables, umbrellas, charcuterie snacks, sandwiches and real coconut water among other treats.
If you desire a hit of wellness, Malibu has a new destination, Rafi Lounge, for sound baths, meditation and classes, but you must be a member to enjoy the Pacific Ocean views from the lawn.
Of course, you can rent boats and bike ride along the California coast in Santa Barbara. Make sure to visit Stearns Wharf, California’s oldest wooden working wharf. The wharf celebrates its 150th anniversary with a festive party on Oct. 8 (if you want to plan ahead), or be sure to visit during Wharf Wednesdays on the first Wednesday of each month, to take advantage of special restaurant deals and live music.
Over the summer, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden opened The Backcountry, a four-acre outdoor adventure space for kids. Located along Mission Creek, it features activities such as fort building, fallen log obstacle courses, waterfalls, a maze, hikes through different habitats and herb gathering.
If you’re up for a hike, try the Mesa Trail near the new visitors center with informational kiosks opened within the UC Santa Barbara North Campus Open Space. Here you can explore a vast 136-acre coastal wetlands area that includes grasslands to ocean bluffs. This area has a free public parking lot, open from dawn to dusk, at 6975 Whittier Drive in Goleta.
Also, earlier this year, the Santa Barbara Zoo opened the Australian Walkabout, a 15,000-square-foot habitat designed to transport guests “Down Under,” where they can walk among the wallabies, kangaroos and emus.
If interior design and shopping is your passion, the Summerland area has become a go-to destination for chic home decor and antiques, including Field + Fort, The Well, Porch and Garde. Recently, a new outpost for British-born designer Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic, a new Home Crush showroom (an extension from its downtown Santa Barbara shop and design studio), and a new takeover of The Big Yellow House by Big Daddy’s Antiques featuring custom furniture, rugs and rotating art.
For wine tasting, you will not need a designated driver for the nearly 30 member wineries, many within walking distance of each other and downtown beaches, on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. At least six new tasting rooms are opening and three others are on the move or expanding as of 2022. Frequency Wine Co. moved to a historic courtyard surrounded by Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and lush foliage in the Presidio Neighborhood. Kunin Wines has a new location in downtown Santa Barbara with a focus on sparkling wines and rosé, along with education and cheese pairings in partnership with The Cheese Shop.
Santa Barbara Winery, the oldest winery in Santa Barbara County, moved to a new tasting room location in the Funk Zone and Pali Wine Co. opened a second location in this area as well, and you will not need a designated driver to explore this area on foot.
For dinner, Rare Society is a new throw-back steakhouse (also in the Funk Zone) inspired by Las Vegas that features large format steak platters for sharing and craft cocktails. At the Kimpton Canary Hotel just off State Street, Finch & Fork has been revamped with a sleek modern look and a pedigreed new executive chef Craig Riker who makes upscale comfort fare. If you find yourself in Montecito, a new sushi experience just opened at the Rosewood Miramar hotel. AMA Sushi is an intimate 13 seat bar offering one omakase pairing seating each evening or an à la carte menu with outdoor seating as well.
Head down the coast to Huntington Beach aka Surf City USA where you will find 9.5 miles of sandy flat beach and great waves due to the currents around Catalina. This area is also home to the International Surfing Museum, the Paséa Hotel & Spa right next to the pier where you can schedule an exfoliating body treatment with ginger oil at the Balinese spa, have rooftop drinks at the Waterfront Beach Resort or listen to music and mingle at The Bungalow by the same owners as the original in Santa Monica. Think of this area as a more accessible alternative to Laguna Beach and it’s also closer to L.A.
After decades as just a pit stop on the way to San Diego, the profile and popularity of this once overlooked beach town is booming. There are destination hotels, museums, Michelin recognized restaurants, a buzzing craft-beer scene and close proximity to the beach and LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, which is continually a top draw for families year-round.
“Oceanside’s approach to self-improvement over the last decade has been about celebrating its history, preserving its unique character and introducing thoughtful new experiences that highlight the creativity and innovation of its locals,” said Leslee Gaul, CEO, Visit Oceanside. “The combination [of new experiences] has made this a place where people want to come, hangout and immerse themselves in the Oside vibe.”
The Surf Girl Pro Championship competition is held each fall on the beach near the Oceanside Pier right in front of the new surf-themed Mission Pacific Hotel and sister property The Seabird Resort with a Cape Cod esthetic. On the grounds, a draw for film buffs is the 1887 bungalow, known as The Graves House, that was used as a key location in the original “Top Gun” movie. The space is now a HIGH-pie concept serving gourmet sweet and savory hand pies made with fruit or cheese and choice of dipping sauce. You can also find memorabilia from the movie, including a refurbished Kawasaki Ninja ZX90 0 Motorcycle, identical to the one Tom Cruise rode in the film. Other nostalgic Americana touches include vintage furniture, one-of-a-kind needlepoint installations from artist Mary Lou Marks.
For dining on-site, try the new Chef’s Table experience at Valle, a Guadalupe Valley Kitchen, helmed by one of Baja’s most acclaimed Chefs, Roberto Alcocer. Upstairs, The Rooftop Bar at Mission Pacific has also launched a new menu of shared plates and locally inspired cocktails, with a portion of sales of “The Jetty” cocktail, named for one of Oceanside’s most iconic breaks, going to benefit USA Surfing’s elite training programs.
If that activity is a little too rambunctious for you, walk over to the new poolside sound baths at The Seabird Resort.
Or, take advantage of the new vintage Rambler camper and Surf Concierge service set up on the beach providing guests with beverages and snacks, sand toys, water activities, umbrellas, towels and lounge chairs for the perfect beach day.
If you did come for the surf, check out the incredible art collection curated by the Oceanside Museum of Art across both hotels before signing up for a surf valet experience and private lessons, with North Country Surf Academy for an opportunity to surf alongside professional surfer and third-generation Oceanside resident, Duran Barr.
A short stroll away, there are a few cool developments in Oceanside for coffee and boutique shopping such as the The Rising Co. – A Maker’s Collective or Tremont Collective, which has surf shops, Communal coffee and flower shop, along with Shootz Fish + Beer for local brews and tacos.
Around town, The Plot has recently introduced the Thursday Night Live Music series. Every Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m., guests can enjoy an evening of free live music on the patio, surrounded by the restaurant’s regenerative garden. The goal is to share a no-cost experience to provide a space to connect with neighbors, expand cultural experiences and support local talent, all the while enjoying a delicious plant-based fare from the restaurant.
At award-winning Wrench & Rodent the unorthodox sushi and Japanese izakaya focused on total utilization Chef-owner Davin Waite and his team have launched a dry-aged fish program, which ensures a responsible and sustainable model with minimal waste. Expect traditional dry-aging techniques with various species such as Bluefin, Pacifico bass, kampachi, and salmon.
Just over the Buena Vista Lagoon, which separates Oceanside from Carlsbad, State Street siblings Campfire and Michelin-starred Jeune et Jolie have just released new summer menus under the creative direction of Executive Chef Eric Bost. And if you find it hard to snag a reservation at Jeune et Jolie, try the smaller rotating Menu du Bar, available at the bar and lounge where walk-ins are welcome.