The Ultimate Guide to Sailing in Santa Barbara: Where to Sail & What to Bring
To us, nothing feels quite as refreshing as spending time in the ocean—especially if a sailboat is involved. The saltwater spray against your skin. The cool breeze on a hot day. The deep connection you form with nature. It’s the ultimate form of aloha. If you’re planning a trip to Santa Barbara soon and want to experience sailing for yourself, we’re here to help. Here’s our local guide for Sailing in Santa Barbara.
Where to Sail in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara Harbor
The most accessible to sail in Santa Barbara is just around the corner. With its calm waters and beautiful coastal scenery, it’s easy to see why Santa Barbara Harbor is such a popular sailing destination. The harbor is home to many marinas, where you can rent or charter a sailboat or catamaran, and there are also sailing schools that offer lessons for all skill levels. The harbor is also a great location for whale watching, and many tour companies offer sailing excursions specifically for this purpose. When you’re off the boat, grab a bite or cocktail at one of the area’s many seaside restaurants.
As a protected bay area with steady winds and a wide range of conditions, Goleta Beach has become a popular spot for sailing. You can find boat rentals, lessons, and storage at the beach’s sailing center, which is open year-round and offers a variety of classes for all skill levels. This beach is also home to the Goleta Beach Race, which is a collaboration between Santa Barbara Yacht Club and Santa Barbara Sailing. If you happen to be there when the race is happening, you can enjoy some BBQ on the beach while you watch the competition.
Channel Islands National Park
Sailing to the Channel Islands from Santa Barbara can be a beautiful and exciting experience—and it’s the most advanced route on this list. The Channel Islands are a group of eight islands located off the coast of California, and they are known for their rugged beauty and diverse wildlife.
The trip to the Channel Islands from Santa Barbara typically takes between 6 to 8 hours, depending on the wind and sea conditions. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and plan your trip accordingly.
It's important to note that the Channel Islands are a protected national park, which means you need to obtain a permit from the National Park Service before visiting. It's also important to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding anchoring and mooring in the park.
Who to Sail With
Looking to rent a boat, hire a private charter, or take a lesson? Our friends recommend reaching out to the Sailing Barbara Sailing Center. Their team offers everything from group getaways to the Channel Islands to sailing school and sunset cruises. You can even sign up for a membership if you want to keep improving your skills and join the sailing community. A few other local options are SunSwept Sailing, Double Dolphin Cruises, and Santa Barbara Channel Charters. Take your pick and get out on the water.
The Best Time to Sail in Santa Barbara
The best time to sail in Santa Barbara, California depends on personal preferences and the type of sailing you plan to do. Generally, the best sailing conditions can be found from May through October. During this time, the weather is warmer, the winds are more consistent, and there is less chance of rain. The waters are also calmer, making it an ideal time for cruising and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
May through June is considered the shoulder season, the weather is generally mild, and the wind patterns are less consistent. July through September, the winds are generally light and variable, making it perfect for cruising, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. October through April is considered the off-season, winds are strong and more consistent, but the weather is colder, and there’s a higher chance of rain.
No matter when you decide to set sail, it's always a good idea to check the forecast and be prepared for any weather conditions that may arise.
What to Pack for a Sailing Trip
When packing for a sailing trip, it's important to consider the weather and the duration of the trip. Some essential items to pack include:
- Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, hat)
- Waterproof clothing (rain jacket, pants)
- Warm layers (fleece or sweater)
- Comfortable, non-slip shoes
- First aid kit and medications
- Snacks and water
- Personal flotation device
- Waterproof clothing and footwear
- Personal items and toiletries
- Camera or phone to capture memories
- Navigation tools such as a compass or GPS device
- A waterproof bag for storing electronics and other items
- A headlamp or flashlight for nighttime navigation
- Charts, guides, and other navigation materials
- A VHF radio or satellite phone for communication
- A multi-tool or knife
As far as comfortable, non-slip shoes go, we have you covered. For the guys, we’d recommend Maha, Maha ‘Olu, and Ulele styles. For the ladies, Puawe, Hila, and Ho‘ōpio are your best bet. All of these styles feature contoured footbeds for all-day comfort, Wet Grip Rubber for extra traction on deck, and water-resistant materials that are designed to float. You won’t find a better collection of sailing sandals.