Los Angeles might be the apple of the wellness world’s eye these days (and for good reason), but it’s not the only spot in SoCal where you can get sun, smoothies, and some serious outdoor time. Drive just 90 minutes north and you’ll find another healthy haven: Santa Barbara.
Nicknamed the American Riviera (no joke), the coastal city shares the chic, endless-summer vibe of its French counterpart—think swoon-worthy spas, boho-chic resorts, and world-class dining—with the added benefit of a full-blown holistic health scene that’s attracting a different type of jet set. (One that’s more into gua sha than gambling.) “Since we have the outdoor adventures combined with the farm-to-table food, everyone is truly living the lifestyle on a daily basis,” says local wellness consultant, trainer, and model Nora Tobin.
A few of the things Tobin appreciates about her city include “the magnificent hiking that takes you into the clouds above the sea and provides the ultimate sense of peace—hot springs and Romero trails have the best views—and paddling along the beautiful coastline at Butterfly Beach, where you look down at the kelp forests and up to the endless mountain range.”
Because Santa Barbara’s tucked between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, both terrains are only about a 20-minute drive from the city’s downtown, making it possible to take a six-mile canyon hike in the morning and still catch some waves at one of California’s most epic surf spots (Rincon Point) while the swells are good.
Even residents of high-vibe epicenters like LA and New York City will find plenty of FOMO sources in Santa Barbara. For example, according to Tobin, it’s pretty standard to call time-out on an outdoor volleyball match so you can watch a pod of dolphins swim by. Not to mention the miles and miles of vineyards surrounding the city, which produce some of California’s best vino.
But beyond all the ingrained healthy-living habits of this vibrant hotspot with a small-town feel, it has its share of innovative and experienced practitioners, services, and journeys—which is why Santa Barbara’s the first stop in Well+Good’s new travel series, The Perfect Healthy Day—the wellness-obsessed tour guide you’ll wish you could take with you everywhere.
Here’s how to have the perfect healthy day in Santa Barbara.
Find your flow at Yoga Soup
In Santa Barbara, your day either starts with a hike (try Inspiration Point for impossibly stunning vistas) or a sweaty, early-morning flow. The latter is best had at Yoga Soup. It’s something of a local institution, with strong flow, Ashtanga, restorative, and resistance stretching sessions taught by the area’s most creative instructors in a bright, airy studio. (Owner Eddie Ellner’s classes are particularly sought after, thanks to his philosophical insight.) It’s also where you can attend special workshops, from women’s new moon circles to mindful chewing talks to artsy Mandala Body Mapping.
Yoga Soup, 28 Parker Way, Downtown, yogasoup.com
Show your skin some love at KW Aesthetics
A facial is not simply a facial at the hands of Katie Wisner; her transformative treatments—using results-oriented brand Osmosis—border on spiritual experiences. She has the power of touch down, which creates relaxation to the core. Wisner’s a one-stop shop for waxing, too, and collaborates with electrical esthetician Melanie Simon to dole out nano current facials by request.
KW Aesthetics, 1805 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Suite B, Waterfront, (805) 453-4518
Find the *ultimate* acai bowl at Backyard Bowls
This local favorite—now open for nearly a decade—is the last word in addictive acai bowls, which its owners discovered while living in Hawaii almost a decade ago. You might find yourself wishing you could order one of each (which: no judgement), but if you opt for just one go with the Cocoa Almond Bowl—made with mouthwateringly delicious housemade cashew milk. For a little something extra, add baobab, chia seeds, or sachi inchi.
Backyard Bowls, 331 Motor Way, Downtown, backyardbowls.com
Where to go for energy work
Minka Robinson Stevens is a multi-hyphenate healer (Chinese medicine master, acupuncturist, holistic coach) who’s a go-to source for everything from customized hormone-balancing herbal formulas to natural facial rejuvenations. A 90-minute intro session with the SB native incorporates a complete health history, nutrition, lifestyle, and herbal advising, but for some one-off help book an acupuncture, aromatherapy, or aroma-acupoint (which is applying essential oils to acupuncture points) appointment.
Points of Health, 1805 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Suite E, Waterfront, pointsofhealth.org
Get your full-body spa service at the Four Seasons’ spa
You’ll be tempted to spend all day in the relaxation room of the Four Season’s spa (yes, those are the Channel Islands you’re gazing off at into the distance), but that means you’ll miss out on the Four Seasons in One body treatment. The 80-minutes treatment gives your body head-to-toe love, incorporating local ingredients into a heavenly Ayurvedic scalp massage, body scrub and wrap, and fatigue-fighting foot and leg massages—which are particularly reviving post-workout.
The Spa at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, 1260 Channel Drive, Waterfront, fourseasons.com/santabarbara
Taste the (healthy) rainbow at Mesa Verde
Okay, local favorite Mesa Verde isn’t technically whipping up unicorn food, but the newly established Santa Barbara institution is definitely where you’ll want to go when you need to treat your palate to a bounty of beautiful, bright, plant-based fare for any meal of the day. The West Mesa restaurant, which opened in 2014, is known for not only organic vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free small plates, but also its super-friendly service that makes every visit just lovely. Oh, and there are jackfruit “chorizo” tacos that you’ll definitely be able to flaunt on Instagram.
Mesa Verde, 1919 Cliff Dr., West Mesa, mesaverderestaurant.com
Seek intuitive counsel from Aiden Chase
If all that beachside downtime has you contemplating life’s big questions (or debating whether you should just quit your job and find a Santa Barbara bungalow to call your own), turn to healer-to-the-stars and third-generation intuitive Aiden Chase. He escaped the crush of LA several years ago in favor of a bucolic farm in Santa Barbara’s Montecito neighborhood that he’s dubbed Healing Ranch Santa Barbara, where he’s doles out energy readings, intuitive advising, and trippy guided meditation sessions.
Aiden Chase, Montecito, aidenchase.com
Tap into your happy place at Vedanta Temple
Meditation isn’t always silent in Santa Barbara, where in-the-know locals gather every evening at 6 p.m. at this 60-year-old temple in the Montecito foothills for a free Hindu singing meditation, AKA Arati. Nuns sing and chant melodic tunes from a secret balcony that Chase says “transports you to a happy place inside yourself. You’re in and out in 15 minutes, refreshed and renewed.” Insider tip: Stay to watch the sun sink across the ocean—you’ll bask in the glow of knowing you’ve just had the perfect day in Santa Barbara.
Vedanta Temple, 927 Ladera Lane, Montecito, vendanta.org/santa-barbara-temple