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Santa Barbara's beaches don't have the big surf of the shoreline farther south, but they also don't have the crowds. You can usually find a solitary spot to swim or sunbathe. In June and July, fog often hugs the coast until about noon.
Arroyo Burro Beach. The beach's usually gentle surf makes it ideal for families with young children. It's a local favorite, since you can walk for miles in both directions when tides are low. Leashed dogs are allowed on the main stretch of beach and westward; they are allowed to romp off-leash east of the slough at the beach entrance. The parking lots fill early on weekends and throughout the summer, but the park is relatively quiet at other times. Walk along the beach just a few hundreds yards away from the main steps at the entrance to escape crowds on warm-weather days. Surfers, swimmers, standup paddlers, and boogie boarders regularly ply the waves, and photographers come often to catch the vivid sunsets. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguard in summer; parking, showers, toilets. Best For: sunset; surfing; swimming; walking. Cliff Dr. and Las Positas Rd., Santa Barbara, CA, 93109. www.countyofsb.org/parks.
East Beach. The wide swath of sand at the east end of Cabrillo Boulevard is a great spot for people-watching. East Beach has sand volleyball courts, summertime lifeguard and sports competitions, and arts-and-crafts shows on Sundays and holidays. You can use showers, a weight room, and lockers (bring your own towel) and rent umbrellas and boogie boards at the Cabrillo Bathhouse. Next door, there's an elaborate jungle-gym play area for kids. Hotels line the boulevard across from the beach. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards in summer; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best For: walking; swimming; surfing. 1118 Cabrillo Blvd., at Ninos Dr., Santa Barbara, CA, 93103. 805/897-2680.
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