When I’m in the mood to escape on a California getaway, a glitzy resort on a bluff overlooking the beach is not what comes to mind. Instead I look for a setting where nature provides most of the entertainment and all of the relaxation. No, I don’t mean camping. My solution is a glamping experience at El Capitan Canyon resort near Santa Barbara.
I visited the eco-friendly property on a sunny October weekend when the weather was perfect for hiking the canyon, biking on one of El Capitan’s complimentary beach cruiser bikes or joining an adventure company’s Pacific Ocean kayaking excursion. Children were back in school, which meant I had the peaceful spot 20 miles north of Santa Barbara all to myself—except for a couple of other smart boomer travelers who know that traveling in the shoulder season is the way to escape the crowds.
Boomer travel tip: If you don’t mind the crowds, grooving to one of the Saturday summer concerts (free for overnight guests) is a fun way to rock out in nature. Of course you’d want to start the evening at the Canyon BBQ (extra fee).
Glamping options at El Capitan Canyon include cabins, luxury tents and yurts. For this visit, I chose one of the cedar cabins that sit in a meadow that’s fringed with oak and sycamore trees. At night, I slept with the windows cracked open dreaming to the accompaniment of croaking frogs and the gurgling waters of Capitan Creek. Equipped with a front porch for relaxing, a wood burning stove for warming up the October chill (should have closed those windows) and a kitchenette with an all-important coffee maker, the cabin had everything that I needed for a relaxing getaway.
In the mornings, I sat on the front porch with a hot cup of coffee watching the wildlife walk by. At night, I returned to the same comfy spot to gaze at the stars. In between, a world of adventures waited for me to say yes. I couldn’t resist the lure of a first-time ocean kayaking experience at Refugio State Park with Santa Barbara Adventure Company. The experience included a guide, instructions, waterproof gear and kayaks. All I had to provide was the courage to try something new.
After paddling in the Pacific for an hour or so, lunch on the deck at El Capitan’s Canyon Market and Deli seemed extra tasty. I fueled up on a BBQ chicken salad with organic greens from the canyon’s garden, before heading to my favorite chair on the cabin’s porch for reading and, yes, I admit it, a nap. Doesn’t fun in nature make you sleepy?
It wouldn’t be a California getaway without wine tasting. On a drive through the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County—about an hour from El Capitan—I admired the rolling, grassy hills and vineyards where row after row of grapevines seemed to disappear into the horizon. Sanford Winery lured me into the tasting room with its particularly stunning location, vineyard tours and flights of wine tasting.
After a sophisticating afternoon, I returned to El Capitan to cook dinner over the open firepit in front of my cabin. Canyon Market and Deli’s “Cabin Service” provided food delivery as well as everything else that I needed for a campfire dinner, including the s’mores.
Later, I sat on the porch, glass of pinot noir from Sanford Winery in hand, listening to the frogs croak as the wind whispered through the canyon. Those folks at the ritzy resort on the bluff don’t know what they’re missing. I’ll choose glamping at El Capitan Canyon every time.