The best time for this area is late summer or early fall, after the majority of the tourists have gone home, but the waters are still warm from the summer sun. However, the waves will be largest in the winter as storms roll onto the California coast.
Along a quiet stretch of the central coast coast sits Refugio State Beach. This inlet is well protected from the larger pacific ocean by a rock outcropping as well as the Channel Islands, making it a great spot for beginner surfers.
What Makes It Great
The waters at Refugio State Beach roll onto the rocky shores where they are pushed into moderate and slow moving waves around the point. The waves are typically small in size with crumbling tops and a gentle right break, making them a great option for beginner surfers. The point extending out into the water also provides another benefit in the form of a wind break. This means that surfers won’t have to worry about the on-shore winds that are common along the central coast and can ruin an afternoon surf session with messy and confusing conditions.
If this is your first time at Refugio consider taking the short hike to the top of the cliffs that line the point, this will give you a great view of the bay and the break and even out toward the Channel Islands that parallel the coast. From above you’ll also be able to appreciate the extensive kelp forests that are common in these waters.
Who is Going to Love It
This break is perfect for the beginner surfer, with a slower moving and mushier wave that is best suited to foamies and long boards. In general, Refugio State Beach is a great choice when searching for an ocean-lover's getaway, or traveling with a family. The campground is lovely and well maintained with firepits, running water, and coin-operated showers. Meanwhile, those not interested in surfing can entertain themselves with kayaking, fishing, or exploring the kelp forests.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Santa Barbara head north on the 101 towards the town of Goleta. Take Exit 120 onto Refugio Road, turn left toward the water and enter the park. Fee’s for daily use are typically $8 per vehicle. If you’d like to reserve a campsite you must do so online at ReserveAmerica.com, sites cost $45/night and accommodate a maximum of eight people per site. Be sure to make your reservation early as it is not uncommon for sites to book up months in advance.