El Capitan Beach &
Refugio Beach Activities

Santa Barbara County

Nearby Activities and Events

Music at the Ranch Free Concert Series

Rancho La Patera & Stow House, Goleta, CA
Tuesday evenings in July and August, 2017
Live music at Stow House
Music at the Ranch

Goleta Butterfly Grove

7701 Hollister Ave., Goleta, CA
Adjacent to the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa
View monarch butterflies mid-November to mid-February
Goleta Butterfly Grove

Aquasports Kayaking Trips

Professionally guided and outfitted Channel Islands kayaking adventures
Explore island sea caves
No experience required
Aquasports Kayaking Trips

Cachuma Lake

Highway 154, 25 miles north of Santa Barbara
Boating, fishing, camping
Cachuma Lake

Nojoqui Falls Park

Santa Barbara County Park
1½ miles east of Highway 101 near Gaviota Pass.
Take Old Coast road to Alisal Road
A short hike to view the falls.
Ball fields, BBQ and picnic areas, playground, restrooms
Nojoqui Falls Park

Books and
Maps of
Local Interest

El Capitan State Beach Activities

With the south facing beach protected from the heavy northern swells, El Capitan Beach is a popular swimming spot. Cold Pacific temperatures don't hold back eager water sports enthusiasts. Boogie boarders, skim boarders, swimmers, and just those who like to wade out into the surf enjoy El Capitan's generally tame waves.

Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.

Surfing at El Cap

Surfers keep an eye on El Capitan, waiting for those amazing days when the break off the point is unrivaled along the Santa Barbara coast. During a west swell when things are right, the wave can seem to break forever, providing spectacularly long rides. Dangerous rocks on the point make it a location for experienced surfers. The point gets very crowded when the waves are up.

Oceanside Picnics

A row of picnic tables along a grassy shelf overlooking the beach and ocean make a wonderful place for a picnic at El Capitan State Beach.

picnic tables at El Capitan State Beach, Santa Barbara County, CA

Refugio State Beach Activities

Surfing at Refugio

When the west swell arrives, Refugio Beach has decent surfing near the point. The waves are rarely big enough to attract the same crowds you will find at El Cap, but it can be pretty busy. The reliable smaller waves at Refugio make it a good spot for beginning and intermediate surfers.


Divers leave the crowds behind on the beach and discover the underwater beauty just below the surface. Kelp beds, reefs, and a rocky point make interesting areas for exploring. A great shelf reef is found off the west side of the beach. Another interesting reef is found to the south. The gentle surf makes it a good spot for beginners to develop their diving skills.

Refugio Junior Lifeguards - 2017

Children between the ages of 7 and 17 can participate in the Refugio Junior Lifeguard Program offered every summer. Participants learn about ocean safety and environmental education. During the 3-week long sessions they learn lifesaving skills, first aid, and CPR. They also develop their physical fitness and learn ocean recreation skills.

Among the recreational activities included in last year's sessions were a sandcastle contest, a field trip to El Capitan Beach for surfing, and a field trip to Gaviota State Beach. Similar activities are planned for this year.

Note: For 2017 there will be only one session which will meet at Refugio State Beach on Mondays and Wedndesdays and at El Capitan State Beach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Field trips to local beaches will be held on Fridays.


All new applicants for Refugio Junior Lifeguards must pass a tryout evaluation of each child's swimming skills and confidence in the water before they can participate in the program. Tryouts are held at various dates in May and June, 2017. Enrollment begins April 1, 2017.
Refugio Junior Lifeguards

2017 Junior Lifeguard Session

Session: June 26 - July 21, 2017
10:00 AM to 3:00 PM (no JGs on July 4)
Cost: $299 per session

Kayaking from Refugio to El Capitan

The protected waters in the shadow of the Channel Islands and the south facing beaches, Refugio Beach and El Capitan Beach are popular locations for launching kayaks. The 3-mile trip between the two beaches is a classic paddle. Visitors often encounter sea lions, seals, dolphins, and a myriad of sea birds. A number of private companies offer guided trips and Refugio State Beach has lifeguard led kayak trips.

Santa Barbara Adventure Company

Refugio State Beach kayaking tours,
3 mile paddle along the coast with included lunch stop at secluded beach. About 5 hours. Children 8-9 usually ride in tandem kayak with parent. Older children can usually handle their own kayak.
Santa Barbara Adventure Company

surfer, Pacific Ocean, CA

The Ansio Trail: El Capitan Beach to Refugio Beach

The Ansio Trail is a 3-mile long paved bicycling and walking path that connects El Capitan State Beach with Refugio State Beach. The rolling trail follows the bluffs between the two beaches, offering wonderful views of the coast and ocean. At several points travelers can divert to explore interesting places along the beach.

During low tides it is possible to walk long stretches of the beach and rocky coast between the two parks. Hikers, of course, need to be aware of the tides to avoid being trapped against a rocky cliff by the waves.

Fishing along the Coast from
El Capitan Beach to Refugio Beach

Surf fishermen along the sand and rock coast from Refugio Beach to El Capitan Beach have successful days as long as they can avoid getting hung up in the kelp too much. Sandworms have proven to be a good bait to use in the area. Other popular baits are cut squid, shrimp, and rubber swim baits. At El Capitan beach many anglers like the section from directly in front of the day-use parking lot west to the park boundary.

Fishing at Refugio Beach, Santa Barbara County, CA

Kayak Fishing

Fishing from kayaks is a good way to get out where other anglers can't reach. The kelp beds around Refugio Beach can produce rockfish, calicos, cabezons, and even halibut. A popular kayak fishing spot is the cove around the point at El Capitan Beach.

Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

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