With its SoCal sun and NoCal sensibility, Santa Barbara is about the best place in the lower 48 for an early-spring mix of surfing and cyclingand for anyone in pursuit of a good glass of wine. While last November's fires scoured 1,940 acres in Santa Barbara County, the flames spared the city center and the majority of the recreational trails surroundi
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Do yourself a favor and stay downtowngourmet restaurants and good bars fan out in every direction, and beach access is just a few blocks away. Check in to the new, Moroccan-style Canary Hotel (doubles, $310; canarysantabarbara.com) and stop in at the bar, where locals pretend they’re vacationing. Then sushi it up. Shoot for an outdoor table at Arigato Sushi (1225 State Street), where you’ll find a feast of yellowtail and the best people-watching north of L.A. (Oprah and Jack Johnson own homes here.) Back at the Canary, soak in the rooftop hot tub, cool off in the pool, then take a glass of local Justin Vineyard syrah to the outdoor fireplace.
Ironically, good rentals are hard to come by in this two-wheel-crazy town, so bring your own. The Town Free-for-All road ride leaves from the Santa Barbara Coffee Roasting Company every Saturday at 8 A.M. (sbcoffee.com). Alongside a peloton of up to 60 riders, grind out 68 miles along California 150 toward Lake Casitas and Ojai. You’ll cut east into orchard country, climb for five miles at a 3-to-8-percent grade, then descend back to the coast for a spin back northwest along the beach. Not in the mood for a hammerfest? Walk a few blocks down State Street to Wheel Fun Rentals, where you can pick up an electric-blue Sun beach cruiser and roll down the path that skirts the beach and harbor (from $16; wheelfunrentals.com). Beware of salsa dancers on roller skates.
Kelly Slater paddles out at Rincon Point, 15 minutes south of Santa Barbara, but you should park at the University of California at Santa Barbara, few miles north of downtown, and head to Campus Point. The waves are a consistent four to five feet, and there are only a few passing sharks. Plus the locals who surf the gentler Poles, just south of Campus Point, are actually nice. Need a lesson? Caio Blanco, a Brazilian expat, can help with everything from timing the breaks to teaching a few handy words of Portuguese street slang. (Hey, you never know.) And for true wimps like, um, this girl I know, he’ll even give you a tow back out ($65 per hour; santabarbaraseals.com).