Photograph by Joseph Bautista, Getty Images
Read Caption

People walk along El Matador Beach in Malibu, California.

Photograph by Joseph Bautista, Getty Images

Driving Southern California: San Diego to Santa Barbara

This road trip along the Pacific coast offers epic views, delicious fried treats, and the chance to unwind to our perfect Southern California playlist.

A new year deserves a new road map. As one year closes and another queues up, change sits patiently on the horizon, waiting for you to take action.

Start off in California’s southern city of San Diego, the land of year-round sun and easy living, where creature comforts tempt passersby into extended stays. Continue north along Interstate 5, navigating through frenzied Los Angeles, finally finding balance among the hills of Santa Barbara in a safari tent.

In 2017, bypass resolutions altogether and instead try a different approach to welcoming the New Year: Drive toward it without any hesitation, embrace its challenges, and let this road trip be your guide. Between San Diego and Santa Barbara, you’ll have a meet and greet with fear, reorient your view, and binge on donuts—all necessary stops when the new you is revved for adventure.

View Images

Follow this trip up the coast of Southern California.

Stop 1: Adventure on the Fly

Standing at the edge of a cliff above Black’s Beach in San Diego, you have just one choice: to jump. At Torrey Pines Gliderport, the wind’s got your back— as does the paragliding pro you’re strapped to. So say sayonara to fear as you leap directly into it, then ride the resulting adrenaline rush high above barreling waves below.

Stop 2: Feast Your Eyes

One good high deserves another: Enter Donut Friend, the sugar-spun shop stuffed with donuts that rock punny punk band names such as S’Morrissey (a burnt marshmallow and chocolate wonder) and Drive Like Jelly (a PB&J, donut style). Don’t forget a bag of deliciously airy donut holes for the road—they’ll fuel your hike to the Griffith Observatory, a domed marvel that overlooks Los Angeles. Peep into the telescope to put everything in perspective.

Stop 3: Lonely Hearts Club

A wedding dress, cassette collection, even a thousand origami cranes—these are among the emotion-filled relics at the Museum of Broken Relationships. Notes written by anonymous donors give context to the crowd-sourced artifacts on display, framing a legacy of human experience that makes a compelling argument for shared catharsis. Join in.

Stop 4: 'Namaste' for a While

A 10-acre seaside sanctuary with immaculate gardens around a man-made lake, the Self-Realization Fellowship has espoused mindful reflection since Paramahansa Yogananda, the godfather of Eastern religion in the West, dedicated the site in 1950. Pay your respects to Mahatma Gandhi, a portion of whose ashes are buried here. Make your way to the grassy platforms above his memorial, where stone benches invite meditating minds and bookworms alike to ditch noise for stillness.

Stop 5: Detox (then Retox)

Hidden below State Street in Santa Barbara lies Salt, North America’s largest Himalayan salt therapy cave. Let 45 tons of 200-million-year-old minerals work its detox magic, then head to the Funk Zone, an emerging arts district overflowing with viticulturists who pour at outposts like Municipal Winemakers, a diving center turned tasting room.

Stop 6: Stay the Night

At El Capitan Canyon, camp out in a luxury safari tent (made cushy with custom woodworking and Turkish textiles) that’s surrounded by 350 acres of protected land. When the beach, heated pool, and endless trails leave you peckish, order the hotel’s BBQ and s’mores kits and prepare the feast on your tent-side grill.


These contemporary artists and their tunes represent that smooth Southern California sound. Put this playlist on as you cover ground, and pump up the noise.

  1. “Fanfare” - The Verigolds
  2. “LSD” - The Gloomies
  3. “Down the Line” - The Donkeys
  4. “Lose Yourself” - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  5. “The World Ender” - Lord Huron
  6. “Thieves & Kings” - The Peach Kings
  7. “Love Test” - The Growlers
  8. “Save a Prayer” - Eagles of Death Metal
  9. “Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere” - La Luz
  10. “Lose Your Mind” - So Many Wizards
  11. “Personal” - Matthew Logan Vasquez
  12. “Worship the Sun” - Allah-Las