If you’re not from out West, or haven’t spent much time here, you may have a vague notion of the California coast as a kind of paradise of outdoor adventure. Beefy waves crashing on fine sand rising into steep, green and gold hills, with super cool beach towns right in the middle of it all. If this is your mental picture of the region, you’re spot on — all that’s missing is a name. Welcome to Ventura.
Everything from the land to the sea to the dinner table is here and ready for action, tucked away in this seaside enclave not too far up the coast from LA. Start with these 10 ideas to get outside and get pumped, and you’ll see why Ventura deserves a dot on your mental map of iconic California.
1. Shouting “Thar she blows!” to a pod of whales
If you run into a herd of early risers lining the Ventura Harbor, they’re probably about to hop aboard an
Since you’re up so early anyway, join ’em. Just witnessing the majesty of a whale breaching and swimming with its pod is not something you’ll soon forget.
2. Hiking and camping on Santa Cruz Island…
The bluff at Cavern Point offers an incredible view, and just below it you can
Note: Though this is a national park,
3. …and kayaking to sea caves while you’re there
If you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease, you can (and should!) kayak around the Channel Islands’ sea caves. They’re as mysterious and beautiful as you’re picturing, yep, and they don’t require pro skills to reach.
There are guided excursions available, but for a self-guided kayak tour, you’ll want to stick to Santa Cruz Island. It has two popular spots for kayaking: Scorpion Anchorage, with a sand and cobblestone beach, is perfect for beginners, with access to the many caves and coves that make up the island. Prisoners Harbor has fewer visitors and access to coves for sea creature viewing, but it’s better for the more experienced.
Note: Island Packers can transport kayaks to the island, but a reservation is required.
4. Hopping on a bike and cruising the coast
How’s this for ready-made adventure? Grab a bike of your choice from the
Turn around and check out the entire city in all its glory before hopping back on your wheels and passing through San Buenaventura State Beach. Make sure to stop for some oysters at
5. Going on a hunt for the best Mexican food this side of the border
Mexican food fuels Ventura, and the Downtown/Ventura Avenue area is where aficionados of the cuisine like to chow down. Instead of a pub crawl, consider this a grub crawl. Start at
Find where the Avenue meets Main Street and head north to Johnny’s Mexican Food. This is the place to stop for a true Ventura original: the corn burrito. Grab a michelada (think Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka) at
6. Fishing from the Ventura pier
Nothing brings on the nostalgia like grabbing a fishing pole and heading down to the pier, Lassie in tow, with a bag stuffed with sandwiches — or, you know, since you’re not on an episode of Andy Griffith, grab your friends, a cooler, and do like grandpa did, only 21st-century style on the
Stop in at Eric’s Tackle Shop on Thompson Boulevard or Ventura Sportfishing at the Ventura Harbor, grab your gear — you can rent equipment — and book a day or even overnight excursion on a chartered boat. Or simply walk out and cast a line off of the pier, DIY-like. You’ve been saying you wanted to detox for a while, right? This is one of the best ways to do it.
7. Scoping birds with the Audubon Society
Ventura has a Mediterranean climate, meaning the weather rarely ventures into extremes in either direction — aka, it’s wonderful pretty much all the time. Birds know this and love it as much as the humans do, making use of the Ventura River to rest, nest, and preen for birding enthusiasts — or potential mates, whichever. Either way, whoever cares to take part in excursions hosted by the
The society runs frequent trips to the Ventura area’s many natural habitats, like Camino Real Park — its barranca is used as a corridor by migrating birds — and the Settling Ponds, where ducks, grebes, and gulls call home.
8. Bringing the pup to Arroyo Verde Park
9. Surfing with the pros
Ventura has seen surfing superstars like Timmy Curran and Matt McCabe
Surfers’ Point, near downtown Ventura, is a popular spot to catch a wave early, too. And if you’re in it for the spectating, it’s a fantastic spot to watch surfers bobbing (or biffing) in the morning mist.
10. Going on a thrift store safari along Main Street
Ventura is the place to be for