Skip to Content

Dolphin Spotting at El Capitan State Beach near Santa Barbara

El Capitan State Beach near Santa Barbara

Leaving Santa Barbara, my family hopped on Highway 101, following my trusty guidebook,  Road Trip USA. Our intention was to drive until we found a beach that we wanted to stop and explore. We found it about a half hour after leaving the Oasis Inn & Suites, where we’d slept the night before.

The Entrance at El Capitan State Beach

Entrance to El Capitan State Beach was a reasonable $10 for a carload, making this a very affordable stop for my family of five.

Looking down the beach at El Capitan

After a quick drive through the park, we parked in the lower parking lot and made our way towards the beach. We were pleased to see that the tide was out, providing the perfect beach combing opportunity.

The kids jumping on the beach at El Capitan State Beach near Santa Barbara

Even though our journey for the day had just begun, my kids were excited to get out of the vehicle- and they didn’t keep it a secret!

Brothers- playing at El Capitan State Beach

The boys’ had fun goofing – and showing- off.

Leaving our mark in the sand at El Capitan State Beach

We left our mark on the beach and were almost ready to make our way back to the vehicle when we spotted something in the water.

Dolphins at El Capitan State Park

At first I thought my eyes had deceived me and my family thought I was crazy since they’d not seen what I had.

More Dolphins sighted at El Capitan State Beach

But I kept looking and this time I knew what I was looking at. And my family had spotted them too! We spent the next 40 minutes watching the dolphins swim just off the shore. I admit that I’ve always enjoyed watching dolphins in captivity, but the first time I saw them in their natural habitat was a thrilling experience.

Birding on El Capitan State Beach

I didn’t find any shells, but did spot some birds. By now my husband was ready to get back on the road.

Walking along El Capitan State Beach

But I didn’t want to leave without one more glimpse of those dolphins. And just in time…the dolphins made another appearance as they made their way back up the shore. 

Dophin Sighting at El Capitan State Beach

On the way back to the parking area, we found placards that familiarized us to the history of the area.

Placards display the history of El Capitan

We also noticed a bike/walking trail that ran along the beach to a picnic area.

Picnic Area along the beach at El Capitan State Beach

The view made me wish that we’d thought ahead and packed a lunch. Doesn’t this look like the perfect picnic spot?

Nature Trail at El Capitan State Beach

On the way to the vehicle, we noticed a short nature trail that made my husband want to delay our departure and explore a bit more. Unfortunately for him, the kids were ready to get back on the road.

El Capitan State Beach is open dawn to dusk and offers camping sites, modern bathrooms, a bike/walking trail, some nature trails, picnic area and beach access. It is located 17 miles from Santa Barbara in Goleta, California. It is also one of my family’s favorite stops on our 5,000 mile road trip from Ohio to California and back.

You can read about our road trip here:  

Road Trip to California Day 1: Viewing the St. Louis Arch
Road Trip to California Day 2: To Texas and Beyond
Road Trip to California Day 3: A Day Full of Surprises
Road Trip to California Day 4 & 5: We Made It!
Road Trip to California Day 6: The Never-Ending Day
Road Trip to California Day 7: It’s All Downhill from Here
Road Trip from California: The End

This post is linked to Travel Photo Monday at Travel Photo Discovery and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox. This post does contain an affiliate link. 

How many Beer Bottles does it take to Build a House?
← Previous
A Quick Drive through Rhyolite Ghost Town in Death Valley National Park
Next →

Nancie

Wednesday 12th of February 2014

You look like you had a lot of fun. What a bonus that was with the dolphins. I would have wanted to stay forever.

Mel {MamaBuzz}

Friday 7th of February 2014

I know I already commented, but just letting you know I'm featuring you in next week's issue of Inspire Me Wednesday. Thank you for sharing, Tonya!

Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

Friday 7th of February 2014

My aunt and uncle live in Goleta near El Capitan Beach, lucky them. Nice wildlife photos! I tried photographing wild dolphins once, and all I got were tons of pictures of water where a dolphin tail used to be. Another time, I wasn't wearing my contact lenses at the beach because I didn't want to get salt water in them while swimming in Galveston Bay. Everyone started yelling "Dolphins!" and pointing, but everything was one big blur to me. Oh well. Looks like this was a terrific outing for your kids. They don't look the least bit grouchy.

Lisa Goodmurphy

Thursday 6th of February 2014

Beautiful beach and amazing experience seeing the dolphins! We saw dolphins swimming in Galveston Bay when we were leaving on a cruise from there - it is so much better to see them in the wild than in captivity!

budget jan

Thursday 6th of February 2014

How wonderful that they were swimming in so close to the shore. Love your Praters mark on the beach and the bird shot is beautiful.

DMCA.com Protection Status
This site uses cookies. Find out more about this site’s cookies.