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El Capitan Canyon 3.0

Santa Barbara, California, United States

Review Summary

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  • No dogs
  • It's nature, so there are snakes, mountain lions, ticks and other living things
  • Not located on the beach side of the freeway
  • Cabins are close together
  • Tents and yurts do not have private bathrooms

Bottom Line

Twenty miles north of Santa Barbara, situated on 300 acres of canyon wilderness, El Capitan Canyon offers a camping, or "glamping," experience with enough modern conveniences to satisfy travelers who would rather just semi-rough it. Guests stay in cabins, tents, or yurts; only cabins have en-suite bathrooms. All accommodations have electricity and wooden floors. El Capitan Canyon provides the fun and adventure of camping but with many of the comforts of a hotel.

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Glamping with fire pits, tri-tip barbecue, and live music on summer weekends

El Capitan Canyon allows guests to feel like adventure travelers without subjecting them to the less pleasant aspects of camping, such as no modern plumbing. The vibe is rustic, all the way down to the carved wooden signs, pathways lined with wildflowers, and rough-hewn picnic tables, but useful amenities are either provided in the "room" or are available at the Canyon Market Shop. On summer weekends, there is live music and a barbecue, for an extra charge. Families, hikers, surfers, wine enthusiasts, or travelers who just want peace and quiet gather around the fire pits and heated swimming pool, away from the hustle of daily life.


Peace and tranquillity, where Los Padres National Park meets the Pacific Ocean

Map of El Capitan Canyon

El Capitan Canyon is just off the 101 freeway, 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, but it feels far from civilization, nestled among rolling hills and canyon pathways, across the highway from a surfer-friendly beach. Traffic can be heavy on the 101, but once guests are on the grounds of El Capitan, traffic sounds disappear. Beach cruiser bikes are provided free to guests to help them get around El Capitan's 300 acres, where cars are not allowed.


Cabins, tents and yurts keep guests close to nature, but not too close.

El Capitan Canyon's cedar cabins have front porches, en-suite bathrooms, electric heat, grills, fire pits and kitchenettes with microwaves. Some of the larger cabins have soaking tubs, gas fireplaces, full-size kitchens, and private outdoor showers.

The romantic-feeling safari tents sit on wooden platforms and are furnished with comfortable beds, writing desks, electric lights, fans, and heaters; bathrooms are shared. The "adventure yurt" is a circular canvas structure with a domed skylight for spectacular nighttime stargazing.

Decor is cozy, rustic, and western, with Mexican-style throw rugs and wall hangings, and bentwood chairs. Towels, flashlights and toiletries are provided.


Heated swimming pool, massage, ropes course

For those who don't feel like crossing the highway to hang out on the beach, El Capitan Canyon has a heated swimming pool, with lounge chairs and beach umbrellas, and an adjacent playground. Beach cruisers are free for guests, and there are plenty of activity options, including a hike among the resident llamas, a challenge ropes course, ocean kayaking, horseback riding, yoga, whale watching, massage, and wine tastings. The Canyon Market and Deli sells meals to eat in or take out, organic groceries, local wines, and pre-prepared barbecue kits (including s'mores), which guests can open and prepare on the on-site grills and fire pits.

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11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, California 93117, United States

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