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“Off the grid” at El Capitan

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Located along the beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline just 92 miles north of Los Angeles, 249 miles from Carmel and Monterey, and 332 miles south of San Francisco, the city of Santa Barbara offers a great deal of accommodation options in and around town to suit your needs and desires. And although most people opt for a hotel or resort, they might not know that there are a few great places to stay a little bit “off the grid.”

Only 20 minutes north of the city you will find a beautiful campground called Ocean Mesa at El Capitan, just a stone’s throw from some of the most beautiful unspoiled stretch of the California coast backing up to the picturesque Los Padres National Forest.

Each campsite encompasses a very spacious, elongated, concrete pad for whatever size travel vehicle, a tree-carved picnic table for eight, a gravel and asphalt area, fire-ring with grill, and the appropriate hookups for your particular recreational vehicle needs (they also have 20 tent camping sites). And unlike what you’ll find at many campgrounds, most were separated by 6-foot high rows of verdant bushes as a privacy buffer.

Other campground amenities include a modern and spacious bathhouse and comfort stations, a large heated pool and Jacuzzi, 15 miles of hiking trails, entertainment activities, laundry facilities, it is wired for internet and T.V., and the best part – an inviting ambiance in which to enjoy the great outdoors and meet other people—families with children, couples, retirees and those who live on the road full-time—from across the country.

Next door you will find El Capitan Canyon, opened (and family‐owned) in 1975 as a traditional campground and in 2002 transformed into an upscale, all-season comfort camping destination with a contemporary rustic ambiance.

It was one of the first places to be coined, “luxury camping,” and today it fits into what is more commonly referred to as “Glamping” (glamorous camping) for those who don’t want to forgo some of the comforts of home. And while many of these places are only sort of getting away from it all, El Capitan Canyon takes escaping to whole new level.

Accommodation options here include Cedar Cabins with spacious decks, bedrooms and lofts, a living room, full bathrooms, kitchenettes with kitchen table and chairs, many with fireplaces and/or soaking tubs, and linens, duvets, towels, picnic tables, grills and fire pits.

12 x 14-foot Canvas Safari Tents built on raised wooden decks with screened windows and doors with zip‐down flaps, queen‐size or two double beds, electric lamps, heaters, bed linens, towels and bathroom facilities with showers located nearby.

And the Adventure Yurts are 20-foot diameter, circular canvas structures with a queen bed and twin size bed with an additional twin trundle bed, refrigerator, ceiling fan and skylight, also with facilities nearby.

If you really want to glam-it-up, opt for the Safari Cabin Suite. Set on a hillside offering expansive ocean and mountain vistas on all sides, this place is the bomb and the Canyon’s most private accommodation. Think “Architectural Digest” but with a woodsy-feel in this spectacular two‐bedroom retreat featuring a designer kitchen, living room with fireplace, a master bedroom with fireplace, bathroom and to die for outdoor shower, second bedroom and bathroom, and wraparound deck with barbeque grill, outdoor dining area, lounge chairs and fire pit. You will have to fork out for this amazing indulgence ($695 – $795 per night), but for some it will be well worth it! 

What really makes a stay here so appealing is the au natural accoutrement: 350 acres of rolling hills and creek canyons set against the 3,500 acres of pristine nature preserve of the surrounding forest, groves of soaring California oak and sycamore trees, very few permanent structures, horseback riding facilities, free bicycle use, and the abundance of wildlife all around.

Most impressive is their focus on green practices with several vegetation, habitat, timber salvage and recycling, renewable energy, water and other conservation programs, a solar pool heating system, car-free zones to encourage wildlife and pedestrian safety and reduce noise and air pollution, complimentary electric shuttle service to the further away campsites, and a completely smoke‐free environment.

While you’re out here walking, hiking and biking, you can rest your tired bones at their private Creekside Canyon Spa set amidst gardens planted with herbs and native flowering shrubs with a spa cabin, spa tents, outdoor treatment areas, and an inviting outdoor enclosed wood shower (you can also arrange for treatments inside your accommodation). Activities including yoga, storytelling, botanical hikes, a ropes course, outdoor music series, barbeque buffet dinners and more are offered depending on the time of year.

 

Campers at both properties here have access to the adjacent Canyon Market & Café located just a short five minute walk down the Bill Wallace Trail which meanders through a verdant avocado tree grove. The market is a charming country store featuring a delicious, organic menu of gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner items, a large selection of local area wines, specialty items and the customary convenience store sundries.

The ambience here is captivating, highlighted by wooden bridges, a creek, handcrafted artwork pieces, a camp ring and stage (for groups), and a little gift shop selling body products, jewelry and the like.

Whether Ocean Mesa at El Capitan or El Capitan Canyon, you will find both to be welcome accommodation options when traveling along the California Coast.

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