Road Trip to Santa Barbara

There are two things I’ll never say no to: waffles and road trips. Okay, we all know that’s a lie. There are many things I’ll never say no to. Like free airplane tickets. Or a job offer after graduation. But anyway, I digress.

Going on a road trip along the coast of California was one of the things I definitely wanted to do during my time at USC, and since I’m here all summer with more free time than I need, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to fulfill my dreams (lol). My original idea was to drive up to San Francisco or Big Sur and stop at different locations along the way, but my best friend Emily wasn’t crazy about the 5 to 7-hour drive, so we settled on the quaint little town of Santa Barbara instead.

After consulting several reputable travel guides a blog post titled “The Top Instagram Spots in Santa Barbara,” we compiled a comprehensive and detailed schedule vague list of things to do in my Notes app and off we went, just like that. That is, after stopping by at Starbucks. It was 6 am, people, I needed to get my white chocolate mocha 💁 (Starbucks count: 1).

We ended up taking the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway, which allowed for multiple stops along the coast and plenty of occasions for us to irresponsibly run across the highway to take pictures.


Our next stop was IHOP, which, for some reason, I had previously believed was a gas station. My bad. But yeah, IHOP is the classic road trip breakfast place and since I had never been there before, I was excited. Which is exactly why I was so disappointed to find that they served me fake Nutella. I mean, seriously IHOP, did you really think that I wouldn’t notice? 

That Nutella does not look right.

After that letdown, we headed directly to a hiking trail called Lizard’s Mouth, named after a rock formation that is shaped like — wait for it — a lizard’s mouth. Or at least that’s what they say, since we notably did not find this aforementioned rock, and settled on seeing, y’know actual lizards. The trail also had rattle snakes and was very unfortunately situated next to a gun club, so, to be completely honest, I just wanted to gtfo asap. It was pretty, though. Also, fun story, the beginning of the trail is marked by a half-buried drainage pipe that we obviously missed and drove onto a dirt road instead that — as it turns out — was not open to traffic. Awkward.

(PC: Emily)
Not the lizard, but close enough?

Once that riveting adventure was over, we drove down to State St in Santa Barbara and walked around for a bit. And went to Starbucks (Starbucks count: 2). We also stopped by at Stearns Wharf and strolled the beach for a bit, but just as the Yelp reviews said, there’s not much to do at either place, there are just some very expensive restaurants and people fishing. That is why we then headed to a place we knew we would love: the mall. Or, more precisely, Paseo Nuevo, an outdoor mall thing with a bunch of stores and food places.

I didn’t know which photo to post so I posted all the good ones okay don’t judge me bye. (PC: Emily)

After sharing a somewhat mediocre pizza and taking about 10 million photos on the famous Paseo Nuevo steps, we drove to the Chromatic Gate rainbow arch to take even more photos (surprise surprise), because why not? The arch itself was a little smaller than expected and about six more people arrived at the same time as us, with the exact same goal as us, so we stuck around there for a while, waiting for the crowd to dissolve. It took a while, but hey, it was worth it! I got a new Facebook profile picture out of it! (Note: you don’t have to take every shallow thing I say at face value. You know that I’m a big fun of sarcasm.)

Success is when you manage to pull off looking effortless in a photo that took two hours to take. (PC: Emily)

It was at this point, however, standing underneath this gorgeous rainbow-hued geometric metal rectangle, that we realized something. Since, as it turns out, as pretty as it is, there’s not much to actually do in Santa Barbara. Especially when you don’t really want to pay for anything and it’s too cold to go to for a swim. That is why we ended up driving around for a little bit and ultimately going to Butterfly Beach, where we were supposed to watch the sunset. Except it was only 4 pm, it was way too windy to hang out there for four hours, and I desperately needed to use the restroom (tmi), which is how…we ended up at Coffee Bean, for a change (Starbucks count: 2, Coffee Bean count: 1). There, I had an iced lemon pound cake and made the decision to head back home and stop for dinner in Malibu.

I don’t see any butterflies but w/e.

So off we went, once again, stopping along the way to take more photos, and eventually ending up at a fancy restaurant in Malibu that seemed a lot cheaper on Yelp. There, we had dinner, Emily mistook sun-dried tomatoes for shrimp, we kinda celebrated my birthday, and I realized that I had gotten really, really sunburned. But that’s never really a surprise.



And that was that.

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