If romance with a side of adrenaline is your ideal honeymoon or minimoon equation, it’s not necessary to go far. There are of course plenty of opportunities for trekking and hiking in the United States, but perhaps the most ideal adventure honeymoon is a place that combines surmountable hot-springs-strewn mountains and valleys with a paradisiacal ocean playground and a sprawling wine-producing region. Does it get any better than a Santa Barbara honeymoon?
The coastal California idyll is less than a two-hour drive alongside the pretty blue Pacific from Los Angeles (it also has its own airport), yet it is in some ways everything L.A. is not. It’s super laid-back and friendly, with charming Spanish-Moorish architecture and a pervasive embrace of natural beauty and the great outdoors. Locals are active. Beaches—like Hendry’s, in front of sunset-ready seafood resto Boathouse—feature owners running with their dogs, as whales and dolphins swim just beyond the waves splattered with surfers. The mountains are likewise a go-to for hikers and mountain bikers, and motorcyclists on cruisers zip along bucolic country roads en route to the historic stagecoach stop turned favorite Sunday-afternoon hang Cold Spring Tavern (where live bands and BBQ make a perfect casual date), halfway to the Santa Ynez wine valley.
Nowhere do you get a better sense of place than at the Four Seasons the Biltmore Santa Barbara, which is cozied up close to the picturesque Butterfly Beach (when it’s calm, grab standup paddle boards and explore the long, gorgeous coastline from the water) and epitomizes SoCal’s Spanish influence with vibrantly painted tiles, intricate ceilings, authentic artwork, and a jungle feeling of palm trees and banana leaves throughout the large property. At the end of a day of exploring the area, climbing, biking, or paddling—or riding the waves during a customized surf sesh at Rincon or Sandspit with legendary pro Tom Curren—there’s no greater dinner spot than in the hotel’s intimate garden, where strung-up lights create a romantic ambience for a farm-to-table tasting dinner surrounded by the scents of Meyer lemon and rosemary plants. (These private dining experiences can also be booked in other pristine locations.)
In the summertime especially, new bungalows with plunge pools beckon, and a gelato pedicab makes its way around the property offering up freshly made scoops. Venture across the street to the members-only Peter Marino–renovated Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club for an epic sunset perch, drinks at the circular fish tank–cum–cocktail bar (stocked with tropical swimmers), and dinner with an enviable ocean view.
When it’s time for a little vino, the hotel can also arrange an ultrascenic heli flight to Santa Ynez (where you could also try a few days in a classic outdoorsy setting like Alisal Guest Ranch, which may give you camplike Dirty Dancing vibes) and horseback riding, as well as a private tour and tasting at crowd-pleasing Sunstone Winery. In Santa Barbara proper, there’s the brand-new Hotel Californian, located beside the Funk Zone, a memorably named district packed with top wine-tasting rooms and restaurants. Opening this summer, it’s on the site of the original 1925 restaurant of the same name, but it's updated with a rooftop pool, a Turkish-inspired spa, and interior decor by A-list designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard.
Hike up Inspiration Point or to Gibraltar for sunrise or sunset, ride beach cruisers up the coast on a three-mile scenic path to State Street downtown, and then re-tox with vino from the completely lovely Potek tasting room and funky Municipal Winemakers, followed by flavorful, innovative dishes at the likes of Lark or mouthwatering pizzas at Lucky Penny—all in easy walking distance. Another sure thing when it comes to a memorable dinner out: Somerset Restaurant, where you can dine on spaghetti with local uni and fried oysters in an elegant alfresco garden setting. Don’t worry about overindulging; another adventure, say sailing to the Channel Islands, is just one possibility for tomorrow.