With hard-earned vacation time often in short supply, travelers want to make the most of every weekend or vacation they get. Sometimes that means trying something completely different – a getaway so unique that it will become Topic A around the Monday morning water cooler.
California is blessed with many such unique vacation adventures, and here are three of our favorites:
Luxury tent camping
If your memories of tent camping are crawling into a pup tent, zipping yourself into a sleeping bag, and then writhing all night on a hard piece of ground, we have good news: You can now get the back-to-nature tent camping experience but with a twist that is sure to appeal to all those who swore off tents back in their early 20’s.
About 17 miles west of Santa Barbara a place called El Capitan Canyon offers safari-style tents that have been outfitted with real beds, electricity and other conveniences you would expect in a hotel room. The tents are real tents, all right, and zip up just like the ones from your younger years, but they’re set up on a permanent wood deck that makes them feel more cabin-like, except that this still is a canvas tent.
There are 26 such tents at El Capitan Canyon – along with dozens of small cabins and yurts – and each one measures 12 feet by 14 feet and is furnished with either one queen bed or two double beds. You’ll get bed linens and towels, a small desk, chairs, a bedside table, heating, lights – in other words, considerably more amenities than you probably remember taking with you on that backpacking trip into the Sierra Nevada.
The setting at El Capitan is quite woodsy with groves of sycamore and oak trees, although there are large open areas of grass where the kids can play as well as barbecue pits and picnic tables for each of the tents, cabins or yurts. Just a mile or so down the road is the gorgeous Pacific Ocean and El Capitan State Beach where you can picnic and swim. There are also scenic hiking trails nearby including the Bill Wallace Trail.
We should note the word “luxury” here is a relative term – compared with your every-day garden-variety campground, El Capitan is definitely a couple of notches better and the tents are much more comfortable than any tent you would set up on your own. The cabins and yurts looked cozy as well. But remember, you’re going to be camping with no indoor plumbing and modern, clean bathrooms are a couple minutes walk from your tent. A heated swimming pool also is available.
Besides the comfortable accommodations, a big plus for El Capitan Canyon is the on-site Canyon Market that includes an excellent sandwich shop, light groceries and other provisions for your stay. The market has “barbecue kits” available for purchase that include all the meat and fixings for hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish or even tri-tip. If you do decide to …