Bicycle Shop

Trek Bicycle Santa Barbara

Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

“Stoke!” That’s what Store Manager Stefan Tilly said is the best part of the job at Trek Bicycle Santa Barbara. “We love seeing the excitement on someone’s face when it’s new-bike day or help get a beloved friend back on the road,” he said. “Hearing about the amazing adventures their bike has taken them on ― we are blessed to have a dynamic and fun cycling community.” And what sets them apart from other bike shops in town? “The wealth of experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm we as a team bring,” Tilly said. “Everyone here genuinely loves bikes and believe that bikes make the world a better place.”

Runner-Up: Open Air Bicycles


El Capitán State Beach

El Capitán State Beach ― or El Cap, as we all call it ― “is truly a special place,” said Dave Wilson, visitor services superintendent. What makes it so? Because it combines “natural beauty with family-friendly recreation, offering something special for everyone,” he said. “This coastal haven serves as a playground for beach exploration, fishing, surfing, and kayaking along its pristine shores.” Whether you’re taking in summer sunsets or cracking wise around the campfire, “El Capitán State Beach offers experiences that make it an extraordinary destination for visitors of all ages,” Wilson said.

Runner-Up: Refugio State Beach Campground

Dance Studio

Santa Barbara Dance Arts

It’s a concept that gets talked about a lot, but Alana Tillim and her Santa Barbara Dance Arts studio walk the walk when it comes to creating “community.” “Dance Arts is a 9,000-square-foot living, breathing space that offers the chance for dancers and their families to grab a snack at the vending machine, do homework on the lobby Wi-Fi, find a carpool or friendship on our ‘buddy list,’ and grow up on and off the stage,” she said. “Dance is just the vehicle.” After 26 years, Tillim is proud the Eastside dance studio has become the “third place” ― that location other than home and work or school where people meet and make connections ― “to thousands of dancers and their families.”

Runner-Up: State Street Ballet

Fitness Program

Killer B Fitness

Bob Wilcher, the owner of Killer B Fitness, which has won this category for three years running now, said his favorite parts of the job are chatting with members, joking around, and, “most importantly, being honest.” “There is a lot of misinformation in the fitness world,” Wilcher said. “One lie is that you should always like what you are doing. But how are you supposed to get better if you’re always comfortable?” Real improvement takes focus and work, he said, so, “rather than looking to do something you love, look for something that is going to challenge you.” And instead of chasing your passion, “bring your passion so you can give meaning to the uncomfortable.” If you can do that with fitness, Wilcher said, your life in general will be all the better for it.

Runner-Up: RiseUp Fitness

Golf Course

Sandpiper Golf Club

The Sandpiper and Glen Annie golf clubs have traded the top spot for about six years now, with Sandpiper playing an especially strong round in 2023 to claim victory. “If you are a true golfer, you are going to love this place,” said one recent reviewer. “Great conditions, ocean views, quick but fair greens. Not sure what more you could want.” Designed by renowned architect William F. Bell and named one of the country’s top 100 public golf courses by Golf Digest, Sandpiper is often compared to Pebble Beach up in Monterey or Torrey Pines down in San Diego. Players also appreciate the club’s well-stocked drink cart, friendly staff, and free parking.

Runner-Up: Glen Annie Golf Club

Health Club

Santa Barbara Family YMCA

Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

“It is an honor to win Best Health Club for the Santa Barbara Family YMCA,” said Executive Director Craig Prentice, who promised even more good things ahead. “We are looking forward to this year, as we have added more classes, equipment, and developed an indoor pickleball space.” Prentice also reminded us the 136-year-old neighborhood hub is much more than a place to work out ― it offers swimming lessons, provides kids a safe place to go, trains young people for jobs, and helps seniors make connections. “At the YMCA, we work to build community and create a space for everyone,” he said.

Runner-Up: SWELL Athletic Clubs

Hiking Trail

Cold Spring Trail

For the first time in a long time, Cold Spring Trail in the Montecito front country has knocked Inspiration Point from the top spot. With access from Cold Spring Road, the 2.1-mile loop is a favorite for its perennial pools and streams that run through umber Matilija sandstone. There’s good tree cover, usually not too many bugs (except for the butterflies and dragonflies), and access to a handful of other routes, including East Fork, West Fork, and Tangerine Falls. Just remember to share the trail with runners and bikers and the occasional horse.

Runner-Up: Inspiration Point

Martial Arts Studio

Paragon Academy

Over the last two decades, the name “Paragon” has become synonymous with Santa Barbara martial arts, the studio’s green-and-yellow logo stickers slapped on more cars than maybe any other local brand. Beyond good marketing, the studio ― which offers boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling programs ― is an absolute powerhouse at international competitions, producing a number of world-champion students in recent years. Paragon Academy has two locations ― one in Santa Barbara and one in Goleta ― and also hosts a Kids & Teens Program based on the teachings of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “Kids will learn that size is not relevant compared to pure technique, which is a great confidence-booster for smaller children,” the studio said.

Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Dojo

Outdoor Gear Store


“It truly means the world that you appreciate us as much as we appreciate you all,” said Tyler Richards, manager of REI’s Santa Barbara store, which is not only a mecca of equipment and clothing but also a fully functional bike shop. Not to mention, it’s also a teaching hub for classes on camping, kayaking, navigating, and all sorts of nature-y topics. “There is nothing we love more than outfitting everyone for their trips abroad or days in the hills,” said Richards. “Thank you for being members of our co-op, and for helping us fight for a life outdoors for everyone.”

Runner-Up: Mountain Air Sports

Pilates Studio

Fit Buddha

“First of all, I want to say thank you to the residents of Santa Barbara County for voting us Best Pilates Studio for a record ninth time!” exclaimed Fit Buddha owner Marcus Kettles. “It is an honor we do not take for granted.” When asked what makes their studios in Santa Barbara and Ventura so successful, Kettles offered this: “It starts with the Megaformer machine by Lagree,” a low-impact, high-intensity piece of equipment that strengthens, sculpts, and tones. “It’s the gold standard,” he said. “And when you couple it with highly skilled professional instructors ― who are not only knowledgeable but compassionate, empathetic, and inspirational ― you have a recipe for success.”

Runner-Up: Grass Roots Pilates Santa Barbara

Place to Get Athletic Shoes

Santa Barbara Running Company

“This is a milestone year for our shop,” said Joe DeVreese, who owns and operates the only independent running store in Santa Barbara. “We are celebrating our 20-year anniversary! We are so grateful to our entire community for supporting us and giving us this opportunity to serve our customers every day in a way that we hope makes a positive impact in their lives.” That stellar service includes comprehensive gait analyses by staff ― who describe themselves as “runners helping runners” ― as well as a full collection of apparel, accessories, and supplements. “We hope to keep doing what we are doing for many more years to come,” DeVreese said.

Runner-Up: REI

Surf Shop

Channel Islands Surfboards

It’s easy to forget in this relatively small city of ours that we live among people who are the best in the world at what they do. So, here’s a reminder that Channel Islands Surfboards, which started out as a modest shaping shop in 1969, is now arguably the most iconic high-performance surf brand on the planet. And that’s why they supply the sport’s absolute best, from Lakey Peterson to Parker Coffin to Dane Reynolds. Not a championship surfer looking for a $2,500 board? That’s okay. Channel Islands’ Funk Zone shop also sells wetsuits, fins, leashes, and everything else you need to hit the waves as well as towels and umbrellas to watch from the beach.

Runner-Up: Surf n’ Wear Beach House

Swimwear Store

Surf n’ Wear Beach House

“Since the doors opened on our original store in Santa Barbara in 1965, Surf n’ Wear Beach House has been at the heart of our local surf community,” said manager Kim Lipp. “When it comes to swimwear, we have the perfect fit for all ages and stages seeking fun in the sun!” Lipp isn’t lying ― the store is absolutely chock-full of boardshorts, bikinis, shirts, shoes, sunglasses, sandals, belts, bracelets, pants, tank tops, jackets, watches, wallets, dresses, etcetera. All the big-name brands are represented, but there’s a solid selection of items at lower price points as well.

Runner-Up: Bikini Factory

Yoga Studio

CorePower Yoga

With three studios in the Santa Barbara area, CorePower Yoga once again wins this highly competitive category. “We are so grateful for this recognition and honored to be a part of the Santa Barbara community,” said Cara Ferrick, California Central Coast owner and director. “We provide an atmosphere where all students are welcome and treated as part of a family. Entering the door is a respite from our daily lives, a place for everyone to unpack and unwind amongst the stressors of life. Our committed teachers and staff create a thriving and inviting community for all to expand and explore!”

Runner-Up: Yoga Soup

See the rest of our Best of Santa Barbara® 2023 winners here.