A few years ago on a hot summer’s day, Teresa Ramallo-Whalen and her 8-month-old son sat baking in their sweaty home. Mom whisked them to Leadbetter Beach, but it was a mess of a trip. Weighed down with a bunch of kid accoutrements but also forgetting a few key items, she struggled to set up a sun shade as her son wailed on the sand. Zero fun was had. So Ramallo-Whalen bagged the idea and drove them to a grocery store to cool off.
There’s got to be an easier way for young families to take spontaneous, less-encumbered trips to the beach, Ramallo-Whalen thought to herself. And there is. She remembered back to her time studying abroad in Spain, where cabanas are super common. In fact, the U.S. is one of the few places in the world they’re not.
On May 12, Ramallo-Whalen opened The Cabanas for business on Santa Barbara’s West Beach. She’s permitted for five, which are set up Wednesday through Sunday when the sun is out from noon to 7 p.m. They rent individually for $12/hour or can be paired with chairs, blankets, towels, volleyballs, and Frisbees in discount package deals. “We want beach-going to be easy and fun for everyone,” she said. “Especially for people with little kids.”
Ramallo-Whalen is sensitive to the sand’s limited space. “We’re hyper-aware of the fact this is a public beach,” she said. If someone wants to lay down their own towel where a cabana is perched, they’ll move the cabana, she promised. “We know this isn’t our beach.”
So far business is good. “People are loving it, which warms my little heart,” said Ramallo-Whalen. “I think it’s going to be very popular with European tourists, but who I’m really hoping takes advantage of the cabanas are families.” She’s lending sand toys to customers for free.