Arroyo Hondo Beach is a small rocky outlet for Arroyo Hondo Creek 25 miles west of Santa Barbara. Freeway signs label this area with the simple name: "Vista Point." This is a very remote and quiet place to enjoy the Santa Barbara County coastline. The beach has a little bit of sand here and there, but it mostly just a narrow, rocky stretch of coast, only accessible during low tide. Most visitors to Arroyo Hondo Beach never actually go down to the beach. The big draw here is Vista Point and the picturesque bridges towering over the beach. The views from the bluffs and the spectacular concrete arch are worth the visit alone. Above the beach is a wooden train trestle and an attractive concrete arch bridge over Arroyo Hondo Creek that used to carry traffic for the 101 freeway before it was rerouted to a larger, parallel land bridge.
- Amenities: Historic Bridge, Train Trestle, No Facilities, Tide Pools
- Activities: Beach Walking, Photography
- Dog Policy: Dogs not recommended due to steep terrain
It is tricky to hike to the beach, and the starting point is unmarked. The trail starts at the west (Santa Barbara side) of the concrete bridge which is a hundred feet below the parking area. Walk down to the old freeway bridge but do not cross it. Instead turn left where the bridge begins and follow a small path by the side the railroad trestle. There is (hopefully still a) rope to help descend the steep dirt trail which then turns into a series of steps cut into the concrete foundation. The steps are pretty steep and the dirt path below them is slippery. At the mouth of the creek there are boulders and piles of driftwood to meander through to reach the sand. Most people who are able to navigate adventurous terrain will make it just fine.
Once you reach the beach, hiking to the left/east takes you in the direction of Tajiguas Beach (2.5 miles) but the real draw near Arroyo Hondo is the right/western coastline toward Gaviota State Park (5 miles). Along this stretch the rock formations are turned almost vertical, a dramatic result of an uplift and ground deformation that occurred about 5 million years ago and created the local mountains. There is a seemingly endless series of linear rock formations, rocky ledges, small coves, and points which create an oceanic natural wonderland.
Directions to Arroyo Hondo Beach/Vista Point
The Vista Point and old freeway trestles at Arroyo Hondo Canyon are between Gaviota State Park and Refugio Beach. If you are driving southbound on the 101 freeway, exit at Vista Point. If you are driving northbound on the 101 freeway, exactly 5 miles past Refugio Beach in an unmarked turn-off ( Map) just past Arroyo Hondo Beach which will be on your left. There is no bridge at this off ramp so you will be making a u-turn to the left at freeway level. Turn around and go back 0.75 miles on the southbound 101 freeway and look for a well-marked turnoff labeled "Vista Point." If you miss the unmarked turn-off you can instead exit at the Mariposa Reina off ramp and bridge ( Map) and backtrack 3.75 miles to Vista Point.