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Isla Vista Town and Beach

Santa Barbara, California, United States


Parties happen every night in Isla Vista. But the UCSB students bring out the big guns on weekends. Witness the aftermath of parties as you walk along the main party strip, DP, short for Del Playa Rd. There are sneakers that have been tied together and thrown over electric wires. You may see the remnants of a couch that has been burned the night before. When I first moved to Santa Barbara, I heard about the parties at Isla Vista and thought I'd check one out. It was Saturday night and there were many beach houses along Del Playa that were open for anyone to venture in. I walked into one. Beer was flowing like water, so I helped myself to a glass. Things were pretty uneventful at first. It was a cold night as it always is in foggy Isla Vista, so the students had lit a fire in a metal fire pit in the backyard under the balcony. It was a pleasant scene, drinking a beer on the balcony, warmed by the fire below, the waves crashing on the cliffs. I was thinking how it was quite a classy party, with the fire pit and all. That was until I used the restroom...let's not get into details there. Later in the evening, the firewood had all run out. I watched in disbelief as students tore the slats from the wooden balcony and threw them into the fire. Next, most of the slats had been used, so they moved to the kitchen and took out wooden drawers from the cabinets and threw them into the fire. At this point I started to fathom what it might be like to be an Isla Vista landlord and I decided to call it a night. I walked out onto the street and heard two drunk guys arguing. The argument was getting more and more heated so I headed in the other direction. Some students were being arrested for walking around with glasses of beer on the street. I walked into a few more parties. One, in a house with a huge lawn, had kegs everywhere. There were crowds of people going from empty keg to empty keg trying to find one last drop of beer and complaining that it was all gone. A talented punk band was playing near the driveway. So, that was my experience with Isla Vista parties...
Isla Vista town is a nice place to go for lunch to have a casual meal and take in a lively scene. The main area is on the corner of Embarcadero Del Norte and Pardall Rd. There are students everywhere riding their bikes with no regard for cars that just barely miss them. There are surfers riding bikes with their boards under their arms. Freebirds Burritoes is the classic place to sit on the patio and people watch. It's overpriced and the food isn't very good but it's popular because it's open late into the night. Woodstock's Pizza has yummy pizza- you can sit indoors in the wooden booths and listen to the talk about last night's party, or out on the picnic table by the street.
Throughout Isla Vista, there are stairs that lead down to the beach. To get to one, walk down Embarcadero Del Norte. It is a fork that becomes El Embarcadero Rd and there are beach stairs at the end. The stairs here and the stairs just to the west on the end of Camino Pescadero, lead down to the main part of Isla Vista Beach. In the summer the scene here looks like Daytona Beach during spring break. Looking out along the beach, you see a long row of perfect blonde beauties in bikinis. The creepy thing is that on the cliffs above there are perverts looking down from a park on Del Playa Rd. Pewk!
If you continue along Del Playa Drive, between Camino Pescadero and Camino Del Sur, you will witness a case of crowded living. You won't believe how many cars there are in each driveway, triple parked and spilling over into the road. When the present UCSB campus was built in the 1950s, the regents decided that instead of building dorms in Isla Vista, they would keep it as a residential area. They had Isla Vista zoned in an unusual way to allow there to be more people living there than parking spaces. One of the regents said something to the effect of, "The students arrive with only a sleeping bag and a surfboard." Clearly, you will see that they arrive with a whole lot more than that!
Walking along the beach, you can look up at the beach houses balanced precariously on the beautiful cliffs above. Erosion has caused the houses to fall almost off the cliffs. A fine example of one such house is on the right of the beach stairs at the end of Camino Del Sur. Wow! How can those residents fall asleep at night?!!
Just left of the stairs at the end of Camino Del Sur, there is a pretty park called Window To The Sea Park. There you can sit on a comfy wooden swing-for-two and look out on the ocean below.
After your adventures in Isla Vista, don't be alarmed if you come back with your feet or shoes covered in huge globs of black tar. I just went down to Isla Vista today to finish off some research for this page and my feet are still covered after much wiping! My slippers are goners! It's all part of the atmosphere here- after all, Coal Oil Point is just around the corner and it's the second most prolific oil producing ocean area in the world, after the Caspian Sea! Mineral/baby oil and terry towels will take most of the tar off, so keep some in your car!
You can follow a great bike path from Isla Vista, through UCSB's Campus, past Goleta Beach, and all the way to Modoc Rd in Hope Ranch. It's a ride past gorgeous views and mostly along a creek, away from car fumes!
In Isla Vista near the faculty housing, check out pretty Dinosaur Park. The play equipment is unusual, with a huge dinosaur to climb, a tractor for digging in the sand, a 1970s-style merry-go-round, and a bouncy seesaw.

Photo Gallery

It is known that shoes become quite nervous about their fate as they walk students toward IV parties.

Idyllic view to the east of the Camino Pescadero beachstairs.

Camino Pescadero beachstairs.

Come, have a seat on my balcony, the mad man said....

Beach babes!

Over we go!

Cruising on a sunny day...

The beach stairs at the end of Camino Del Sur Rd.

Isla Vista town and its happy beachy feel!

The swing-for-two at Window To The Sea Park!

The tar on my slippers after a short walk on the beach!

Surfers floating around on a flat summer day.

Seating outside Freebirds Burrito, on a sunny July day.

Bicycles parked outside The Habit Burger.

Dublin's, a sports bar.

Labyrinth outside St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Blaze Pizza, on Pardall Rd.

Caje Coffee.

Sitting outside at Caje Coffee, by the banana trees.

The modern building where Amazon has its pickup location.

Isla Vista Theater.

As you reach campus and the lagoon, from Isla Vista, a very short walk.

The lantern at Isla Vista Theater.

Embarcadero del Norte has a very Californian look.

Spanish archway.

Purple flowers and the blue sea, at Camino Del Sur beach entrance.

Rock rose at Camino Del Sur beach entrance.

Rock rose at Camino Del Sur beach entrance- what a lovely place to live!


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

From Highway 101, take the Los Carneros exit. Head toward the ocean. Turn left onto El Colegio Rd and then right onto Embarcadero Del Norte. Parking can be a problem here. You can drive around and around and around looking for a spot along one of the side streets. The further you are from the university, the more possibility that you will find parking. There's usually some parking along the road on Camino Del Sur.
Woodstock's Pizza, 928 Embarcadero Del Norte, Isla Vista CA 93117, call (805) 968-6969.
Freebirds Burrito, 879 Embarcadero Del Norte, call (805) 968-0123.
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