Discovering Santa Barbara Through Maria Sharapova’s Eyes

I first visited Santa Barbara in 2012 after winning the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Germany. The prize included a Porsche 911 and I realised I wouldn’t be doing justice to the vehicle – or myself – if I only drove it on Los Angeles’ gridlocked highways. I asked my friends for the best drive in southern California: they unanimously told me to take the 101 to Santa Barbara.

I spent the weekend there and was immediately attracted to the indoor-outdoor living. I was born in Russia, but I love sunshine and have always gravitated towards environments where you can barbecue for 10 months of the year. I kept returning, spending increasingly longer amounts of time in the area. Then my fiancé, Alexander, and I fell in love with a small cottage near Montecito. Santa Barbara County is a good contrast to life in LA, where much of my work is, and there’s a great community. It felt natural for us to buy a home here.

Sharapova on Carpinteria State Beach
Sharapova on Carpinteria State Beach © Daniel Dorsa

What I love about Santa Barbara are all the little pockets: Ojai is a small city to the east, while Santa Ynez is about 30 minutes north-west. On our way to Santa Ynez we’ll stop off at Cold Spring Tavern for a drink. There are always lots of motorcycles parked outside and live music playing. It’s rough and rustic, but that’s the vibe – it sets the tone of a road trip.

Another place worth stopping is Summerland, a community about six miles from the city. The strip of design and antique shops is perfect for finding old and new pieces. Recently I was renovating the garden and found some nice pots and tables at The Well.

The Hilt Estate’s tasting room
The Hilt Estate’s tasting room © The Hilt Estate

There are many beautiful vineyards in the area, and we’ve come to love The Hilt in Lompoc. They recently built a gorgeous tasting room, where they serve their own wines as well as from their sister winery Jonata. Over the holidays we took some family on a vineyard tour and I bought a few bottles of Hilt’s delicious rosé. They brought back some lovely memories when we opened them.

Sharapova outside Little Dom’s
Sharapova outside Little Dom’s © Daniel Dorsa

There are also several bars in the Funk Zone, an up-and-coming neighbourhood near the city’s waterfront. Pickle Room Bar feels like you’ve been transported to another world. They have red booths and it’s a really fun environment. For a date night nearby, Alexander and I head to Aperitivo, a super-small Italian restaurant with eight tables. The menu – two pastas and one salad – is written on a board and changes every few days. They also do a really good lemon sorbet, served Italian-style in a scooped-out lemon.

Sharapova has eggs fungi and coffee at Little Dom’s Seafood
Sharapova has eggs fungi and coffee at Little Dom’s Seafood © Daniel Dorsa
The interior of Little Dom’s
The interior of Little Dom’s © Daniel Dorsa

Even European family and friends say Santa Barbara’s Farmers Market is one of the best they’ve ever been to. I buy pink oyster mushrooms when my mom is in town because I find cleaning them such a vigorous process. I’m always afraid I won’t do it properly, so we do it together. And if strawberries are in season, I’ll go to Harry’s Berries stall – they’re not cheap, but they’re tasty. Then it’s around the corner to Danish-inspired Oat Bakery, which sells amazing focaccia bread with olives and rosemary. If we have people over, I’ll go on to the Cheese Shop.

I rarely go to the gym when I’m in Santa Barbara, but sometimes I’ll put on a weighted vest and work out near the water. As a family we like walking around the strand at Carpinteria Beach, ending up at Little Dom’s, where I indulge in its squid-ink pappardelle with shrimp and uni-butter scampi and mollica.

On Carpinteria State Beach
On Carpinteria State Beach © Daniel Dorsa
Carpinteria has terraced bluffs, dunes and a mile of sandy beach
Carpinteria has terraced bluffs, dunes and a mile of sandy beach © Daniel Dorsa

People go to Santa Barbara for the weather, environment and outdoor lifestyle – I very much take advantage of all three when I’m here. I’m at my happiest when I’m able to roam around in nature. It’s also where I can take a book and read for an hour. With an 18-month-old, it’s not as easy, but it’s still where I go to completely decompress.

As Global Wellness Ambassador for Aman, Maria Sharapova has co-created a series of wellness retreats. The first will be held at Amanpuri, Phuket, in February 2024, where Sharapova will personally mentor participants, aman.com

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