If there’s one thing I’m completely embarrassed to admit it’s how little I take advantage of where I live. You see, 16 years ago I transplanted to Los Angeles, and I’ve still experienced very little of what the city and surrounding area has to offer. To make matters worse, I work from home. So, I have much more flexibility than the average person working the typical 9-5 job. I know, you don’t feel sorry for me—I wouldn’t either. The point in me telling you all of this is to help you understand just how excited I was when Kia invited me up to beautiful Santa Barbara for a few days.

Illustrated map of our #KIASBexp trip
Illustrated map of the #KIASBexp trip. Credit: Josh Hicks

The map you see above (made by the brilliant Josh Hicks) illustrates what Kia had in store for us for our few days in Santa Barbara. Find the breakdown for the #KIASBexp trip below.

Day 1: Driving up the PCH in the new Kia Optima

9:45am on the dot, my pal and driving partner, Jeff Bogle, arrived to pick me up in the new Kia Cadenza. It’s spacious; it’s comfortable; it’s a Kia – so naturally an ideal ride to drive up the coast.

On this particular trip, I was the only person from the media group not flying in, which almost never happens. It was a nice change of pace not being the jet lagged one for once. That being said, I still needed my morning cup of Joe, so Jeff and I picked up some fuel from Starbucks and were on our way up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to Santa Barbara.

Belmond El Encanto

This gorgeous slice of paradise was our home during the #KIASBexp event, and not one person was mad about it. Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara is a Five-Star luxury hotel (according to Forbes and myself) that features ninety-two California-styled suites and bungalows on seven-acres overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.

Belmond El Encanto Santa Barbara

Kia Stinger next to Kia Optima and Cadenza
The new Kia Stinger parked next to the Kia Optima and Cadenza

Jeff and I both decided we wanted to get up to the hotel sooner rather than later so we could get some work done. More realistically, I think we both just wanted to start exploring the hotel as soon as possible. It’s easy to get lost in the lush pathways that lead up to your bungalow.

Belmond El Encanto path in Santa Barbara

Welcome dinner at Loquita

Our first official event kicked off at Loquita, a hot spot located in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara, featuring traditional cooking methods of Spain with hot and cold tapas, wood-fired seafood, grilled meats and three types of paella. Kia had us setup in a nice private spot in the back, where one of Loquita’s chefs cooked our paella in front of us.

You had me at tapas, Kia.

Loquita Kia Event

Loquita Santa Barbara tapas

If you’re looking for some delicious cocktails and light snacks, a separate pintxos bar named Poquita serves their full cocktail program, small snacks, charcuterie and cheeses.

Day 2: Massages and Wine Tasting

The Spa at El Encanto

After slowly getting myself out of bed, I headed down to The Spa at El Encanto for a 60-minute Swedish massage. Though the locker room situation was nothing to write home about, lacking any real amenities, the massage was. Out of all the countless massages and various spa treatments I’ve ever had, the Swedish massage at El Encanto lands in my top 5.

In case you prefer another type of treatment, know that The Spa at El Encanto is a full-service spa and features a wide range of different treatments. You can read more here.

Grassini Family Vineyards Tour

What’s the best way to continue relaxing after a spa treatment? Wine tasting of course.

Our group left El Encanto and headed north to Grassini Family Vineyards. Upon arriving, we were met with an impressive charcuterie and cheese platter to enjoy while taste testing their vast portfolio of wine.

Welcome Charcuterie platter for the Kia group
Grassini Family Vineyards welcomed us with a charcuterie platter

Grassini Family Vineyards Wine Tasting

After 4 or 5 (I lost count) glasses of wine, we were treated to a tour of their facility. No matter how many winery tours I go on, I will never not be impressed with the process of making wine.

Cristen Casados wine tasting at Grassini Family Vineywards
A shot I took of my friend Cristen Casados in Grassini’s barrel room.

Kia at Grassini Family Vineyards

Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of this post to see some drone footage I captured of Grassini Family Vineyards.

Cooking Class and Dinner at Sunstone Winery

Our last stop for day 2 was at Sunstone Winery, where we got to partake in a risotto cooking class, followed by a four course dinner.

Sunstone Winery Cooking Class
Our stations for our risotto cooking class
Africa Miranda and Alice Chase
My risotto cooking partners: Africa Miranda & Alice Chase.

Sunstone Winery Private Dinner setup Sunstone Winery four course dinner

Day 3: Kayaking and Dinner Cruise

Adventuring in the Channel Islands

Remember me saying I didn’t know much about where I live? Yeah, well, the Channel Islands is a great example of this. I had no idea there was so much to do and see just an hour away from me.

After a lengthy ferry ride over to the Channel Islands, our group met up with our kayak guides and paired us with a partner. My paddling buddy was Ari Adams.

Kayaking in the channel islands

Ari Adams and JoesDaily Kayaking
Ari Adams and I looking all sorts of professional. Photo credit: Josh Hicks.

If, nay, when you head to the Channel Islands because of my glowing recommendation, make sure you book the Discovery Sea Cave Kayak Tour from the Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Their guides were awesome, and really helped the first time kayakers we had in our group.

Sea Cave Kayaking in the Channel Islands
Sea cave kayaking in the Channel Islands. Photo credit: Josh Hicks.

Channel Cat Dinner Cruise

Last, but certainly not least, was an epic farewell dinner onboard the largest luxury sailing catamaran ship in Santa Barbara Harbor. The company, Channel Cat Charters, is the brainchild of two of the wealthiest men in the world: Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger. It’s story is legendary, and definitely worth reading on their about page.

Channel Cat Dinner Cruise
Channel Cat’s Captain and crew waiting for us to board.
Channel Cat Dinner Cruise
The sunset at Santa Barbara Harbor was gorgeous.

Lamb chops being passed around on Channel Cat Charters


I needed this. The trip’s theme was reflection and renewal, which I can’t think of any better way to describe it other than that. There was ample time to reflect on life both driving in the Kia Cadenza to and from Santa Barbara, and the Kia Optima SX-L when cruising to Ventura Harbor. As for renewal, I found it through this trip in many different forms. For one, this was a staycation for me, and it renewed my love of living in SoCal and being surrounded by so many amazing places. Not to mention finding a renewed sense of adventure through kayaking and other activities I don’t do on a regular basis.

I was really excited to share my experience from the #KIASBexp event and hope you enjoyed reading it. I’m sure there will be plenty more adventures like this one from Kia, so make sure you are following both @KiaMotorsUSA and @JoesDaily on Instagram to see when we collaborate.

Adventures in Santa Barbara w/ KIA – #KIASBEXP

Our friends at Kia Motors America invited us to Santa Barbara for the #KIASBEXP event. Here is a little taste of what we experienced.

Posted by Joe’s Daily on Monday, July 24, 2017