When it comes to understanding what makes Isla Vista Isla Vista, we’re a pretty good source. Island View Outfitters has been part of the community since 2009. If you don’t know about us, we started in an Isla Vista garage by second-year Gaucho at the time, Garrett Gerstenberger. The following year, Garrett partnered with tenured screen printer Jose Cardoso, and locked up a lease for our current headquarters and office: 6565 Trigo Road. The rest is history.
We’ve become a constant in the ever-shifting Isla Vista business landscape, we keep in tune with the young energy, we channel our creative art and print capabilities as best we can and use it as a vessel for curating and contributing to this unique little beach town. We like to see ourselves as a resource for anyone and anything. A safe space, a happy place, an opportunity for anyone to come in and get advice, honest answers, and a good laugh.
Accumulatively, between our collective UCSB experiences and the 10+ years, we get it all. Garrett often cries aloud about how old he feels now that they’ve passed their ten year business mark (hooray for local business!). We student-employees always laugh because while we think he’s old, he’s still young and one of us.
Okay - back to Isla Vista. It has a big heart, creative mind, loving atmosphere, energetic body, playful mentality, mature outlook (at times), and always has your back. It is the 1-square mile directly adjacent to UCSB that stretches along the coast.
The 1-square mile town is hyper-condensed with housing. Outside of on and off-campus UCSB housing, it is where 95% of UCSB students live.
All of those alumni that have graduated nostalgically look back at Isla Vista as a heavenly paradise they are so grateful to have experienced: living literally on the edge of the California coast overlooking waves crashing against the bluffs, the fact that all of your best friends are walking distance and right around the corner from you, the ability to hop on your cruiser of longboard and be anywhere, including class, within a matter of minutes, to enjoy all the amazing cuisine in Isla Vista’s business district, the amount of art, culture, music, and other creative resources are astounding, the weather, which seems to be perfect 365 days out of the year, the sunsets that never get old, the late nights with people you love and appreciate, all the laughs you have, adventures you make, the friends you’ll have for the rest of your life.
Isla Vista consists of four blocks. The 65, 66, 67, and 68 block. Our store is located on the 65 block (6565 Trigo Road). The further away from UCSB you are, the higher # the block/address to the houses.
The business district, which is called the Loop - which is home to an amazing and eclectic number of small businesses, mainly food, but some others, like us (sad fact: we’re the last retail store in Isla Vista) is located on the 65 block. There’s a weird mentality - kind of like the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz if you are aware of it’s physical and geo-magnetic oddities - that the 68 block of Isla Vista is reeeaaalllly far out. Let us break it to you, it’s not.
I’ve never understood why the entire population balks at walking to a friend’s house in the 68 block when in fact it is equidistant to the 65 block if you were standing in the 66 block. Oh well, let it be. People don’t learn. The advantage is if you want to live in a little more of a quiet area, the 68 block is for you.
We will break down in more detail parts and resources of Isla Vista, but in short, Isla Vista has it’s own beautiful beaches, surf breaks, parks, access to West Campus and Coal Oil Point, amazing food, and most of all, the most unique community you’ll ever find in college.
Trust us, we’ve been here for over ten years and almost 99% of the people that come back in our store to bask in “the old days” say how it was Isla Vista (not UCSB) was what shaped them to be who they are today.
Folks, school is important, but the social aspect of your lives here is what it is all about. You evolve to understand who you are better than ever. You are independent, understand your feelings, find your passions, learn new skills, make great support systems, be social, and enjoy life. That’s why we’re here; always grateful of our surroundings and absolutely stoked about the present.
During your first quarter (Remember, UCSB is on the Quarter System), you’ll have to attend Drug and Alcohol workshops put on by the school. These are usually only 1-2 events but cover everything from biking while intoxicated to what to do in the case that you see someone overdosing on drugs. These are most definitely some of the positives to come out of the party culture UCSB is notorious for, but we do want to emphasize there’s a lot more to IV then just debauchery.
We do actually have some pretty delicious food, and there are a slew of events such as concerts, a tanning club, an excursion club to take you on hikes and camping trips, and several outreach programs such as religious centers and the parks and rec department which are super welcoming. IV is very much meant to be explored and we recommend just taking some time before classes start to meander from place to place.
Okay, so IV food culture is perhaps one of the most interesting I’ve ever experienced. There is nowhere else on the planet, outside of maybe New York, where you can get a pastrami and mozzarella stick sandwich at 3AM. IV food ranges from surprisingly healthy to downright hangover cures and we honestly recommend you sample a little bit from everywhere.
To the luck of our thin wallets, many of the IV restaurants have deals, whether that be weekly or biweekly, to incentivize people to try them out. Woodstocks is chief amongst deals, they have everything from Pint Night to, on occasion, pizza size upgrades.
It’s not too difficult to figure out these deals, as most restaurants in IV want you to try them out and they’re pretty keen to tell you why. Our personal recommendation is 1) don’t rush yourself, you’ll have time to try everything and 2) Head on into these places because they’re gonna need the business and if they don't get it, we’re gonna be so, so sad when they have to permanently close up shop.
Additionally, we also would like to point out that there are several grocery spots in IV and Goleta for all those who are inclined to cook. Albertsons, Costco, and Target are all located on either side of Storke Rd and Hollister Ave in Goleta.
Additionally, IV Deli, IV Market, andIV Co-op (support local!) are located within IV and they definitely have the items you need if you need them right away. Be aware, though, that sometimes these places will be a bit more picked over than other stores given the sheer volume of bodies in IV.
IVO's Top Restaurants (in no order):
Bagel Cafe - The Super Emma on an herb cheese bagel. Try it.
Freebirds - Despite ten years of experiencing the disappointing cost of the burrito always increasing, the good ol veggie burrito packed with guac may be the best we've ever had. Also, big shoutout to the quesadilla, because they load those up like nothing you’ve seen before. Definitely recommend a plate and fork with this.
Naan Stop - Rock solid Indian food. Spicy Coconut Chicken Curry and Saag Paneer. (Try Apna Indian Kitchen in downtown Santa Barbara too)
Hummus Republic - If you are looking for something on the fresher side, Hummus Republic's warm kale and couscous bowls hit the spot, especially when you can add Chicken shwarma, tzatziki, or falafels in there.
The Habit - We're not one to generally support large chains, but the cost for quantity on a fast, juicy burger and fries is pretty solid.
Zocalo's - A fairly new restaurant that is a great spot for some simple, authentic street tacos and Mexican breakfast items like Chilaquiles.
IV Deli Mart - They have some wicked burgers and sandwiches and they’re open late. Enough said.
Caje - Great coffee, delicious breakfast bowls.
8. Having the Beach as Your Backyard
There is also something major that is often overlooked and rather serious here that I think it’s time we get into now… going to the beach. At this point you’re probably thinking, “we’re literally on the beach, I’ll be there everyday,” and while that’s completely fine, we definitely need consider the fact that every day can easily turn into every few months. We can’t personally stress this enough, but make time to go to the beach.
We recommend being proactive and take advantage of the proximity you have to the amazing nature that surrounds UCSB! The sereneness of the view we have is easily one of the best things for your mental health in the midst of midterms and finals, which hit a lot quicker here than they do in semester-based schools.
As far as the beaches themselves, we have a few options to choose from. First, we have Devereux Beach. Dev's, as we call it for short, is a 2-3 minute walk from the end of 68 Block (the last block in IV) and it’s generally the best beach for recreational activities such as spikeball, tanning, tons of surfing, and general hangouts with a large group. This beach is generally a hotspot for everyone here, but there’s almost always plenty of room.
If the tide is low enough, you can walk from Devereux beach along the coastline until you hit Campus Point Beach, which is where UCSB is. Campus Point is pretty casual, and you’ll definitely see more people jogging or walking there as opposed to sands. The cool part about campus point has to be that it’s so easy to access from campus, we definitely recommend it as a study break spot.
In the opposite direction of Campus Point and at the very northern tip of Devereux beach is Coal Oil Point. Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve is a protected plant and animal habitat that is administered by the University. If you keep meandering up the coastline further north you'll find yourself on Sand's Beach, which is the home of the protected snowy plovers species (look them up if you don't know what they look like, they're adorable).
Also, circling back, the coastline you can walk along from Devereux Beach to Campus Point is free real estate, you can drop a towel or set up spikeball anywhere along the coast. If you have walked along Del Playa, you will also notice the handful of stairs that lead you down to the beach - one at the end of each block. Chances are you’ll see some people surfing or on floats in the water, as these are time-honored traditions for UCSB students. The last beach we have in close proximity is Goleta Beach Park. This spot is good for the occasional surf or general recreation as well as fishing, as this park has a pier that is optimal for sunset viewing.
9. Beyond IV
With everything and everyone being within a square mile, it's normal to feel like Isla Vista is a bubble. Yet, there are so many things to do beyond IV!
Most obvious, there's Downtown Santa Barbara. While Santa Barbara is no big city, there's still tons to do here! For shopping, we recommend heading down State Streetand walking through Paseo Nuevo, the outdoor mall.
If you get sick of dining hall food, Downtown is the destination for some good eats. If you're 21, you can find some fun bars and clubs along State Street and in the Funk Zone. College Nights happen every Thursday where there's no cover charge and you can take the bus from IV to Downtown and back for $10-20.
If you're looking for more adventure, the mountains are just the place to go to. While we love having the beach as our backyard, we love having the mountains as our front yard even more! If you're into hiking, there are countless trails in the Santa Barbara area.
The Hot Springs are a must-do on your list while you're here. There's the Gaviota Hot Springsand Montecito Hot Springs—we recommend the latter. Lizard's Mouth is one of the best sunset spots in Santa Barbara. If you head up the mountain early, you can grab a spot on top of one of the water towers. If that's taken, you can head a little further down the road and hit the rocks - where most people have sunset picnics.
Here at IVO, one of our favorite things to do is head to the very place that inspired our name - the Channel Islands. On free weekends, many students go camping on Santa Cruz Island. We highly recommend doing this before you graduate!
One of the best ways to explore our beautiful home is through the Excursion Club! Once you become a member by paying per quarter or paying a cheaper fee for the year, you'll get weekly emails of different excursions. Make sure to keep an eye out and sign up ASAP because spots fill up fast! This is a great way to meet new people and explore the area.
10. Finding Your People
One of the biggest concerns when coming into a new school in general has to be finding your people, which is considerably understandable. You go your entire life with a group or groups of people, only to head off to university and find yourselves amidst a sea of new faces and experiences waiting to be plucked out amongst the masses… this doesn’t have to be as stressful as we make it out to be.
There are plenty of opportunities amongst various groups and organizations to find your footing in this new chapter of your lives. As we mentioned earlier, clubs are a fairly streamlined way to find new friends fast.
Conversely, you might be looking for something outside of the school. In IV itself there are plenty of different organizations to join, one of which being greek life. While greek life is technically run through the school, you’re more likely to see it in its entirety while in IV. The greek process at UCSB is relatively simple, they host a range of traditional greek fraternities and sororities as well as education, major, and multicultural fraternities.
Recruitment primarily takes place in the fall for both Fraternities and Sororities whereas, in the spring, there is typically a recruitment for Fraternities. As far as recruitment itself actually goes, you can expect to go from most, if not all of the houses, where you get to engage in conversation with several members of the house. This is easily one of the quicker ways to make friends and find yourself exploring IV more.
As per the education, major, and multicultural fraternities, which often offer co-ed membership, the best way to get involved with these is through school and class. Members from these organizations often give presentations or table around campus at the beginning of the fall quarter. Additionally, you might find an advertisement for these fraternities on the kiosks we mentioned earlier.
Greek life only consists of 11% of the school population, so rest assured, it is not necessary to join these organizations if you want to make friends. If greek life is not the direction you find yourself wanting to head in, we also recommend several volunteer opportunities in the IV region. Various political campaigns and volunteer operations make homes in Isla Vista due to the influence of the younger generation. These groups provide relatively good opportunities for making friends under the idea of community outreach or shared interests. These opportunities are also terrific resume boosters.
If this seems like too much of an effort, fear not. There are constantly student-run concerts, taco stand pop-ups, parties, and other events that are sure to yield opportunities to find friends.
11. UCSB: A Party School?
If you mention you’re going to UCSB to someone, chances are they’re going to hit you with “isn’t that a party school?” And, outside of our #7 Ranking for National Public Schools, they are somewhat right.
To welcome in the new school year, the fraternities host what we call Sunday Funday which takes place on the first Sunday of fall quarter. Dayges, or day parties, are held at virtually every fraternity chapter house. The best part of these parties is the water activities at each house. Foam, pools, dunk tanks, waterslides - you name it, it's there.
The biggest weekend of the year occurs on the first weekend back from Spring Break. Deltopiais an experience you won't find anywhere other than Isla Vista. Formerly known as Floatopia, students used to take their floats out and have a party on the ocean.
For understandable safety reasons, the police have closed the beaches on this weekend and now parties take place on nearly every oceanside Del Playa house. While these two big events uphold UCSB's party school reputation on its own, you won't have trouble finding parties on a weekly basis in Isla Vista.
Another great way to spend your weekends in Isla Vista is concert parties. The music scene here is something so special to our little coastal town. With the amount of talented people here, you can find multiple concert parties a night.
While the majority of the music played consists of Indie Surf Rock, there is still a wide variety of music genres, from Folk/Bluegrass to Heavy Metal. For updates on concert parties, follow "@soundsofiv" on Instagram!
During Spring Quarter, IV Recreation & Park District holds Music in the Park which takes place every Saturday. Local and out-of-town bands come together at Anisq'Oyo Park to jam out.
However, the biggest music event of the year is held by the school. At the end of each school year, the Associated Students Program Board puts together Extravaganza, UCSB's music festival. Admission is free with your Student ID. Here, there's something for everyone - featuring big name artists of all genres. Some headliners in years past have been Odesza, Playboi Carti, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Sublime, Dayglow, and more!
UCSB does have a reputation of work hard, play hard, but due to some of the crazier incidents in our past, many members of our community have made significant efforts to curtail some of the dangers with this culture and the stereotypes associated with it. For instance, greek life members are required to go to a range of workshops which teach everything from healthy relationships & consent to safe party habits.
As we mentioned earlier, the Gaucho FYI is a great system for teaching new students, both freshmen and transfers, how to operate safely during their time in college. This set of workshops is mandatory and covers topics such as over-consumption of alcohol and drugs to general safety practices, such as not biking or skating while under the influence. Both of these workshop styles are very thorough and actually have well-vetted information that actually sticks with you throughout your time here.
Wherever you might find yourself, always remember to be safe and stay with a group, as this is often the best way to make sure you all have a good time and make it back home safely.
12. IV Resources
There are a bevy of resources in the region of Isla Vista. IV Foot Patrol is a division of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office that monitors IV regularly and thoroughly. They are an excellent resource for anything from noise complaints to general safety concerns. Additionally we have IV Clinic, which is a healthcare facility and can take care of a range of ailments, or, help you to find a branch of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics which can take care of your specific ailment.
As far as cultural resources, we’d like you to consider Island View Outfitters as your premier cultural hub. All of the team members here (promptly titled The Island View Crew) have undying passions for UCSB, IV, and the general Santa Barbara area. Our team consists of several UCSB Alumni as well as current and potential students who have all experienced Isla Vista and UCSB in their own unique ways. Whether you have a question or just want to chat, we want you to know that our doors are always open to any member of the community we’re so fortunate to be a part of.