Ventura, officially the city of San Buenaventura, is a 40-nautical-mile run from Marina del Rey, so plan on an early morning cruise to give yourself plenty of time to explore what’s on shore. Ventura Harbor (venturaharbor.com) is the perfect port of call for visiting boaters. There are loads of restaurants, shops, markets and a full service boatyard, in addition to a selection of well protected marinas.
Although you can easily spend the day exploring Ventura Harbor, resist the temptation and take the free trolley to downtown Ventura. The trolley service runs 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in 45-minute intervals (venturatolley.com). Once you’re there, the area is extremely walkable. The west end of downtown is anchored by the Old Mission San Buenaventura, founded in 1782 (sanbuenaventuramission.org). It was the last of the nine missions founded in California by Father Junipero Serra. Once you have soaked up the historic ambience, it will be time for a late lunch. A short walk from the Old Mission is El Rey Cantina, which is my favorite spot for tacos and tequila (elreycantina.com). I guarantee you will want to take home an El Rey T-shirt. Suitably fortified, you can spend the remainder of the afternoon shopping at a wide array of antiques, vintage clothing, and upscale shops. In keeping with our Mexican theme for the day, dinner at Maria Bonita is a must (mariabonitagourmet.com). This is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area, and it will become your favorite for future visits to Ventura.