Monarch Butterfly Season Makes for a Magical Vacation

Monarch Butterfly Season Makes for a Magical Vacation

Located just a half a mile away from Bacara Resort & Spa, the Goleta Butterfly Grove located in the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa attracts tens of thousands of wintering monarch butterflies November through February each year. A visit to the grove during this time is a magical experience with trees dripping with butterflies in the mornings, and the butterflies becoming more active in the afternoons.

Butterflies at Bacara
(Photos by Valerie Kushnerov/City of Goleta)


“The eucalyptus trees in the Goleta Butterfly Grove create the specific microclimate characteristics that the monarch butterflies require to survive the winter months,” says Valerie Kushnerov, community relations manager for the City of Goleta. “The thick border of trees offers the sheltered trees in the center protection from the wind and storms. Openings in the canopy allow for some sun exposure, but not too much that the butterflies get too warm and active. Some activity is normal, and the butterflies require close proximity to the water and nectar sources. In this grove, water is typically available in Devereux Creek, and nectar sources include flowering eucalyptus and native and residential gardens.”

The monarch butterflies were first documented in the area in the 1920s. “The northern areas of North America get too cold for the monarchs, so they migrate south to escape the freezing temperatures. Monarch butterflies that migrate to the California Coast come from west of the Rocky Mountains,” Kushnerov explains. “Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate from Canada all the way to the mountain forest in Mexico. In February and March, the monarchs leave these overwintering sites and start their journey north and outward. The females lay up to 400 eggs on milkweed plants, and those offspring will continue their migration north. Four or five generations occur over the summer while the monarchs cover the range of milkweed plants up to Canada. In the fall, the migration begins again.”

Butterfly Primer at Bacara
(Photo by Valerie Kushnerov/City of Goleta)

The population of butterflies in the grove tends to peak near the end of December, and the monarchs are most active in February, when they mate before leaving the grove.

When you visit, sturdy shoes and binoculars are recommended. Bacara Resort & Spa’s concierge team will be happy to help assist with directions, bike rentals and picnic lunches to enhance your visit to the grove. The city asks guests not to visit if the ground is muddy from a recent storm. Knowledgeable docents are on hand to answer all your questions Saturdays and Sundays (weather permitting) between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

“A trip to see the monarchs is a wonderful, family-friendly experience,” Kushnerov says.

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