Santa Barbara is a picturesque beach town on the Central Coast of California, 95 miles north of Los Angeles. Known for its beautiful beaches, great hiking and surfing, good shopping, wonderful restaurants, excellent wine tasting, and charming downtown area, harbor, and pier, tourists come from around the world to experience this little slice of paradise.
I went to college at UC Santa Barbara and I lived here for 10+ years, working as a waitress and teaching surf lessons to save money so I could travel. After exploring the globe, visiting over 70 countries, and living in Europe for seven years, Santa Barbara is still my favorite town.
Staying in Santa Barbara can be expensive but there are also some great affordable hotel options. With a range of accommodations from luxury to budget, this guide will help you find the perfect place to stay in Santa Barbara.
Here is my list of the best hotels in Santa Barbara, for every price range, to help you plan your visit to this special place, known as the “American Riviera.”
Best Luxury Hotels In Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is home to an array of wonderful luxury hotels. Here are 6 of the best luxury hotels in Santa Barbara and nearby Montecito.
1) Rosewood Miramar Beach
Rosewood Miramar Beach is arguably the nicest hotel in Santa Barbara County. It’s also one of the most expensive because it is the only hotel in Santa Barbara located directly on the beach where you can sit seaside with your feet in the sand, enjoying cocktails, lunch, and incredible views of the coastline.
Set of gorgeous Miramar Beach, boasting two outdoor swimming pools, a world-class spa, an incredible sushi restaurant, an upscale beach bar, and stand-alone luxury bungalows, Rosewood Miramar Beach is truly a destination in itself.
2) San Ysidro Ranch
San Ysidro Ranch is a Ty Warner property located in the foothills of Montecito. Voted #1 Resort Hotel in California by Travel & Leisure in 2022, San Ysidro Ranch is a magical, romantic property – you’ll love the uniquely decorated bungalows with hot tubs.
Their Stone House Restaurant is a great sport for a date night dinner and their garden invites you to stay away gaming the foliage and flowers. The property reminds me of Big Sur boasting a rustic, elegant charm.
I got engaged here and we have stayed here on several of our anniversaries. It’s the ultimate hotel in Santa Barbara for a romantic getaway.
3) Bacara Resort & Spa
The Bacara Resort & Spa is Santa Barbara County’s most secluded oceanfront hotel. Located in Goleta, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this Mediterranean-style 5-star luxury resort is just 0.6 miles from Sandpiper Golf Course and a quick fifteen-minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara.
For families, friends, or couples looking to get away from it all, and relax and unwind at the beach, the Bacara provides the ideal location. Check out my Bacara Resort Review for highlights.
4) Belmond El Encanto
The Belmond El Encanto is a secluded, beautiful hotel in the Santa Barbara Riviera. Guests can enjoy sweeping views of the city and ocean in the distance, at this quiet, off-the-beaten-path property.
5) Hotel California
Hotel California just opened a few years ago and is in an ideal location in downtown Santa Barbara in the trendy Funk Zone across from Sterns Warf.
This luxury Santa Barbara hotel boasts Moroccan-style rooms, (some with ocean views), a luxury spa, upscale dining, and a rooftop pool overlooking State Street.
6) The Canary Hotel Santa Barbara
The Kimpton Canary Hotel offers an inviting, upscale Spanish decor and is located right off State St in Santa Barbara so you can walk to the best shopping and restaurants.
Besides Hotel California, the Canary Hotel has the only rooftop pool in Santa Barbara, which is a huge plus in the summer when you can lay out and order cocktails at the rooftop bar with beautiful city and mountain views.
Best Mid-Range Hotels In Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is home to many great mid-range hotels. Here are 7 of the best mid-range hotels in Santa Barbara.
1) Harbor View Inn
While much of the Harbor View Inn is outdated and in need of a refresh, their new North Wing, located on Lower State Street, offers updated, stylish, affordable rooms.
I stayed in a North Wing Room for my anniversary last year and was impressed with how large and well appointed the room was. I especially loved our terrace overlooking State Street and the clean, modern decor.
This hotel has a pool and hot tub which is also a plus – just be sure to choose the new “North Wing” when you book here or one of their other updated wings.
2) Hotel Virginia
Hotel Virginia is a new, stylish, budget-friendly hotel in downtown Santa Barbara walking distance to everything. Hotel Virgina opened in 2022 and is very clean with well-appointed rooms.
3) Mason Beach Inn
Mason Beach Inn was a newly remodeled Mediterranean hotel with stylish decor. This hotel has a pool and is in a great location just a few blocks from the beach and walking distance to everything in downtown Santa Barbara.
I’ve stayed here before and liked it a lot. The rooms are very clean and well priced plus they have a 24-hour front desk.
4) Hideaway Santa Barbara
Hideaway Santa Barbara is a charming, 4-star hotel in downtown SB. The rooms are well-appointed and stylish and it’s in a good location a few blocks from West Beach.
5) Hilton Santa Barbara
The Hilton Santa Barbara is located across the street from East Beach. This mid-range hotel sits on 24 acres and is just 1.5 miles from Santa Barbara Harbor and the SB train station, and just 12 miles from Santa Barbara Airport.
Amenities include a heated outdoor pool, 3 tennis courts, a spa, and 2 ballrooms.
6) Santa Barbara Inn
The Santa Barbara Inn is a clean and quiet hotel located on East Beach. I have not stayed here but I have come to their outdoor terrace restaurant for happy hour and loved it.
7) Hotel Milo Santa Barbara
Hotel Milo Santa Barbara is situated on West Beach, across the street from Sterns Warf and the Santa Barbara harbor. This hotel offers 122 rooms with contemporary beach-chic décor and Spanish Colonial architecture and has a pool and hot tub.
Hotel Milo Santa Barbara is a member of The Independent Collection, a growing collection of cultivated lifestyle hotels in gateway cities across the US.
Best Budget Hotels In Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara can be pricey but there are some good affordable hotel options. Here are 6 budget-friendly hotels in Santa Barbara.
1) Marina Beach Motel
The Marina Beach Motel is a cute 3-star motel one block from West Beach. They offer free breakfast and free bike rentals in an awesome location within walking distance to everything in downtown Santa Barbara.
2) Casa Del Mar Inn
Casa Del Mar Inn is a great budget hotel option in Santa Barbara. This cute, little hotel is just one block from West Beach and is very affordable so I often stay here when I visit SB.
I love Casa Del Mar Inn because it is in the perfect location, walking distance to the pier, harbor, and the Funk Zone, as well as shopping and restaurants on State Street.
They also offer free breakfast, free wifi, and free wine and cheese every night plus they have a fire pit that is great to hang out at in the evening and the staff is wonderful.
3) The Waterman
The Waterman is the perfect place for a traveler on a budget looking for a social and fun place to stay. Located in the funk zone with hip decor, this budget-friendly yet stylish hotel is a great affordable option in downtown Santa Barbara.
4) Riviera Beach House
Riviera Beach House is a hip, boutique hotel, located on lower State Street, very close to the pier and within walking distance to everything in downtown Santa Barbara.
This hotel is also right near Funk Zone, a cool, artsy restaurant and urban wine trail area. The rooms are small but with such a great location you won’t be in your room much.
5) Best Western Carpinteria Inn
Best Western Carpinteria Inn is located in Carpinteria just off the 101 freeway, 10 minutes south of Santa Barbara. This is a great budget hotel option near Santa Barbara because it is only 5 minutes drive from the famous surf point, Rincon, and it is within walking distance to downtown Carpinteria.
It is also only 3 minutes from Santa Claus Lane, which is a nice family beach for surfing and relaxing. Carpinteria is a very cute little beach town and this particular hotel is very nice for a Best Western!
6) The Presidio Motel
The Presidio Motel is a little, modern motel on upper State Street. I have never stayed here but I held an event there years ago and I remember the rooms were clean and cute.
This motel offers free loaner beach bikes and free parking. It also had a little sundeck with mountain views.
Downtown Santa Barbara Hotels Walking Distance To Everything
These are the best downtown Santa Barbara hotels in each price range, within walking distance to everything.
Luxury: Hotel California
Luxury: Kimpton Canary Hotel
Mid-Range: Hotel Virginia
Mid-Range: Harbor View Inn
Mid-Range: Mason Beach Inn
Mid-Range: Hotel Milo
Budget: Riviera Beach House
Budget: Casa Del Mar Inn
Budget: Marina Beach Motel
Budget: The Waterman
Top 15 Things To Do In Santa Barabra
There is a lot to do in Santa Barbara, along with wonderful hotel options, so it is worth staying here for at least 3-4 nights. Here are 15 of the best things to do in Santa Barbara.
- Hike Inspiration Point
- Hike Cold Springs Trail
- Visit Santa Barbara Mission
- Explore Sterns Wharf
- Take your kids to the SB Sea Center
- Explore the SB Harbor and take your kids to the Maritime Museum
- Go Sailing with Santa Barbara Sailing Center
- Visit the Channel Islands
- Day Trip to Ojai
- Shop on State Street
- Wine taste in the Funk Zone on the Urban Wine Trail
- Relax at Butterfly Beach in Montecito
- Take private surf lessons with me
- Take your kids to the MOXI Museum
- Watch polo at SB Polo & Racquet Club
Best Restaurants In Santa Barbara
There are an array of great restaurants in Santa Barbara. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Olio e Limone – Best pizza in town!
- Lucky’s Steakhouse – Best seafood, steaks, and martinis, located in Montecito.
- The Lark – Hip, upscale, and lively dining in the Funk Zone.
- Brophy Bros. – Located in the harbor, best clam chowder and fresh seafood + amazing views!
- Oku – Excellent, upscale sushi in the funk zone across from the beach.
- Flor de Maiz – Great Mexican food and margaritas in an upscale setting in the Funk Zone across from the beach.
- Los Arroyos – Located in Montecito, great Mexican food and margaritas
- Bouchon – Romantic and great for a date night.
- Jeannine’s Bakery -Breakfast at Jeannine’s in Montecito is a must!
- Arnoldi’s Cafe – Old school joint with great Italian food and a Bocce Ball in downtown Santa Barbara.
Cocktails With A View
Here are some of the best places to grab cocktails with a view in Santa Barbara.
- Bluewater Grill – Grab a drink at the upstairs bar or terrace for amazing views of the ocean and pier.
- Brophy Bros. – Grab a table outside for beautiful harbor and mountain views.
- Belmond El Encanto – Do drinks on the terrace with views of the city and ocean
- Rosewood Miramar Beach – Head to their beach bar for upscale cocktails overlooking the sea.
- Boathouse – Located on Hendry’s Beach, great happy hour right on the beach.
- Deep Sea Tasting Room – Conway Family Wines flagship Santa Barbara location on iconic Stearns Wharf, boasting incredible views of the ocean, city and mountains.
- Longboard’s Grill – Located above the Harbor Restaurant on Sterns Warf serving seafood, burgers & tropical cocktails on a large terrace overlooking the sea.
Don’t Miss In Santa Barbara
- February – May- Whale watching with the Santa Barbara Sailing Company.
- Shopping at Paseo Nuevo and La Arcada
- February: Santa Barbara Film Festival
- July: California Wine Festival in SB
- October: California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria
Additional Santa Barbara Tips
Hotels in Santa Barbara are pricey, but during the week (Mon – Thurs) they are usually about 40% cheaper, so try to stay here mid-week. If you stay more than 3 nights you can sometimes get a better overall rate or 1 night free.
Santa Barbar is a great walking town and it also has wonderful bike paths along the sea. During your visit to Santa Barbara, I suggest renting a bike and riding the beach trails.
You can also explore Santa Barbara on foot. Wine tasting in downtown Santa Barbara is so fun because you can walk the Urban Wine Trail. The Urban Wine Trail allows you to enjoy a carefree afternoon of wine tasting without the hassle of driving.
To have a seafood feast for half the price stop by the Santa Barbara Fish Market in the harbor to pick up fresh seafood for a beach picnic. And if you are looking for a fun night out State Street and the Funk Zone both have lots of lively bars.
The Best Hotels In Santa Barbara Wrap Up
I hope this Best of Santa Barbara hotel guide has inspired you to visit this charming coastal town. If you’ve stayed at any of the hotels on our list and have anything to add about them or if you know of any good Santa Barbara hotels we should please share in the comments below.
You can also check out my Santa Barbara Bucketlist Guide for all the best activities to do when you’re visiting Santa Barbara. Enjoy!
Have you been to Santa Barbara? If you have tips or questions to share with our readers please leave these in the comments below.
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