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 all 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 50 countries, and living in Europe for seven years, Santa Barbara is still my favorite town.
There is a lot to do in Santa Barbara, along with wonderful hotel options, so it is worth staying here for 3-4 nights! 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
Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara
The Four Seasons Biltmore, nestled within 22 acres of lush jungle, beautiful gardens, and meandering pathways, is home to the largest planting of Kentia palm trees outside of Australia. This Four Seasons property, along with the Coral Casino, embodies quintessential Santa Barbara luxury style and charm. My husband Steve proposed to me five years ago, in front of Four Seasons Biltmore, on Butterfly Beach, so we spent a special weekend here celebrating earlier this month. Check out my Biltmore story highlights @VanessaRivers to see highlights from our stay!
Rosewood Miramar Beach
Rosewood Miramar Beach is the new hip spot to stay in Santa Barbara and the only hotel in Santa Barbara located directly on the beach where you can sit seaside with your feet in the sand, enjoying cocktail service and incredible views.
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.
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.
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.
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 layout and order cocktails at the rooftop bar with beautiful city and mountain views.
BEST MID-RANGE HOTELS IN SANTA BARBARA
Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is a hip, boutique hotel, located on lower State Street, very close to the pier and walking distance to downtown Santa Barbara. This hotel is also right near Funk Zone, a cool, artsy restaurant and urban wine trail area.
Hilton Santa Barbara
The Hilton Santa Barbara is located across the street from East Beach. This upscale, mid-range hotel sits on 24 acres and is just 1.5 miles from Santa Barbara harbour 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.
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.
Hotel Milo Santa Barbara
Hotel Milo Santa Barbara is situated on West Beach, across the street from Sterns Warf and the Santa Barbara harbor. It offers 122 rooms with contemporary beach-chic décor and Spanish Colonial architecture. 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
Casa Del Mar Inn
Casa Del Mar Inn is an excellent budget hotel option in Santa Barbara. This cute, little hotel is just one block from the beach in Santa Barbara and is very affordable so I often stay here when I visit SB. I love it 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.
The Wayfarer Hostel
The Wayfarer Hostel is the perfect place for a traveler on a budget looking for a social and fun place to stay. Whilst the Wayfarer is called a hostel its a far cry from your typical hostel experience. The place is relatively new, super clean with hip colorful decor, there is a huge open plan stylish shared kitchen, big outdoor pool and they arrange several group activities you can join – like a guided beer crawl through Santa Barbara. The hostel is walking distance from downtown or the beach so perfect position for a fun stay in Santa Barbara.
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 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!
Hideaway Santa Barbara
Hideaway Santa Barbara is said to be a good budget hotel option in downtown SB. I have never stayed here so I can’t personally vouch for it, but I have been told it is worth checking out.
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 HOTELS WALKING DISTANCE TO EVERYTHING
Luxury: Hotel California
Luxury: Kimpton Canary Hotel
Mid-Range: Hotel Milo
Mid-Range: Hotel Indigo
Budget: Casa Del Mar Inn
Budget: Best Western Beachside Inn
Budget: The Wayfarer Hostel
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN SANTA BARBARA
1) Hike Inspiration Point
2) Visit Santa Barbara Mission
3) Explore Sterns Wharf and SB Harbor
4) Go sailing and visit the Channel Islands
5) Day Trip to Ojai
6) Shop on State Street
7) Wine taste in the Funk Zone on the Urban Wine Trail
8) Relax at Butterfly Beach
9) Take a surf lesson with me – SurfLessonsWithVanessa.com
10) Watch polo at SB Polo & Racquet Club
DELICIOUS DINING IN SANTA BARBARA
- Bouchon – romantic and great for a date night
- Olio e Limone – best pizza in town!
- Lucky’s Steakhouse – best seafood, steaks, and martinis
- The Lark – hip, upscale and lively dining in the Funk Zone
- Brophy Bros. – best clam chowder and fresh seafood
COCKTAILS WITH A VIEW
- 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
- Coral Reef Bar at the Coral Casino – sweeping ocean views
- Rosewood Miramar Beach – for upscale cocktails in the sand
- Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach – great happy hour right on the ocean
DON’T MISS IN SANTA BARBARA
- Whale watching or a sunset sail with Sunset Kidd Sailing company
- Lunch at Brophy Bros. in the harbor for excellent seafood and amazing views
- The Sea Center on Sterns Warf is a great place to take your kids
- Breakfast at Jeannine’s in Montecito
- Shopping at Paseo Nuevo and La Arcada
- February: Santa Barbara Film Festival
- July: California Wine Festival in SB
- October: California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria
MY TOP SANTA BARBARA TIPS
My top recommendations for visiting Santa Barbara are eating lunch at Brophy Bros, go on a happy hour sunset sail, and take a private surf lesson at Mondos Beach with me! 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.
Rent a bike or walk the Urban Wine Trail for a great day of wine tasting without the hassle of having to drive. 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. If you are looking for a fun night out State Street has lots of lively bars! Enjoy!
Have you been to Santa Barbara? If you have any tips or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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