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About Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is less than 100 miles from Los Angeles, but, with its great swathes of sandy beach, lush wineries and matching, mission style architecture, it’s got a totally different vibe. Many of the best places to stay in Santa Barbara sport the red tiled roofs and arched windows which typify this style, but if your idea of a great hotel involves Pacific views, then you’ll also find a range of more modern, glass-a-plenty options.
Santa Barbara’s weather is another great draw, as is the wine and food - there are numerous excellent restaurants, and the seafood is especially good. This is small city, but the shopping and cultural offerings are as plentiful as you’d find in a much larger one. There are also a number of historic and cultural festivals - Santa Barbara is a city proud of its heritage.
The Santa Barbara Mission is probably the city’s main visitor attraction. It’s the largest in California and has an unusual, but impressive double bell tower. Founded in 1786, this is still an active parish church and has been in continuous use. Which makes the churchyard, with its skull carvings and Chumash artwork and graves, another interesting attraction.
Santa Barbara’s subtropical weather means the Botanical gardens are also well worth a visit, as is the Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum, the County Courthouse and Stearns Wharf, which was built in 1872, making it the oldest continuously operating wharf on the West Coast.
Don't forget that because of the great climate, the best places to stay in Santa Barbara get booked up well ahead. So if you're planning a trip during the peak seasons, get organised and reserve your room now!
For ocean views
- Four Seasons The Biltmore is a Mediterranean feeling resort with 20 acres of lush gardens and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The Mediterranean theme spills over into the beautiful, seasonal, organic, Italian restaurant and there’s also a brilliant spa.
- Canary Santa Barbara is a beach front hotel with 97 generously sized rooms - many with stunning views, a rooftop pool, and a restaurant specialising in local produce, which naturally includes a lot of seafood.
- Bacara Resort & Spa is a large ocean front resort outside town. It offers facilities galore, Catalan cuisine, stylish accommodation and stunning views.
- The Belmond El Encanto is a stylish, collection of rooms and bungalows dotted around lush, seven acre gardens, just a few minutes from the beach and the Pacific Ocean. Each of the 92 rooms has a balcony or patio, and there’s an infinity pool, spa and restaurant with wonderful ocean views.
- The Spanish Garden Inn is a boutique hotel with a Mediterranean feel. There are just 23 spacious, luxurious rooms and a fabulous blue lap pool. And you’re close to the restaurants and shops of Slate Street.
- For something truly special book the San Ysidro Ranch. It's nestled in the Montecito foothills, set amid 500 acres overlooking the Pacific. It can do some serious name-dropping (with the likes of JKF and Laurence Olivier as past guests) and its easy to see why: gorgeous rooms, beautiful gardens, muslin draped four posters, and gourmet cuisine.
For downtown location
If you want to be able to walk around town, then you'll need to stay centrally. Here are our top picks:
- Simpson House Inn is a period Victorian mansion turned B&B, set amid an acre of glorious English gardens. Accommodation is elegant and classic in style, breakfasts are gourmet and every evening there's wine tasting and hors d'oeuvres for all.
- The Upham is the oldest operating hotel in Southern California. It now offers stylish accommodation at a very reasonable price, just minutes from some of Santa Barbara's attractions.
Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Santa Barbara, or contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice. Alternatively you can widen the net and check out all our California recommendations.
Best Hotels in Santa Barbara
Cheshire Cat 18 rooms from $200Santa Barbara (California)
Victorian B&B welcomes guests with crackling fireplaces, a flower filled garden and private terraces. Natural light floods the comfortable rooms, some have whirlpool tubs. Breakfast in bed, on the terrace or in the garden. A fantastic find in the heart of Santa Barbara. Sea or spa, be sure to visit.Sights nearby - Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a great place to hear more about the area and nature.Fishing - Head to the pier and let out a line.Great walks - Along the ocean front.Full of character
The Upham 50 rooms from $219Santa Barbara
Built in 1871, the Upham is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Southern California. This downtown Santa Barbara hotel comes with every modern convenience - while staying true to its historic roots. Rooms are simple, extremely comfortable and elegant. A timeless hotel, in a vibrant city.Great walks - 5-minute drive to the beach and Stearns Wharf.Full of characterSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.Outstanding location
Simpson House Inn 15 rooms from $255Santa Barbara (California)
1874 Victorian Mansion turned B&B amid lush gardens and daily wine hour. Rooms are Victorian, with fireplace, four poster bed, hardwood floors and classic bathtubs. Location is perfect for beach life or relaxing in the garden with a book. Restaurants and galleries are walking distance.Great walks - Check out the extensive gardens of the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens.Fishing - Go out and do some deep sea fishing with some local experts.Hideaway - A truly quiet and intimate stay.Restrictions on children
Belmond El Encanto 92 rooms from $331Santa Barbara
Serene hotel with stylish bungalows dotted around the lush 7-acre gardens, minutes from Santa Barbara and the Pacific beaches. The refined rooms are furnished with rich fabrics, and all feature a private balcony or patio. The infinity-pool, spa, and restaurant all boast spectacular ocean viewsLocal exploring - Only 5 minutes' drive from central Santa Barbara, with the Mission, Botanical Gardens and Municipal Golf Course all featuringBeach Life - The hotel has a free shuttle service and electric bikes to reach the Pacific beaches of Santa BarbaraSpa breaksSwimming Pool - The hotel has a heated outdoor saltwater infinity-pool with spectacular views of the Pacific OceanRecommended by - Tablet, Mr & Mrs Smith
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch from $292Santa Barbara (California)
Quiet hideaway in the Santa Ynez wine region; close enough to Santa Barbara for the hustle & bustle, and the ocean for sea air and activities. Large, wooden decorated rooms look out on rolling hill views; guests have access to spa and pool facilities. Family-style dining gives a very homely feel.Back to Nature - Love horses? This is the place for you.Great walks - Truly magical place to explore.Sights nearby - Beaches are closeby.Opulent
Spanish Garden Inn 23 rooms from $305Santa Barbara (California)
Mediterranean in style and atmosphere this boutique hotel offers all the mod-cons as well as in-room spa treatments and a fabulous blue lap pool. Rooms are spacious, contemporary and luxurious. Three blocks away is State Street, famous for its many choices of restaurants and shops. Great stay.Great walks - Douglas Family Preserve is a great spot for a walk along the seashore.Surfing - Beaches all around for surfing and other water based activities.Full of characterSwimming Pool - Indoor/outdoor
Canary Santa Barbara 97 rooms from $315Santa Barbara (California)
Sun drenched and perfect beachfront site with stunning views, rooftop pool and generously sized rooms. Finch & Fork is all about farmer's market produce, seafood and local wines. Rooftop Perch is ideal for sundowners and light bites. Location is on point with Pacific a bike ride away!Great walks - All roads end at State Street and it is worth the stroll through town to get there.Surfing - A popular past time in LA.Fishing - When by the sea.Full of characterRecommended by - Tablet
Bacara Resort & Spa 358 rooms from $350Santa Barbara (California)
Ocean views, Spanish style white washed walls give a village feel - a stunning resort 15 minutes from Santa Barbara. European menu, Catalan specialties and live music at the bar are all fantastic. Comfort and views describe the rooms, with balconies and sitting rooms. Brilliant spa and activities.Kayaking - Kayaking and Paddle boards are both avaliable to rent.Great walks - Along the coast or through the Med-vibe town Gelato.Kids Club - Fully staffed.Views - Great views from hotelRecommended by - Tablet
Four Seasons The Biltmore 207 rooms from $645Santa Barbara (California)
The 20 acres of lush garden on the oceanfront give a Mediterranean feel and beautiful Pacific views. The spacious are Spanish-esqe, with fabulous views of garden, sea or pool. Bella Vista offers organic Italian food or seafood at Tydes, with cocktails at Ty Lounge. Loads to do and a brilliant spa.Sailing - Santa Barbara Harbour and Waterfront has a lot of sailing opportunities.Great walks - Along Butterfly Beach, or even East Beach just a bit up the coast.Sights nearby - Stearns Wharf nearby for art galleries, restaurants and bars.Fishing - Readily avaliable at the local harbour or ask at reception.
San Ysidro Ranch 41 rooms from $695Santa Barbara (California)
This romantic ranch sits in 500 acres with Pacific Ocean views, a pool and private hot tubs. Cottages and suites are luxurious, intimate and with outdoor rain showers. The Stonehouse uses locally sourced produce. Family and pets are welcome to this adventure haven.Great walks - Explore the grounds.Views - Great views from hotelRomantic - Good for couples.Seaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.