Your Guide to the Best of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is my happy place, plain and simple. From the moment the 101 dips beside the ocean to my left, the view unobstructed by houses, my shoulders relax down my back and my breathing slows.
Santa Barbara is quintessential California. The intricate Spanish tile work adorning every building, the taco stands on each corner, the sun-kissed laid back inhabitants content with a slower pace of life. I love how the diversity of California’s landscape is all at your fingertips – from a day spent wine tasting in the rolling hills of vineyards to catching sunset over the Pacific. The temperature is always delightfully mild with cool evenings. There’s just something about the air here – it feels cleaner, crisper. Like you can take a really big breath and fill your lungs to their capacity. And then there’s the romantic hotels, the lively restaurant scene, how dog-friendly the entire city is.. the fact that it’s the place we got MARRIED (Watch our wedding video here if you’re curious!). Santa Barbara is really something special. And if you don’t believe me, you’re in the right place. Read on.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re looking for the most romantic night of your life…
…San Ysidro Ranch is arguably the most swoon-worthy properties in the US. The lush gardens and pool offer the perfect escape from citylife, but you’ll be nestled in the mountains of Montecito – a drive from town and the ocean.
If you’re after classic Santa Barbara elegance….
…the Four Seasons Biltmore is my favorite hotel in town. Every corner is meticulously detailed in stunning Spanish decor and design. There is a pool on property (serving the world’s best truffle fries), but with your stay you also have access to the ‘beach’ club pool across the street. I put beach in parenthesis because you are not beachfront at the Four Seasons. Very dog friendly.
If you are looking for beachfront…
…the new Rosewood Miramar is a gorgeous colonial property that has the best beach set up in SB. This is as close as you’re going to get to a proper beach day with plush lounge chair service. Order a passion fruit aperol spritz for me if you stay here. 😉 Very dog friendly.
Another beachfront option is….
…the Bacara, which was recently bought out by the Ritz. The beach is no frills and not very well maintained, but you can take your towels down and still get service at the little beach shack. This hotel affords a majority of ocean view rooms and there is a lovely hiking trail that runs through the property. Very dog friendly.
If staying in town is more your speed…
my second favorite hotel in SB is the Canary. Every detail is so perfectly curated to Santa Barbara style. I always love the vibe of a Kimpton hotel, but this one feels much more elevated. The rooftop pool has sweeping views of downtown. Very dog friendly.
And speaking of views…
…the Belmond El Encanto is a charming property nestled in the hills affording you breathtaking views from nearly every corner of the hotel. This isn’t one of our favorites at the moment, as it feels a bit in need of a facelift. Dog friendly.
There are a trillion bed and breakfasts in SB, each with it’s own character. One of our favorite go-to is…
the Cheshire Cat Inn. Mostly because the woman who runs it is so incredibly lovely. The Simpson House is also a nice choice.
And lastly, a nice budget option is…
the Goodland. It’s a quirky and off-beat renovated motel with a fun community vibe. The Goodland is also a Kimpton property, but located a 10/15 min drive out of the town center. Very dog friendly.
WHAT TO DO
- THE FUNK ZONE: An Urban wine trail, need I say more? Visit all the best tasting rooms of the region in a 4 block radius. Each room is unique in their decor and wines, but my favorite is Deep Sea Tasting on the pier (we had our welcome party for our wedding here!).
2. WINERY TOUR – THE VINEYARDS: Either book a tour van or self guide through SB wine country.
3. BIKE RIDE: Most hotels will have complimentary bike rentals, but there are a few local spots to rent a bike if you wish to grab one in town. It’s the best way to see downtown Santa Barbara!
4. BOAT DAY: I still haven’t done it – but one of these days I’m going to boat over to see what those Channel Islands are all about. Other fun water activities: stand up paddleboarding or kayaking.
5. BEACH DAY: My favorite beach is Arroyo Burro Beach. Which my Spanish degree is telling me translates to river donkey beach. Very dog friendly and there’s a great restaurant beachside. Reservations suggested.
6. STATE STREET: explore downtown by foot, popping in and out of the shops and restaurants. Make sure to take a few side streets to stumble upon some of SB’s finest architecture. My favorite place is the Santa Barbara courthouse!
7. SPA DAY / THE CAVES: We’re here to relax, remember? All of the hotels listed will have a wonderful spa or you can book a salt cave session in town.
WHERE TO EAT
THE LARK: My favorite farm to table restaurant, ever. Reservations a must.
PLOW & ANGEL: oozing romance. Jackie + John Kennedy honeymooned at San Ysidro hotel, so I don’t need to say more on that. But if dropping a few k on a hotel night isn’t in the cards, you can still experience the magic of the hotel at their infamous restaurant Plow and Angel. Show up before sunset to experience the hotel property in all its glory.
THE PROJECT by CORAZON COCINA: Casual mexican food that is beyond bursting with flavor. Get the ceviche and a strawberry margarita.
ZAYTOON: delightful mediterranean restaurant with a cute patio setting. Get the yogurt dip starter.
MESA VERDE (Vegan): I would never not give you a vegan option, so here it is 😉
McConnells Ice Cream: Saved the best for last. We visit McConnells every day we’re in Santa Barbara – no matter how long our stay is.
Amazon fashion inspo.
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