Its nickname is the American Riviera, and indeed Santa Barbara has the feeling of a refined European seaside resort. Two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara occupies an idyllic spot along California’s Central Coast. It is flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side, and wineries and farmland on the other. No surprise, this is where movie stars have been getting away from it all since the silent film era. Here are five hotels in Santa Barbara that make you feel like an A-lister.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (1260 Channel Dr.; 805-969-2261) Butterfly Beach
Four miles from Santa Barbara’s downtown, this 1927 hotel on 22 acres embodies everything that people love about Santa Barbara. It’s luxurious but also relaxed. “This iconic luxury hotel … is an unparalleled mixture of California history and impeccable Four Seasons’ service,” says Forbes, which calls the 206-room Spanish Colonial resort’s bungalows and villas “casually chic … with custom handcrafted furnishings, original artwork and beautiful objets d’art.” As one Google reviewer notes, its location on quiet Butterfly Beach is a huge part of its appeal. “It’s an exquisite place to enjoy walking or watching the sunset. Never a lot of people as the parking is limited. But that’s the beauty.” Don’t miss the hotel’s bar, the Ty Lounge, which is credited with inventing the original Moscow Mule.
El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel, Santa Barbara (800 Alvarado Pl.; 805-845-5800) Lower Riviera
This 92-room, 1918 hotel with a Craftsman-meets-Spanish aesthetic sits a few blocks from the historic Mission Santa Barbara. “Marvel at the remarkable views and peaceful privacy in this historic hilltop hideaway,” says TimeOut, adding that the “excellently renovated site features classic cottages with modern tech amenities, an infinity pool, and a state-of-the-art spa.” It’s “a stunning property,” says one Tripadvisor reviewer, though she notes that one should ask where one’s room is. “Our room was right on the main sidewalk, and though comfortable and pretty enough, we felt like we were in a fishbowl with people constantly walking by and peering in.”
Harbor House Inn (104 Bath St.; 805-962-9745) West Beach
Hotels in Santa Barbara have a reputation for being high end, but this 75-room boutique-style hotel gets high marks for being such a good value. Rooms and suites offer at least partial, or even fully-equipped, kitchens and amenities include a lot of little freebies. “It’s one block from the beach, close to the marina, the pier and State Street,” says one Google reviewer. “They also offer free bikes, chairs and beach equipment …Just an overall charming place.” The staffers gets props for being helpful too. A Yelp reviewer loves little perks like “free snacks in the main office and free rentals! Even after we checked out they let us borrow and we used it to bike to lunch and return after.”
Kimpton Canary Hotel (31 W. Carrillo St.; 805-884-0300) State Street
This boutique Kimpton hotel sits right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara—which is also blissfully close to the beaches, Stearns Wharf, and the wine tasting of the city’s Funk Zone neighborhood—and you can see it all from the hotel’s rooftop pool. “This boutique hotel captivates visitors with indulgent amenities and impressive city views,” says TimeOut. “Each intimate Spanish-style room comes with an astonishingly cozy four-poster bed, hardwood floors, hand-painted tiles and a complimentary yoga mat.” One Yelp reviewer gives it extra credit for its great service. “When I got to the hotel, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a balcony or not and pay the upgrade. The front desk was nice enough to make us two keys for two rooms so we could check them both out and make a decision.”
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara (8301 Hollister Ave.; 805-968-0100) Goleta
One of the best hotels in Santa Barbara is located about 15 minutes north of the city. This 358-room classic oceanfront resort sits on 78 acres and embraces the Ritz-Carlton style of luxury, with sumptuous rooms, Frette linens and easy beach access. “Escape to the tranquility of two beaches, three infinity pools and a 42,000-square-foot spa,” says Forbes, “where you’ll be pampered with unique treatments like the Spirulina Wrap, which uses live spirulina algae to revitalize the skin.” On Tripadvisor, one reviewer complains that the resort was farther from town than expected, but “the resort’s location on top of the bluff is incredible—definitely walk the trail.”