Where to Stay in Santa Barbara – Neighborhoods & Area Guide

The gorgeous coastal Californian city of Santa Barbara is a long-established summer destination for the great and the good. Upmarket, classy and really rather refined, Santa Barbara is a wonderful place to explore.

Showcasing some of the finest coastlines along all of the United States, it is not hard to see why Santa Barbara sees hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive every year.

For many, it is the Mediterranean-style white buildings that play a significant role in creating the charm and lure of Santa Barbra. For others, it is the boulevards lined with chic fashion bouquets and independent designer stores.

Santa Barbara is just a stone’s throw away from other must-visit destinations like Malibu, Los Angeles, and San Diego. There is so much to explore from a base of Santa Barbra.

Incorporating influences from around the world, most notably that of Spain, Santa Barbara is a multicultural city that is a joy to explore. There is always something going on. Be it a live music concert or a wine festival, there are plenty of opportunities to make new friends in Santa Barbara.

Let’s explore where to stay in Santa Barbara:

West Beach

Harbor View Inn

Source: booking.com

Harbor View Inn

The most popular place to stay in Santa Barbara is the neighborhood of West Beach. It is best known for its magnificent fireworks displays that light up the sky twice a year. During the 4th of July celebrations and, of course, New Year’s Eve, the skies above West Beach come alive.

The focal point of West Beach is Stearn’s Wharf. Lined with authentic, casual fish restaurants that overlook the water, a visit to Stearn’s Wharf can’t be beaten. A firm favorite with locals and annual visitors is Santa Barbara Shellfish Company; a long-established wooden hut restaurant that offers ocean views and a quaint outdoor patio space.

On the way back to the shore be sure to swing by Great Pacific Ice Cream Co. Many say they serve the best scoops in West Beach.

Another gem in West Beach is Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Art Museum. Housing memorabilia from yesteryear, a visit to the museum teaches visitors about horse-drawn vehicles and their use in the wild west.

Good For: Active Travelers, Art Lovers, Architecture Enthusiasts, Beach Bums, City Slickers, Couples, Culture Vultures, First Time Visitors, Foodies, Families, Sightseers, Whistle-Stop Travelers, Shopaholics,

Neighborhood Highlights: Stearn’s Wharf, Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Art Museum, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, Great Pacific Ice Cream Co, Leadbetter Beach, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, Land Shark, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Chase Palm Park, Oreana Winery, The Lark Santa Barbara, Mission Creek

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Lavender Inn by the Sea – Lavender Inn by the Sea is a fabulous hotel in the heart of West Beach, on Castillo Street. The hotel offers guests access to their gorgeous outdoor swimming pool and sun deck. There is a continental breakfast served daily that is included in the room rate. The rooms are homely and spacious.
  • Harbor View Inn – Harbor View Inn is just a one-minute walk from the beach and just five minutes from Stern’s Wharf. There is a fitness center that offers guests use of cardiovascular fitness equipment such as elliptical trainers. All rooms offer a mini bar and access to cable TV channels. Parking is available.
  • West Beach Inn – West Beach Inn is a top rated hotel in the West Beach neighborhood. There is a complimentary continental breakfast served every morning. This is in addition to the nightly wine and cheese events held by the pool that are also complimentary. The rooms are wonderful and the beds are exceptionally comfortable.

East Beach

Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara

Source: booking.com

Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara

East Beach is the sister neighborhood to West Beach. Although their names would suggest they reside at two ends of the city, they actually sit side by side. There is a quieter feel to East Beach that is appreciated by many travelers.

For any travelers keen to keep to themselves, relax on the beach and walk in the park, East Beach area is perfect. For families too, East Beach is something of a haven. There are a few big resorts in the East Beach area that cater specifically to families.

The East Beach is a sporty little neighborhood. To the eastern edge of East Beach sits the East Beach Volleyball Courts. In true Californian style, the beach volleyball courts are nearly always in use. The locals are open and friendly, and happy to entertain novices in a trial match, no doubt.

East Beach and West Beach almost share a focal point. At the very western tip of East Beach, separating the two neighborhoods, is Stearns Wharf.

Good For: Active Travelers, Art Lovers, Architecture Enthusiasts, Beach Bums, City Slickers, Couples, Culture Vultures, First Time Visitors, Foodies, Families, Sightseers, Whistle-Stop Travelers, Shopaholics,

Neighborhood Highlights: East Beach Volleyball Courts, Stearns Wharf., Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, Pier Santa Barbara, Chase Palm Park, Grave of Heather Angel, Municipal Tennis Courts, Sunflower Park, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, The Habit Burger Grill, Sanguis Winery, Whitcraft Winery, Santa Barbara Bikes To-Go

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Cabrillo Inn at the Beach – Cabrillo Inn at the Beach is just a two-minute walk from the beach itself. Cabrillo Inn at the Beach is a humble and affordable hotel in the East Beach area, many rooms offer ocean views. All rooms offer a cable TV and there is free WiFi too. Family rooms are available.
  • Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara – Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara is a good hotel in East Beach. There is an outdoor swimming pool and a poolside lounge for guests to use as they please. There is a modern feel to Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara and each room features a flat-screen TV. There is parking available on site.
  • Blue Sands Inn – Blue Sands Inn is a superb hotel in East Beach in Santa Barbara. Guests can hire bicycles from the team at front reception and there are plenty of trails to follow close by. The rooms are modern with an earthy feel. There is an outdoor swimming pool that’s open year-round.

Upper East

Simpson House Inn

Source: booking.com

Simpson House Inn

Set back from the beaches and with a more local, friendly feel, Upper East is an authentic place to stay in Santa Barbara.

For budding historians, or those simply curious about the city’s past, Upper East is an ideal place to stay. Old Mission Santa Barbara is one of the most popular attractions in the city and it is not hard to see why. Not only is the mission a magnificent building, but it is also steeped in history. Old Mission Santa Barbara was built in 1786 by Spanish missionaries. Today it is preserved as a museum and gallery displaying art and artifacts.

Opposite Old Mission Santa Barbara, sits Mission Historical Park and Mission Rose Garden. On a sweltering Santa Barbara sunny day, there is something quite refreshing about seeking a shaded spot in a blooming garden.

The Santa Barbara Museum Of Natural History is another must-visit attraction in the Upper East neighborhood. Many new exhibits get added and swapped around each month. There is always something new to discover.

Good For: Active Travelers, Art Lovers, Architecture Enthusiasts, Budding Historians, City Slickers, Couples, Culture Vultures, Foodies, Families, Sightseers, Like a Local Travelers, Shopaholics

Neighborhood Highlights: Old Mission Santa Barbara, Mission Historical Park and Mission Rose Garden, Mission Santa Barbara, La Huerta Historic Garden, Mount Calvary Monastery, Rocky Nook Park, Santa Barbara Woman’s Club, The Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara Museum Of Art, Soho Restaurant & Music Club, Fuzion Glass Gallery, Waterhouse Gallery, Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, Santa Barbara Bowl

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Simpson House Inn – Simpson House Inn is a luxurious hotel in the Upper East. Set in a period 1800’s building, Simpson House Inn is a sight to behold. The food at Simpson House Inn is simply exquisite. The gourmet breakfast is not to be missed, nor are the evening wine tastings. The rooms are of heritage design.
  • Orange Tree Inn – Orange Tree Inn is a good hotel on State Street. The rooms are of a generous size and all feature an ensuite bathroom. Premium amenities like LCD TVs with cable channels and free access to WiFi are available in every room. There is an outdoor swimming pool and sun deck.
  • The Presidio – The Presidio is a bestselling hotel in Santa Barbara. Just a 6-minute drive from Stearn’s Wharf. The Presidio keeps guests right at the heart of the action. The rooms are modern and cozy and all beds have a bedside lamp. There is a work desk in each room and an iPod docking station too.

Montecito

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Source: booking.com

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

For travelers seeking subtlety and luxury, Montecito is the best place to stay in Santa Barbara. A relaxed neighborhood with an esteemed set of residents, Montecito is a favorite with the high and mighty of society.

Montecito is a fantastic destination for shopaholics. With long streets lined with high fashion boutiques and a number of independent interior design stores too, Montecito is ideal for those with cash to burn.

The locals, however, would argue that it is the natural charms of Montecito that are the real focal points. Montecito is a fantastic place to stay in Santa Barbara for outdoor enthusiasts. The hills that surround Montecito are crisscrossed with hiking trails that lead out to gorgeous lookout points. The beach at Montecito is perfect for a morning run or sunset walk.

Birnam Wood Golf Course is one of the most popular greens in the Santa Barbara area. There is a heritage feel to their clubhouse and the staff are incredibly welcoming.

Good For: Active Travelers, Art Lovers, Architecture Enthusiasts, Beach Bums, City Slickers, Couples, Culture Vultures, Foodies, Hikers, Like a Local Travelers, Luxury Travelers, Off The Beaten Track Travelers, Sightseers

Neighborhood Highlights: Montecito Beach, Fernald Point, Edgecliff Point, Birnam Wood Golf Course, Montecito Country Club, Manning Park, Casa del Herrero, Gould Park, Cold Spring Trailhead, Lookout Park, Culley House, Jeannine’s American Bakery Restaurant, Sakana Sushi Bar & Japanese, Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club, All Saints By the Sea Church

Hotel Recommendations

  • Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara – Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is the most famous hotel in Montecito. Offering world-class service and an elegant environment, The Baltimore is a top pick. The al fresco dining terrace is quintessential ‘SB’ and overlooks the ocean. All rooms have a mini bar and offer either garden or sea views.
  • Coast Village Inn – Coast Village Inn is a fantastic hotel in Montecito. The rooms are low-key in terms of design but are comfortable and cost. The hotel offers guests free use of the beach cruiser bicycles and the outdoor swimming pool too. Each room offers an ensuite bathroom with a walk-in shower unit.
  • Montecito Inn – Montecito Inn was built in 1928 by the legend himself, Charlie Chaplin. The interior decor has had a facelift since then, but there is a stylish heritage feel to the hotel. There is an outdoor heated swimming pool and a hot tub too. Family rooms are available and there is free WiFi.

Goleta

Hampton Inn Santa Barbara - Goleta

Source: booking.com

Hampton Inn Santa Barbara – Goleta

Sitting in the south of Santa Barbara is the tiny city of Goleta. Upgraded from an unincorporated place to a city in 2002, Goleta is the new kid on the block. That said, there is a great amount of history to discover in Goleta. The South Coast Railroad Museum, for example, is a great place to explore in Goleta; it’s educational for all ages. The historic railroad depot features interactive exhibits and a few novelty rides too.

The Goleta Butterfly Grove is one of the most calming and photogenic places to visit in the Santa Barbara area. For budding wildlife photographers, Goleta Butterfly Grove is a must. The best time to visit is during the butterfly migration period of December to February.

Goleta Park Beach is the most popular place to visit in Goleta. The expansive 29-acre park features paved biking trails and plenty of picnic tables to go around. For families seeking some fresh air during their vacation, Goleta is on the money.

Good For: Active Travelers, Adventure Travelers, Budget Backpackers, Couples, Families, Hikers, Outdoorsy Travelers, Nature Lovers, Off The Beaten Track Travelers

Neighborhood Highlights: South Coast Railroad Museum, Goleta Butterfly Grove, Goleta Park Beach, Girsh Park, Lake Los Carneros Park, Stow House, Storke Tower, Ellwood Mesa, Art, Design & Architect Museum, Tuckers Grove Park, Elings Park, Devereux Lagoon, Anisq’Oyo Park, San Marcos Foothills Nature Preserve

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta – Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta is one of the most popular hotels in Goleta and can be found on Hollister Avenue. As a luxury hotel, the rooms are large and feature chic furnishings. Many of the larger suites offer a fully equipped kitchen and living room space.
  • Pacifica Suites – Pacifica Suites is a gorgeous hotel set just off Highway 101. The rooms have a homely feel and high-quality wooden furniture. A very good breakfast is included in the room rate and there are always complimentary cookies available. There is free parking available on site.
  • Hampton Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta – Hampton Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta is an affordable accommodation option with a heap of great facilities. There is a heated outdoor swimming pool and a hot tub too. All rooms feature a flat-screen TV and there is free WiFi throughout Hampton Inn. Breakfast is included in most room rates and served in an authentic American style.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in Santa Barbara, California (CA)
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Where to Stay in Santa Barbara – Neighborhoods & Area Guide:

Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara