Though it has picturesque scenery, ocean views, and plenty of sunshine all year long, Santa Barbara is much more than just another coastal beach town. This Southern California gem boasts historic charm, impressive sights, and a booming food and wine scene that all make it stand out as an idyllic vacation destination.
While each of Santa Barbara’s luxury hotels and resorts offer a slightly different high-end experience, don’t expect a stay to feel stuffy. Santa Barbara’s laid-back vibe extends to all of these top Santa Barbara hotels, where luxury, sophistication, and “California cool” sensibilities combine for the ultimate coastal getaway.
800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, (805) 845-5800
Luxury is in full force at the beautiful Belmond El Encanto, situated on Santa Barbara’s Riviera offering sweeping views of the city below. A stay at this five-star retreat doesn’t disappoint, thanks to its timeless California glamour, peaceful setting, and posh amenities. While only minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, the secluded location of the hotel promotes an overall feeling of relaxation and ease. You’ll love spending your days getting pampered at the spa, lounging beside the pool, noshing on locally-sourced food, and admiring the lush landscaping. When it comes time for dinner, don’t miss dining under the stars from the restaurant’s outdoor terrace — just be sure to make your reservation early enough to watch the sun go down over the city.
Opt for one of the bungalow suites, where you’ll adore ending each evening with a glass of wine (or coffee) on the couch beside your own in-room fireplace.
1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93108, (805) 969-2261
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, located along a picturesque beachfront area of Montecito, has long been a luxury getaway for the rich and famous of Old Hollywood. Today, it continues to charm with its sophisticated glamour and array of high-end amenities. Set amongst 22 acres of lushly-landscaped grounds just steps from the sand, the resort offers a variety of garden rooms, ocean view suites, and private bungalows that blend Spanish Colonial style with modern conveniences — some with fireplaces, private balconies, and private plunge pools for an added dose of relaxation. Outside of the rooms, you can spend your days making use of the spa, tennis courts, pickleball courts, croquet lawn, fitness center, and two pools (including a stunning oceanfront pool exclusive to resort guests and club members). Make a point to savor a specialty cocktail on the patio of the ocean view lounge or enjoy a quiet dinner overlooking the ocean at Tide’s Restaurant, and savor those vacation vibes.
While Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore is an obvious choice for couples looking for a romantic escape, it’s also a very family-friendly resort. In fact, they go out of their way to welcome the youngin’s by offering a variety of activities suitable for kids, as well as children’s menus, complimentary baby toiletries, and even child-sized bathrobes.
1759 S. Jameson Lane, Montecito, CA 93108, (805) 900-8388
Occupying a premiere beachfront property in Montecito, Rosewood Miramar Beach is a brand new coastal getaway that shines with Gatsby-esque glamour and an upscale, yet laid back vibe. Here, it’s easy to feel like you’re on vacation, whether lounging beside one of the two pools, playing bocce with cocktail in hand, or enjoying locally-made ice cream with your feet in the sand. In true resort fashion, Rosewood Miramar Beach offers several restaurants and bars (two with pristine ocean views), a spa, fitness center, complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour in-room dining, concierge services, and a Goop sundries shop with hats, sunblock, and a selection of Goop specialty products. It’s also the only place in the area where you can sleep directly above the sand, where 22 beachfront rooms come with private balconies and light and airy décor, offering the ultimate in seaside living.
If you plan to eat dinner at the Resort’s signature restaurant, Caruso’s, you’ll need to adhere to the restaurant’s Business Casual dress code (collared shirts for gentlemen, no shorts, no flip flops…). And be sure to book a reservation early to enjoy the unobstructed ocean views as the sun goes down, then stay for one of Chef Massimo Falsini’s incredible desserts.
8301 Hollister Avenue, Goleta, CA 93117, (805) 968-0100
Located on 78 acres along a secluded stretch of coastline in Goleta, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara delights with its oceanfront setting, picturesque pools, indulgent spa, multiple restaurants, and Mediterranean charm. Rooms and suites include fine linens, large soaking tubs, and private patios or balconies (some offering a glimpse of the Pacific), while amenities are designed to ensure a stay feels special. Even more, the Bacara recently revealed several enhancements throughout the property, including refreshed interiors with breezy, coastal-inspired spaces and the much-anticipated The Ritz-Carlton Club® Lounge. Upgrade your room to include access to the Lounge and you’ll get to enjoy an indoor/outdoor communal space in which to eat, drink, and relax alongside fellow travelers. Here, you can nosh on culinary treats, sip an espresso or mimosa, sample wine from the one-touch wine dispenser, and make use of the concierge services — all of which are complimentary. Even if you don’t spring for The Ritz-Carlton Club® Lounge during your stay, be sure to pay a visit to the spa for luxurious skin and body treatments, where eucalyptus steam rooms, saunas, and a sun deck make it easy to unwind.
As part of the resort’s enhancements, the Ritz-Carlton Bacara has launched the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program to help guests discover the natural wonders of the Gaviota Coast. Daily expeditions are offered, where supervised activities for children and adults will have you exploring sea life, plant life, and the natural history of the area.
900 San Ysidro Lane, Montecito, CA 93108, (805) 565-1700
Don’t be fooled by the rustic nature of this Montecito retreat — San Ysidro is very much a luxury hotel, which is why it’s been a go-to destination for sophisticated travelers for over a century (and why so many celebrities have married and honeymooned here). Though the hotel was severely damaged during natural disasters in 2018, it has since been restored and has reopened to offer the same secluded luxury we’ve all come to know and love. There are 41 private cottages on the hillside of The Ranch, where plush, king-sized beds, fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, and creekside patios add to the allure of a stay. Some of the rooms even come with private hot tubs and outdoor showers. While you may be inclined to stay in your room all day, if you do choose to leave your quiet abode, a year-round heated swimming pool isn’t far away, nor is a hike in the hills behind the hotel.
Dining at the San Ysidro Ranch is an experience not to be missed, where two amazing restaurants await. The Stonehouse Restaurant offers a more formal atmosphere, with an impressive wine list to match, while Plow and Angel’s setting and menu are slightly more relaxed.
36 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 882-0100
The 121-room Hotel Californian is conveniently located in downtown Santa Barbara’s Waterfront neighborhood, across the street from Stearns Wharf and the beach. This stylish hotel, which is designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style with Moorocan influences, showcases over one million tiles — many hand painted in Morocco. The guest rooms and suites, which are named after the royal Moorish cities of Medieval Spain, feature custom furnishings and marble bathrooms, some with Juliet balconies or private verandas looking out at the city or ocean. While a benefit of staying at the Hotel Californian is its close proximity to all the action, the Turkish-inspired spa, two restaurants, and rooftop pool showcasing panoramic views make it stand out as its own worthy destination.
Those looking to indulge with an alcoholic beverage or two will enjoy staying at the Hotel Californian, which is located within steps of over two dozen wine tasting rooms and breweries in the happening Funk Zone neighborhood. No driving or Uber-ing is necessary.