Known as "The American Riviera" Santa Barbara offers a unique luxury California experience

(credit: Mark Weber/Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara)

A dreamy beach destination with a bustling downtown and chef-driven restaurants, Santa Barbara features an array of hotel options from luxury to quiet hillside hideaways to neighborhood inns, along with a decorate wine scene. The self-contained paradise alongside the Pacific Ocean is surrounded by undeveloped coastline, with red-tile roofs and white-washed buildings reflecting Spanish Colonial-inspired architecture and lush gardens.

The area evokes the aesthetic of the European Riviera with a distinct California twist. Both sophisticated and bohemian, the destination invites travelers to experience its vibrant arts scene, abundant outdoor adventures, bucolic wine country, local culinary scene and inviting resorts and hideaways.


(credit: Belmond El Encanto, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara)

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year is the Belmond El Encanto. From its vantage point high in the foothills, the hotel has been a landmark since the 1920s and recently underwent a seven-year, $134 million renovation to achieve the distinction of Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five-Star resort. Set on seven acres of lush historic gardens with sweeping views offering a timeless sense of tranquility, the hotel features 92 luxuriously designed bungalows and suites. Guests can enjoy Executive Chef Johan Denizot elegant take on Californian coastal cuisine in the Dining Room & Terrace, with some of the best views in the city. Take some time on your trip to escape to the Spa at El Encanto which draws from the surrounding landscape to create soothing, signature treatments.

(credit: Simpson House Inn, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara)

Another unique boutique hotel is the Simpson House Inn. Nestled on an acre of English gardens and housed in a Victorian estate built in 1874, book a guest room, suite or cottage for a trip that combines historic charm with modern touches. As the only five-diamond bed-and-breakfast in North America, your stay includes a full breakfast, evening wine and hors-d'oeuvres that can be served in your room or private patio, the Main Veranda or Victorian Dining Room. Guests of the Inn also get access to the exclusive Santa Barbara Athletic Club and can purchase a daily guest pass for $20 to experience the club’s lap pool, sauna, steam room, racquetball courts and gym equipment, as well as yoga and exercise classes.

And when it comes to activities in Santa Barbara, there are a plethora to choose from. Check out some of the iconic attractions like Stearns Wharf near the Santa Barbara Harbor or Old Mission Santa Barbara, enjoy a beachside bike or Segway ride, or head to State Street, the retail hub of downtown and shop ‘til you drop. Explore the Funk Zone neighborhood, a former manufacturing hub turned into a flourishing subculture of art, wine-tasting rooms, artisanal shops, or head to the emerging “Lagoon District” to check out its craft breweries, food and art scene. If you are the outdoorsy type, explore the city and surrounding area and choose from: birding, golfing, hiking and world-class grand gardens.

(credit: Photo by Ciro Coelho, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara)

Exclusive to Santa Barbara, Salt features the largest Himalayan salt cave in North America. Located downtown on State Street, head down its steps to the lobby which features unique products made in Santa Barbara for the home, body and cooking. Its two serene salt caves are crafted from 45 tons of 250 million-year-old Himalayan crystal salt. Visitors can choose from different therapy sessions, relax in zero-gravity lounge chairs or lie directly in the salt and rejuvenate below bustling State Street. Guests can also enjoy salt scrubs, massages, Nexneuro vibration treatment and/or yoga.

With a history that spans 13,000 years, starting with the first evidence of human habitation in the area, to the Spanish period (1600s-1700s), to the Mexican and Rancho period (1800s), and the acquisition of Santa Barbara in the United States in the mid 1850s, the city began another one of its more transformative periods in its recent history with the opening of the Hotel Californian in September 2017.

(credit: courtesy of Hotel Californian/Visit Santa Barbara)

Featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, the Hotel Californian is the new center of the Santa Barbara waterfront. The121-room luxury resort spanning three city blocks opened in September 2017 in the buzzy Funk Zone between the beaches and busy State Street. With custom furnishings from celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, its guestrooms and suites – including its opulent presidential suite – give guests a modern take on Santa Barbara with distinct fixtures and furnishings. Spread over three buildings, amenities include a pool and event deck providing panoramic views of the coastline, a luxurious Moroccan-inspired spa, fashion boutique and dining options includingBlackbird—the hotel’s signature restaurant and Goat Tree.

Other new openings in the city include Frankland’s Crab & Co. by Scratch Restaurants at Montecito Inn, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation (MOXI) and a new fleet of electric shuttles that cater to tourist and locals.

Located just 92 miles north of Los Angeles, visitors can drive along the scenic Highway 101, take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train, bus or by flying into Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA). To plan your experience visit

Jarone Ashkenazi

Jarone Ashkenazi is a seasoned writer who covers: travel, luxury items and other lifestyle topics. View more work at Connect with him on Twitter at @JaroneAsh ...(Read More)

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