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Where To Stay In Santa Barbara

Updated on August 22, 2009

Planning a visit to the central coast? Below you'll find a visitor's guide to where to stay in Santa Barbara, including links to recommended area hotels, as well as a breakdown based on different locations and budgets. A more complete guide to local hotels can be found at the Santa Barbara Travel Guide.

In general, you won't find many bargain basement hotels or motels in the Santa Barbra area. Even something as humble as a Motel 6 can run more than $100 a night on the weekends. On the other hand, you don't have to worry too much about finding a safe neighborhood. Virtually all the hotels in the city are in areas where you can walk the area at night with a reasonable degree of safety.

Rooms can be hard to come by during the peak summer tourist season, so make sure to reserve in advance. Many hotels will require a two-night minimum if you're trying to book a room on Friday or Saturday.

Santa Barbara Resorts and Luxury Hotels

The Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel is one of the city's oldest and best hotels. Indeed, it has been called the Queen of Santa Barbara Hotels. The Biltmore is actually located in neighboring Montecito just across the street from Butterfly Beach. It's about a ten minute car trip from downtown, and withing easy walking distance of the tony Coast Village Road, home to many shops and restaurants. Even if you're not staying at the Biltmore, you might want to check out its renowned Sunday Brunch, a long-time Santa Barbara institution.

Also in Monetcito is the famous San Ysidro Ranch. It was the site of John and Jackie Kennedy's honeymoon; and Forbes magazine has called in the Best Hotel in America. Also home to the famous Stonehouse restaurant, San Ysidro Ranch is ten or fifteen minutes away from downtown Santa Barbara.

On the other end of town, at the far north end of the metro area, is the Bacara Resort. It's a good destination if you're looking to get away from it all and aren't going to spend a lot of time visiting the downtown area and the typical tourist sites. The Bacara is located just steps from Haskell Beach, an uncrowded stretch of sand north of the city. Also right next door is the excellent Sandpiper Golf Course.

West Beach
West Beach

Beach Area Hotels and Motels

Cabrillo Blvd., adjacent to East and West Beaches, is one of the city's must-visit tourist areas. Cabrillo and the surrounding area are home to many excellent hotels and motels that are a good choice for honeymooners or families. The area has many restaurants, and the downtown shopping district is only a ten or fifteen minute walk away. In addition to the aforementioned beaches, the historic Stearns Wharf and the harbor breakwater are within walking distance of most area hotels.

Ocean-view rooms will of course cost more, but they can be worth it. Cabrillo hotels with ocean views include the Hotel Oceana, the West Beach Inn, the Best Western Beachside Inn, and the Harbor View Inn. Other, possibly cheaper, alternatives that are on neighboring side streets include the Colonial Beach Inn, The Via Rosa Inn, and the Casa Del Mar Inn.

More upscale options on Cabrillo are the Hotel Mar Monte and Fess Parker's Double Tree Resort. Both are across from East Beach.

Downtown Santa Barbara
Downtown Santa Barbara

Downtown Hotels and Motels

The downtown area is the heart of the city's shopping and dining district. Lower State Street is home to an incredible variety of shops and restaurants, including the elegant Paseo Nuevo mall. During the summer tourist season, you're likely to hear a dozen or more languages as you walk down State Street.

The downtown area has two upscale hotels, the Inn of the Spanish Garden, and the Canary Hotel. The Canary is located right in the middle of the action, just a block off of State Street on Cabrillo Blvd. It's a multi-story hotel (unusual in Santa Barbara) with a cool rooftop garden that overlooks the downtown area. The Inn of the Spanish Garden is a lovely hacienda-style hotel in a quiet location that is also just a few blocks from State. Both are highly recommended.

For travelers on a budget, there are several good motels that line State Street north of the Arlington Theatre. Good choices in the area include the El Prado Inn, the Presidio Motel, and the Orange Tree Inn.

If your looking for more of a bed and breakfast, consider the lovely Upham Hotel or the Cheshire Cat Inn.

Upper State Street Inns and Motels

The Upper State Street area is quieter and less touristy than downtown and a good choice for those who want reasonably priced hotels away from the bustle of Lower State Street. Upper State has many good restaurants and is home to the upscale La Cumbre Plaza mall and Gelson's supermarket. All the hotels in this area are only a five or ten minute car trip from downtown, and are serviced by frequent-stoppping buses.

There are several motels worth considering in this area. The Best Western Pepper Tree Inn and the Lemon Tree Inn are both solid choices. Also worth considering are the Sandpiper Lodge, Hacienda Motel, and Sandman Inn.

Goleta Area Hotels, Inns and Motels

If you're on a short business trip or just looking for a quick in-and-out from the Santa Barbara Airport, consider staying in the Goleta area. Goleta is Santa Barbara's more middle-class neighbor, and Old Town Goleta is home to a vibrant Mexican-American population with many excellent cheap ethnic restaurants.

The Super 8 Motel is the closest accommodation to the airport. It's your basic budget hotel, with no particularly redeeming values. A nicer option just up the street on Holister Ave. is the newly constructed Hampton Inn Goleta, while across the 101 freeway is the Holiday Inn Santa Barbara-Goleta. Both a reasonable options.

If you're a business traveller on an extended stay, consider the Pacifica Suites. It's located just south of Old Town, a few minutes from the airport.

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      Catherine Golden 

      7 years ago

      Another hotel on Upper State I would suggest checking out is the Sandman Inn (www.thesandmaninn.com). My husband and I always stay there. There are two pools, lovely views of the mountains, and it's close enough to walk or bus to many of the great downtown attractions! It's a very nice property - secluded and very nicely furnished rooms.

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