Dreaming of a glorious getaway in Southern California? A stopover in Santa Barbara is a must. Nestled against the Santa Ynez Mountains on a glittering stretch of the Pacific Ocean, this coastal gem is known as the “American Riviera.” But with the seaside city’s popularity comes the difficulty of choosing where to stay in Santa Barbara.
Within Santa Barbara’s diverse areas & neighborhoods, you’ll dazzle at swathes of palm-lined beachfront, lush wineries, high-end shopping, and enchanting Mediterranean-style architecture. Whichever of the best hotels in Santa Barbara you choose, you’ll get to explore historic neighborhoods, hike breathtaking mountain trails, or revel in the surfside splendor of this charming & laid-back SoCal city.
Ready to prime your Santa Barbara accommodations search? Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly rental or a romantic hideaway, we’ve got you covered with this complete guide to the best places to stay in Santa Barbara, California.
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our other hotel & accommodations guides and our California Travel Guide for recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
Best places to stay in Santa Barbara, CA
If the Golden State is a treasure trove for travelers, Santa Barbara might be one of its crown jewels. In this beautiful California coastal city, you’ll find loads of diverse and intriguing accommodation options.
For first-time travelers, West Beach is one of the most popular places to stay in Santa Barbara. With its ocean view restaurants, chic boutiques, and beautiful beach, this lovely city center area is a no-brainer.
Or if you want a beachside stay with less buzz and more space to chill out, head over to easygoing East Beach. The seaside neighborhood sits just east of Sterns Wharf and West Beach, and is still within reach of the city’s charms.
Want to be at the heart of urban action just steps away from a beachside paradise? Make Downtown Santa Barbara your destination. Or if you’re looking for a spot that offers high-end shopping, tasty eats, and exhilarating outdoor walks? Check yourself into a spot on Upper State Street.
Hunting for a family-friendly beach neighborhood that’s easy on the budget? You’ll find it in Goleta, home to the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The best areas to stay in Santa Barbara, CA, are:
✓ Best area to stay in Santa Barbara for first-time visitors
If you’re looking for the full-on Santa Barbara beach experience, West Beach is where it’s at. With its gorgeous swathe of golden sand, oceanfront promenade, upscale shops and restaurants, and fabulous walking and biking paths, this neighborhood is the most popular place to stay in Santa Barbara.
West Beach is home to many of the top tourist attractions in Santa Barbara, including the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, the Museum of Natural History Sea Center, and the Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Art Museum.
Make a beeline for West Beach’s focal point: Stearns Wharf. This vibrant neighborhood hub is lined with fabulous seafood restaurants overlooking Santa Barbara Harbor. For dessert, swing by the Great Pacific Ice Cream Co., said to dish up the best scoops in West Beach.
While demolishing that cone, saunter down to the Funk Zone. A revamped industrial area, the Funk Zone is now home to award-winning tasting rooms, cutting-edge galleries, hip restaurants, and lively nightclubs. It’s the coolest place in town!
The Eagle Inn
This cozy bed and breakfast-style boutique hotel is just a 3-minute walk from the beach. Enjoy a hot breakfast, then head out to explore nearby attractions like Stearns Wharf, the Funk Zone, and State Street. Enjoy spacious rooms featuring fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, spa tubs, and private terraces. The Eagle Inn is perfect for a romantic retreat!
Harbor House Inn
This small, intimate retreat sits on the edge of the rustic Mendocino coastline. Harbor House Inn offers a rejuvenating experience in a beautiful natural setting. Enjoy a private cove with panoramic views, stroll the beautiful gardens, and savor fresh coastal cuisine at the Inn’s Michelin-starred restaurant. The historical Mendocino village is just 30 minutes away.
Brisas Del Mar Inn at the Beach
Enjoy a romantic escape in this Spanish Colonial-style villa just two blocks from Santa Barbara’s golden palm-lined beaches and scenic harbor. Start your day with a delicious breakfast, then unwind by the pool or catch some rays on the beach. This elegant inn makes the ideal base for exploring local wineries, boutiques, and local attractions.
If your tastes run to the chic and innovative, then the Hotel Californian is right up your alley. With its Moroccan-inspired style and rare custom furnishings, this spot is a one-of-a-kind dazzler that’s become a magnet for celebrities and sophisticates in SoCal. Pamper yourself with spa treatments, relax in a hot tub, and savor world-class dining.
✓ Top neighborhood in Santa Barbara for beach bums and families
If your idea of a great vacation centers on outdoor fun and relaxation, East Beach is the top choice for where to stay in Santa Barbara. A number of its major resorts and budget-friendly options specialize in accommodation for families. If you’re planning a California getaway for the whole gang, this destination is a great choice.
East Beach boasts more than just a beautiful beachfront for soaking up some rays on Santa Barbara’s top beaches. The East Beach Volleyball Courts are a local favorite – so go ahead and work up a sweat. Then cool down and refuel at one of the picnic tables in lovely Chase Palm Park.
Want to explore? Check out local highlights like the Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center.
If you’ve worked up a thirst, cruise down to one of the local wineries to sample their wares.
Motel 6 Santa Barbara Beach
Set right on the beach, this pet-friendly motel offers an outdoor pool and modern guest rooms with cable TV. Relax in comfort, then head out to explore local attractions like Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara Zoo. Indulge yourself in some great shopping on State Street, just a 5-minute drive away!
Santa Barbara Inn
Perched upon the beach, this Spanish Colonial-inspired boutique hotel merges comfort and luxury, offering dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean. Hit the beach or lounge in the heated pool. Work up a sweat in the fitness center, then cool off on the oceanfront terrace with a delicious cocktail, mouthwatering Italian fare, and a gorgeous sunset.
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Set on the edge of a pristine beach, this resort offers spacious rooms and suites, along with loads of amenities including a fitness center, tennis courts, spa, pool, flat-screen TVs, and delicious dining. It’s just steps away from bike trails, and a quick drive away from the local arts district, winery tours, and historic downtown.
Downtown Santa Barbara
✓ Top district to stay in Santa Barbara for culture lovers
If you’d like to be where the action is, you’ll want to base yourself in Downtown Santa Barbara, where you’ll have the city’s top attractions on your doorstep. This neighborhood is packed with museums, galleries, chic boutiques, and a rich array of eateries. Whether you’re a history buff, science nerd, or art enthusiast, you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
Discover the Museum of Art, featuring a large collection of works by Monet; the Santa Barbara Museum; and the County Courthouse. Scale the clock tower to take in amazing views of the city. And be sure to check out Stearns Wharf, the oldest working wooden wharf on the West Coast.
Another don’t-miss: the beautifully preserved Mission Santa Barbara. This striking landmark was founded in 1786 by Spanish Franciscans and offers fascinating insights into the region’s past.
Ready to chill? Hit Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail to sample the best of the region’s vineyards.
Secret Garden Inn & Cottages
This peaceful oasis is a hidden gem in the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara. Surrounded by lush gardens, it offers cozy accommodations in a rustic setting. Enjoy scrumptious homemade breakfasts. Pamper yourself at the on-site spa. Private and secluded—but just minutes away from the attractions of the city’s downtown—it’s the best of both worlds!
Cheshire Cat Inn & Cottages
If pampering is a priority, this relaxing bed & breakfast will have you grinning. Enjoy a wine and cheese hour every evening. Book yourself a massage, then slip into a complimentary bathrobe and unwind. Savor views of English-styled gardens and flower-filled patios from your private balcony. All major attractions are a quick drive away!
Palihouse Santa Barbara
This elegant boutique hotel sits in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara’s historic Presidio Neighborhood, It features a Mediterranean-style courtyard, outdoor swimming pool, and an inviting garden cafe, cocktail bar, and lounge. Enjoy a beautiful garden view from your private balcony. Relax in the hot tub, then unwind in front of a cozy stone fireplace.
Simpson House Inn
Elegant yet intimate, this beautiful Victorian mansion is nestled on a lush acre of English gardens. Enjoy full-on pampering, starting with a delicious 3-course breakfast. Afternoon light bites include homemade lemonade and scones. After a day of browsing local attractions like State Street, come back to savor delectable hors d’oeuvres as you sip on fine wine.
Upper State Street
✓ Top-rated area in Santa Barbara for shopping and food
Want to get the full-on “local” experience? There’s no better place to do it than Upper State Street, Santa Barbara’s lively, pedestrian-friendly hub. This popular destination in the heart of town is brimming with great places to shop, eat, enjoy entertainment, or just hang out.
Ready to shop til you drop? With everything from name-brand retailers to locally owned boutiques, this destination will feed your need to spree. Surf lovers can grab some beach toys at The Beach House. Fashionistas will gravitate to one of the trendy shops in La Arcada Court. For a one-stop shop, head to the popular La Cumbre Plaza.
After all that shopping, your tank will be empty. Explore the street’s vibrant community of mom-and-pop restaurants, many of them family-owned for generations. Warm welcomes are guaranteed!
Looking for libations? Unwind at one of the neighborhood’s excellent breweries, or stop by the Santa Barbara Winery on the Urban Wine Trail for some of SoCal’s finest.
Lemon Tree Inn
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or planning an affordable vacation for your family, this comfortable inn will fit the bill. Refresh yourself with a leisurely swim in the outdoor pool. Relax in the beautiful one-acre tropical courtyard. Enjoy room service from the friendly staff, or indulge yourself in patio dining at the Crocodile Restaurant and Bar.
This beautiful uptown hideaway pays tribute to Santa Barbara’s Spanish and Mexican heritage in the vivid colors of its cozy rooms and unique furnishings. It makes an ideal base to explore the city’s major attractions and amenities. Stroll through Loreto Plaza next door where you’ll find great shopping and eateries.
Best Western Plus Pepper Tree Inn
This relaxing getaway is steps away from La Cumbre, an open-air shopping plaza with over 100 shops. And it’s a quick drive from downtown and major attractions like Stearns Wharf and the Mission Santa Barbara. Unwind in the fitness center, outdoor pool, or hot tub. Savor a meal on the outdoor terrace dining patio.
✓ Recommended place to stay in Santa Barbara for quieter local vibes
If you’re craving a down-home vibe away from the downtown buzz, you’ll want to book time in the tiny city of Goleta. Ten miles west of Santa Barbara on the southern peninsula, Goleta offers a gorgeous stretch of coastal and agricultural land that’s ripe for exploration. Home to the University of California, Santa Barbara, Goleta offers loads of family-friendly activities.
Be sure to check out Goleta Park Beach, a favorite spot for both locals and visitors and one of the most popular day trips from Santa Barbara. This beautiful 30-acre space gives you plenty of room to breathe! Hike the hills, or hit the bike trail for a scenic ride along the Coast Route.
Find serenity in an early morning walk through the Butterfly Preserve, or explore the waters off Goleta Beach for exhilarating sightings of dolphins and sea lions.
History buffs can discover some of the region’s rich past at the famed South Coast Railroad Museum, featuring interactive exhibits and novelty train rides. All aboard!
Best Western Plus South Coast Inn
The sleek, sophisticated accommodations here offer every modern convenience. Hit the fitness center for an early morning workout, savor a hot complimentary breakfast, then relax in the palm-shaded outdoor pool. The University of California SB, Downtown Santa Barbara, gorgeous beaches, amazing wineries, world-class shopping, and delicious dining are all on your doorstep.
Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta
This contemporary hotel offers spacious suites with easy access to Santa Barbara’s popular attractions. Enjoy delicious American specialties at the onsite restaurant. Then burn off those carbs in the fitness center – or just take it easy in the heated outdoor swimming pool. Enjoy stunning views as you sip a craft cocktail on the rooftop bar.
Residence Inn by Marriott Santa Barbara Goleta
With easy access to the University of California, world-class beaches, fabulous shopping, and superb dining, this stylish retreat is an excellent vacation base. Enjoy a delicious complimentary breakfast, then work it off in the fitness center, take a dip in the pool, or relax in the whirlpool.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
This 5-star hotel is set on 78 beautiful acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Stretch out in the tranquility of two gorgeous beaches. Enjoy stunning views in the infinity pools, or pamper yourself at the full-service spa. Tour vineyards, practice your swing at the Sandpiper Golf Club, or ride horseback along the beach.