Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara features long stretches of sandy beach, endless sunny days, and swaying palms. It attracts visitors from far and wide, itching to learn how to surf or seek R&R in one of SoCal’s most popular coastal destinations.
When you’re not off soaking up the sunshine or hitting the waves, the city is home to many unique cultural attractions such as Stearns Wharf and the historic Old Mission. This part of California is also world-renowned for spectacular vineyards, with more than 200 to choose from in and around the city. That makes wine tasting along the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail one of the best things to do during your visit.
Grab your swimsuit and your camera, and check out these best hotels in Santa Barbara for a relaxing stay on or near the beach!
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1. Best Downtown Hotel: Palihouse Santa Barbara
This stylish hotel boasts a Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic and is conveniently nestled in the heart of Santa Barbara.
The Palihouse Santa Barbara is a lovely hotel with spacious guest rooms and an abundance of luxurious amenities. In every room, a Bluetooth speaker, coffee maker, fireplace, and private outdoor area elevate your stay. For guests who need some extra space, the hotel also has studio suites that can sleep up to five.
Take a dip in the heated outdoor swimming pool or get your sweat on at the fitness center. It’s also possible to order in-room spa services.
When hunger strikes, there’s an onsite bar and restaurant ready to serve you. The property is within walking distance to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and is a short drive from Leadbetter Beach.
Rates start at $600/night. Click here to book it!
2. Best Beachfront Hotel: Hotel Californian
This five-star hotel sits oceanside and is brimming with upscale comforts that include an outdoor pool, an onsite spa, and easy access to delicious eats.
The Hotel Californian is nestled in Santa Barbara’s vibrant Funk Zone, a district well known for boutique shops, gourmet restaurants, and art galleries. It’s also here you can embark on the Urban Wine Trail, a designated route that takes you along numerous local wineries and tasting rooms.
Fantastic location aside, this beautiful hotel features Spanish and Moroccan style decor. Each room is outfitted with a coffee machine and a fridge, and some even have a balcony.
The hotel offers suites as well as standard and deluxe rooms. There are also two onsite restaurants, one cafe, and one serving Mediterranean dishes.
Rates start at $715/night. Click here to book it!
3. Best Location: La Playa Inn Santa Barbara
This boutique hotel is ideally located between downtown and West Beach making it easy for guests to explore the best of the city.
La Playa Inn Santa Barbara is a highly-reviewed hotel with top marks for its friendly staff and superbly clean facilities. With your booking, you can expect your room to be equipped with a fridge, coffee maker, air conditioning, and a flat-screen TV with complimentary movie channels. It’s possible to book standard rooms as well as family-friend suites that accommodate up to four guests.
Guests that stay at La Playa Inn also enjoy an included continental breakfast each morning as well as 24-hour coffee and tea in the lobby. This property is conveniently within walking distance to both the Pacific Ocean and the downtown streets of Santa Barbara.
Rates start at $259/night. Click here to book it!
4. Best Boutique Hotel: Harbor House Inn
This three-star hotel offers a cozy stay with excellent amenities in a fantastic location just one block from West Beach and the Funk Zone.
At the Harbor House Inn, you’ll find an intimate experience thanks to the property’s reasonably small size. With less than 20 rooms, guests revel in the hotel’s quiet and impeccable service. Although small, there are quite a few options to choose from, such as standard rooms and deluxe studios to fit your travel needs.
During your stay, the hotel provides complimentary access to beach essentials such as umbrellas, chairs, and boogie boards so you can worry less about packing and focus more on the beach. The hotel also has cruiser bikes for the adventurous.
Rates start at $290/night. Click here to book it!
5. Best Five-Star Hotel: El Encanto Santa Barbara, A Belmond Hotel
This luxurious hotel has all you need to pamper yourself, including a wide selection of spa services, an on-site pool, and sweeping ocean views.
Treat yourself to a five-star stay at the El Canto Santa Barbara, A Belmond Hotel. Tucked in the Riviera neighborhood of Santa Barbara, top nearby attractions include the Old Mission and the Natural History Museum. When you first arrive, you’ll be wowed by the eye-catching Spanish Revival architecture and lush palm-filled gardens surrounding the property.
Pamper yourself with a dip at the infinity pool or with a visit to the spa where massages and full-body treatments await. El Encanto also has a fitness center and a classy restaurant serving up local dishes inspired by the ocean.
Rates start at $1,200/night. Click here to book it!
6. Best East Beach Hotel: Santa Barbara Inn
This sophisticated three-star hotel sits across from the beach and has a fantastic terrace complete with outdoor dining and a heated pool.
Wake up to the sound of ocean waves at the Santa Barbara Inn. This beachside hotel exudes elegance while highlighting the beauty of the coast.
When you’re not off enjoying the ocean, relax in the hotel’s bubbling hot tub or get in a workout at the fitness center. The hotel’s Italian restaurant, Convivo, serves a satisfying meal overlooking the ocean.
You have a few different options in size and bed type, and ocean or mountain view when booking a room. The Santa Barbara Zoo is just an eight-minute walk, and downtown is about two miles away.
Rates start at $415/night. Click here to book it!
7. Best Bed and Breakfast: Cheshire Cat Inn & Cottages
This quaint Santa Barbara B&B is inside a historic Victorian-style home located only a few minutes from State Street by foot.
At the Cheshire Cat Inn & Cottages, no two rooms or private cottages are the same, and each is whimsically styled after characters and scenes from Alice In Wonderland. Some rooms feature jacuzzi tubs or a private balcony adding a touch of romance to any stay. The hotel grounds feature a pretty blooming garden with a striking white gazebo and towering oaks.
Every morning a daily hot breakfast is served as well as a nightly wine and cheese gathering for guests to sample local goodies. The Old Mission is approximately a mile away to the north, whereas East Beach is about 2.5 miles south.
Rates start at $200/night. Click here to book it!
8. Best Budget-Friendly Hotel: Castillo Inn at the Beach
This homey inn is a no-frills stay that exudes a home-away-from-home atmosphere complete with a light complimentary breakfast and free parking in Santa Barbara.
Castillo Inn at the Beach provides budget-conscious travelers with laid-back and comfy lodging within walking distance to the sandy coast. Each room is nested within a striking Mission-style building with Italian granite and tiling, wooden furniture, and fine linens.
Guests can pick between various sized rooms, including standards with two-person occupancy to the Castillo Suite that can accommodate five adults and four children. There are also upgrade options that may feature a private balcony or terrace. With your stay, you can also treat yourself to a discounted visit to a neighboring health club with a pool.
Rates start at $155/night. Click here to book it!
9. Best For Travelers With Pets: Marina Beach Motel
This relaxed hotel welcomes pets and is conveniently located close to Santa Barbara’s top attractions like the Funk Zone, West Beach, and the marina.
The Marina Beach Motel is an ideal pick for those seeking a pet-friendly hotel in Santa Barbara and has been family-owned and operated for nearly 50 years. This understated yet cozy hotel is filled with homey decor and pops of vibrant red. Each room features kitchen basics like a mini-fridge and coffee maker, and it’s also possible to book suites with kitchenettes for your convenience.
Surrounding the hotel are colorful flowers and a terrace with outdoor seating and ocean views. Be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s daily included breakfast, complimentary parking, and access to beach bikes.
Rates start at $200/night. Click here to book it!
10. Best For Friendly Hospitality: Eagle Inn
This bed and breakfast is minutes from Stearns Wharf and serves a piping hot breakfast and fresh cookies daily.
The Eagle Inn is a stunning casita hotel filled with spacious rooms and offers guests upgrade options which may feature a jacuzzi tub, fireplace, or a private balcony. But no matter your booking, each room is conveniently equipped with a microwave, coffee maker, and refrigerator.
A hot breakfast is included with your booking and served every morning, featuring eggs, fresh fruit, and more. In the afternoons, cookies are served to guests in need of something sweet. It’s also possible to borrow bikes from the hotel for a leisurely cruise to nearby downtown or West Beach.
Rates start at $220/night. Click here to book it!
This post is contributed by Brittany Varano. Brittany is a freelance travel writer and avid photographer with a love of hiking and solo travel. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, she fell in love with travel blogging after living and teaching English in South Korea. You can follow her adventures on Instagram or her travel blog lifeofbrit.com, where she shares helpful travel guides and budget tips for solo travel in Asia and beyond.
We hope this guide has helped you prepare for a wonderful visit to Santa Barbara. Looking for more things to do around Central Coast? Check out these posts next: