Weekend Guide to Santa Barbara

Living full-time in San Diego, arguably one of the most beautiful coastal towns in California, it’s often quite difficult for me to be impressed by other oceanside towns in the golden state. But, with the majestic Santa Ynez Mountains as the backdrop to a pristine palm-tree lined coast, Santa Barbara is truly breathtaking. This central California city is nicknamed the American Riviera, with a Mediterranean flair and European civility. It’s has a chic, luxe vibe but without any of the pretentiousness.

Keep reading to discover where to stay, eat and play during your perfect weekend in Santa Barbara.

When to Visit

Nestled in the central coast of California, temperatures in Santa Barbara stay rather moderate all year round due to warm Cali sun. Peak travel season in Santa Barbara is July through September. These months will also have the warmest temperatures and sunniest days with temps ranging from highs in the 70s to low 80s and lows in the 60s. June is a tricky month because as us SoCal (and Central Coast) people know, it’s June Gloom. While the temp outside will be warm, the sun can be hit or miss since the fog rolls in off the ocean. The weather stays warm and sunny through late September and October – the only concern may be from the Santa Ana winds. Lastly, through winter and early spring (November-April) is the highest chance for rain and cooler temps ranging from highs in the 60s to lows in the 40s.

We visited Santa Barbara in July. We had gorgeous weather every day, and the “crowds” honestly weren’t bad at all. You might just want to check an event calendar though and make sure you don’t plan your trip when a wine festival or other major event is going on.

Where To Stay

Santa Barbara is a pretty small city, especially in comparison to Los Angeles or San Diego, so regardless of where you stay, you’ll likely only be at most 20-30 minutes away from any attractions or places of interest. It really just depends what you’re looking for!

Downtown Santa Barbara

If you want to be right in the mix with restaurants, bars and shopping just steps outside your room, then staying in downtown is where you need to be. You’ll have to forgo the resort-like experiences of some of the other hotels on this list, but you’ll have almost all of Santa Barbara’s best activities right at your fingertips.

Hotel Californian
36 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (map it)
Price: $$$

Located in Santa Barbara famous Funk Zone, Hotel Californian is a Spanish colonial hotel with Moroccan accents offering you the best of both worlds: luxury in a downtown setting. In 2018, Hotel Californian made both Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List and Travel + Leisure’s The It List. This impeccably designed hotel also have a rooftop pool, Turkish-inspired spa and is steps away from the beach, Stearns Wharf and Amtrak station.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Californian

Hotel Santa Barbara
533 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (map it)
Price: $$

Candidly, Santa Barbara is not the most budget-friendly of travel destinations. But, Hotel Santa Barbara is an incredible value in the heart of downtown. Located just north of the Funk Zone, this hotel provides a more simple and traditional lodging experience. It’s a 20 minute walk to Stearns Wharf and within close reach of many of Santa Barbara’s other famous attractions, without breaking the bank.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Santa Barbara

Goleta

Goleta is a small area about 20 minutes north of downtown Santa Barbara nicknamed “The Good Land”. If you want more of a local’s experience to this coastal town, then Goleta may interest you.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
8301 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barabara, CA 93117 (map it)
Price: $$$$

Spread across 78 acres of lush greenery and landscaping, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is truly breathtaking. As Brian and I were celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary, we splurged and stayed here. It’s the type of hotel that’s so beautiful, it was honestly hard to want to leave to explore downtown. The hotel is right on the water, so you can stroll down to the beach from the pool. Staying active while at the Ritz is also a breeze. There’s a 1.5 mile nature hike and short coastal trial on the property, in addition to state-of-the-art fitness facilities (with Peloton bikes) and full schedule of fitness classes each day. My favorite part about this Ritz is that it’s dog-friendly! It was amazing getting to bring Brady with us and take him on walks around the grounds.


Photo courtesy of The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Montecito

Montecito is a wildly affluent neighborhood just south east of downtown Santa Barbara. In 2019, Travel + Leisure named Montecito one of the 50 best places to travel. If you’re looking for a chic, luxe escape to Santa Barabara, but with close proximity to the bustling downtown area, look no further.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 (map it)
Price: $$$$

It’s the Four Seasons, so you probably don’t need me to tell you how luxe this hotel is, but the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is a 22 acre property right on Butterfly Beach, one of Santa Barbara’s most popular and beautiful beaches. The resort is also provides hotel guests access to the legendary Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, an exclusive members-only social club that features one of the largest hotel swimming pools in the world, an oceanfront Olympic-sized pool sitting at over 50 meters. (160 feet) and the Coral Casino restaurant with 1930s art deco-inspired interiors designed by Peter Marino.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Rosewood Miramar Beach
1759 S. Jameson Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 (map it)
Price: $$$

A cool beachfront hotel, the Rosewood Miramar Beach is reminiscent of summers in Nantucket or The Hamptons with its palette of grays, creams and blues. The updated hotel is a refresh of the historic Miramar by the Sea hotel, dating back to 1876. The Rosewood is also home to Goop’s Sundries shop, retailing high-end vacation and wellness “essentials” like non-toxic beauty products, sunglasses, swimsuits and totes.

Photo courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach

San Ysidro Ranch
900 San Ysidro Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 (map it)
Price: $$$$

Deemed the #1 Hotel in America by Forbes Traveler (casual), San Ysidro Ranch is a stunning property with sprawling gardens, set back against the Santa Ynez Mountains. If you can forgo staying at the beach and would prefer a country escape, this is your hotel. San Ysidro Ranch only has 41 secluded bungalows on property and is famous for its $130 “Montecito Margarita.”

Photo courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch

What To Do

Santa Barbara is not only picturesque with its Spanish Colonial architecture, it’s also bursting with things to do. Whether you want to get outdoors and enjoy a hike or a day on the water or if you prefer to take more of an eating/drinking tour of the town – Santa Barbara has you covered. I picked out of the most notable and buzzworthy locations in the American Riviera, but it’s worth noting that the Santa Barbara tourism site is incredible impressive and definitely worth checking out!

Breweries

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
Downtown, The Funk Zone

Figueroa Mountain is the household name in town. You can find it on draft at most of the hotels and local restaurants. The brewery was founded in 2010 by a father son team and within five years grew to be one of the fasted growing craft breweries in America. The Santa Barbara tasting room is an eclectic brewery with a decent-sized, dog-friendly outdoor patio. They have a whopping 19 beers on tap.

Photo taken by me

Topa Topa Brewing Company
Downtown, The Funk Zone

Topa Topa started in Ventura, CA at the base of the Topa Topa Mountains. It’s a small, independently owned brewery focused on good vibes and great beer. They are a 1% for the Planet member. It’s a fun, young brand worthy of a visit. The Funk Zone tasting room has 8 beers on tap.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Moore Architect

Brass Bear Brewing & Bistro
Downtown, The Funk Zone

Founded in 2009, Brass Bear Brewing is a husband and wife team who locally source all of their ingredients. The Funk Zone tasting room opening in 2016 serving the company’s own craft beers with rotating guest taps, wine, sparking and cider. They also have a daycare called Club Cub next store, so all you parents can still get your drink on! Brass Bear has 6 of their own crafts on tap with other drink options as well.

Photo courtesy of Brass Bear Brewing

Hollister Brewing Company
Goleta

Hollister Brewing Company is a locally owned and operated pub, with its own brewing facility onsite. It’s a low-key, casual brewery, appealing to Santa Barbara locals with 15 different beers on tap. The brewery has both indoor and outdoor seating.

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

Wine Tasting Rooms

Santa Barbara is most known for its wine country. Because of the area’s varying microclimates, Santa Barbara wineries have the unique ability to grow and harvest many different varietals of grapes. There are roughly 200 wineries in the Santa Barbara County, so whether you want to head into the Santa Ynez Mountains to do some tastings and vineyard tours or you want to stay in town hop tasting rooms, you’re sure to find something you like!

Santa Barbara Winery
Downtown, The Funk Zone

Santa Barbara Winery was founded in 1962, making it the county’s oldest winery. As such, it has had an immense impact in the development of the Santa Ynez Valley as world-class growing region. The Funk Zone production and tasting room offer three different tasting menus with a small patio outdoors and indoor seating amongst the wine barrels.

Photo taken by me

Pali Wine Company
Downtown, The Funk Zone

With countless Wine Spectator accolades, Pali Wine Co. is most known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Honestly, every wine we tried here was amazing, and we even went home with a bottle of PN. Pali also has another wine brand, Tower 15, showcasing varietals that thrive in the large and diverse Central Coast region, available primarily in tasting rooms.

Photo courtesy of Urban Wine Trail SB

Deep Sea Tasting Room
Downtown, Stearns Wharf

Situated right in the middle of Santa Barbara’s iconic Stearns Wharf, Deep Sea Tasting Room is home to Conway Family Wines. It has a newly renovated tasting room with 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Harbor and the Riviera.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Rusack Vineyard
Solvang, Ballard Canyon

Rusack is a boutique winery and vineyard nestled into the rolling hills of the Ballard Canyon. The wine here is coveted, since the only tasting room is in the canyon, but if that weren’t enough of a reason to visit, the vineyard also has a beautiful redwood deck that looks out onto the hills.

Photo courtesy of Rusack Vineyard

Bridlewood Estate Winery
Santa Ynez

Bridlewood Estate Winery is the type of vineyard you imagine when you think of wine tasting – an extravagant Spanish-style estate surrounded by lush, perfectly manicured grounds. The tasting room offers samples of its limited release wines, but tours and tastings are offered by appointment only.

Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Tourism Site

Restaurants

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
Downtown, Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is AMAZING. It was established in 1980, right at the end of the wharf, as a buying station for local Santa Barbara shellfish and fish and a place to sell crab. Over the years, it developed into it’s own restaurant as well. It’s a super tiny location with maybe only 10 or so seats at the bar overlooking the kitchen and seafood tanks, with another 10 bar style seats facing out to water, with a couple tables on the small outdoor deck. There are no reservations or call aheads and almost always a line because it’s THAT good. I recommend going in a small group or with only one other person to avoid a super long wait. They have lots of fresh, local catches like dungeness crab and uni. It’s exactly the type of seafood place you want to eat at while sitting on a wharf overlooking the ocean. Head to my Instagram stories for more clips of us eating here!

Photo courtesy of Pixels

Loquita
Downtown, Funk Zone

Loquita is a super cute, Instagram-worthy Spanish tapas spot serving craft cocktails, paella, wood-fired seafood and grilled meats in an ultra-stylish dinning room and a cozy garden-style patio. It’s perfect for a fun, boozy lunch, romantic date, or dinner with a lively group of friends. Loquita is also located on the Funk Zone’s bustling State Street, so it’s ideally situated for bar hopping post-dinner as well.

Photo courtesy of The Complete Chic

The Lark
Downtown, Funk Zone

The Lark is a trendy, urban eatery located in a former fish market that offers New American fare in cool, dark wood-lined interior. The site describes The Lark as “a shared dining experience featuring artisanal and seasonal ingredients celebrating the bounty of the central coast.” It’s also a sister property of Loquito – so enough said.

Photo courtesy of The Lark

Angel Oak
Goleta, Ritz Carlton Bacara

For a splurge steakhouse dinner, head to Angel Oak at the Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. It’s an elegant, contemporary dining experience that “pushes the limited of the traditional steakhouse.” The entrance to the restaurant is beautiful and on your way you’ll get to walk through the impeccably designed Ritz Carlton Bacara, but what’s really the showstopper is the outdoor seating along the ocean. If you can, try to get a reservation for just before sunset to really make the most of your experience. If you eat meat, I highly recommend the bone marrow – it was top 3 most incredible dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating in my entire life.

Photo courtesy of Angel Oak

Shopping

State Street
On State Street you’ll find lots of eclectic, unique boutiques, vintage stores, surf shops, etc. The street itself starts in the Funk Zone and runs west to east leading to the entrance of Paseo Nuevo Mall.

Paseo Nuevo
Paseo Nuevo is Santa Barbara’s open air mall, home to the larger, national brands you know like Nordstrom, Sephora, Aveda and much more. Even though it’s a mall, it’s likely one of the most architecturally beautiful malls you’ll ever visit with its white Spanish facades, wall-scapping vines and rich wooden pergolas.

Activities & Things To See

Stearns Wharf
Stearns Wharf is a super cute, iconic pier with lots of little shops and restaurants that stretches out from the Funk Zone into the ocean. Take a stroll down the wharf or you can even drive and park your car! It has incredible views of the water and back towards Santa Barbara and the mountains. It’s very picturesque and a can’t miss while in town.

Photo courtesy of California Beaches

The Funk Zone
The Funk Zone is the equivalent of New York’s Brooklyn or San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood in my opinion. It’s a happening, hipster neighborhood with breweries, wineries, vintage shops, craftsman – you name it. If it’s cool and of the moment right now, it’s in the Funk Zone. To set expectations though, from my experience, most of the retail and dining here is unassuming from the street (also very hipster if you ask me). It’s not until you step inside that you realize how eclectic and cool these businesses are. It’s definitely a hot spot and probably everyone you talk to about Santa Barbara will tell you to take a trip to the Funk Zone.

Photo courtesy of The Funk Zone

The Old Mission
The Old Mission is a historic church in Santa Barbara and is considered one of the city’s most picturesque landmarks. It was founded by Spanish Franciscans in 1786 and more than 200 years later, it’s still an active parish.

Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Tourism

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre botanical garden with over 1,000 species of rare and indigenous plants. Stroll through the gardens and take in the beautiful floral and fauna with sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and Channel Islands.

Photo courtesy of American Public Gardens Association

Salt Caves Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Salt Caves is North American’s largest Himalayan Salt Cave. In addition to relaxing in the caves themselves, the holistic health center offers yoga classes, sound healing and spa treatments. It’s a must visit for any wellness advocate!

Photo courtesy of Salt Caves Santa Barbara

The Sacred Space
The Sacred Space is a very unique destination. It’s a spiritual shop offering art, trinkets, jewelry and other wares from worldly destinations like Tibet and China, but in the back of the shop is a serene buddhist garden with balinese style day beds and benches where you can unwind and drink tea.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Sandpiper Golf Course
If you’re at all into golfing, then you have likely heard of the famous Sandpiper Golf Course in Goleta. The course sits right on the Pacific Ocean, adjacent to The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara and was rated by Golf Digest as one of the top twenty five public golf courses in the nation.

 
Photo courtesy of Sandpiper Golf Course

Outdoor Activities
The beautiful weather year-round makes Santa Barbara a perfect destination for outdoor activities, whether it’s hiking, biking, surfing, fishing or sailing. I wouldn’t be able to provide enough detail to do all of these activities justice, so I recommend checking out the Santa Barbara tourism site. It’s very thorough and will provide you with a solid baseline understand of all there is to do outdoors while in the American Riviera.

Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Tourism

newsletter
Sign up to get wellness tips, tricks and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

wellness programs
Holistic Nutrition Health Programs
recent posts
follow me
2019-08-10T14:43:59+00:00August 1st, 2019|Travel|