The Ultimate Santa Barbara Travel Guide
Hop in the car in Los Angeles, head north on Pacific Coast Highway, and a mere two hours later you’ll find yourself in the charming city of Santa Barbara. Known as the American Riviera, this magical destination features world-class cuisine, spectacular views, and a bustling downtown area. Plus thanks to its proximity to the Santa Ynez Valley and the Santa Rita Hills region, the area is an ideal destination for wine aficionados and casual vino fans alike.
Keep scrolling for our favourite spots to shop, dine, and sip while in the area.
Who: El Encanto
What: Perched on the hill overlooking the town and Pacific Ocean, this stylish boutique hotel is a must-visit. In addition to modern interiors and a sprawling terrace restaurant, guests of the hotel will especially enjoy the stunning infinity edge pool, luxury spa, and meticulous gardens.
Who: San Ysidro Ranch
What: Located in neighbouring Montecito, this historic spot seems to be collecting accolades. Named the best hotel in the world by Forbes and fourth best on Travel and Leisure’s list, San Ysidro is where Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier were wed, and where Jackie and John Kennedy honeymooned. Private cottages and unbelievable grounds make this luxurious spot perfect for special occasions.
What: Also in neighbouring Montecito, The Biltmore Four Seasons features impressive and meticulously maintained grounds and an ocean-front setting. Enjoy brunch on the restaurant terrace overlooking the sea or soak in the Spanish-colonial style of the resort’s rooms and common areas for a true taste of the Santa Barbara aesthetic.
Who: Simpson House Inn
What: Just steps from bustling State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, this truly charming inn features individually decorated rooms and cottages, amid an idyllic English garden setting. Lounge seating on the main building’s wrap-around porch is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of local wine and a good book.
Who: Arigato Sushi
What: Considered the best sushi in Santa Barbara—if not one of the best restaurants—this modern two-story space boasts inventive and creative spins on Japanese favourites. They don’t accept reservations, so be prepared to wait, but thanks to its location on State Street, there are plenty of neighbouring shops to help you pass the time.
What: Offering award-winning wine country cuisine, Bouchon also boasts an exclusively Santa Barbara County wine list. Seasonal menu changes and a long list of awards from the likes of Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator make the restaurant one of the city’s best, while it’s cosy interior feels welcoming for all.
Who: Ca’ Dario
What: For excellent Italian fare in a quaint, corner spot, head to Ca’ Dario where you’ll find authentic dishes and an extensive wine list. Given the restaurant’s consistently high ratings from Zagat and a devoted local following, reservations here are strongly recommended.
What: Los Angeles-based fashion designer Jenni Kayne opened her first lifestyle store in Montecito offering carefully curated homewares and children’s items. Tabletop pieces, entertaining items, glossy books, and more are available at the store, which features whitewashed pine and travertine details in a design by Standard.
What: Get a taste of wine country without driving the distance to the vineyards in an area of town known as the Urban Wine Trail. Tasting rooms from more than 25 wineries are located within just a few blocks of each other, boasting a comprehensive collection of Santa Barbara County varietals.
Who: Raoul Textiles
What: The only brick-and-mortar location of this wildly popular fabric line with a cult following, the Raoul Textiles store acts as both a showroom and workshop for the Santa Barbara-based company. Stop in for their hand-printed textiles, furniture, and home accessories.
No plans to head west anytime soon? Shop some of our favourite Santa Barbara finds below, and then tell us if you’ve been to Santa Barbara. Share your favourite places to visit in the comments!