The Santa Barbara Travel Guide

Here's where to stay, dine and drink in the coastal California town of Santa Barbara.

Aerial view of oceanfront city
Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is the ultimate long weekend destination in California. It’s more relaxing than Los Angeles, but still a bustling beach town where you won’t run out of activities. If you’re looking for the perfect itinerary for your next visit, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a devoted hiker who wants to see the sights, or would rather take on a trail of vino, the American Riviera offers opportunities for everyone. From the best hotels to the most memorable restaurants, discover your next best California vacation yet. 

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Where to Stay

A rooftop pool with lounge chairs
Hotel Californian.

Hotel Californian

The Hotel Californian is simultaneously laid-back and elegant. The trendy boutique hotel is located mere steps from the beach, and has one of the best spas around. The buzzy, celebrity-approved hotel is situated smack dab in the midst of downtown,  and is extremely walkable, making for an easy visit if you don’t have a car. The property offers wellness events like weekly rooftop workout sessions with water views (there’s also a rooftop pool) and sound baths, as well as sunset sails and winemaker dinners. It’s the perfect locale for a girls’ trip where you just want to unwind—but find a little excitement, as well. 

A balcony overlooking the water
Rosewood Miramar Beach. Copyright 2019 AVABLU / Ryan Forbes

Rosewood Miramar Beach 

The Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito is famous (and an A-lister favorite) for good reason—the beachfront hotel offers epic views, an unbeatable bar and impeccable service. The Rosewood property boasts a stunning spa, a fitness studio and multiple pools; if you’re looking for a visit in the lap of luxury and are craving a romantic weekend away, this is the hotel for you. Book a suite for an even more elevated stay, complete with a menu tasting, cabana time and a private chauffeur. 

Where to Dine 

A bright, open dining space


202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

This Spanish tapas restaurant opened its doors in 2016, and has been booked and busy ever since. While it’s famous for its seafood and tasty paella, there are plenty of vegetarian options, too. Grab a glass (or bottle) of one of the many Spanish wine offerings (there are classics and ones you might not have heard of just yet), and dine on the cozy patio, which has a fire pit that’s perfect for when it’s chilly out. 

An overhead shot of food and drinks
Flor de Maiz.

Flor de Maiz 

29 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

This can’t-miss Mexican eatery is right by the beach, offering views of the Santa Barbara coastline for the perfect tropical escape. Restaurateur Carlos Luna opened the hot spot in 2020, serving memorable Oaxacan dishes and drinks. Like other local restaurants, the focus is fresh seafood, but there are also veggie alternatives, including the Tacos Costeños, which taste like divine grilled quesadillas, but with a twist. The signature cocktails are mostly tequila-based (there are plenty of margs) with floral mezcal offerings, made with fresh fruit juice.

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams

McConnell’s mouthwatering pints are now all over the country (and might be in your local grocery store), but they originated in Santa Barbara, and it’s worth hitting one of the numerous shops for a scoop of the mint chip. The ice cream company was founded in 1949 by a husband and wife team, and has been going strong ever since. Make it your dessert destination. 

A field with flowers and mountains
Botanic Garden. Cecilia Rosell

Where to play tourist

There’s truly an unlimited amount of activities while visiting Santa Barbara, especially if you love all things outdoors. Visit the beach, take a boat tour, hike or head to the beautiful Botanic Garden. Hop on a 90-minute trolley tour on Thursday through Monday to take in the sights, with highlights including Old Mission Santa Barbara, Butterfly Beach and more. 

If you’re more of an indoor person than an outdoor one (no judgment), you can take part in the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail and visit an array of tasting rooms. Many of the tasting rooms are in a walkable area downtown, and you can try all different types of wine. You can also venture to nearby wineries (a few worthy spots are about 45 minutes away) for a vineyard experience. 

The Funk Zone is another area worth visiting—once a bustling manufacturing hub, it’s now a hip spot with cute coffee shops, wine-tasting rooms, plentiful breweries and chic boutiques. Head to Dart Coffee for a latte and Instagrammable decor, visit Test Pilot for tiki-inspired craft cocktails, and browse The Shopkeepers to find unique jewelry.

The Santa Barbara Travel Guide