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The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
Photograph: Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

The best hotels in Santa Barbara

There are plenty of top Santa Barbara hotels to choose from for your next getaway, including poolside and relaxing beach spots

Written by
Kate Wertheimer
,
Time Out editors
&
Chiara Wilkinson
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Picking a Santa Barbara hotel that's going to make your getaway the best it can be is a tall order. After all, there are so many options, each different from the last. Would you hang by the beach or go for a hidden gem nestled up in the hills? Sleep next to the nightlife or doze without a party in sight? Is a pool a non-negotiable? And what about entertainment for the kids? Surely you want to be right by the city’s great attractions and tastiest restaurants? See, it's a lot to go through. But there's good news: whatever your requirements, we’ve scrolled through Santa Barbara's many (many, many) hotels and rounded them down to the cream of the crop, so you can pick the right place for your perfect stay. 

Just make sure to send us a postcard, yeah? 

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Best hotels in Santa Barbara

For splurging

Snuggled in the middle of downtown Santa Barbara, this boutique hotel captivates visitors with indulgent amenities and impressive city views. Each intimate Spanish-style room comes with an astonishingly cozy four-poster bed, hardwood floors, hand-painted tiles and a complimentary yoga mat (because you never know when you need to down dog). Hotel restaurant Finch & Fork serves scrumptious shareable tapas such as fish tacos and lamb burgers that can be enjoyed in your room or on the terrace. But it's the rooftop that's the true gem of the hotel — lounge by the pool and admire the 360-degree views from mountains to the sea, or get cozy by the outdoor fireplace and try some stargazing. The Canary is also pet-friendly, without additional fees or restrictions. With this kind of hospitality, you might find it hard to leave.

Quick stats: Pool, spa, pet-friendly, walking distance to downtown, walking distance to the beach.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels

For a hip motel vibe

The Kimpton Goodland is situated a short drive from the center of Santa Barbara, but don’t let that put you off  this is a super-stylish place you won’t want to leave. Few hotels in this area are as thoughtfully designed, from the glistening Airstream trailer that sits outside the main entrance to the stunning surfer-shack lobby to the simple but cozy rooms that each come with a record player and selection of LPs. If live music is more your thing, they offer live band nights with up-and-coming talent. To top it all off, their excellent coastal restaurant Outpost serves up brunch, lunch and dinner, and the hotel's laid-back bar makes a smashing Manhattan cocktail.

Quick stats: pool, restaurant, bar, record shop, yoga classes, trivia night.

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For those on a budget

As one of four properties that make up the Shelter Social Club, the Agave Inn is a reasonably-priced, hip boutique motel with bright colors (think lemon yellow doors and teal accent walls) and stylish details, such as Mexican movie posters, painted tiles and lots of cacti. Along with all the regular amenities (fridge, microwave, flatscreen, etc.), there’s free wifi and morning coffee, and it’s a short walk to the restaurants and groceries on State Street – making it a good base for exploring the local area. If you’re looking for oceanside digs (or a pool), this isn’t the spot for you—but if you do like cheap room rates with a healthy side of charm, Agave will do.

Quick stats: Pet-friendly, walking distance to downtown.

For lots of privacy

Marvel at the remarkable views and peaceful privacy in this historic hilltop hideaway. Built in 1918, El Encanto is Santa Barbara’s oldest existing hotel and has hosted some legendary celebs, including Clark Gable and Barbra Streisand. The excellently renovated site features classic cottages with modern tech amenities, an infinity pool and a state-of-the-art spa. Attractive dining options include a mix of new and classic: locally sourced, coastal-inspired fare can be had at The Dining Room, which boasts exquisite terrace views of the entire Santa Barbara coastline (perfect for a romantic candlelit dinner).

Quick stats: Pool, spa, pet-friendly.

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For an all-inclusive stay

This picturesque getaway could be mistaken for the coast of Italy, set up with Mediterranean-style villas spread out over a long stretch of beach in Goleta (a 15-minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara). Its 354 spacious guestrooms include balconies or patios with views of mountains, gardens or sparkling ocean. If you're not tired out from all that relaxing at one of the two beaches or three infinity pools, guests have endless recreational activities at hand: with everything from surfing lessons and yoga at the spa to family movie screenings and fireside cocoa and s’mores. Hotel fine dining options are decidedly not the main event, but you can always opt for classic dishes at the bar instead, or try out some of Angel Oak prime modern steakhouse options. Extra perks include a dog-friendly policy and a supervised kids club that grants parents a bit of quality alone time.

Quick stats: Pool, spa, pet-friendly, kid-friendly, walking distance to the beach.

Four Seasons Resort – The Biltmore
Photograph: Courtesy Four Seasons Resort - The Biltmore

6. Four Seasons Resort – The Biltmore

The Four Seasons Santa Barbara is temporarily closed, July 2021

For brand-name pampering

Opened in 1927 as one of the legendary Biltmore hotels, this beautiful luxury resort’s old-world charm is now enhanced with Four Seasons’ signature pampering. Located on the coast of ritzy Montecito, the Biltmore includes endless amenities—a heated “jungle pool” with underwater music, world-class couples’ oceanfront spa suites, fresh fruit skewers and cooled towels served poolside and a private stairway that leads straight to the famous Butterfly Beach. The services for kids are just as convenient, varying from 24-hour babysitter availability to a “You Dine, We Play” program that allows parents to savor a refined romantic dinner with breathtaking ocean views while the little ones are kept full and occupied. Heavenly? You bet.

Quick stats: Pool, spa, pet-friendly, kid-friendly, walking distance to the beach.

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For beachside partying

Across the street from the beach and a short walk from downtown Santa Barbara’s restaurant and bar scene, Hotel Milo’s location is hard to beat. While its colorful rooms are a bit faded, Milo is a good fit for visitors who prefer to spend their stay with constant access to the beach and to booze on State Street without worrying about the drive back. This quaint hotel is complete with lush tropical greenery, two pools and a jacuzzi often dominated by a young crowd. Make good use of the free two-hour beach cruiser rentals, too, especially if you're forking out for the steep $30/d parking fee.

Quick stats: Pool, walking distance to downtown, walking distance to the beach.

More of the best in Santa Barbara

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