Santa Barbara's history began with Portuguese and Spanish explorations as early as 1542. Spanish settlers claimed the area in 1782, but the Spanish period ended with the Mexican War of Independence in 1822. Santa Barbara's street names still reflect this period of its history. Today, Santa Barbara is home to several aerospace and defense companies. Tourism is also a major part of the city's economy. Popular year-round tourist attractions include the historic Stearns Wharf, the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Zoo, and a handful of museums. The world-class dining and shopping options are also big draws.
Whatever your reason for visiting Santa Barbara, it's important to find the right hotel so you can enjoy everything this beautiful seaside city has to offer.
When to Visit Santa Barbara, CA
As far as the weather is concerned, there really isn't a bad time to visit Santa Barbara. Winter highs rarely dip below 65 degrees, and summer temperatures tend to top out around 76 degrees. A year-round mild climate is great for tourism, but it can also mean higher hotel rates during peak seasons. The summer months tend to be crowded as travelers fly in for the area's pristine beaches, outdoor recreation, and events. There's little rainfall during this time, but June brings with it a lot of fog, which is why locals refer to it as “June Gloom.” If you're visiting during the summer, you may get to experience the Summer Solstice Celebration, the Santa Barbara French Festival, and Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Just keep in mind, though, that you'll be paying a premium for your accommodations.
Summer crowds and room rates both lessen by September. You'll experience some of the best hotel prices from September through November, coupled with great weather, but be prepared for strong winds.
The winter season is pleasant, but Santa Barbara does experience its most precipitation between December and February. This means it's not ideal for sightseeing or beach activities, but if you're visiting the city for its museums and other indoor attractions, you won't even notice. Winter is also the time when hotel rates are at their lowest.
Spring is one of the best times to visit Santa Barbara. The summer crowds have yet to form but there's plenty of sunshine, making it the perfect time to explore the city's outdoor spaces. You can also experience a broad range of events, including the Santa Barbara International Orchid Festival, the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, and I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival.
Below is a chart of the current pricing seasonality of hotels and motels in Santa Barbara, CA:
Averate Rates by Star Rating
Below are 3 charts displaying average nightly cost trends by star rating class in Santa Barbara, CA. Analyze these illustrations to evaluate the best time to book a room in Santa Barbara for upcoming travels.
Luxury Hotel Options in Santa Barbara, CA
4 Star Average Prices: $255.27
Prefer upscale accommodations during your stay in Santa Barbara? The city offers several unique alternatives, including San Ysidro Ranch. Set on 500 acres just off Highway 101, San Ysidro Ranch is an upscale boutique hotel that dates to 1893. In fact, it's the place where John and Jackie Kennedy had their honeymoon.
The ranch features bungalow-style cottages and suites that are individually decorated with antique furnishings, such as crystal chandeliers and Persian rugs. Guests can enjoy their own personal patio, fireplace, flat screen TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, Nespresso machine, and outdoor hot tub. The property features two restaurants, one of which serves up regional cuisine made from produce grown right here, plus a fitness center and pool.
If the ranch is a little too steep for your price range, consider the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Set on 22 acres, this sophisticated resort was built in a colonial Spanish style right on the ocean. Guest rooms include free Wi-Fi and flat screen TVs, while upgraded rooms add pull-out sofas. A suite will get you a separate living space and dining area, as well as access to the property's beach club. The resort offers a paid buffet breakfast, two on-site restaurants, a cocktail lounge, and poolside café and bar.
Another premier Santa Barbara hotel is Belmond El Encanto. This five-star property is set among seven acres of lush gardens on a private hillside in the Riviera neighborhood, allowing you to unwind in style. Guest rooms feature marble bathrooms with heated floors, iPod docking stations, HDTVs, and free Wi-Fi. Upgrade to a suite, and you'll get a private outdoor space and fireplace. All guests can enjoy the outdoor infinity pool, spa, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.
Affordable Hotel Options in Santa Barbara, CA
3 Star Average Prices: $208.24
Finding an affordable hotel in Santa Barbara is easier than you might think. IHSP Santa Barbara hostel offers budget-friendly student accommodations ideal for backpackers. The dorm-style rooms are within walking distance to the beach and downtown, plus you can choose between a mixed or female-only dorm. Amenities include free linens, Wi-Fi, breakfast, free local calling, and free parking.
The Orange Tree Inn on State Street is an 11-minute walk from the Old Mission Santa Barbara, placing it in a good location for sightseeing. This two-star budget hotel features simple rooms with desks, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and balconies. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and guests can take advantage of the heated outdoor pool.
Also on State Street, Oasis Inn & Suites Santa Barbara provides easy access to Santa Barbara Harbor and the Earl Warren Showgrounds. This low-rise budget property features casual rooms with premium TV channels, Wi-Fi, microwaves, and mini fridges. Upgrading to a suite will get you a pull-out sofa or fireplace and a full kitchen. Other amenities include free morning coffee, continental breakfast, and a courtyard pool.
Additional affordable hotel choices in Santa Barbara include Quality Inn, Sunset Motel, Rose Garden Inn, and Lemon Tree Inn.
2 Star Average Prices: $116.53
Which Santa Barbara hotels have real discounts?
If you know where to stay, you can save even more money on your accommodations. Many area hotels extend discounts and special offers that keep more money in your pocket. The Bacara Resort & Spa outside Santa Barbara, for instance, offers a special food and wine tasting program in addition to a bed and breakfast package, saving you even more on your California experience. Belmond El Encanto offers similar packages that throw in dining credits and valet parking.
Most Santa Barbara hotels offer membership discounts. AARP members can save as much as 20 percent off the best available rates. AAA members, military, veterans, and government employees can enjoy the same types of discounts.
Depending on when you travel, you may be able to take advantage of reduced rates on special rooms during weekdays. Franciscan Inn, for example, offers seasonal specials that can save you 10 to 20 percent off their standard suite rate. No matter where you stay, it's always a good idea to inquire about current specials, ongoing package deals, and membership discounts.
Best Value Options in Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara offers many mid-range hotels that give you plenty of value for your money. Ramada Santa Barbara off Highway 101 is just four miles from the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. This three-star hotel offers traditional guest rooms with coffeemakers, mini fridges, microwaves, and flat-screen TVs, plus free Wi-Fi and continental breakfast. The best offerings of this property are the heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and tropical freshwater lagoon.
Holiday Inn Express Santa Barbara is an original 1917 building just five blocks from Stearns Wharf pier. Kids under 19 stay free, and all guests can enjoy a free breakfast. If you prefer an ocean view, head to Best Western Beachside Inn. This relaxed accommodation is just under two miles from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art includes rooms with private balconies and an outdoor pool.
Other mid-range options in Santa Barbara include Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, West Beach Inn, and Inn At East Beach.
Top Santa Barbara, CA Attractions
With so much to do in Santa Barbara, it can be hard to plan the perfect itinerary. There's a lot to see in this picturesque town, but if you're hoping to hit the highlights, you won't want to miss some of the area's historic buildings. The Santa Barbara County Courthouse and Old Mission Santa Barbara are absolute must-sees — just be sure to bring your camera.
For family-friendly fun, don't pass up the Santa Barbara Zoo. It's a 30-acre facility that's perfect for young kids. In fact, it's been ranked as one of the country's best small zoos.
If you can only visit one museum during your stay here, visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. This notable museum is renowned for its large collection, which includes works by Claude Monet.
Other top attractions include the Ty Warner Sea Center on Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
However you choose to fill your time in Santa Barbara, you're sure to find the ideal hotel that suits your needs and budget. Start planning your trip today!
A visit to Santa Barbara Recapped
Beautifully nestled atop the Pacific's gently sloping hills, Santa Barbara's low-slung buildings that depict Spanish Revival fame feature white stucco walls and red-tiled roofs. Just the same, the American Riviera's golden beaches are clean and expansive, with palm trees curving along the bay. The main drag, State Street has an attractive assortment of nightclubs, coffee houses, bookshops, and diners. It would be a shame to come without visiting a few area wineries, such as the Fess Parker Winery. A majority of the tourists come to honor the mission that once brought the Spanish along its steeping coastlines. Head to Old Mission Santa Barbara, known as queen of the missions, and one look explains why. The few genuine mission structures remaining are restored as el Presidio de Santa Barbara. Its façade mixes Spanish style with Roman design - explore the quirky staircases, have a break in one of the sunken gardens, or climb atop the clock tower of El Mirador to see the historic city. Legend says Santa Barbara's wonderful architecture was inspired by a book on classical architecture; a visit will let you know it's worthy of a legend of its own.
'Santa Barbara is my 'hood. I mean, it's not much of a 'hood, but it is definitely like my 'hood. I claim Santa Barbara like I claim my family-I'm going to be married and buried there.'
Noted pop singer and a global mega-star Katy Perry, a proud Santa Barbara resident, pronounced her lover for her home city in these simple, yet profound words.
It's true that most people have such feelings for their homes and hometowns. But there's something different in the way that the residents of Santa Barbara love their city, an apple of their eye, so much so that they don't hesitate to call it 'the American Riviera'.
There's not a shred of overstatement in that idea, though. Blessed abundantly with natural beauty of unimaginable standards, Santa Barbara is one of the best cities on the West Coast to live in. With world-famous tourist attractions, world-class food joints, innumerable entertainment options and a global community that thrives in a world of competition, Santa Barbara has truly come into its own in last few decades, especially as it grew in stature as the West Coast education hub.
Tourists who wish to visit this beautiful place need to know first that a trip to Santa Barbara should, ideally speaking, not be a short weekend affair. You need at least 5 full days to completely exhaust major portions of what the city has on offer for you.
Talking about going there, facts about accommodation must be compiled, too. This quick guide to Santa Barbara hotels can be quite handy in that regard.
Want to Spend Less on Hotels?
It's no secret, anymore. Tourists and travelers who have even the slightest of experience in staying at a hotel would know that hotel expenses, as your tour draws to a close, account for a large share of your total travel budget. That's exactly why it makes a lot of sense to cut down on how much you spend on a hotel, in order to keep by your tour budget.
One way (perhaps, the only way) of achieving this is by staying at cheap hotels.
In Santa Barbara, there are no cheap hotels, per say, as the overall cost of living in this city is much higher than the average American mean. In spite of that discouraging fact, tourists can take a lot of heart from the notion that Santa Barbara is very hospitable.
Out of all the options of affordable kind that one can find in Santa Barbara, Inn at East Beach, a simple yet impressive bed and breakfast styled hotel, can provide real value for you money.
In addition, La Quinta Inn & Suites gives tourists a more comfortable (more expensive, as well) option of staying in reasonable comfort in Santa Barbara. Mason Inn and Holiday Inn Express are two similar hotels in Santa Barbara that can be given a shot, if you get a chance to.
A Craving for Opulence
Who wouldn't want to live like a king? That's just rhetoric. All of us are constantly chasing luxury of one kind or another, just to make our life decisions of future easier and less taxing.
In the same line of thought, it can be said that while you are in Santa Barbara, you can really go for dilapidated motels or alternatively, you can go for high-flying and opulent luxury resorts.
Four Seasons, one of the leading hospitality groups in the world, operates the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara, that is a straight and no-nonsense definition of real luxury.
Kimpton, another leading chain of luxury resorts, operates Canary, here in Santa Barbara. Known for extravagant decor and unbelievably artistic outlook make your stay at Canary quite worth the price.
Simpson Suites and Harbor View Inn also present worthy choices.
Alternative Hotels in Santa Barbara
The best part of your trip to Santa Barbara would eventually come, if you are not wowed by a glittering hotel, when you finally find a guest house or a private renter who would make your life in Santa Barbara a cakewalk.
Holiday rentals have caught on immense popularity in Santa Barbara, especially because of their easy to manage flexibility and affordable price patters.
The only downside of such rentals lies in the fact that international tourists are not allowed to use these rentals for long periods. For American citizens, typical long stay duration that doesn't require a rental deed agreement is one month.
Hotels in The Vicinity of Santa Barbara Airport
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport services the city Santa Barbara through a number of domestic passenger and cargo carriers.
The airport is located outside the city limits of Santa Barbara by about 10-15 km, a short drive.
Despite that, tourists cannot be blamed for trying to find comfortable and compatible accommodation options near this airport. However, it should be understood that the only option for you to explore when you end up in a situation where you have to find lodging nearby the airport would be drive straight down to Santa Barbara city center and find a suitable hotel. Trying to find Santa Barbara hotels that fit into many custom criteria you have set up might not work well, especially during summer months!
Santa Barbara Weather
Santa Barbara weather is reliable and predictable to a high degree, meaning that it will be very seldom that you will be surprised with a sudden burst of rainfall that disrupts all activity.
Weather in Santa Barbara is on the hotter and more humid side, thanks to its vicinity to the Pacific Ocean. Such weather persists pretty much throughout the year, making sure that tourists do not get put off by inclement clime conditions.
Holiday season and early weeks of the New Year are often greeted in Santa Barbara by light but consistent rains that make up for a large share of annual Santa Barbara rainfall.
Hotels in Santa Barbara make the most of heightened tourist activity during summer months by hiking their nightly room prices by as much as 500% at times.