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Getaway Guide: Santa Barbara
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Getaway Guide: Santa Barbara

Spend a weekend in Santa Barbara, where the sun-drenched beaches and salt-kissed air will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

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8 min read

November 12, 2022

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Enticing beaches, year-round sunshine, and stunning sceneries await you in Santa Barbara, California. If you’re planning a getaway to this town with red-tiled roofs nestled between a brilliant blue swath of ocean and the chaparral-covered Santa Ynez Mountains, get ready to have the time of your life. Arriving in this laid-back city puts you in a world that you will not want to leave. Breathe in the salt-kissed air and the cool marine breeze, immediately making you feel refreshed, relaxed and inspired.

Getting to Santa Barbara

Whether you get to Santa Barbara by car, plane, or train, you'll feel at peace as soon as you sink your toes in the sand and allow the refreshing waters of the Pacific to wash over you. 

The Transport

Santa Barbara California provides an array of options when it comes to how to arrive in paradiso. Whether you’re coming from San Francisco or Los Angeles, a one-hour flight can get you straight to this magnificent spot. But if you’re a road-trip junkie, you might want to consider the scenic highway drive 5 hours down from San Francisco via U.S. 101 South or the Pacific Coast Highway. For your road trip from Los Angeles, enjoy a two-hour scenic ride via U.S. 101 North.

But to provide you with the best of Santa Barbara travel tips, and to take your road trip experience to the next level, we highly recommend the Surfliner. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, departs from San Luis Obispo and San Diego, offering spectacular scenery as you pass the rolling hills and pristine coastline. 

The Stay

The spectrum of choices at Santa Barbara isn’t limited to its means of travel. From hillside hotels to beachfront condos, to high-end resorts and mind bending Airbnbs, Santa Barbara is a never-ending brochure of inviting stays. For a unique and pampered experience, check in to the Hotel Californian. Set along the palm-fringed streets of downtown Santa Barbara, merely one block from the beach, this Spanish Colonial Revival resort immediately draws you in. Brace yourself for the mesmerizing ambiance of the posh lobby, from the modern Moorish interior decor - by celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard - to its intricate tilework, dramatic archways, and vibrant accents. Lounge in the enviable amenities–including a luxurious Turkish-inspired spa, fashion boutique, and Michelin Guide-recommended eatery.

DAY ONE

Afternoon

Lunch

Once you’ve checked in and unpacked your suitcases, prepare for the day’s upcoming adventures with a hearty meal. With its rich Mexican and Spanish heritage, the Santa Barbara food guide has no shortage of brilliantly specialized restaurants. But with its contemporary Mexican cuisine and an impressive selection of beverages, Santo Mezcal eatery is a standout, drawing in massive crowds. Kick off the lunch menu with shrimp and cheese-stuffed crispy empanadas for appetizers and follow it up with an Instagram-worthy entrée of California seafood

MOXI–Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation

Hunger satiated, pop next door to MOXI. Whether you’re on a long stay or spending only one day in Santa Barbara, the Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation is a must-see. Housed in a Spanish Colonial–style building, this science and technology museum features fascinating hands-on indoor and outdoor exhibits across three floors. Check out how 3-D printers create objects and spend some time making your own sound effects for a Hollywood movie. From building your own race car and testing it on the museum’s tracks, to stepping inside a giant guitar, have your selfie cam ready to capture your coolest moments in Santa Barbara. Top off your visit with sweeping coastal views from the rooftop deck peering through a series of different scopes in the lookout tower. 

Meander along Santa Barbara’s State Street to peruse the numerous chic boutiques, artisanal food shops, and home decor stores lining the bustling thoroughfare.

Downtown Santa Barbara

Keep the momentum going by heading up State Street and into the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. The city’s main thoroughfare is lined with locally owned boutiques, providing the perfect excuse for some retail therapy. Check out Diani Boutique for a home-living decor or a breezy dress, browse for beach reads at The Book Den, and make sure to descend into Salt Cave. This Himalayan salt cave sells every therapeutic ingredient to add to your lifestyle–from foodstuffs and crystals for cooking to skincare products, candles, and lamps. Don’t miss the side streets off of State, either. Head down the passageways of La Arcada for more boutiques, and go through Paseo Nuevo to shop at familiar spots such as Nordstrom.

Evening

Stearns Wharf

As the day starts to cool down, take a stroll down to the historic Stearns Wharf. Built in 1872, California’s oldest operating wooden pier identified as a significant member of South Coast shipping for more than a quarter of a century. Today, the wharf ranks top on the Santa Barbara visitors guide, with its souvenir shops, restaurants, an ice-cream parlor, and a marine museum inviting countless tourists. Linger in the satin sunset to catch a dreamy view of surfers catching waves, local fishermen reeling in mackerel or halibut, or even a sight of dolphins frolicking in the waves.

Explore the souvenir shops and locally owned businesses lining Stearns Wharf, where the blue swath of the Pacific stretches before you and the towering mountains form a dramatic backdrop behind you. 

Dinner at Olio Pizzeria

After a hypnotizing Santa Barbara, California sunset, it's time to freshen up at the hotel because tonight you’ll savor a slice of Italy at Olio Pizzeria. Rustic yet sophisticated, a local haven is hidden in a quiet outdoor shopping area off of bustling State Street. Gathered around wood tables in the cozy dining room, fashionable couples and groups of friends have fun devouring thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas. Although you can’t go wrong with any, we’d hint at the Diavola Pizza as perfection. Featuring fresh mozzarella, spicy salami, and Gaeta olives, this briquette pie will have you waving the flag of Italy.

DAY TWO

Spend your morning enjoying a leisurely breakfast by the beach and exploring Santa Barbara's natural wonders by sea or land. 

Morning

Breakfast at Chad’s Cafe

Life begins after breakfast at Chad’s Cafe. Start your day with extra flavor with the Florentine omelet as you watch the morning runners and cyclists fly by this gorgeous Santa Barbara beachside cafe. This precious café offers everything from hefty omelets to a mini breakfast quesadilla, as well as more popular options of California benedicts, Belgian waffles, and cream cheese bagels.

Santa Barbara Adventure Company

After fueling up for the day, get out on the water to see the area’s natural wonders with Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Enjoy a total body workout with a two-hour surfing or stand-up paddleboard lesson while admiring the beaches of Santa Barbara. For a leisurely ride along the coastline, you can hop on a kayak tour that takes you past sea lions, kelp forests, and the historic pier.

Hiking

For a more grounded experience on your memorable Santa Barbara getaway, lace up your tennis shoes and hit the trails. One of the most scenic hikes is up to Inspiration Point. With 1,800 feet above the coast, the trail has two routes leading up to this picturesque perch in the Santa Ynez Mountains. If you’re fervent for a challenging hike, start at San Roque Road located right off upper State Street, and take the Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point for a roughly seven-mile round-trip trek.

Afternoon

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Reward your morning efforts with an alfresco lunch at Old Mission Santa Barbara. Established by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786, “Queen of the Missions” is famed for its exceptional beauty. After 200 years, the mission still stands as an active parish church and a historic landmark of Santa Barbara, California. Check out the ideal picnic spot of the Mission Rose Garden, where you can dine amongst 1,500 rose bushes on the expansive lawn—and admire breathtaking views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.

Perched atop a hill overlooking the city, Old Mission Santa Barbara is famous for its stunning architecture, vivid rose garden, and ocean views. 

Picnic for Lunch

Pick up your picnic provisions at the nearby Santa Barbara Public Market, and settle for a light lunch as you pitch your blanket at the Mission Rose Garden. Featuring a plethora of purveyors, this public marker serves up everything from drool-worthy tacos and comforting Thai fare to Central Coast barbecue and vegan eats. Slake any craving as you grab your to-go meal at this culinary hotspot.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

For another cultural experience following your picnic and explorations at the Mission, head to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Designed in the Spanish Colonial style, the courthouse is a stunning local landmark, featuring a red-tile roof and verdant grounds. Inside, you’ll find a visual history lesson from the elaborate murals depicting Spanish settlements and agriculture. Marvel at the ornate wrought iron chandeliers, and proceed to the top of the clock tower for a 360-degree view of Santa Barbara.

Unlike most other government buildings in California, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a popular attraction thanks to its lush gardens, Spanish Colonial architecture, historic murals, and sweeping views afforded at the top of the clock tower. 

The Funk Zone

The rest of the afternoon must be spent exploring Santa Barbara’s hippest ’hood–The Funk Zone. Bordered by the beach and State Street, this former warehouse district has been transformed into an edgy, colorful neighborhood with public art installations, gourmet restaurants, chic shops, and numerous tasting rooms.

Evening

Dinner at Loquita

End the day at the lively Loquita. Located on the outskirts of the Funk Zone, this Spanish restaurant has been spicing up Santa Barbara since it debuted in 2016. The expansive, wooden bartop and charming dining room are often packed and abuzz with activity. But the best place to sit is out on the lush patio, where you can dine under twinkling string lights and revel in the crisp ocean breeze. Kick off your own private fiesta with the Remolacha Tapas – golden beets seasoned with pistachios and sherry vinaigrette. Continue your culinary journey with the real showstopper – the Chorizo Y Pollo Paella – chicken dotted with Gigante beans, Hen of the Woods mushrooms, and creamy Aioli. Finish the evening on a sweet note with the cinnamon churros accompanied by rich chocolate, dulce de leche, and fruit-infused dipping sauces.

DAY 3

Bid adieu to Santa Barbara at the gorgeous Butterfly Beach, a pristine stretch of coastline beloved among both locals and tourists, who flock to its shores for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. 

Morning

Brunch at Bella Vista at Four Seasons, Santa Barbara

Check out of the Hotel Californian, then drive 10 minutes down the coast to indulge in a decadent Sunday brunch before you part from the unforgettable Santa Barbara, California. Tucked away inside The Four Seasons Resort, Bella Vista offers panoramic ocean views from its Italian marble terrace to enjoy a leisurely meal. Particularly famous for its Sunday buffet brunch, you’ll find an impressive assortment of mouthwatering fare that goes beyond waffles and made-to-order omelets. Think shrimp and oysters, a variety of sushi, rolls, and fresh caviar. Lounge in the plenitude of creative tacos, cheeses, and house-cured meats, a carving station of prime rib, lamb, and wild salmon. Don’t forget to wear your stretchy pants.

Butterfly Beach

For the final stop, walk off your meal at Butterfly Beach. Located across from Four Seasons Resort, this coastal gem is popular amongst locals and visitors alike. The pristine swath of sand is one of the most picturesque spots in the region where people wile away the day lounging on the shore, catching waves, and cooling off in the brisk waters. Spend some time savoring the spectacular scenery and reveling in the sensation of the invigorating breeze, the sound of the crashing surf, and the permeating scent of salty air. Soak up as much as you can, and carry the feeling of ease at home with you.

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