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Where to Stay in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a compact city, so no matter where you stay, you won’t be far from the beach, golf courses, wineries or any other major points of interest. Keep this in mind if your travel budget requires that you find cheap hotel deals in Santa Barbara, because many of the most affordable hotels are located on State Street, just over a mile northwest of the downtown area.
The remaining hotels in Santa Barbara and all of the most luxurious accommodations are concentrated downtown and on the beach. Downtown hotels are spread out over about two square miles that include such top attractions as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the ornate Santa Barbara Courthouse and the Karpeles Manuscript Library, which houses the world’s largest collection of original manuscripts.
Santa Barbara Hotel Tips
The most diverse collection of accommodations can be found near the beach, where your options range from opulent luxury resorts to budget-friendly chain hotels. Keep in mind, however, that even the low-frills discount options are priced above average, particularly during the peak summer season. Hotels also tend to book up far in advance between May and August.
Sophisticated upscale hotels are easy to find downtown. Some of the finer hotels are located in historic buildings, but their accommodations are all modern and comfortable.
Budget-friendly and mid-range chain hotels are abundant on the northwest side, with a few competitively priced independent motels scattered among them.
Santa Barbara Hotel Recommendations
The standard for luxury accommodations in Santa Barbara is set by the Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Though understandably one of the priciest hotels in town, The Biltmore’s guests are rewarded with private beach access, extravagant rooms, a pristine croquet lawn, swanky heated pool areas, lighted tennis courts and much more. The Biltmore was constructed shortly after the Santa Barbara earthquake, and its decades of history have been well-restored throughout the years. On-site dining options such as the elegant Bella Vista restaurant are regarded as some of the best in the city.
A somewhat more affordable option is the Canary Hotel, an exclusive boutique located in the heart of downtown. Its rooms and suites are appointed with a clever combination of classic luxuries like stately four-poster beds with modern comforts like state-of-the-art entertainment centers. The highlight of the property is the rooftop pool and spa tub area, which grants an unforgettable panoramic view of the area.
In West Beach, Hotel Oceana offers six different room layouts, including large suites perfect for families and oceanfront rooms with impressive views. Every room is finished in bright, cheerful colors, and the hotel grounds are landscaped with dozens of vibrant and fragrant flowers. Free guest perks include wireless Internet access, beachside continental breakfasts and two-hour beach cruiser bike rentals.
A smart way to enjoy Santa Barbara on a budget is to stay at the city’s beachfront Motel 6, which has the distinction of being the first Motel 6 in the country. Considering its prime location just steps from the water and about a ten minute walk from the zoo, you can’t beat the room rates here. While it offers few perks, this Motel 6’s accommodations are exceptionally clean and comfortable for a motel in the discount lodging category.
Santa Barbara Transportation
A rental car is often handy when staying in Santa Barbara, as some of the best attractions are situated on the outskirts of town and in outlying areas. But before you make reservations to pick up a rental immediately after your arriving flight to Santa Barbara, check your hotel’s parking policies. This is especially important if you’re staying downtown or near the beach, where parking is at a premium. It’s not uncommon for hotels to charge daily rates for parking, which can make a big difference in your overall ground transportation budget. To save money, consider renting a car only for the days you want to explore the areas away from the city’s core.
When you’re downtown or at the beach, walking is the best way to get around, as it allows you to better drink in the city’s incredible scenery. Close to the wharf, you can catch a ride in a pedicab, a bicycle-driven rickshaw.
Santa Barbara also has a widespread bus and shuttle transit system operated by the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District. Comprehensive fare, route and schedule information is available on the district’s website and at its downtown transit center.