Southern California

The 6 Best Santa Barbara Hotels on the Beach

With pristine white sand beaches and historic Spanish Colonial architecture, these Santa Barbara beach hotels are the key to a stylish California vacation.

I’m standing on the beach in Santa Barbara, California, and almost can’t believe what I’m seeing. Pristine white sand beaches and panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean are framed by gentle rolling mountains towering over a lush landscape dotted with the historic Spanish Colonial architecture that gives this famous resort town its distinct Mediterranean flavor. I suddenly understand why Santa Barbara is called “The American Riviera.”

But it’s not just the beaches that make this popular vacation retreat approximately 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles one of America’s top coastal destinations. With a thriving arts community, star-studded nightlife and high-end food and drink scene that rivals that of many larger cities, Santa Barbara is everything you could want in a classic California beach vacation – and then some.

Hang out with celebrities at the Four Seasons the Biltmore Santa Barbara

The ultra upscale 5-star Four Seasons the Biltmore Santa Barbara sits on 22 lush beachfront acres located about four miles east of downtown Santa Barbara, in between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains. Choose from either villas, bungalows, suites or traditional guest rooms decked out in stunning Spanish Colonial design at this epic coastal hideaway, each with its own unique flourishes. Walk over to the secluded Butterfly Beach for some quiet time in the sun, or stick to the shade with a garden tour of the grounds and its 75 different species of palms.

Not only are private winery tours and chefs dinners available, but guests can also book a beach volleyball lesson from Olympic gold medalist and Santa Barbara native Todd Rogers.

After a long day of action, carve into some fresh Mediterranean-inspired seafood at beachside restaurant Tydes or keep the European vibes flowing with some Italian-inspired cuisine at Bella Vista. Cap off the evening with a Moscow Mule at Ty Lounge or cozy up to the 275-gallon saltwater aquarium bar at the Coral Reef Bar. Maybe spot a celebrity or two in the process.

Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Top rated
Santa Barbara
9.0 Excellent (1428 reviews)

Choose your own adventure at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

When your options for hotel accommodations include either “beach view” or “mountain view”, you know you’ve checked in to a pretty good location. Such are the choices at the popular 4-star Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, perched across the street from Chase Palm Park and Santa Barbara’s iconic East Beach. In addition to standard rooms, you can also stretch out in a suite…although you probably won’t be spending a ton of time in your room.

Located about a mile east of downtown, at the edge of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone arts district, guests can experience a choose-your-own-adventure approach to exploring Santa Barbara’s unique combination of vibrant urban attractions and laid-back natural retreats.

Lunch can be enjoyed poolside at Terraza del Mar before a sunset-engulfed dinner with specialty cocktail in hand at The Set, the resort’s bistro-style eatery featuring outdoor fire pits and ocean views. What more could you need? Maybe a wine tasting room with its own self-service wine dispensing system helping you uncork Central Coast classics? Oh wait, they have that too.

Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

Santa Barbara
7.9 Good (3035 reviews)

Unplug with a natural retreat at The Ritz-Carlton-Bacara, Santa Barbara

If your vacation goals include making your Instagram followers insanely jealous, you’ve come to the right place at The Ritz-Carlton-Bacara, Santa Barbara. Secluded amidst the largely undeveloped Gaviota Coast, about 15 miles west of downtown Santa Barbara, this hotel is the stuff of those classic California beach dreams. The 358-room Mediterranean-inspired resort offers a range of upscale villas, suites and rooms sprawling out across a vast 78 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with two beaches, three infinity pools and a 42,000-square-foot spa.

If you like options, you might want to pay a visit to the resort’s Angel Oak modern steakhouse, where you can select from a mind-blowing 12,000-bottle wine cellar while digging into expertly cooked chops while overlooking the ocean. If a picnic on the beach is more your speed, ask the concierge to arrange a picnic basket before you head out for a full day of adventure, potentially includes sailing expeditions, painting classes, horseback riding, hiking and, of course, surfing the Santa Barbara coast’s epic waves.

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Top rated
Santa Barbara
8.5 Excellent (1785 reviews)

Stay in the heart of downtown at the Harbor View Inn

For those looking for a more approachable and affordable option in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, the unpretentious four-diamond Harbor View Inn checks a lot of boxes. Not only is the family-friendly resort located just steps from the gleaming white sands of West Beach, it also sits within easy walking distance of top local attractions such as Stearns Wharf, Ty Warner Sea Center and the many charming shops lined along State Street.

Guestrooms and suites offer a homey feel that is high on comfort, perfect for a quick respite after a long day spent exploring Santa Barbara’s many diverse charms. Kick back by the resort’s palm-lined ocean view pool for food and beverage service, refresh with a “jet lag facial” at its Spa Beaumontia, or set out on foot along the nearby Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail to get a true taste of the good life.

Harbor View Inn

Top rated
Santa Barbara
9.1 Excellent (3732 reviews)

Watch the sunset from the oceanfront terrace at the Santa Barbara Inn

Located just steps from East Beach and the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Spanish Mediterranean-styled Santa Barbara Inn is a charming 70-room boutique resort offering dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean around almost every turn. The resort’s classic red terracotta rooves and white stucco exterior give way to recently updated accommodations that range from elegant B&B-styled rooms to more spacious hotel suites.

Once you’re done staring out at the surf, with views extending all the way to the Channel Islands from your ocean-facing private balcony, head down to the inn’s Convivo Restaurant to get a belly full of Italian-inspired delights, such as homemade pastas and wood-fired oven pizzas. Pair with a packed bar selection featuring local wines, specialty tequilas and draft microbrews. Watch the sunset amidst the flickering gas lanterns and warm fire pits of the restaurant’s oceanfront terrace and consider yourself lucky to be alive.

Santa Barbara Inn

Santa Barbara
8.3 Very good (1367 reviews)

Create your own wine and cheese party at the West Beach Inn

Centrally located across from West Beach and the Santa Barbara Harbor, the quaint but cool West Beach Inn is part of the small 37-property chain Coast Hotels. Offering a range of accommodations, from sprawling apartment-style suites to chic contemporary hotel rooms, the inn also serves up complimentary wine and cheese poolside every evening, as well as nightly turndown service with chocolates.

Collect your thoughts as you stare out into the harbor overlooking Santa Barbara’s landmark Point Castillo, take a relaxing dip in the harbor-facing pool, or make yourself cozy in your room with the help of plush Turkish cotton bathrobes. Once you work up a taste for some adventure, it’s time to cash in your coupons for complimentary bike rentals and paddleboarding sessions.

West Beach Inn a Coast Hotel

Top rated
Santa Barbara
8.6 Excellent (2331 reviews)