Having just returned from the Cote d’Azur, we can endorse the idea that Santa Barbara is the American Riviera. Located on a gorgeous stretch of coastline where the mountains tumble down to the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

You’ll likely enjoy perfect weather and sensational food and wine during your visit. And many of the hotels in Santa Barbara have ocean-view rooms, so you can enjoy the scenery as soon as you open your eyes.

Start your day at the beautiful ocean-front park and take a stroll along the coastal path that runs for miles. During the summer, there’s an arts and crafts festival here every Sunday. It’s easy to be on or near the water, and if you have a car, there’s plenty of public parking.

There are several restaurants on Stearns Wharf, and several more in the Marina. Brophy Brothers is a great choice for fresh seafood. If you’re in town when the local lobsters are in season, try one.

State Street, the main drag, is lined with stylish shops and bistros. And there’s a Nordstrom in the Paseo Nuevo shopping center.

Hotels in Santa Barbara.

Although Santa Barbara is an expensive destination, there are nice places in a variety of price ranges.

One of the newer Santa Barbara hotels, Canary is convenient to downtown shops and restaurants. It was originally the Andalucia, but it was redone in a sophisticated Moorish style that works well with Santa Barbara’s Spanish architecture. The big bonus here is the roof-top bar and lounge area which also features a swimming pool and Jacuzzi. On clear days, you’ll be able to see the Channel Islands. All 77 rooms have four-poster beds, small refrigerators, flat-screen TVs, and WiFi access. There’s a restaurant called Coast on the ground floor, and pets are welcome.

When you’re looking for luxury, and don’t mind paying for it, the Four Seasons Biltmore is just the ticket. Across the street from Butterfly Beach and the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club – which guests can use – it’s technically in Montecito. So it’s not really walking distance to Santa Barbara attractions, but that‘s part of the appeal. The resort first opened in the 1920s, and the graceful arches, Spanish tiles, and 20-acre grounds are very romantic. Many of the rooms have fireplaces and balconies with sweeping ocean views. For families, there are also a dozen cottages with separate entrances. If you love to be pampered, you can indulge in a massage or beauty treatment in the 10,000-square-foot spa. Guests can entertainment themselves with tennis or a variety of lawn games. The restaurant is quite good, and Sunday brunch is very popular.

With 23 nicely decorated rooms, the Inn of the Spanish Garden is a nice boutique hotel for a romantic weekend away. It’s downtown, so the beach is a hike, but shops, restaurants, theaters, and nightlife are at your doorstep. Upgrade to a luxury room and you’ll enjoy a fireplace, a balcony or patio, stocked refrigerator, and soaking tub. There’s an outdoor pool, fitness center, and courtyard with a fire pit.

Hotel Oceana is made up of four individual hotels that were built in the 1940s. As a result, there are many different types of accommodations available. But all feature interior design by Kathryn Ireland in four different color schemes, luxury linens, CD players, flat-screen TVs, and WiFi access. Many have views of the ocean. The lush 2-1/2-acre property is right across the street from the beach and there are two swimming pools and a Jacuzzi. And you can arrange to have a massage in your room. There’s no restaurant on site, but there are many within walking distance. Take advantage of the hotel’s free bicycles to explore the area.

With 360 rooms in seven buildings on 24 acres, Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort Santa Barbara is the biggest hotel in Santa Barbara by far. Those who knew Parker only as Daniel Boone may not know that he was also a respected California winemaker. The ocean-front property has a fitness center, full-service spa, tennis, several pools, a steakhouse, café, and pool-side barbecue. The helpful staff can arrange water sports activities or trips to the Channel Islands. If you want a hotel with all the bells and whistles, this is your best bet. The location here really can’t be beat. Splurge on a room with a view.

If you don’t mind walking a block to the beach, Casa del Mar offers good value for money in Santa Barbara. Built in the Spanish style, it’s an older motel that was recently refurbished. Although there’s no pool, there’s a Jacuzzi on the sun deck, and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. There are regular rooms, and one- and two-room suites, some of which have a kitchenette or a fireplace.

The pool at Bacara

Not far from Stearns Wharf, about a block from the beach, the Franciscan Inn was also built in the 1920s in the Spanish style. The 48 rooms are bright and cheerful and most of the suites have kitchenettes and mountain views. There’s a pool and whirlpool, and a continental breakfast is included in the rate. It’s another good choice for those looking for an affordable hotel.

Those who want to get away from it all and just enjoy the spectacular coast should head for Bacara Resort, 15 minutes north of Santa Barbara. Set on 78 acres of bluffs overlooking the Pacific, Bacara offers beautiful views from every turn – whether you’re dining in the restaurant or relaxing on your private patio. Designed to resemble a Mediterranean village, the resort has one, three- and four-story villas, three pools with 26 private cabanas, and a nice selection of water sports equipment. With ocean-view rooms starting at over $1,000 a night, it’s a big investment.

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