If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in and around Santa Barbara, you will want to choose between the Four Seasons vs. Ritz-Carlton Bacara vs. Belmond El Encantora vs. Rosewood Miramar Beach. If your budget doesn’t stretch to these hotels, we have also picked some super boutique hotels which will ensure the very best experience of Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara offers the epitome of sunny Southern California living with lofty palm trees, golden beaches, and perpetual surf. It’s where mountain peaks reach blue skies, cozy beach coves warm your soul, creative communities inspire your spirit, and vineyards and renowned eateries cater to your great taste.
Santa Barbara was originally a Spanish colonial mission town set beside the Pacific Ocean. Nicknamed the ‘American Riviera,’ this gorgeous stretch of coastline lies less than 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, which is only a two-hour drive away.
While Summer brings the biggest crowds to the beaches, beware of a foggy coastal marine layer that may make things gloomy in May and June, possibly even July. On the bright side, you will find much cheaper room rates during the low season (November to March), when it can be rainy.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, and Rosewood Miramar Beach offer oceanfront luxury with legendary service. Each has a slightly different vibe, and all offer luxurious amenities for guests who book with a Virtuoso travel agency like our own luxury travel concierge.
Wherever you decide to stay, in California or elsewhere, book via our luxury travel concierge. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, and free perks at hotels including the Four Seasons, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, InterContinental, and more (as well as your usual Marriott Bonvoy Hyatt, etc. points and status benefits).
Typically, our free benefits at luxury hotels include:
- Room upgrade to next category
- Complimentary breakfast for two per bedroom
- Complimentary Welcome Gift
- $100 USD equivalent Hotel experiential credit per room per stay
- Early check-in / late check-out (subject to availability)
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Whichever hotel you choose, you will remember glittering Pacific sunsets, chilled signature cocktails, stylish amenities, and the finer points of the Santa Barbara lifestyle.
1. Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands, steps from Butterfly Beach, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is an exquisite 1927 Spanish colonial retreat. This iconic oasis features 207 guest rooms, suites, and bungalows with handpainted bathroom tiles, custom furniture, and furnished patios or balconies.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara does not feature in our best Four Seasons hotels in the world because of the sheer volume of Four Seasons hotels to choose from. It is undoubtedly one of the best in the world, but our listing was limited to just picking the 10 best! Be assured. This Four Seasons is very special!
The location is better than the Ritz-Carlton below, although this Four Seasons hotel is not in the center of Santa Barbara either. It is around 3 miles south of Santa Barbara proper, actually in Montecito, around a 5-10 min drive from the center of Santa Barbara.
The location is also right across the street from the beach in Santa Barbara and the Four Seasons has its own Beach Club, which is superb.
2. Belmond El Encanto
Belmond El Encanto is located in the hills above Santa Barbara, 1-2 miles from the center of Santa Barbara. It is still a 5-10 min drive to various shops and restaurants or to the beach. It is not one of the cheapest Belmond hotels in the world, but it is a gorgeous hotel. It features in our best Belmond hotels in the world, but it’s not on the beach, sadly. The Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood, and Four Seasons ARE on the beach!
Belmond El Encanto is the smallest of our hotel choices and has just 92 rooms and suites. Originally built in the 1920s, Belmond has restored this classic hotel to its present, lovely state. El Encanto’s eight acres are dotted with 31 magical bungalows, 11 built-in California Craftsman style, and 20 in Mission-style architecture. The resort’s central pools are heated to 85º year-round, and there is an excellent spa.
Being 500 feet above sea level, the resort offers sweeping ocean views down to Santa Barbara and beyond. Original architectural features are complemented by modern additions, including a zero-edge swimming pool and lavish spa. The resort is secluded but is close to the center of the action in Santa Barbara. A useful free shuttle service is provided within a 5-mile radius, so you don’t need to worry about parking, and electric bikes are offered to guests for free.
3. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara embodies the charm, beauty, and energy of the Mediterranean in the heart of Santa Barbara and is your best choice if you have an energetic family. While it doesn’t feature in our best Ritz-Carlton hotels, it does offer ocean-view accommodations, a wonderful beach, an indulgent spa, and dining that celebrates local ingredients.
Bacara is a typical large Ritz-Carlton resort with 358 rooms and suites. The location is stunning, on 87 seaside acres in Goleta, about 12 miles north of Santa Barbara proper, or a 10-15 min drive right down the 101 freeway. This means that little is walkable outside this resort.
Plus, points include that The Ritz-Carlton Bacara is right on the ocean, and it’s an easy walk down to the beach. Due to California Coastal Commission regulations, the beach is ungroomed, with driftwood and unraked sand, which might be a shock. Still, the Bacara makes up for this with a luxurious Beach House, which offers food as well as toilets and showers.
Bacara has two excellent restaurants. Angel Oak, the signature fine-dining restaurant, one of the top-rated restaurants in the Santa Barbara area and the casual and less impressive (and less expensive) Bistro.
4. Rosewood Miramar Beach
Rosewood Miramar Beach is in the Montecito neighborhood and is our fourth choice. It is better located than the Ritz-Carlton and has 161 rooms spanning across 16 acres, and shares a slice of coastline with a handful of beach homes.
The bad news about this resort and a feature that will put off all light sleepers from staying here is that it has an active railroad line running through the property. A 24-hour guard keeps guests from crossing the tracks at the wrong time, removing the need for wailing train whistles. But earplugs are probably required, making this the worst choice of these four luxury hotels.
At the top end, suites include butler service, and the 1,885-square-foot suite has a panoramic ocean view. Even moderate rooms are sizable, 530 square feet with a patio or lanai.
5. Hotel Californian
Featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and modern Moorish themed interior décor from celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the Hotel Californian is the new center of the Santa Barbara waterfront. Incorporating the façade of the original 1925 Hotel Californian, this 121 room seaside destination features a rooftop pool and event deck providing panoramic views of the coastline and the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Located steps from the beach, one block from Santa Barbara Amtrak Station, and adjacent to Santa Barbara’s vibrant Funk Zone, the Hotel Californian includes a luxurious Turkish-inspired spa, fashion boutique, and fresh and distinctive dining options, together with a best-in-class ballroom, event lawns and decks and unique meeting spaces for weddings and group events.
6. San Ysidro Ranch
At San Ysidro Ranch, it’s easy to hide away in one of 41 individually decorated cottages and suites, thoughtfully sited along the resort’s hillside paths, neighboring the pleasant creek. Each offers a king-size bed, fireplace, and patio, while the newest boast an outdoor hot tub and rain shower, as well as a flat-screen television.
It’s little wonder that John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned here. To this day, the resort is legendary for its discreet personal service and stunning natural environment. The Stonehouse offers remarkable regional cuisine, with herbs and vegetables harvested from the on-site garden.
7. Simpson House Inn
Simpson House Inn is located in the heart of Santa Barbara, 3 blocks away from the city parks and 5 blocks from Arlington Theatre. Built in 1874, this Victorian bed and breakfast is surrounded by verdant landscaped gardens. Highlights include their gourmet breakfast and evening wine tastings.
Rooms have hardwood floors and Victorian décor and include a coffee maker, bathrobes, and slippers. Guests can enjoy an excellent breakfast in their rooms or out in the garden, cooked by a gourmet chef, and to wear off your breakfast, you can explore the local area with the hotel’s free bike rentals.
8. Santa Barbara Inn
Santa Barbara Inn is a Mediterranean Inspired Boutique Hotel with views across the beach and out to sea.
Framed by deep, red terra cotta roofs, luminous white stucco, gracefully arched windows, and a duo of handcrafted tile domes, the Santa Barbara Inn perfectly embodies the spirit and architecture of Santa Barbara. This Spanish Mediterranean boutique merges classic elegance and coastal luxury with 70 beautifully appointed rooms and suites and dramatic ocean views.
Sink into a lounge chair by the heated outdoor pool and disappear into a good book. Adorned with flickering gas lanterns and a fire pit, the oceanfront terrace is an enchanting spot for savoring cocktails, Italian fare, and the Pacific Coast sunset.
The Inn’s central location puts visitors just moments from downtown Santa Barbara and abundant recreation in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Brilliant white sand beaches, wine tours, fashionable boutiques, and world-class dining — beginning with their very own Convivo Restaurant.
9. Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara
Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara is a pretty boutique hotel in the heart of Santa Barbara. It provides the quintessential Santa Barbara hotel experience, with luxurious accommodations and a staff focused on delighting you at every turn. The crown jewel of this Spanish-style hotel is its rooftop pool, which affords stunning views, particularly at sunset.
Enjoy the best farm-fresh cuisine from the Finch and Fork restaurant and a hosted wine hour, thoughtful bath amenities, complimentary bikes, and so much more.
10. Cheshire Cat Inn
The Cheshire Cat Inn is an elegant and cozy bed and breakfast in Southern California which features a unique, Alice in Wonderland theme that was inspired by the county of Cheshire in England. During your stay, you’ll experience gracious English hospitality and a touch of whimsy. Each thoughtfully appointed room and cottage features a unique name, many inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
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