6 Amazing Areas Where to Stay in Santa Barbara (+Hotels!)

A serene view of Santa Barbara coastline with the calm ocean in the foreground, palm trees, and Spanish-style buildings against the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains under a clear blue sky

Also known as the American Riviera, this town is packed with unmissable spots and today I’ll help you find some of the best places where to stay in Santa Barbara!

Read this post to learn everything about the 6 most amazing areas to stay for tourists! For each neighborhood, I also included a list of hotels, from luxury, to mid-range and budget so that you can easily find your favorite!

I manually picked all the accommodations and included only the ones with the best reviews after looking through many lists of options! 

In short, West Beach is the best area to stay in Santa Barbara for first-time visitors as it’s filled with unmissable attractions and fab hotels! 

Santa Barbara is super chic, so touristy, and a bit pricey! That’s why I recommend booking your hotels here in advance and maybe score a better price! 

Quick Picks for Your Stay

Here are some amazing accommodation options in Santa Barbara with good locations and reviews from budget to luxury.

luxury hotel
Resort-style pool area with loungers and palm trees, set against a backdrop of a multi-story hotel building in sunny weather.
mid-range hotel
Elegant bedroom with a king-sized bed, wooden accent wall, and soft lighting for a cozy atmosphere.

Beachside Inn

Best value for money

budget hotel
Charming motel facade with lush landscaping and welcoming porch at dusk.

Marina Beach Motel

Best affordable accommodation in the center

Watch my video, it will give you a visual explanation of all the areas:

To visualize easily, here is a Santa Barbara map with all the 6 areas that I will be mentioning in this post:

A colorful map highlighting the best areas to stay in Santa-Barbara, with numbered locations and labels for easy navigation
  1. West Beach: for first-timers
  2. FUNK ZONE: for nightlife
  3. East Beach: to relax
  4. Downtown: for culture
  5. Goleta: for budget travelers
  6. Montecito: for luxury

To give you a quick overview of the best areas to stay in Santa Barbara, here’s a handy table for you to see a snapshot of each neighborhood. Check out their full descriptions with extra hotel recommendations below.

NeighborhoodPerfect forBest Hotel
☀️ West Beach Oceanview restaurants, sightseeing & beaches Harbor View Inn
🕺 The Funk ZoneLots of amazing bars and restaurants The Waterman
🏖️ East BeachLaidback local atmosphere, wide beaches, and grassy parksSanta Barbara Inn
🌇 DowntownMuseums, culture, restaurants, shops & businessCheshire Cat Inn
🥾 GoletaHiking, surfing, university students, and budget accommodationThe Ritz-Carlton
🤩 MontecitoUpscale accommodation, fine dining, shopping & celebrity spottingRosewood Miramar Beach

1. West Beach – where to stay for first timers

Scenic view of West Beach in Santa Barbara with visitors enjoying the vast sandy shore lined with tall palm trees, with the majestic Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance.

Located between the Marina and Stearns Wharf, you really can’t go wrong with West Beach! With its vibrant atmosphere, charming ocean-view restaurants, shops and museums, this place is an absolute must-see if you’re visiting for the first time!

Here, you can start your days with a morning walk on the beaches right after picking up a delicious coffee from Goat Tree, a stylish cafe and then continue the afternoon exploring the area!

Although the beach is the hotspot, you’ll find many other attractions like Stearns Wharf, the Point Castillo scenic point, which is set in the harbor! That’s a fun bit as there are lots of things to see and visit like the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

This is also the best spot in town to hit the bars with its great nightlife. West Beach has everything to entertain all kinds of travelers aaaand it is less than 10 minutes walking away from the Funk Zone (#2 in my list). 

Let’s have a look at the best hotels in this lovely neighborhood. Don’t forget to make your reservation in advance!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Santa Barbara: an opulent living room with elegant furnishings and art at Rosewood Miramar Beach, the iconic entrance sign and guests descending the stairs at the Miramar, and a bedroom with ocean views opening onto a balcony

One of the best hotels in West Beach that has a fab outdoor swimming pool where you can relax and enjoy some cocktails on the sun loungers. The accommodation also offers a private beach area and a bar!

Other accommodation options in West Beach

Luxurious Beachside Inn room with a plush king-size bed and a scenic window view.

This cool hotel comes with rooms that have a balcony, an outdoor pool and a free daily breakfast 

Welcoming entrance of Marina Beach Motel surrounded by vibrant pink flowers and palm trees

One of the best cheap hotels in Santa Barbara that offers comfy rooms and a complimentary breakfast

"Inviting living room in Seaside Escape with a modern sofa and warm natural lighting

Centrally located in West Beach, fully equipped room and free wifi

Things to do in West Beach

2. The Funk Zone – best place to stay in Santa Barbara for nightlife

Aerial view of Santa Barbara's Funk Zone featuring Spanish-style architecture, palm-lined streets, and a view of the beach and pier, encapsulating the essence of a vibrant beachside community.

The Funk Zone is located between State Street and Garden Street, and Montecito Street to Cabrillo Boulevard, very close to the beach. You’re going to love this area, which, although small, boasts such a fun atmosphere and an incredible nightlife! 

Funk Zone is an industrial area full of abandoned warehouses that have been transformed into creative studios by artists! They even have a whole website, check it out here!

Most of its streets and buildings are covered in instagrammable murals (map) and of course the area is packed with restaurants, bars and wine tasting cafes! Exploring all these it’s by far one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara

Test Pilot is an amazing place to start the night! From there you can continue at Rincon Brewery and try some delicious Santa Barbara beer. And definitely head to Haley Street (map), near the Funk Zone where you can find more bars!

The Funk Zone is set right near West Beach, so you’ll be close to the sandy shower as well! 

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Santa Barbara: the sun-drenched pool area surrounded by palm trees at Harbor View Inn, a cozy guest room with bay windows and ocean backdrop, and the hotel's inviting exterior with Spanish-style architecture

Enjoy your stay at this great hotel in the Funk Zone that comes with stylish rooms, a relaxing lounge area and an outdoor swimming pool where you can enjoy the Santa Barbara sun. 

Other accommodation options in The Funk Zone

Rooftop pool at Hotel Californian with loungers overlooking a panoramic beach view

Such an amazing hotel that has a spa center where you can chill after a day out and an outdoor pool

Retro-styled living area in ITH Santa Barbara Beach Hostel with leather sofas and unique decor.

This affordable place offers shared and private rooms and a complimentary breakfast

Cozy bedroom in Darling Tiny House with patterned bedding and a teal accent wall art

Such a cute little home that comes with a small kitchen and a backyard

Things to do in the Funk Zone

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3. East Beach – where to stay in Santa Barbara on the beach

Vibrant multi-colored, geometric archway sculpture set against a backdrop of palm trees and blue sky in Santa Barbara, highlighting the city's creative public art.

Compared to West Beach, East Beach is a more laid-back and less touristy area, making it a perfect place to stay for those who want to discover Santa Barbara without the hassle of the commercial center and also for families, who’d prefer a more tranquil spot! 

The beach stretches from Stearns Wharf to the city limits, so you will still be no more than a 10-minute drive to the main areas of Santa Barbara when you want them.

East Beach is located in front of the Stearns Wharf Pier area. This is the widest part of the beach which offers many activities. You will see many sand volleyball courts, grass parks with picnic tables, restaurants, and art centers.

And since we’re on the things to do chapter, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that the Santa Barbara Zoo is also set here (a perfect place to take the kids) and right near it there’s the Andree Clark Bird Refuge, a gorgeous nature reserve that you can explore! 

No matter if you are a solo traveler, couple, or family, there are very nice places to stay in East Beach for everyone who wants to have a relaxed holiday!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Santa Barbara: The Waterman showcasing a relaxing poolside lounge area, a minimalist stylish bedroom with sunlight filtering through, and the classic white facade of a hotel complemented by lush greenery.

Such a gorgeous hotel, located just within walking distance of the beach! The accommodation has a unique design, rooms with a furnished balcony that overlook the mountains. Start your morning with some coffee by the pool!

Other accommodation options in East Beach

Modern hotel exterior with a large swimming pool, lounge chairs, and potted plants under a clear sky

Located right at the beach, this hotel offers a swimming pool and spacious rooms

Modern room at Motel 6 Santa Barbara with a queen bed and palm tree view

Here’s a more affordable hotel that comes with family rooms and a pool

Bright living room with a bold red sectional sofa, a striped armchair, and a white coffee table on a beige rug

Walking distance to the beach in Santa Barbara, best location and spacious rooms

Things to do in East Beach

  • Have a chilled time on the East Beach
  • Visit Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Have a picnic at Dwight Murphy Park
  • Eat something yummy at East Beach Tacos
  • Play tennis at the Municipal Tennis Courts
  • Have a walk at Chase Palm Park

4. Downtown – where to stay in Santa Barbara for culture

Twilight descends on a quiet Santa Barbara street lined with palm trees and Spanish-style buildings, showcasing the tranquil beauty of the city's historic architecture

Downtown Santa Barbara is the center of culture, history, and business!

Boasting an amazing location just a short walk away from the beach, this area is perfect for those who want to dive into the past and culture of Santa Barbara!

Downtown is also famous for its “Santa Barbara style architecture” which is a blend of Spanish Colonial Revival and other Mediterranean architectural styles. You can find some fine examples of it on State Street, which also has lots of restaurants, cafes, and shops.

Does anyone remember the famous and dramatic TV show Santa Barbara from the 80s? If you’re a fan who’s hoping to find the famous Capwell Mansion, you should know that the place is fictional, it’s not a real house. 

You should really head to El Paseo restaurant, which is known for hosting parties for famous people like Ginger Rogers, Salvador Dali, Quentin Tarantino, and Jennifer Lopez!

Or you could also go to the Santa Barbara Public Market if you’re craving some delicious and locally sourced street food. 

There really is a bit of everything for everyone in Downtown! 

You can find Monet paintings at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, learn about history at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and climb to the top of the clock tower at the Old Mission Santa Barbara for an amazing city view!

El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is also a great place to visit! There you’ll find the remnants of a 1782 Spanish fortress!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Santa Barbara: a charming living room with a floral wallpaper and cozy fireplace, a traditional bedroom with a warm, inviting decor, and a classic gazebo amid vibrant gardens at a historic inn.

This hotel that’s within walking distance of the Santa Barbara Museum offers a continental breakfast, free parking, and free Wi-Fi. All the rooms have a beautiful English style and you’ll also have access to a garden. Make sure to join the wine and cheese nights while here!

Other accommodation options in Santa Barbara Downtown

"Charming Bath Street Inn bedroom with a vintage bed and warm lighting

Such a cute place that has rooms with a vintage decor, a lovely garden and a terrace

Lush poolside view at Best Western Plus Beachfront with shaded loungers.

Check out this place which comes with spacious rooms, an outdoor pool and a hot tub

Cozy vintage-inspired living space with a fireplace, a fluffy white chair, and a TV atop a mid-century modern wooden console

A beautiful and clean room in a great location, walking distance to the beach

Things to do in Santa Barbara Downtown 

5. Goleta – where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget

The picturesque Santa Barbara coastline with towering palm trees atop sandy cliffs overlooking a serene beach, with gentle waves caressing the shoreline

Located 10 miles (16 km) west of Santa Barbara, Goleta is a great option for those traveling on a budget!

Nicknamed the “Good Land”, Goleta has its own beach and is the closest area to the mountains and forest (perfect if you love the great outdoors and fun activities like surfing).

There are lots of parks here where you can enjoy some tranquil days such as the Santa Barbara Shores Park, the Snowy Plover Critical Habitat and Lake Los Carneros Park!

If you’re a golf lover then definitely head to the Glen Annie Golf Club or Sandpiper Golf Club, for the day!

Santa Barbara is a major producer of wine and there are so many wineries around the county!

They even have a yearly event at the end of February, and beginning of March that takes place in Goleta, called the Pinot Noir Event where some of the most famous Pinot Noir wineries and winemakers, renowned chefs, sommeliers come to celebrate for a weekend inside the The Ritz-Carlton Bacara!

There’s one really amazing winery in Goleta too, called SAMsARA Wine Co. which also has a terrace where you can chill and enjoy an amazing glass of wine after a day of exploring the area.

For those coming in by plane, you’ll be happy to know that the airport is set here in Goleta, which is great if you don’t have much time to waste on public transport or in a car, getting to the center. 

Even though there are all kinds of accommodation options suitable for every budget in Santa Barbara, Goleta definitely provides the most for your money and the best cheap hotels. So if you are looking for more spacious luxury hotels for smaller prices, you’ll find them here!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Santa Barbara: an elegant bedroom with a four-poster bed and rich blue accents, a rooftop lounge area with an outdoor fireplace overlooking the ocean, and a scenic cliffside trail beside a luxury resort with Spanish architecture

Located right in front of the beach, the Ritz Carlton is one of the best 5-star hotels in Santa Barbara. This gorgeous hotel features an outdoor pool, an amazing ocean view, seafood and steak restaurants, a fitness center and tennis courts! What more could you wish for?

Other accommodation options in Goleta

Spacious Hilton Garden Inn suite with a teal accent wall and cozy sitting area

Enjoy some drinks on the rooftop bar of this hotel that has a pool and a fitness center

Elegant lobby area of Best Western with patterned chairs and a welcoming fireplace

Great location, featuring a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and comfortable rooms

Inviting backyard featuring a blue glass fire pit, colorful shell chairs, and a gazebo amidst desert plants at dusk

This private room is located in a quiet area and opens onto an amazing outdoor patio

Things to do in Goleta, Santa Barbara 

6. Montecito – best in Santa Barbara for luxury lovers

A tranquil lake in the foreground with a panoramic view of Santa Barbara's lush landscape and cloud-kissed Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance

Welcome to the ultimate A-list area in Santa Barbara!

Home to numerous celebrities and even royalty, Montecito is such a dreamy place, perfect for those who want to splurge and stay in the fanciest hotels!

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Grande and Charlize Theron are just some of the famous people who live in Montecito, which is just a 10 min drive away from Santa Barbara Downtown. 

Don’t be surprised if you bump into some of these celebrities while strolling down the streets in this neighborhood! However, it’s not just the nice houses that make Montecito a great place, it also offers so many outdoor activities.

The views of the coastal area are absolutely stunning, and there are more than 15 nice hiking trails for those of you who like to keep active. 

After a day of shopping in Montecito’s high-end shops you can head down to Butterfly Beach and catch a super scenic sunset!

Not only that, Montecito is one of the most popular wedding destinations in Santa Barbara and is known as the place to go for a romantic getaway!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in Santa Barbara: the grand entryway of Santa Barbara Inn framed by palm trees, a regal bedroom with a large canopy bed and sitting area, and a bustling pool area with the hotel's distinctive white architecture in the background

Set right on the beach this incredible hotel has rooms with a balcony that overlook the ocean, a swimming pool and a hot tub! When you’re not exploring Montecito, head to the spa center and enjoy a day of pampering!

Other accommodation options in Montecito

Elegant living room with a large fireplace, arched windows, and neutral-toned furniture on a plush area rug

This is one of the finest boutique hotels in the area, with amazing architecture and charming rooms

Classic bedroom with a king-size bed with green bedding, dark wood nightstands, and a ceiling fan

This place offers a heated outdoor swimming pool, free bicycles, free Wi-Fi, and comfortable rooms

Charming garden cottage with white French doors, surrounded by lavender plants and a brick pathway

Walk distance to several beaches with a very nice garden, fully equipped rooms

Things to do in Montecito

  • Hike at Hot Spring Canyon Trailhead and Cold Spring Trail
  • Go to Lotusland and enjoy amazing nature
  • Catch a sunset at Butterfly Beach
  • Play golf at the Valley Club of Montecito
  • Explore the nearby Summerland area
  • Admire the architecture of Casa del Herrero 
  • Grab brunch at Jeannine’s Restaurant & Bakery
👑 Luxury price:$450
💵 Mid-range hotel:$260
🛏️ Budget:$150
📍 Best area:West Beach 
🛎️ Best luxury hotel:Harbor View Inn
🧳 Best mid-range hotel:Beachside Inn
👛 Best budget hotel:Marina Beach Motel

FAQs about where to stay in Santa Barbara

"Santa Barbara pier extending into the sparkling ocean, with small sailboats navigating the waters and palm trees framing the mountainous horizon

🏠 What is the best area to stay in Santa Barbara?

If you are visiting for the first time, stay in West Beach for its beach and city access. If you are more interested in culture and shopping, the best area to stay for you is Downtown.

📸 Where to the Kardashians stay in Santa Barbara?

The Kardashians stay in The Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore. If you want to spot celebrities, you can pick a hotel in the Montecito area.

💰 Is living in Santa Barbara expensive?

Yes, Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive cities in Central California. However, you can find relatively cheaper areas a bit outside of Santa Barbara.

🙇🏻‍♀️ Is Downtown Santa Barbara safe?

Yes, Downtown Santa Barbara is safe. As in any other city, you should be careful walking at very late hours of the night.

🌊 Is Santa Barbara worth visiting?

Yes, Santa Barbara is definitely worth visiting! It has gorgeous beaches, wineries, and fancy dining options.

🏘️ Which Santa Barbara suburbs are best to stay in?

Montecito, Goleta, and Carpinteria are some of the best suburbs in Santa Barbara! All offer beautiful surroundings and accommodations.

🗝️ What are the most historic Santa Barbara hotels?

Simpson House Inn and El Encanto are some 2 of the most historic hotels in Santa Barbara that still look amazing! 

🏖️ What are the best Santa Barbara hotels on the beach?

Rosewood Miramar Beach and The Ritz-Carlton Bacara are some of the best hotels in Santa Barbara on the beach! Both offer incredible services and views!

📅 How many days should I spend in Santa Barbara?

I would recommend spending at least 3 days in Santa Barbara! That way you can visit all the attractions and enjoy some time at the beach.


A Santa Barbara beach scene at sunset with silhouetted palm trees against a colorful sky, reflecting the serene end to a day in this coastal paradise

Et voila! We’ve reached the end of our guide of our post on where to stay in Santa Barbara! 

I hope you enjoyed reading all about the town’s best areas, hotels and also about some of the things to do in Santa Barbara! 

This town is absolutely mesmerizing and I’d highly recommend booking the hotels in advance as the accommodations are pretty expensive! 

If you’re still not sure which hotel to pick, check out my 2 favorite places below:

  • Harbor View Inn – such an amazing beachfront hotel that has 2 swimming pools and a bar
  • Hotel Californian – a great place that has such a cool design and a rooftop pool 

Alright everyone! Have an amazing holiday and don’t forget that you can always drop me a comment below if you have some extra questions!

Have a nice trip! 


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