Santa Barbara was an absolute dream! I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in LA and I’m kicking myself for not having ventured up to SB sooner. It’s truly the best of both worlds… It’s a beach town, but still has an element of upscale living! You’ve got the beach and all that comes with that (surfing, sailing, lounging in the sand), but you’ve also got the mountains and can easily go on a hike in the morning and make it down to the beach for the afternoon. The shopping is great, the dining is even better, there’s a huge wine scene, the design and decor is top notch, and the people are wonderful, too. Plus, you’re a short drive from LA and so many other coastal towns along the California coast. Do I need to even mention the weather? 300+ days of sunshine. SIGN ME UP. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t checking out places to live while I was there… It’s that good, guys. I can’t wait to go back! And, you know, maybe move there one day.
My Santa Barbara Itinerary
It was no one’s fault but my own, but I had a heck of a travel day on the Tuesday I was to be flying to Santa Barbara. What should have been an easy flight into the beautiful Santa Barbara airport was derailed when I overslept and missed my flight out of Chicago. Whoops! I ended up flying into LAX instead and renting a car to drive up to Santa Barbara. It was a happy accident, though, because the 90 mile drive was absolutely gorgeous. A Tuesday afternoon well-spent and a much-needed hour or two to zone out in the car after messing up my morning!
Once I checked in at the Kimpton Canary hotel in downtown Santa Barbara, I was off to find some necessary caffeine! Handlebar Coffee came highly recommended and I not only got my usual iced almond milk latte, but tried their iced matcha, too. So good! I picked up a local energy bar there, too, and was blown away by how good it was. Wishing I would have taken a picture of the label, but it was delish! Right away, I was so shocked by how many young people were inside working from the coffee shop. I guess there’s a pretty decent amount of freelancers and creatives living in Santa Barbara! (And that’s probably where my wheels started to turn about moving west…)
After fueling up, I made my way to the Courthouse Clocktower for some aerial views of Santa Barbara! I made it just in time to snap some photos from the top, but be sure to note that the clocktower closes at 4:45pm so you’ll want to get up there with enough time to take it all in.
I did some shopping along State Street afterwards, which is where you can find all of your favorite stores, plus a few local boutiques, too. I’ll share my favorites in the shopping section below! What I loved about this area (in addition to being super close to my hotel!) was how the chain stores blended right in to the quintessential Mediterranean-style design that Santa Barbara is known for.
After picking up a few things, I made it back to the Canary to freshen up for dinner and head to the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. I can’t recommend this spot more for dinner! The restaurant is right on the water, with the cutest blue and white striped umbrellas. It’s easy to pop out to the beach for some sunset photos and enjoy the evening under the heat lamps on the patio!
On Wednesday, I was up early for breakfast on the terrace at the Belmond El Encanto. The property is insanely gorgeous and we couldn’t resist doing a little wandering before heading up to hike Tunnel Trail. We hiked to the top of Inspiration Point, which was about 3.7 miles round trip! After our hike, I made a pitstop at The French Press (my favorite coffee shop in SB!) and went back to shower and get ready for the day. We had a quick lunch at Helena Avenue Bakery and then filmed a Facebook Live video with the chef at Les Marchands! (You can see a clip in my video recap below and check out the full video here!) Post-filming, I wandered around the Funk Zone for a bit and can’t wait to spend an afternoon (or two) visiting all of the different wineries on my next trip. We walked over to Stearn’s Wharf for some photos and then hopped on our bikes to ride down to Butterfly Beach! Along the ride, you’ll pass the Chromatic Gate art installation, which is an Instagram just waiting to happen. We had drinks on the patio at the Four Seasons Biltmore, which was absolutely incredible. I could have stayed there for hours!
We biked back to the wharf and dropped off our bikes before heading to Test Pilot for some pre-dinner cocktails. The tiki decor is so, so cute! Palm leaf wall paper, rope lanterns, swinging chairs, and the most photogenic drinks you’ve ever seen! We had dinner at Sama Sama Kitchen, which was incredible. Our server (Brandon) was absolutely amazing and I’m pretty sure we tried one of everything on the menu since we had such a big group! Highly recommend reserving a spot on the back patio if it’s a nice night.
On Thursday, I started my morning at French Press (again) before heading to the Santa Barbara Harbor for a breakfast burrito at On the Alley. We went for a morning sail with Sunset Kidd and the views of the town from the water were picture-perfect! Post-boat, I freshened up at the hotel before making my way over to the other wine district in Santa Barbara, El Paseo. We filmed another Facebook Live segment at Margerum Wine, where I got to make my own blend! #LifeGoals, am I right? (You can see the full video here!) I did some shopping and grabbed ice cream at McConnel’s before meeting the girls at Loquita for drinks and then heading to dinner at Angel Oak at the Bacara. (Which was, hands down, the most incredible dining experience we had on the trip! Highly recommend.)
I was so, so sad to leave on Friday, but I grabbed a coffee at French Press before getting on the road back to LA. I took it as a sign when the barista knew my name after just three days in town… I’ll definitely be back, hopefully sooner rather than later!
Getting to Santa Barbara
Planes, trains, and automobiles… There’s really no bad way to get to Santa Barbara! You can fly right into SBA (which I hear is the easiest airport ever!), take the Amtrak from LA, or even make the scenic drive. Getting around in town is super easy, too… Thank goodness for Uber and Lyft!
Where I Stayed
I stayed at the Kimpton Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara. I loved how it was so convenient to everything downtown and a quick car ride from everywhere else I went. Plus, the hotel also has bikes you can take out! Guests are greeted with a glass of vino at check-in, and there’s also a free happy hour each night in the lobby. During the day, there’s an infused water bar, which was great for filling up my new S’well bottle. I didn’t get a chance to eat at the restaurant, but I’ve heard great things. And there’s a lovely rooftop pool at the hotel, too!
Shop my water bottle here!
Santa Barbara Coffee & Breakfast Recommendations
The French Press | Can’t recommend this place enough! There are two locations and you can’t go wrong. Their Iced Almond Milk Vanilla Latte is TOO GOOD! Both places have outdoor seating, but the one on Anacapa is much bigger!
Handlebar Coffee | Another great spot for coffee or matcha lattes! A cute outdoor patio with umbrellas, too. Plus, there’s wifi so it’s a good spot to work remotely, indoor or out.
Helena Avenue Bakery | Delicious pastries and coffee, and you can also grab a quick sandwich for lunch if you’re in the Funk Zone!
Belmond El Encanto | The terrace is absolutely stunning and I’m convinced you can’t have a bad experience here! The breakfast was incredible, such a serene start to the day.
On the Alley | I grabbed a breakfast burrito here before hopping on a boat for the morning, so delish!
Jeannine’s Bakery | I didn’t have time for a brunch here, but it’s on my list for next time.
Santa Barbara Lunch Recommendations
Lucky Penny | We didn’t have time to eat here, but I’ve heard amazing things about their pizza.
Green Table Matcha | A great spot for a smoothie or a healthy lunch! Plus, just as the name alludes to, lots of options for matcha.
McConnell’s Ice Cream | SO GOOD! Ice cream for lunch is totally a thing, right?
Backyard Bowls | This spot came highly recommended for a healthy lunch, but I didn’t have time to try it out.
Garrett’s Old Fashioned | I didn’t have a chance to eat here, but it came highly recommended and is on my list for next time!
Santa Barbara Dinner & Drinks Recommendations
Les Marchands | We filmed the uni guacamole FB Live video here and if the little taste I got was any indication, I can’t wait to have a full dinner here on my next trip!
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach | Such a great dinner on the water! Try to ask for a table near the glass on the patio.
Four Seasons Biltmore | The terrace overlooking Butterfly Beach is incredible! We didn’t have any food, but the cocktails were great.
Test Pilot | A tiki-style bar that’s unbelievably Instagrammable!
Angel Oak at Bacara | The whole experience at Angel Oak was stunning… Delicious food, amazing wine, gorgeous views, excellent service. Save your fanciest outfit for dinner here one night!
Sama Sama Kitchen | Such a good meal, couldn’t recommend it more! A great back patio for warm nights and we absolutely loved everything on the menu.
Loquita | We only had drinks and a few apps (everything was amazing!), but this spot is a must-visit for dinner. Plus, the decor is top notch!
The Lark | The decor inside The Lark is incredible, but I didn’t have time to eat here. It’s on everyone’s must-eat list, though!
The Imperial | Another tiki-style speakeasy that came recommended by a friend.
The Good Lion | Another cute spot for dinner and drinks!
Santo Mezcal | In the Funk Zone! After hearing great things, can’t wait to go on my next trip.
Cold Spring Tavern | Another place that’s on my list for next time!
Santa Barbara Shopping
Saks Off Fifth | SOF was right across from my hotel and I COULD NOT BELIEVE the selection when I walked in! So many cute finds that are actually currently available (for full price) at Revolve, Shopbop, etc. JOA, Lovers + Friends, Tularosa, and even a whole slew of Bric’s suitcases!
Make Smith Leather Company | So many gorgeous leather bags that are hand-made right there in the alleyway store! If you saw my new keychain on Instagram Stories, this is where I got it.
Rooms & Gardens | I seriously want to move into this home store. Decor inspiration FOR DAYS! You have to go.
Blue Door Antiques | Another one that you absolutely MUST visit!!
Evangelina Boutique | I stopped in here while walking through Paseo Nuevo and tried on a few things. Lots of inexpensive, trendy finds.
Santa Barbara Activities
The Courthouse Clocktower | Great views of the city! The climb to the top isn’t bad, but there’s an elevator if you prefer.
The Funk Zone | The Funk Zone is an area in Santa Barbara that’s filled with murals and wine shops. Make it a point to spend a few hours!
Stearn’s Wharf | The area was probably the most touristy that I went, but you can’t beat the views from the wharf. Rent a bike and head out on the beach-front path!
Chromatic Gate | Don’t miss this spot for photos!
Butterfly Beach | One of the best beaches in SB!
Sailing | We went out on the water with Sunset Kidd and absolutely loved the experience!
Hiking | There are countless hiking trails in Santa Barbara! We hiked Tunnel Trail up to Inspiration Point, which took about 90 minutes round-trip. I’d say it was a moderate hike, nothing too crazy, but I felt like I got a nice little workout in!
Any other questions about the trip? Be sure to leave them in the comment section below. Or, if you have any other recommendations for my next trip, I’m all ears!
More snaps from Day 1…
More snaps from Day 2…
More snaps from Day 3…
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Santa Barbara Travel Guide