Santa Barbara is the quintessential beach destination. Located in central California about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, it offers an endless stretch of coastline, sandy beaches, luxury hotels, and celebrity sightings! If you’re looking for a quick, relaxing getaway, it’s an ideal spot for a week or even a weekend.
The city not only has a fantastic beach, but it’s also ideal for water sports, wine, and artists. This combination is unusual, but gives it a unique feel and lots of attractions to see!
The only trouble is that Santa Barbara is so popular that it can get expensive. This can make it difficult when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget. But that’s why we’re here to help. With our handy Santa Barbara neighborhood guide, you can find somewhere awesome to stay that won’t break the bank.
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At A Glance: Where To Stay In SANTA BARBARA
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Santa Barbara.
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Suitable for two guests, this charming little cottage is perfect if you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara for couples. It’s close to State Street and local shopping malls, as well as to the beach. It has its own entrance, shared laundry facilities, and a small, fully equipped kitchenette.
If you’re in Santa Barbara, you want to enjoy the beach – and what better way to enjoy it than with panoramic views from your own accommodation? The views are from the private courtyard, and the apartment has its own entrance and is close to all the best natural activities and sights that Santa Barbara can offer.
Whether you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget or have a little more cash to spend, this hotel is a great choice. It’s located right in the center of the city, within walking distance of local shops and attractions. There’s a homey feel, with all the amenities. The rooms come in various sizes, and there are plenty of activities to choose from nearby, such as horse riding, fishing, and hiking.
Santa Barbara has something for everyone. No matter what your preferences, as long as you like the beach, of course, you’ll find a neighborhood that suits your sensibilities and makes it easy for you to explore!
The first area to consider when deciding where to stay in Santa Barbara for the first time is West Beach. This is the most popular area among tourists and offers easy access to the beach, other attractions, and lots of people watching.
East Beach is the best neighborhood to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget. In this less touristy area, you’ll find hotels that are a little more budget-friendly, as well as a laidback vibe.
Then you have Upper East, a local area perfect if you’re traveling with your family and need a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.
Funk Zone is slightly inland from West Beach in what used to be an industrial zone. It’s now an artsy bohemian area with lots of bars, making it a great choice when you’re deciding where to stay in Santa Barbara for nightlife.
The final area is the Goleta. This small town will get you away from the tourist crowds but still provides a great combination of historic charm, atmosphere, and beach access.
Whether you’re deciding where to stay in Santa Barbara for your first time or on a return trip, here’s where you should be looking.
COOLEST thing to do in West Beach – Grab a seat at one of the fish restaurants on Stearn’s Wharf and enjoy the views and the atmosphere.
BEST place to visit in West Beach – Head down to the beach for swimming, water sports, and a beautiful walking path to explore.
West Beach is incredibly popular, and it isn’t hard to understand why. It’s filled with great restaurants (many of them offering delectable seafood) and a sandy stretch of beach ideal for just about anything you like to do in and around the water. This is also where you’ll discover the best shops if you want to spend a bit of cash, as well as museums.
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara for your first time, you really can’t go past this area. If you enjoy a raucous New Year’s celebration, the festivities in this area are unbeatable. The people-watching is beyond compare as well, so keep your eyes out for celebrities going incognito.
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget, this is it. This tiny but well-equipped studio is a tiny house right in the heart of the city, surrounded by shops and restaurants. It has a kitchenette and a small bathroom and is suitable for two people.
Suitable for two guests, this cottage is within walking distance of the downtown area and the beach. It’s private and has its own entrance as well as air conditioning for the hottest summer days. There’s a parking area on site that you will have to share. The apartment is fully equipped for guests.
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget, this is a good choice. Located right in the center of West Beach, it offers comfortable, homey surroundings plus convenience to local spots. There’s a pool on-site as well as free parking, a complimentary breakfast, and massage services.
For a touch of luxury, you can’t go past this hotel with its complimentary breakfast, free parking, and homey, welcoming feel. You’ll enjoy an entire unit with a fireplace and balcony, as well as streaming services and mountain views. There’s even an outdoor dining area so you can enjoy the warm summer nights.
COOLEST thing to do in East Beach – Play volleyball with the locals at the East Beach Volleyball Courts.
BEST place to visit in East Beach – Take the kids to see MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget, you can’t go past East Beach. The sister neighborhood to the more popular West Beach, it’s more local and offers all the same attractions and easy access to shops and restaurants, with a more relaxed vibe.
As a bonus, the resorts in the area make East Beach one of the best neighborhoods in Santa Barbara for families. The beach is excellent, Stearns Wharf with all its attractions is nearby, and there are amazing restaurants everywhere you turn in this neighborhood.
This one-bedroom condo has two main attractions. The first is the floor to ceiling windows that let in the view of the beach; the second is the eclectic art collection on display. It also has a private deck where you can enjoy the sun, and a full bathroom and laundry facilities.
This spacious apartment is a great choice when deciding where to stay in Santa Barbara for families as it has enough room for up to four guests. It’s within walking distance of the Funk Zone and has a full kitchen and bathrooms and all the usual amenities.
With free parking available and only a short drive from Stearns Wharf and other local attractions, this hotel is a good choice when deciding where to stay in Santa Barbara on a budget. It also has a pool and comfortable rooms with modern amenities. There is outdoor play equipment for the kids, and the hotel offers activity tours and equipment.
If you’re looking for the best neighborhood in Santa Barbara close to everything, then spend your nights at this hotel. Unapologetically luxurious with a touch of Mediterranean flair, the hotel offers a fitness center, bar and restaurant, dry cleaning, and laundry services on-site. The rooms are immaculate and contain all the usual extras.
COOLEST thing to do in Upper East – Bask in the shade under a tree at the Mission Historical Park.
BEST place to visit in Upper East – Visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara and marvel at its long history.
If you’re not fond of the beach and want a more urban feel, try the Upper East neighborhood. This area is also a good idea when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara for families: it’s quieter and offers plenty of attractions for the little ones. Best of all, Santa Barbara isn’t that large, so you can easily head down to the beach when the family feels like getting some sun!
Upper East is known for its historical attractions. Santa Barbara was first settled around 13,000 years ago by the native Americans, and then by the Spanish in the 18th century. Parts of this history can be seen in Upper East.
Located in one of the most beautiful settings you will see in the city, this one-bedroom apartment offers complete privacy and is located in an eclectic Jeff Shelton designed house. The apartment is totally private and self-contained and has everything you’ll need for a short or long stay.
Suitable for four guests, this house has an amazing open kitchen, so you can prepare meals or snacks and still be part of the action. There’s a communal pool on the property, which is within walking distance of local shops and restaurants. It’s also close to local hiking trails, so you can get out in nature and enjoy the warm sun.
This inn is in the best neighborhood in Santa Barbara close to everything. It has free parking, a computer station, a hot tub, and rooms with a fridge and microwave. The rooms have lovely garden views, and there’s an outdoor dining area where you can sit and enjoy the warm evenings.
This hotel is a great choice when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara for couples. It offers luxurious surroundings with a rare decorative flair, a complimentary breakfast, massage services, laundry facilities, and a hot tub. It’s close enough to everything that you won’t have any trouble exploring the city.
COOLEST thing to do in Funk Zone – Head out with your mates to try the local bars.
BEST place to visit in Funk Zone – Wander along State Street for bars, restaurants, and some of the best shopping the city can offer.
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara for nightlife, the Funk Zone is a good spot. There aren’t many nightclubs and bars in Santa Barbara, but most of them are located along State Street, from West Beach and through the Funk Zone, an arty area that was once the city’s industrial center.
The Funk Zone is undeniably cool. It’s full of converted warehouses, graffiti street art, and a bohemian vibe that will have you wanting to create something! The Funk Zone covers a ten-block area, so you’ll have plenty to see and do there. It’s within walking distance of the beach and other popular spots as well.
This apartment is in the best neighborhood in Santa Barbara close to everything. It has lots of deluxe finishes and modern furnishings and amenities, yet the building itself fits perfectly within the European style of the neighborhood. Spread over two floors, there’s lots of room in this apartment for two guests.
Located walking distance of the Funk Zone, this apartment is also two blocks from the beach, so it’s in a perfect position! It offers spacious living and comfortable furnishings as well as luxurious linens and lots of modern style. The kitchen is high-end and fully stocked, and the space is large enough for up to four guests.
Just one block from the Funk Zone, this hotel is quirky and located in a charming historic neighborhood close to the beach. The rooms offer garden patios, and the bathrooms are euro-style wet bathrooms, for a little touch of the exotic. The hotel has lots of beautiful outdoor spaces and a partner art gallery, where you can explore some local artwork.
Charm, convenience, luxury – this hotel has it all. Within a five-minute drive or a walk from the Wharf and close to the Funk Zone, it offers a business center, dry cleaning and laundry services, fitness center, and evening entertainment. The rooms are large and modern and come in a variety of sizes to suit every travel group.
COOLEST thing to do in Goleta – Get a little education with your fun at the South Coast Railroad Museum.
BEST place to visit in Goleta – The Goleta Butterfly Grove for a look at these amazingly fragile creatures.
One of the coolest places to stay in Santa Barbara is actually just outside of the city. Goleta is a tiny town south of Santa Barbara. If you’re looking for a quieter area, attractions that few people ever see, and fewer tourists, you should look for accommodation in Goleta.
Goleta has a long history and the attractions to match. It’s also got a great beach of its own, where you can sit, relax, have a picnic, or enjoy some water sports. Goleta is smaller than Santa Barbara, so the outdoor experiences are, dare we say it, more plentiful and located in almost pristine areas.
Located in the best neighborhood in Santa Barbara for couples, this guest suite has its own entrance, private bathroom, and private outdoor patio. It’s close to public transport, so you can get around and travel. It has a microwave and a small fridge so you can store snacks or drinks.
If you want to be near the beach in Goleta, this apartment is perfect. Suitable for up to two guests, it has a kitchenette, private bathroom, parking area, and private sitting area. It’s also in the middle of the More Messa nature preserve, so you’ll have lots of chances to get out into nature.
With easy access to the airport and the center of Santa Barbara, this hotel offers a relaxing feel that suits the beach location. The suites are pet-friendly and have fully equipped kitchens. A complimentary breakfast is served in the hotel every morning.
With luggage storage, laundry services, and a roundtrip airport shuttle, this is the perfect hotel for your trip to Santa Barbara. Located in the heart of Goleta, it’s close to local restaurants and the beach, with a pool, a hot tub, a business center, complimentary breakfast, and a spa. The rooms have fridges, and there’s a patio on the property where you can enjoy some fresh air.
Santa Barbara is quieter than some of the big cities in the US, which is all part of its charm. It isn’t often that you can visit a famous beach destination and immerse yourself in small-town charm, but that’s exactly what this city will encourage you to do. Best of all, whether you’re trying to decide where to stay in Santa Barbara for your first time or on a return trip, you’ll find lots of interesting choices located right in the areas you’re most interested in.
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.