How to Find a Place to Stay in Santa Barbara

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Adapted from vjlawson/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Bit About Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara coastline runs east and west, an anomaly in the normal north-south California orientation. It can make things a little confusing. US Hwy 101 through Santa Barbara will be labeled north/south, even though the compass says something different. Street names can also be maddeningly similar, especially the ones that start with a "C" and end with an "o" - Castillo, Cabrillo, Carrillo. Your best bet to minimize confusion is to use your favorite navigation tool.

When the University of California at Santa Barbara holds its annual graduation ceremonies in June, every hotel in the Santa Barbara are will be filled up, often months in advance and rates will be much higher than normal. If you can, it will be better to choose a different weekend to visit.

You'll need more than just a place to sleep while you're in Santa Barbara. Take a look at things to do in Santa Barbara for a weekend getaway.

Choose Your Location

  • On the Waterfront: Typically across the street from the beach or marina or a short walk from there. The locations are convenient, close to the trolley line and an easy walk to downtown and State Street. They're also the most expensive places in town - and they sell out first.
  • East State Street: Near the State Street exit from US Hwy 101, you'll find several nicely updated older properties that are less expensive than those on the waterfront. The location is a short drive from the State Street shopping area and the beach.
  • Carpinteria: Just a few miles south of Santa Barbara, it has a few of the more budget-priced chain hotels.
  • Goleta: You'll find a few more hotels in the moderate price range in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. It's the closest location to the university and availability varies depending on university events.
  • Other Options: If you must be in Santa Barbara and can't a place to stay, try the town of Ventura (36 miles south) or Solvang (40 miles north).

Finding the Best Hotel for You in Santa Barbara

Find your Santa Barbara lodging like a pro. Use the same process we use to choose our recommended hotels. However, you'll need to know a few things about Palm Springs hotels first:

Santa Barbara has a few big chain hotels, boutique lodging and smaller local chains which are mostly what you'll find if you consult the typical hotel reservation websites. To find them, I use the online reviews and price comparisons at Tripadvisor.

Some of the smaller hotels have only one bed per room. If you need more than that, be sure to confirm that the hotel has rooms that meet your needs.

Some properties charge extra "resort fees" which are not always easy to find out about and can increase the total cost. Take extra care about this when using sources such as Priceline and Hotwire which don't give you the hotel name in advance.

Once you've picked a few good candidates for your trip, apply all the best tricks to get the lowest possible rate.

Finding a B&B in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has a number of really nice, highly-rated bed and breakfast inns, most of them in the main part of town. You can find quite a few of them at Tripadvisor

Santa Barbara Vacation Rentals

We love to rent a big house and invite a bunch of friends to join us (or rent a small one to have all to ourselves). Finding the right one takes a little more work than finding a hotel, but can be worth the effort. A few ways to find them:

  • Tripadvisor also lists some vacation rentals. Just click the Vacation Rentals link on their Santa Barbara page to see them - and in some case reserve directly from there.
  • The most popular source of local rentals is AirBNB but take care with filtering to get the kind of place you want.

Camping Around Santa Barbara

You'll find a few places to pitch a tent or park the RV in the Santa Barbara area: