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Santa Barbara: What To See & Do

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Santa Barbara has earned the title of “American Riviera” due to its similarity to the South of France in terms of weather, coastal style, boating enthusiasm, luxury hotels & restaurants and for being the destination of choice of many celebrities. I had great expectations before my visit, and the city delivered.

I’ve been meaning to book a trip to Santa Barbara since I moved to California (almost 2 years now), but the expensive hotel prices made me choose other destinations. Lucky me, my love surprised me with a trip this past weekend and so here is everything we got to experience in SB!


Hotels are pricy here. Majority of them are either resorts or upscale boutique hotels that are amazing, but definitely not cheap. We stayed at the Best Western Plus (a higher version of the chain), which was one of the most economic options but also it had very good reviews. I would definitely recommend it, the room was super clean and I loved the décor! It wasn’t far from downtown, though it is not walking distance.

If you are looking for the luxury experience, the Hotel Californian (downtown) or the Ritz Carlton are some good options to look into, rates are over $400/night.


Outdoor shopping & dining:

Visit Paseo Nuevo! It’s a Spanish style outdoor mall with plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and a really nice atmosphere! Another awesome thing I found there was the Social Butterfly wall. Its purpose is to promote positive community change through social media. Check my Instagram post with the butterfly image for more info!

Hop on: The Santa Barbara trolley offers 90 min fully narrated tour of the city’s main attractions and you can also jump off and on unlimited times with a day pass ($22 Adult + 1 free child)

Chromatic Gate

Walk Through a Rainbow: Yep, that’s right. If you ever dreamed of walking through a rainbow, in Santa Barbara you can! Visit the Chromatic Gate installation and snap that insta perfect picture under the rainbow.

Stearns Wharf: Santa Barbara’s #1 tourist attraction, is the oldest wood working Wharf in California, and offers restaurants, shops, a marine museum, as well as beautiful views like this one! Entrance is free and you can also drive your car onto the wharf and park for free for the first 90 min!

Ocean graffiti wall with the sky and the moon
Funk Zone

For the cool kids: There are several wall murals in Santa Barbara, many spread across downtown and the Funk Zone, where you can also find breweries and wineries. This place reminded me of the Wynwood Walls in Miami!

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Spanish Heritage: Check the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and go up to the clock tower for 360 views of the city, the ocean and mountains. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005.

The Old Mission Santa Barbara is considered the “Queen of the Missions” for its architecture, commanding position and graceful colors. The mission has about 12 acres of gardens and is the perfect location for a romantic photo-shoot. Make sure to stroll around their beautiful rose garden!!

Enjoy the Waterfront: The Santa Barbara Harbor arguably holds some of the best views of the shore and the ocean. There are several restaurants, including "The Endless Summer cafe".

At the very end of the harbor towards the ocean, there’s a rock jetty and a rather narrow beam that serves as pathway leading to Sandspit, a tiny little beach that gets packed with surfers whenever there’s a big west swell.

Catch a sunset: Arroyo Burro Beach, along with Butterfly Beach are some of the best places to watch the sunset in SB. Drive to Knapp’s Castle for A M A Z I N G views. The drive is very, very strenuous, so be careful on your way up and down, and once you get there, be ready to have your breath taken away!

Food & Drinks

You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream and that’s pretty much the same thing right!?

When in Santa Barbara, a must try is McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, who proudly use local, sustainable & organic ingredients to make their magic!

There’s always a line at their shops but it’s worth the wait! I tried the pineapple rum & guava and strawberry flavors!

Hoffmann Brat Haus – Highlights go for the beer & sausage pairings but the fries are probably one of the best I have ever had! (One of the best ‘cause no one can beat In-N-Out)

The FisHouse - The Poke was amazing and their house wine does not disappoint. Location is a great plus here, being right across the beach on Cabrillo Blvd.

Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro - What can I say? I absolutely love French food when it comes to breakfast & brunch. Their chocolate croissant is filled with a generous amount of chocolate so they got me right there.

Topa Topa Brewing – loved this place. Pretty good beers on tap and several food options right there at the Waterline.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing - Super cool taproom with patio area and a awesome selection of beers. A great plus for me: it's open late. They close at 12am on weekends.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, suggestions, critics, compliments.

Thank you for following my journey! Next post will be about Solvang, stay tuned!

Follow on Instagram: @wlovefrombella

With Love,



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