Santa Barbara in one word? Joy. It’s a simple word—as clear and crisp as the blue skies and the Pacific Ocean here on the American Riviera. It’s as sumptuous as the wines from our famous vineyards, and as tasty as the tacos that draw crowds here from all over the world. To spend time in Santa Barbara is to relax and let the living be easy.
WHERE TO START? By the ocean, of course. The green hills around this quiant, picturesque city softly embrace the coast. Santa Barbara’s golden-sand beaches curve gently around the bay, and it’s easy to find wonderful, relaxed al fresco restaurants here. Head to locals’ favorite Leadbetter Beach. Choose from local seafood specialties, sip an iced tea and enjoy the sound of the sea and rustle of the palm trees.
In the pretty town, you’ll find whatever your heart desires. From outdoor farmers markets brimming with bountiful produce to airy boutiques offering designer fashion and antiques. One particular gem is Pierre Lafond, with its bijou coffee shop downstairs and beautiful gift store above. Culture-lovers favor the elegant Santa Barbara Museum of Art, centrally situated on State Street. Established in 1941, it’s now home to masterpieces by Chagall, Kandinsky, Rauschenberg and Monet, among many others.
To see why Santa Barbara is known as the American Riviera, you’ll want to take a stroll through the Riviera neighborhood—so named for its resemblance to Europe’s Mediterranean coastal slopes. Surrounded by verdant gardens, Belmond El Encanto offers its guests the perfect location from which to explore this sought-after region. Our unique position up in the hills affords sweeping views across the entire town and surrounding area.
Santa Barbara itself was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, and the Padres once knew this area as “mission ridge.” Besides the red-tiled roofs and stucco walls that Santa Barbara is famous for, you’ll also find the historic 1786 Old Santa Barbara Mission here. Just a half-mile from the resort, it’s home to a heavenly scented flower garden and some of the best views in town. Breathe deeply.
We adore the great outdoors. There’s so much colorful nature to enjoy in Santa Barbara, from its Botanical Garden (and Japanese Teahouse) to such well-named hikes as Inspiration Point. This is also a renowned wine destination thanks to Los Alamos, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valleys and their unique microclimates. Our preferred way to sample the fruits of the region? On the beautiful outdoor patio at Belmond El Encanto, naturally—savoring the grape, the view and the company as the sun sets. What a joy.