Santa Barbara Beach Hotels Offer More than Sea Breezes and Sunshine

Good news for travelers visiting the Central Coast: Santa Barbara's gorgeous, white sand shoreline is fronted not so much by shops and restaurants, but by beach hotels of all sizes and levels of luxury. So if you want to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves, it's very easy to arrange - no matter what your budget or the nature of your trip. Romantic weekend, family getaway or business trip, this list includes a beach hotel (or two) that will suit your needs and make your next visit to Santa Barbara a memorable one.

Do you like to be in the heart of the action when you travel? Then choosing a hotel on Cabrillo Boulevard, like Hotel Oceana, is the way to go. Hotels in this area are close to downtown and a waterfront shuttle provides easy access to area attractions, like Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara Zoo.

If you'd rather getaway from it all, book your stay at a secluded resort. The Bacara Resort and Spa occupies 78 acres of pristine northern coastline, making it the perfect hotel if your ideal vacation includes secluded beach walks and nature hikes.

Continue reading this list to discover more fantastic, beachfront options. Spend one night by the sand, and you'll understand why travel enthusiasts call Santa Barbara the "American Riviera."






The Inn at East Beach is a surprising budget find just steps away from, well, East Beach. This hip motel has a retro flare with amenities unusual for its price bracket. For example, if you're headed to the beach, stop at the front desk to pick up towels, umbrellas and even boogie boards. There are guest laundry facilities on site and, of course, a warm pool if you feel that the beach is just too far away (it's about a 3 minute walk from the inn, FYI). A continental breakfast is free for every guest, but don't try to sneak anyone in; Frank, the legendary general manager, greets every party upon arrival and is quick to shoo outsiders away. Frank also loves to give advice about his beloved city, so if you have any questions during your stay in Santa Barbara, just ask Frank!

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: An affordable hotel in a fabulous, family-friendly location with just the right amount of personality.

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The family-friendly Ala Mar Motel allows you to book beachfront accommodations at reasonable rates, starting at just $85 during the low season. It is located one short block from Stearns Wharf and a quick trolley ride - or brisk walk - from downtown Santa Barbara. All rooms include TVs with premium channels, Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast for each guest. Additional amenities include a sun deck that overlooks the coastline and a business center for working professionals. At the Ala Mar Motel, pets are welcome, too, so you can visit the beach without having to leave Fido behind at home.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: For a budget stay with a beach view, Ala Mar Motel is your least expensive bet.

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The Best Western Beachside Inn welcomes you with all of the comfort and ease you have come to expect from a Best Western hotel combined with the sunny ocean views that have made Santa Barbara famous among travelers worldwide. Rooms include in-room coffee and free high speed Internet. Many overlook the ocean or neighboring park, and some have private patios or balconies. The Best Western Beachside Inn also has a pool and several sun decks, perfect for lazing away an afternoon. Simply cross the street to sunbathe or play volleyball at the beach. Downtown Santa Barbara is just a short walk, bicycle or cab ride away. Continental breakfast is included with your stay.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: Best Western Beachside is a great choice for a family trip. It's close to the park and harbor and has a free hot breakfast.

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The Harbor View Inn Santa Barbara is a luxury resort boutique hotel with one of the best locations in town. Just steps from the beach, the Harbor View Inn is also a short walk away from Santa Barbara shopping and nightlife. And if you don't feel like walking around or, really, going anywhere? No problem. The ocean view pool and wading area offers full food and beverage service. Worn out? Make an appointment at the hotel's Spa Beaumontia for a relaxing treatment. There is a fitness center onsite, too. The Harbor View Inn boasts over 100 guest rooms and more than a dozen private suites, making it a great choice for large business or wedding parties.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: The Harbor View Inn has a great view of... surprise... the harbor and a nice pool with a bar.

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Enjoy ocean views, sea breezes and Mediterranean-style surroundings at the West Beach Inn, a Coast Hotel property. Located just across the street from the volleyball courts at Santa Barbara's West Beach, the West Beach Inn offers guests the comforts of home with all the luxuries of a hotel. A wine and cheese reception is organized to welcome you every evening. Complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access is yours for the duration of your stay. And don't forget the continental breakfast! Larger parties may want to consider reserving the inn's Master Suite. Comprised of 3 bedrooms, a full gourmet kitchen and private, 600 square foot patio, it's the perfect place to stay with family or a group of friends.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: Midway between the wharf and the harbor and just across the street from beach volleyball nets. Does it get any better?

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Located in sunny West Beach - a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood - Hotel Milo is luxury boutique hotel situated between the Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf, directly across from a wide, white sand beach. Rooms boast fine linens, iPod docks and high speed wireless Internet access, making this hotel a favorite of both business travelers and vacationers. The lush grounds feature two swimming pools, cabanas and a tropical garden. A 24-hour oceanfront fitness center and breakfast bistro are also onsite. Guests are encouraged to make use of complimentary bicycles for easy travel along Cabrillo Boulevard or quick trips into downtown or the Funk Zone.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: Hotel Milo is perfectly positioned in sunny West Beach, a very friendly, walkable part of town.

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This particular Motel 6 deserves special consideration. Why? Well because it's actually the original Motel 6, opened in 1962. That's right, the very first one! (Rooms were $6 a night, hence the name. Unfortunately, reservations costs a little bit more than that now.) And, besides that little tidbit, it's truly lovely. There are granite countertops in the bathrooms, LCD TVs in every room, and, oh, a little thing we like to call an ocean view from the sun deck. Their pet-friendly rooms have recently been redesigned for a more modern feel. Your best bet for a budget stay at the beach! The Santa Barbara Zoo is in easy walking distance and a downtown shuttle picks up nearby.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: Enjoy beachfront sights and sounds without beachfront prices. This is the first Motel 6, so it's basically a piece of travel history.

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For a little beachside pampering, book your stay at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, a luxury resort directly across from the beach and just half a mile from downtown Santa Barbara. All rooms include a private balcony or patio, making it the perfect place to enjoy one of Santa Barbara's typically mild evenings with your special someone. Three tennis courts, a fitness center and a shuffleboard court are available for guest use. If relaxing is more your speed, visit the Doubletree's full service spa and salon. There are four onsite restaurants, as well as a full service bar and a BBQ area. Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort is pet friendly. This hotel also has ample event space.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: Location, location, location: this resort is across the street from the beach, a short walk from the Funk Zone and just blocks from downtown!

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When you're ready to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, look no further than the Bacara Resort and Spa. Located on 78 acres acres of pristine coastline on Santa Barbara's northern shore, The Bacara offers you a taste of unbridled luxury. Book one of their 354 guest rooms. Each one has an ocean, garden or mountain view and about half have fireplaces. For a one-time fee for $150, your pet can join you in your room. A plush pet bed and food and water bowls will be provided. Visit their world-class spa for a rejuvenating treatment or trip to the sauna. You can take a dip in one of their saline pools or simply walk down to the beach. Work up an appetite and enjoy a meal with your pooch on the outdoor patio of their Bistro Spa and Cafe.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: Enjoy a lavish stay at a quiet beach hotel with lush grounds and one of the best spas in town.

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If your hotel checklist looks something like this - beachfront, exclusive amenities, possible celebrity sightings, ridiculous levels of hospitality - then the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is where you want to stay. One of the most beautiful hotels in Santa Barbara, the Biltmore is located just across the street from Butterfly Beach, one of the most pristine white sand beaches in Southern California. There are Spanish tiles and exotic orchids in the entryway, music pumped into speakers in the pool and endlessly delicious food and beverage options (their Sunday brunch is legendary). Access to the exclusive Tydes restaurant at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club comes with your reservation. Downtown Santa Barbara is just a short drive away, and one of Montecito's main shopping and dining districts is within walking distance.

Recommended for Beach Hotels because: For beachfront luxury (and a little celeb spotting), look no further than the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

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Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva