Long referred to as “The American Riviera,” Santa Barbara has been beloved by visitors for its signature red-tile roofs, white adobe buildings, and lush gardens evoking the topography and architectural aesthetic of Europe’s Riviera—only located just 90 minutes from Los Angeles. The self-contained paradise, surrounded by undeveloped coastline, is both sophisticated and bohemian, charming visitors with its wineries, luxurious resorts, acclaimed restaurants, and numerous options for outdoor excursions.
Although the recent COVID-19 crisis has caused many establishments to temporarily close, the city is slowly emerging into phases of re-opening, with many hotels ready to welcome visitors now and in rolling phases in the coming months (see below for our guide for where to stay). While restrictions are still in place for California, as they begin to lift, there are ways to support and experience the area while still keeping social distancing in mind.
Currently, many of the high-end restaurants are open for takeout/curbside pickup, including The Lark, Loquita, Barbareño, Convivo, Bibi Ji, Sushi|Bar Montecito, Lucky’s, Opal, Jane, Roy, Scarlett Begonia, and Bettina. While wine-tasting rooms are closed to indoor traffic, many are offering the option of picking up bottles or cases, which visitors can enjoy responsibly in county parks or their hotels. For the most up-to-date information on wine tasting in the area, The Urban Wine Trail website offers helpful information.
Other local business have also cleverly adapted their strategies to accommodate patrons. For example, among the first to offer curbside pickup and free delivery was Jamie Slone Wines, known for their small-production, handcrafted wines. Carr Winery has created a drive-through for easy wine pick-ups, and Municipal Winemakers and Potek Winery are offering free delivery within Santa Barbara. Cocktail kits have also become a trend. Cubaneo, a Cuban restaurant, has partnered with Shaker Mill and The Good Lion bars to offer bulk Old Fashioneds, negronis, and margaritas, among other cocktails, and Satellite is offering a signature spritz kit, which will be perfect as temperatures rise.
When it comes to the local shops, some business are permitted to be open for curbside pickups and deliveries. A few top shops currently available for pickup and/or delivery include Jake & Jones, Parker Clay, Ace Rivington, Asher Market Boutique, DIANI Boutique, K. Frank, Whistle Club, Folio Press & Paperie, Seaside Makers Collective, The Book Den, Tecolote Book Shop, Chaucer’s Books, Chocolate Maya, and Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate.
Museums might be a ways off from reopening, but estate gardens such as Ganna Walska Lotusland re-opened on May 20 (by reservation only), and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is open to members (they are hoping to welcome the general public by early July). Public gardens and parks that are worth a visit include the beautiful Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden with its duck pond and Shoreline Park, which is a great spot for watching surfers.
Of course, Santa Barbara is known for its many diverse beaches, idyllic year-round for walks and water sports. While many establishments remain temporarily closed, just a drive through the city’s downtown is rife with historic monuments like Casa de la Guerra—the second oldest building in California—and El Paseo, one of the state’s oldest outdoor shopping arcades.
As the region begins the re-opening of all its major luxury hotels, here is our socially responsible guide for where to stay and what to know.
San Ysidro Ranch
Re-opening date: The property has remained open.
Accommodations: A total of 41, stand-alone cottages are spread out across the 500-acre property, which dates back to the early 1800s. Following the 2017 Thomas Fire and mudslides, the resort saw a 15-month renovation and partial rebuild that debuted in April 2019 and included a complete rebuild of three cottages featuring private Jacuzzi’s situated directly above San Ysidro Creek. All rooms come with their own gated entries, enclosed gardens, private cottage-side parking, and private patios with rain showers and sunken hot tubs.
Restrictions: The Stonehouse Restaurant, Plow & Angel Restaurant and Bar are open for outdoor dining.
Highlights: Tucked away in the foothills of Montecito, the expansive property is conducive to picnics (thanks to in-room dining) and garden walks, as well as nearby hikes. Wander at ease through the meticulously landscape grounds and encounter few guests, as the abundant acreage is perfectly conducive to social distancing.
Pricing: From $1,295 (no parking or resort fees)
Rosewood Miramar Beach
Re-opening date: The property is open. Please visit the property’s website for updates.
Accommodations: The beachfront resort offers 161 guest rooms, bungalows, and suites, including 26 beachfront accommodations spread out over 16 acres.
Restrictions: The property is operating under governmental executive and public health orders. Please reference the website for the most up-to-date information.
Highlights: The centrally located property is ideal for uncrowded beach walks and ocean activities, away from the crowds of the downtown region. Its cottages and oceanfront rooms offer private space, while the expansive central lawn, croquet area, and outdoor spaces often multiple options for getting fresh air.
Pricing: From $695
Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara
Re-opening date: To be determined. Please visit the property’s website for updates.
Accommodations: The legendary property first opened in 1927 and has long been known for its classic Spanish Colonial architecture infused with modern luxury. The resort offers direct access to the low-key Butterfly Beach, and its 206 accommodations (166 guest rooms and 40 suites and bungalows) are set amidst 22 acres of lush gardens interwoven with red-brick pathways.
Most accommodations are located within two-story main buildings, while a charming collection of 12 two- to- four bedroom free-standing bungalows is nestled within secluded jungle gardens. Eight of the bungalows offer private plunge pools, and the Ty Warner Villa boasts 4,000 square feet of space with its own 12’ by 15’ oceanfront pool, 150-square-foot outdoor jungle rain shower, and two private terraces.
Restrictions: The resort has not yet released what portions of the property are or will be closed upon re-opening, but Four Seasons is dedicated to superior service that guests will not need to make additional efforts for a safe and cautious stay.
Highlights: The resort is steps from one of the most beautiful beaches in California, and many of the accommodations overlook the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. The culinary team specializes in creating innovative, locally sourced seasonal cuisine from the Resort’s signature restaurant, Bella Vista and bar, Ty Lounge. Open only to private members and guests of the Resort, Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club has long been known as one of the chicest spots in town.
Pricing: From $645
Belmond El Encanto
Re-opening date: February 11
Accommodations: A total of 31 bungalow buildings spread out over the property’s seven acres allow for a total of 92 rooms, including 6 one-bedroom bungalows. All rooms can be accessed without getting into an elevator or enclosed hallway.
Restrictions: The property has not yet released what portions of the property are or will be closed upon re-opening, but Belmond is dedicated to superior service that guests will not need to make additional efforts for a safe and cautious stay.
Highlights: Vast al fresco dining on the Terrace, with stunning views of the city and ocean below; nearby access to hiking trails and walking paths; in-room spa treatments; and private transfers to and from downtown Santa Barbara and the SBX airport. The property is also extremely dog friendly.
Pricing: From $730
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
Re-opening date: The property has remained open.
Accommodations: There are currently 324 rooms available, and all 358 rooms will be available by the end of June. All rooms are accessible without getting into an elevator and are spread out among 19 villas across 83 acres.
Restrictions: The property is following the guidelines required by both the city and state of California. The pool, spa, fitness center, and Angel Oak restaurant remain closed, while the O’Bar and Bistro are currently open for “to go” orders for guests.
Highlights: The location north of downtown allows for natural isolation from crowds, while still occupying picturesque oceanfront. The property is offering special rates for first responders as well as complimentary bike rentals, tennis court access, and lawn games.
Pricing: From $329