Santa Barbara has a long and interesting history. Father Junipero Serra, one of the original Jesuit priests who established El Camino Real with a series of missions along the California Coast, founded Santa Barbara in 1782.
The town remained in Spanish hands until Mexico ceded California in 1848 but it was only after the 1925 earthquake that Santa Barbara developed from a quiet agricultural community to a thriving modern city.
The town's principal attraction is the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission which has been a working church since 1794.
Also worth visiting is El Presidio de Santa Barbara Historic Park, home of one of the original Spanish fortresses built along the coast. The city's Botanic Garden makes a wonderful place to stroll between the lush flowers, while the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, located right on the waterfront, allows you to tour the tall ships anchored in the harbor.
The heart of the town also features a great variety of shops, many of which are tucked away among outdoor paseos and landscaped plazas.
Suggested itineraries featuring Santa Barbara
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Santa Barbara, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Santa Barbara
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Santa Barbara
- Pismo Beach 118 kilometers away
- Los Angeles 141 kilometers away
- Sequoia National Park 252 kilometers away
- Big Sur 281 kilometers away
- Palm Springs 301 kilometers away
- Kings Canyon National Park 302 kilometers away
- San Diego 303 kilometers away
- Carmel 312 kilometers away
- Monterey 314 kilometers away
- Death Valley National Park 333 kilometers away
- Yosemite National Park 383 kilometers away
- San Francisco 447 kilometers away
- Las Vegas 453 kilometers away
Photos of Santa Barbara
Accommodation choices for Santa Barbara
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Santa Barbara. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Easy access to the beach, a heated outdoor pool and spacious rooms make the Harbor View Inn a good option in Santa Barbara. Most local attractions can be reached on foot and the service is friendly yet professional
A convenient retreat just blocks from central Santa Barbara, the Cheshire Cat Inn offers personal service, romantic surroundings and elegant rooms in a series of period properties. Indulgent breakfasts and great attention to detail ensure a memorable stay.
A historic property set in generous grounds filled with exotic plants, the Belmond El Encanto offers 1920s period glamour alongside classically elegant but contemporary styling and excellent service and food.
The Kimpton Canary Hotel is located a short distance from the main street of Santa Barbara. It is a beautiful property with a rooftop pool and stunning decor, but it’s the service of this hotel that really makes it stand out.
A short drive from downtown Santa Barbara, the Pepper Tree Inn is a relaxed and unassuming place to stay during your visit. Rooms are spacious and balconies and terraces look out over a lovely garden courtyard.
Offering a restful retreat, this Art Deco-inspired hotel makes an ideal base for visitors to Santa Barbara.