CC Travels: Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara will always have a piece of my heart. It's where my love affair with California began and where my husband and I were married.
Credit: Cailini Coastal
While it's been a little while since I last explored Santa Barbara, I've visited so many times I've lost count.  Santa Barbara is easy to love.  With its breathtaking vistas, where the Pacific coastline meets the mountains on the horizon, and it's renowned wine country and quintessential Spanish-style architecture (straight out of the opening for Nancy Meyer's hit film, It's Complicated), there are so many reasons why Santa Barbara is one of the most enchanting coastal destinations. Join me as I revisit this most special haven of inspiration and beauty, and share my guide to Santa Barbara!
Credit: Cailini Coastal


I'm starting this guide with wine country, because it's incredible and one of my favorite things to do when visiting Santa Barbara.

I've spent a good amount of time there and these are some of my top recommendations for wineries to see.


You must call and make a reservation here, you can not just show up. Since you need to book an appointment, Demetria offers a really unique and intimate experience with tables overlooking the vistas of mountain and vineyard.  This is a very special destination! 

Credit: Demetria Estate

 Los Olivos:

Los Olivos is a historic town in the heart of Santa Ynez.  It feels like you've stepped back into - a very luxurious version of - an old Western town. It's hard to even describe it, so just go visit!  The little town is lined with tasting rooms and restaurants. It's a great way to taste a lot and get the flavor of the wine country without carting around from winery to winery. If you're limited on time, head straight to Los Olivos!  


Another magical town is called Solvang.  It's actually the Dutch capital of America and, like Los Olivos, you feel transported to another world! Stroll down Copenhagen Drive tasting Aebleskiver and other Danish pastries, or sampling wine in the shade of windmills.   If you want to spend more time in Santa Ynez, I recommend you stay at The Lansby which is located in Solvang.

Credit: Solvang City



A beautiful property with a stunning limestone villa.  This winery is a destination for many weddings - my husband and I actually looked here for our own!  It's a great place to sit and enjoy the wine.  They often have live music. 

Credit: Sunstone

Other wineries I've visited that I enjoy are Foxen, Fess Parker, Melville, Gainey, Babcock and Sanford.  There are so many others - just explore and have fun! 



Wander State Street
State Street is the premiere street in downtown Santa Barbara. It's lined with restaurants, boutiques, and more.  The street is so charming featuring Santa Barbara's iconic architecture, Spanish tiled stairs, ivy covered storefronts and more. 


Credit: Cailini Coastal 
The Funk Zone:
This is the only non-kid friendly activity on this list.  If you can't make it to wine country not to fear!  Downtown Santa Barbara is full of tasting rooms from the wineries in the valley.  Head to the Funk Zone and you'll be in the heart of it all.  Check out Fess Parker and Melville - two of my favorites!  You'll also discover lots of great restaurants and live music in this lively part of town. 

 Lotus Land 

To visit Lotusland is to reimagine gardening and landscape design.  Around every corner is a dramatic surprise that leaves you spellbound by the exuberance of exotic plants and breathtaking views.  Tucked away in the beautiful hillside of Montecito, Lotusland spans over 37 acres of lush gardens and exquisite architecture.

Credit: Lotus Land

Butterly Beach

A quiet beach that sits in front of the (sadly still closed) Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel in Montecito and billionaire Ty Warner's tremendous oceanfront home - which is quite the sight!  You can ride a bike all the way down Channel Drive from downtown Santa Barbara to this beautiful beach. 

Santa Barbara Zoo

This was a favorite for us when we used to live in California and visited Santa Barbara.  This zoo is large enough to be exciting but small enough to be manageable.  It's a beautiful zoo that our girls loved.  Make sure to ride the train!
Santa Barbara offers a remarkable number of incredible hotels.  There are so many amazing options from the oceanfront Hilton downtown to new renowned, glittering Rosewood Miramar in Montecito.  I've had the luxury of trying many of these hotels over the years, and these are my top three recommendations.  One caveat, if you've read my past travel guides you know that I hate a scene and I love luxury, boutique hotels.  I appreciate the quiet intimacy that comes with staying in a boutique hotel that you miss at a resort.  With that, these are three amazing boutique hotel options.  
The Canary Hotel
The Canary Hotel is very special to me because it's where we stayed when we were married.  We had our welcome party and rehearsal dinner on it's fabulous rooftop (see images below) overlooking the red tiled roofs of downtown, the mountains and ocean.  It's a great boutique Kimpton-owned hotel that embraces the charm of Santa Barbara architecture.  Also, if you're staying with kids it's the perfect location because you can walk everywhere - the beach, all the shops, the public market, etc.  
Credit: Valorie Darling Photography
San Ysidro Ranch
San Ysidro is iconic for a reason. It's rich in history and simply magical.  Tucked away in the leafy foothills of Santa Barbara, San Ysidro Ranch offers a unique blend of privacy, peace, and tranquility in an idyllic setting. Thirty-eight vine-covered cottages surrounded by incredibly landscaped gardens with flowers always in bloom under a canopy of stately sycamores and gnarled oaks make this exclusive property destination unplugged from the rest of the world. Citrus groves, olive trees, brilliantly colored lantanas, lily pond, and a driveway lined in lavender.
Credit: Cailini Coastal 
El Encanto 

Another beautiful retreat rich in history.  Aptly named, El Encanto, this boutique hotel exudes charm set on seven acres in the hills of Santa Barbara with sweeping vistas of downtown and the Pacific ocean.  With classic Santa Barbara style architecture, lush gardens and one of my favorite restaurants in the city, this dreamy hotel is divine.

Credit: El Encanto
If you do want a larger resort experience, the Ritz Carlton Bacara and the Rosewood Miramar Hotel are my top picks!

Rooms & Gardens: This is my personal favorite home store...ever!I  It used to be located on State Street but recently moved to Montecito.  I've not been to the new location, but it looks equally as gorgeous.  This designer-owned store, is responsible for the room design of the iconic Shutters and Casa Del Mar hotels in Santa Monica.  It's a must-visit!

Montecito Country Mart is darling and has a variety of quaint shops including. Hudson Grace, Doen, Poppy Marche (the cutest kids store).

Coast Village Road in downtown Montecito is full of charming boutiques and restaurants!

Credit: Cailini Coastal

Great for a Date Night: 

El Encanto Restaurant 

Sensational food and views.  Make sure to request a table outside and go during sunset!

The Stone House Restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch

This is a wonderful way to experience San Ysidro without being a guest.  A beautiful atmosphere and great food. 


A Michelin Star oceanfront dining at the beautiful Miramar Hotel in Montecito.

Credit: Caruso's c/o Miramar Hotel


Classic, great steakhouse in Montecito. 

Great for Families:

Honor Bar 

In downtown Montecito - you can get anything from a great sushi roll to a burger

Finch & Fork

Located the Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Public Market

A chic, casual market full of eateries.  Perfect for families and easy dining, there is something for everyone to enjoy, even ice cream for dessert!

Great for Fun Night Out with Friends:

The Lark

This hotspot is in the heart of the Funk Zone and always a zone.  Great tapas style menu and very fun energy. 


Ok, now I officially have the itch and need to book a trip back.  It truly one of my favorite places in the world.  I'm going to leave you with a few wedding photos...because I can't recap Santa Barbara without sharing.  We were married at a private estate in the hills of Hope Ranch overlooking the pacific.  Of course, a blue and white color palette!


xx Meg 

Credit: Valorie Darling Photography






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