A Guide To The Best Of Santa Barbara: Where To Sleep, Eat, Wine & Dine

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara Harbor at sunset

Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

What I have found, over the course of a long weekend, is that it’s impossible not to love Santa Barbara, a picture-perfect city on the central California coast, with the Santa Ynez Mountains peeking out in the distance otherwise known as the “American Riviera.” Perhaps that’s why so few of its residents leave their Spanish colonial, white stucco homes in search of greener pastures. Why leave when you have the best of everything at your disposal? Glittering views of the Pacific, wealth for days, incredible fine dining and a very happy wine trail. Plus, there’s a couple of Royals living just down the street in neighboring city Montecito (which means you’re doing something right by choosing to visit the location that they have chosen to call home). But, as with any city, it’s impossible to know what to do without asking the experts. Yes, you could call Meghan and Harry if you can get a hold of them (and kudos to you!) but if not, your Haute travel guide will have to suffice, m’kay? So here we go — get ready for an adventure!


Rosewood Miramar Beach
Rosewood Miramar Beach suite living room

The Rosewood Miramar Beach

Rosewood Miramar Beach
Rosewood Miramar Beach grand foyer

Photo Credit: Rosewood Miramar Beach

There’s something a little magical, a little whimsical about the Rosewood Miramar Beach, which thanks to developer Rick Caruso and his Caruso organization, also feels like the wealthiest home away from home that you’ll ever have. Under his watchful eye, Rosewood Miramar Beach is Gidget meets Some Like It Hot: cute, sexy and sensational all rolled into one. So what makes it so unforgettable? Get ready to settle in, because there’s a lot.

  • The bungalows. They say community, but are totally private, and when walking to one at night, you feel like you’re walking under the stars. I mean, you are… but you’re also wandering underneath a slew of fairy lights that feels incredibly magical — especially when the warm glow of a nearby fire pit is lighting your way. There are various types of room situations here — lanais, rooms with balconies and beach views — but this is my favorite. There are terrace with an outdoor sofa, coffee table and sitting area; a vanity table and dressing area (essential); designer bathrooms with freestanding tub; dual sinks, a separate shower and private water closet; a highly curated mini-bar (well-stocked with your favorite goodies); loads of art; and interesting books. Plus did I mention that walk under the fairy lights?
  • An excellent spa. Sense, a Rosewood Spa, is a white-washed oasis where you sit, relax and sip champagne prior to or post-treatment (or BOTH!). There are terrific, unique massages and facials as well as seasonal treatments, but their bespoke 360 Facial is the real deal. Developed to maximize the skins beauty and smooth the signs of aging by using products from the EviDenS de Beaute Extreme line. It’s an absolute tonic for dehydrated and life-stressed skin through an eight-step ritual includes a bio-collagen treatment mask, targeted and stimulating facial massage to stimulate cell renewal as well as penetrating serums. It’s a must for anyone who’s popped off a plane looking like Frankenstein. There’s also beach yoga, an open-air fitness studio and two pools to stay healthy if you don’t, you know, just feel like running on the beach.
  • Six dining outlets. These include the chic and sophisticated Manor Bar, Scoop Shop (which should pretty much clue you in to what it offers), the light-soaked Revere Room for breakfast, and Caruso’s. Like it’s namesake, Caruso’s is a classic, a place where you’d expect to see Sinatra settling in with a cigar and drinking a Manhattan. It’s sophisticated to the nth, but also beachy, rocking that beautiful view of the ocean from its open-air patio. Try the Penicillin — Caruso’s own favored concoction of Johnnie Walker Black, Lemon, Lavender-Honey,  Liquid Alchemist Ginger and Laphroaig 10yr Mist.
  • A magic touch. The Rosewood Miramar Beach’s staff is lovely and accommodating, catering to any whim, as well as use of a Lincoln house car (within a three-mile radius); shuffleboard and bocce courts; vehicle-charging stations; bicycle rentals; and five retail boutiques, including a brilliant new Dior pop-up. You’re going to be wishing you didn’t have to leave even while you’re still there.

The Rosewood Miramar Beach, 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Hotel Californian

Photo Credit: Hotel Californian

Hotel Californian

Hotel Californian
Blackbird Dining Room

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara

On a palm tree-lined street in the walkable Funk Zone neighborhood (Santa Barbara’s walkable wine region), you’ll find the upscale Spanish Colonial Revival-style meets Moorish Hotel Californian. As designed by celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the newish property (it opened its doors in 2017) from Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley is spread out over three distinctive buildings brings high style and excitement to south State Street. While all rooms are modern and tech savvy, its signature accommodation, the Alcazar Presidential Suite, is the one to beat. Located in the State building, this 1,700 square foot suite includes two bedrooms, two and one half baths, and two outdoor decks providing spectacular views of the ocean and mountains. The suite also features a full bar, hospitality kitchen, and direct access to the hotel’s rooftop event space. Highlights of this bespoke property include Spa Majorelle, a 2,500 square foot, Moroccan-inspired oasis dotted with crystals that features an exotic, geometric blue-and-white tile lounge, and one of the best massages I’ve ever had. There’s also an The 800-square-foot fitness center, a pool, Jacuzzi and 725 square foot observation deck. Plus, it’s also a total hotspot thanks to its trendy, cocktail-forward eatery Blackbird.

Hotel Californian, 36 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Rosewood Miramar Beach

Photo Credit: Rosewood Miramar Beach
Three new Santa Barbara eateries joined the Michelin Guide’s feted list this summer, including trendy Indian eatery Bibi Ji, the aforementioned Caruso’s and Spanish eatery Loquita. There’s also the exceptional Sushi | Bar in Montecito, the restaurant at Belmond El Encanto, Los Agaves, Sama Sama Kitchen, Blackbird at Hotel Californian Barbareño, Yoichi’s, La Super Rica Taqueria, Bettina, Bella Vista and the two locations I’ll get into now (honorable mentions go to Lucky’s, which is a staple of Ms. Meghan and Mr. Harry, and the Goat Tree, a separate arm of Hotel Californian that has some pretty legit avocado toast, for those in search of it).

San Ysidro RanchPhoto Credit: Blake Bronstad

First off is the Stonehouse at the fabled San Ysidro Ranch, the private enclave where JFK and Jackie Kennedy famously celebrated their honeymoon. Located in a 19th-century citrus packing house (which is much cooler than it sounds), this restaurant was perfection. It’s romantic as hell if you’re part of a couple, but calm, comfortable and quietly sophisticated for those dining alone. Inside there’s a crackling fireplace and creek views, though in the warmer months, why not opt to sit underneath twinkle lights (here I go again), looking our over the ocean while a wood-burning fireplace burns merrily? The regional cuisine here is terrific, but the wine cellar is superb — there are bottles of Petrus chilling down below from 1945 on and that serves a 1997 Château D’ Yquem by the glass. It’s one of those ‘wow’ factor restaurants that is just unmissable.

The Lark
The Lark

Photo Credit: The Lark

Then, there’s The Lark — which, like Stonehouse, is also on the Michelin list. Named for the sleek overnight Pullman train of the Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from 1910 -1968, this sister restaurant to Loquita serves up fun, seasonal fare in a casual yet pretty setting. It’s also a mainstay among Santa Barbarians because the fare is consistently good, the cocktails are inventive and the location is inviting thanks to a sophisticated yet causal sensibility that integrates vintage and repurposed materials in a nod to the area’s past. Think: original lighting, handmade furniture and a 24-seat live-edge communal table stacked on vintage radiators to create a space that is warm and inviting. Check out the wine list: it makes sure to highlight local producers for a truly authentic taste of the area. 


Crown Point
Crown Point Reserve Barrel Room

Everyone who heads to Santa Barbara first finds out about the Funk Zone and its Urban Wine Trail, with a slew of tasting rooms that range from the largest and most ambitious — Margerum, which has an excellent range of everything form Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and a white Rhône blend of five grapes including Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and Picpoul Blanc — and Jamie Slone, which has a fabulous Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc. But the Central Coast is known for its wines and warmer climates, and wine enthusiasts should make sure to take advantage of all that the area has to offer. Many tastings are private, however, so make sure to book in advance or book with Coastal Concierge, who will put together a curated tasting tour to satisfy all your wine desires.

My picks for an elevated experience would be:

  • Crown Point — Roger Bower, the owner and visionary behind Crown Point, purchased the property after recognizing its potential to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. Crown Point is a true vanguard in the region, crafting premium wines that rival the best throughout the world.Plant­ed exclu­sive­ly to Bor­deaux vari­eties: Caber­net Sauvi­gnon, Caber­net Franc, Mer­lot, Mal­bec, & Petit Ver­dot; the vine­yard tour focus­es on the site’s unique attrib­ut­es that ulti­mate­ly define each wine. This is appointment only.
  • Melville — A lovely way to while away the day is this small winery in the Sta. Rita Hills, which focuses on Pinot, Syrah and Chardonnay. Opt for a flight or a 90-minute tour; either way, you’ll have a great, laid-back, lovely day.
  • Brewer-Clifton — Winemaker Greg Brewer was just named Winemaker of the Year, and that’s nothing to sniff at!
  • The Barn at The Hilt Estate — There’s a new tasting room in the Sta. Rita Hills from this winery, which is owned by Stan Kroenke, who owns a little old team called the Los Angeles Rams. The venue also carries his fellow Central Coast winery, JONATA. Make a point of taking a taste-stop here.
  • Foley Estates — No trip to the Sta. Rita Hills is complete without a visit to this winery from Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley; his beautiful Rancho Santa Rosa property in California’s Central Coast is home to a 3,500 square-foot tasting room and event center and a slew of his Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals.
  •  The Taste of Sta. Rita Hills — Owned by a delightful couple — Italian Antonio and wife Jeni Moretti, this tasting room carries the couples sensational small-production Moretti Wine Co. (which has a lovely Prosecco) as well as high-end wines without tasting rooms of their own, such as Sea Smoke, Walt, Paul Lato and The Hilt.
Margerum Tasting Room

Photo Credit: JessyLynn Perkins, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara

Melville WineryPhoto Credit: Melville Winery


Los Padres Outfitters Photo Credit: Visit Santa Barbara

You’re by the beach, and the mountains. Make use of both. Head to Los Padres Outfitters for horseback-led beach hikes; a private sunset cruise on the Santa Barbara Sailing Center‘s Double Dolphin; shop until you drop at the chic boutiques in downtown Montecito (hell, why not? Meghan does!); check out the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; or wait until the stars come out — literally — in March for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (SBIFF) You’ll be flooded with Hollywood’s finest in one small space. You’re welcome.