Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.

A Luxury Guide to Santa Barbara

Tell us a little about  yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Santa Barbara.

Hi! I’m Kaleena, a California girl currently traveling around the world for a year and a half. I’m an adrenaline junkie who sometimes finds herself in ridiculous situations and you can follow along with my adventures at Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope.

I moved to Santa Barbara for university and fell in love with the beautiful seaside town so much that I stayed for seven years. I’ve traveled to 29 countries but Santa Barbara is still one of my favorite places in the world. It has everything you could ever want and living there was like a long term vacation. For lots of fun ideas of what to do in Santa Barbara, check out my Santa Barbara Bucket List!

luxury guide to santa barbara

What makes Santa Barbara a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?

Santa Barbara is a destination for many Hollywood celebrities for good reason. After all, it was the original “Hollywood” as it was home to California’s first movie production company in the 1920s!

Santa Barbara has something for everyone and offers world class shopping, an array of fine dining, a lively nightlife of clubs and live music, a rich arts and culture scene, and of course the beautiful beachfront and all its accompanying water activities. 

What 5 star hotel is the best in your town?

A few of the most famous hotels in the Santa Barbara area are the Four Seasons Biltmore, the Fess Parker Doubletree, and Bacara Resort.

Even if the rooms aren’t in your budget, go for cocktails in the beautiful ocean-view bar at the Biltmore (I recommend the Raspberry Smash!), and try the exquisite brunch at the Bacara or Fess Parker’s.luxury guide to santa barbara

What about boutique hotels, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?

For a smaller, more intimate setting try the upscale boutique hotel San Ysidro Ranch and indulge in a romantic meal at the adjacent restaurant, Stonehouse.

If you’d rather be in walking distance to all of downtown’s delights, check in to the swanky Spanish-style Canary Hotel. Make sure to take a dip in their rooftop pool and soak in the incredible 360 degree view of the ocean, mountains, and red tile rooftops!

luxury guide to santa barbara

Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler?

The adventurous traveler will be in heaven in Santa Barbara. Love sailing? Rent a boat from the harbor and sail along the palm tree lined coast and watch as dolphins swim alongside your boat. If you prefer to be in the water, go surfing, paddleboarding, or kayaking.  And if you love being under the sea, scuba dive through kelp forests at the world famous Channel Islands! If you prefer dry land, rent a bike and explore the historic sights throughout the town or go for a hike on one of the dozens of trails through the Santa Barbara mountains.

luxury guide to santa barbara

What kind of sights are there to see?

Santa Barbara has a rich history and stunning architecture. The Santa Barbara Mission is an iconic church founded in 1786. Spend an afternoon exploring its museum and gardens and bring a picnic for the lawns out front among the Rose Garden.

The Courthouse is another icon for its Spanish Colonial Revival style building. Wander the halls, explore the historic rooms and make sure to go to the top for a breathtaking view of the mountains, city, and ocean! For other sights and museums, go to the Botanic Garden, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, the Presidio. 

Read my somewhat controversial piece about The Secret of the SB Courthouse Clock Tower that spurred a heated debate on a local news website.

luxury guide to santa barbara

Where are the best hangouts during the day?

The beach volleyball courts at East Beach are a popular place to hang out in the sand—but get there early on weekends to grab a court as they fill up!

If you’re like me and enjoy a good day drink, spend an afternoon in the “funk zone” on the Santa Barbara wine trail. Dozens of little tasting rooms have sprung up offering delicious wine, live music, and tasty treats. If shopping is your vice you’ll want to spend the day meandering Paseo Nuevo, the outdoor mall with everything from local boutiques to high end brand names.

luxury guide to santa barbara

If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Santa Barbara and what are their best dishes?

Santa Barbara has dining options available for every palette and atmosphere. Check out the Santa Barbara Dining Guide to find exactly what suits your mood. For a fun, festive atmosphere check out the Cajun style Palace Grill. The crawfish pasta and crabcakes are a must!

If you love Italian, make a reservation for the charming and delectable Ca’Dario and indulge in gourmet pasta. For some of the best Mexican food, order the seafood enchiladas at Los Agaves. For a beautiful patio and belly dancing along with your Middle Eastern fare you have to visit Zaytoons.

luxury guide to santa barbaraLet’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?

If you’re a sucker for good ice cream like me, go for a cone at McConnell’s Creamery and check out the signed photos of famous celebrities and US presidents who have also indulged in their delicious ice cream.

For some divine baked goods, go to Anderson’s Bakery for Danish style pastries and cakes. The apple strudel and chocolate layer cake will have you drooling.

luxury guide to santa barbara

Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?

A local’s favorite any day of the week is the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. Watch the sun set over the ocean and enjoy a happy hour cocktail from their outdoor patio overlooking the beach. 

Now that the sun’s gone down, tell us the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.

If you’re feeling swanky grab a firepit table at Blush and order up one of their divinely fancy cocktails (try the Cotton Candy!).

If you love a good craft beer and some live music grab an ale from Figueroa Mountain Brewing in the funk zone.

And if you’re in the mood for dancing the night away to a live band, check out the calendar for SoHo and grab a drink while you boogie down.

luxury guide to santa barbara

If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?

While Santa Barbara doesn’t have a very fancy club scene, there is no shortage of places to take over the dance floor. You can warm up at places like Sandbar, O’Malleys, and the James Joyce (if there’s a live band playing). Then work your way to the bigger clubs like Tonic and Eos.

If you’re feeling particularly bold head over to the Wildcat (affectionately referred to by locals as The Sh*tty Kitty) and dance the night away alongside the gogo girls.

[book a flight / book a room in Phnom Penh]

luxury guide to santa barbaraKaleena is a California girl with a thirst for adventure and a knack for getting into ridiculous situations. After teaching English in Korea for two years she left to travel around the world for a year and a half. Her travels so far have included everything from scooping elephant poop to scuba diving shipwrecks and training in Muay Thai. Follow along with her sometimes hilarious adventures at Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope! Connect on Instagram and Twitter.