The perfect combination of beaches and mountains just two hours north of L.A.
My husband and I used to travel annually to Santa Barbara and Montecito, California for his job. For many years, my brother lived in Santa Ynez Valley, a little known slice of wine country and horse ranch paradise just a one hour drive from Santa Barbara. Summers would be spent taking the kids on trail walks, pony rides, berry picking and leisurely afternoons at different wineries. For a few years, my parents rented a house for a month to gather the family and explore the Santa Barbara region. One of our favorite neighborhoods has always been and always will be Montecito.
This mountainous yet oceanfront town on the California coast is home to celebrities like Oprah and Prince Harry, with sprawling estates and impeccably maintained landscaping with a wildly European feel. All of these factors are why Montecito is such a special destination to me and my family. I want to share with you not only why I love it so much, but also how you can make the most of your trip to this California coastal destination.
Perfect For: Family Trips | Weekend Getaways | Road Trip | Romantic Getaways | Special Occasions
Montecito Travel Guide
Montecito is just 15 minutes from Santa Barbara airport which has direct flights from major hubs across the USA. Montecito is only a two-hour drive from LA, making it perfect for a weekend getaway from the city, or part of a longer road trip itinerary.
Fly: 15 min fromSanta Barbara airport (SBA) .
Recommended Stay: Weekend getaway to one week.
Best Time of Year to Visit: July to November
Rosewood Miramar Beach
What to Do in Montecito, California
Watersports & Beaches
Visiting the beaches is a must. Butterfly Beach or Miramar Beach are both popular. Although Miramar Beach Hotel services are for guests only, there is access to the beach for locals through the hotel property. Being located on the coast means it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy some watersports like renting a kayak or trying out some surfing. Hotels like the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel offer equipment rental so you can get out on the water on their beaches. Santa Barbara Harbor located nearby is the perfect place to set off on a fishing trip or whale watching tour.
Montecito is ideal for shopping lovers! There is a range of shops from Maison K to Mate Gallery and my favorite shop in the country – Wendy Foster, which has a couple of locations on State Street, Montecito and Los Olivos in Santa Ynez Valley.
Don’t miss the Montecito Country Mart where I found some amazing vintage Gucci Glasses! There’s also so many boutiques and shopping outlets in the hotel resorts which are well worth checking out.
Missions and Gardens
Blessed with an ideal Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara is famous for its beautiful gardens including the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Lotusland and Casa del Herrero. Santa Barbara is also home to the Mission Santa Barbara, a Franciscan mission founded in 1776 known as the “Queen of the Missions”.
Being so close to Santa Barbara, you can spend an afternoon or even a full day there relaxing on the beaches, getting out on the water, exploring the town’s boutiques and cultural attractions or enjoying the huge range of culinary experiences on offer. Santa Barbara has six weekly farmers markets, fresh seafood coming in daily and not to mention the range of local ranches and vineyards.
Santa Barbara Zoo
If you’re traveling with kids, the Santa Barbara Zoo is a must-visit. There’s a miniature zoo train ride, giraffe feeding and several other animal encounters to make it a memorable family day out.
Make sure to ask at your resort about activities and upcoming events too.
Wine Tours or Tasting Experience
The climate around Montecito and Santa Barbara is perfect for growing grapes and there’s a range of wineries and vineyards you can visit. Alternatively there are tasting rooms in Santa Barbara if you’d prefer to stay closer to resorts. California wines are some of the most famous in the world, making this a great addition to your Montecito itinerary.
Where to Stay in Montecito, California
Montecito and Santa Barbara are home to some amazing hotels and resorts such as the Four Seasons Santa Barbara, The Bacara Resort, which was recently taken over by the Ritz Carlton, and smaller boutique properties such as Belmond El Encanto and San Ysidro Ranch.
San Ysidro Ranch
Set back in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the San Ysidro Ranch is perfect for those travelers who seek out the smaller, more secluded and boutique locations. Setting foot on the ranch, tucked away in 550 acres, you feel at one with nature which is a huge focus of the property.
The San Ysidro Ranch has been welcoming guests since 1893 and it absolutely capitalizes on that historic charm as part of the luxurious, secluded experience. With 38 vine-covered cottages across the hillside, surrounded by lush gardens buzzing with bees, each cottage comes with its own large stone fireplace, four-poster bed, private patio, sunken spa and outdoor shower. The vaulted ceilings and stone fireplaces bring a touch of mountain chalet style to the easy, open-plan California living.
San Ysidro offers three dining options which combine farmhouse ranch style decor with award-winning cuisine and a famous wine cellar! Dining under the twinkling lights on the terrace in summer, or by the huge stone fire in the winter, you’re guaranteed a unique dining experience that’s perfect for romantic occasions.
One of my favorite things about the property is the unique experiences they offer for guests. Their Signature Salon and Spa, Private Dining and Exclusive Wine Tasting are also ideal for couples getaways, romantic treats and special occasions. The amenities on the resort also include a heated swimming pool, fitness studio, yoga classes, live music every night and lawn games and minigolf.
The Ranch is also a great option for those who prefer a more active vacation. The resort has botanical gardens on the property to explore, plus access to 17 miles of hiking trails on their doorstep. There’s also bicycle rental and access to the private golf course at Montecito Club.
Book the San Ysidro Ranch with Diego Travel to receive the following:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Continental breakfast daily in the Stonehouse, for two guests per bedroom
- $100 USD Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Personalized selection of the right cottage for you, thanks to my personal relationship with the team at San Ysidro Ranch
- $100 bonus when you book with Diego Travel
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
We recommend the San Ysidro Ranch for:
Couples | Small Weddings | Honeymoon | Anniversary | A Tranquil Escape from the City | Privacy & Exclusivity | Romantic Getaways
Four Seasons Resort: The Biltmore Santa Barbara
Located in Montecito itself and on a property of 22 acres, the Spanish Colonial style, open fires and terracotta tiles give you the feeling that you’ve stepped straight into Europe. The courtyards woven between villas and bungalows give this a relaxed yet luxurious feel which ties in perfectly with the mountainous backdrop.
The Four Seasons offers a combination of Rooms, Bungalows, Villas and Suites. The entry-level Jungle and Garden rooms are surrounded by leafy greenery, immersing you in a jungle oasis. While the ocean view rooms are the next step up and allow you to enjoy your ocean view from your own private terrace.
The Bungalows are perfect for four adults or two adults and two children, while the Fremont Bungalow is the ultimate secluded experience with two bedrooms, a large terracotta tile patio, a fire pit and a heated plunge pool.
The Ty Warner villa offers 180-degree ocean views, a private pool and a large outdoor patio and entertaining area. For just two adults, this is the perfect retreat for couples.
If you can tear yourself away from the beautiful rooms, the resort offers six food and drink options including the Italian-inspired Bella Vista which offers organic California cuisine with panoramic ocean views. The Coral Cafe and Bar is perfect for families and casual light bites throughout the day.
The Four Seasons resort at Montecito is home to one of the largest hotel swimming pools in the world at its Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. Here you’ll find a 50m Olympic sized oceanfront pool, fitness centre, yoga classes, sauna and steam rooms, a kids pool and direct access to Butterfly Beach. Plus there is a range of spa and wellness treatments for the ultimate relaxation.
Book the Four Seasons Santa Barbara with Diego Travel to receive the following:
- Daily full breakfast for two people per bedroom, served in a hotel restaurant or through In-Room Dining
- Hotel/Resort Credit* (based on room category booked) enriching your clients’ stay with their choice of experience – from spa and dining to recreation:
- Guest Rooms: USD 100 credit per stay
- Suites and Specialty Suites: USD 200 credit per stay
- Private Retreats: USD 200 credit per bedroom per stay
- Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in**
- Complimentary standard Internet in all guest rooms and premium Internet in all suites
We recommend the Four Seasons Santa Barbara for:
Couples Getaways | Honeymooners | Special Occassions | Business Trips | Larger Groups or Incentive Trips
Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel, Montecito
The first thing that strikes you about the Rosewood Miramar Resort in Montecito is the effortless luxurious beach-living vibe that exudes from the hotel, the decor, its location and the amenities. The Rosewood Miramar was the property I was most excited about visiting and it was without a doubt, the highlight of our California coast road trip.
With 160 rooms ranging from Guest Rooms to Beachfront Bungalows and the Ambassador Suite, there are accommodation options to suit various price points and group sizes. They even offer the option of Studios to cater for groups of three.
The Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort is Montecito’s only truly oceanfront resort property and boasts direct access to Miramar Beach. The hotel also offers a range of outdoor activities to complement its beautiful location, including family beach yoga, sunset beach walks, sea kayaking and Hobie Cat rental and even private charters so you can sail the California coastline.
I love that the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort is also the only 5-star Forbes spa in Santa Barbara, so you can expect nothing but five star treatment at the Sense Rosewood Spa and wellness centre which boasts a fitness centre and adults-only pool as well as a huge range of rejuvenating spa and wellness treatments.
Our stay at the hotel was incredibly relaxing thanks to its beach location and the amenities on offer, plus the added bonus of six restaurants available at the property, so we rarely needed to venture far for dining. Caruso’s is the gourmet option which we were treated to on the first night of our stay and the food was just incredible.
Book the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel with Diego Travel to receive the following:
- Exclusive Rosewood Elite Amenities
- Complimentary one category upgrade upon arrival, based on availability
- Daily USD $30 breakfast credit for up to two people per bedroom
- $125 Sense Spa credit per stay
- Welcome note and amenity from the Managing Director on behalf of Diego Travel
- Diego Travel Welcome Box for First-Time Clients
We recommend the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel for:
Small families | Honeymooners | Romantic Getaways | An escape from the city
EL ENCANTO, A BELMOND HOTEL
El Encanto became a hotel in 1918 and as a 105-year-old property, it manages to effortlessly combine historic charm with a touch of Hollywood, perched high in the Santa Barbara Hills of California. Offering unparalleled views of the American Riviera.
The rooms combine Spanish colonial style with laidback California craft. The resort effortlessly manages to exude glitz and glamour, while giving you the relaxed coastal California vibe as you unwind poolside at the zero-edge pool, enjoy the local wine and cuisine or stroll in their seven acres of secluded gardens. Views of the American Riviera from high in the hills, adds to that feeling of luxury and exclusivity that Belmond achieves to effortlessly.
The resort offers a great amount of flexibility for groups such as families or small wedding parties, with rooms and suites able to be adapted depending on your group and the number of bedrooms needed. Despite the size of the resort, the luxurious feel of the bungalow-style suites help you feel at home while also exuding glamour and elegance.
Book El Encanto with Diego Travel to receive the following:
- Diego Travel is a Belmond Bellini preferred partner and we get our clients access to exclusive promotions that can’t be booked online
- Additional Belmond Bellini amenities
- Priority upgrade
- Daily breakfast included
- Resort Credit
- When you book your stay with a minimum spend, you’ll receive a $500 gift card toward a future Belmond Hotels stay
- Guests who purchase a luxury experience with Belmond worth a minimum of $5,000 USD will receive a $500 USD gift voucher per booking to be used on a future stay at any other Belmond Property
We recommend the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel for:
Groups of Couples | Large Groups of Friends | Families with Older Children | Destination Weddings | Romantic Getaways | Special Occasions
Where to Eat in Montecito, California?
Caruso’s, Rosewood Miramar’s 1 Star Michelin restaurant offers oceanfront al fresco dinning . Its light and stylish decor is reminiscent of mediterranean beachfront restaurants and offers some of the best ocean views of the American Riviera.
Jeannine’s Restaurant and Bakery
Jeannine’s has been a Montecito institution for over 30 years. With Cafe menus serving breakfast and lunch, as well as a bakery full of cakes, scones and sweet treats, it’s great for breakfast or snacks on the go while you’re exploring Montecito and beyond.
Bree’osh Bakery Cafe
A sumptuous bakery cafe you have to visit! With pastries, buns and quiches and all available at curbside pick up, Bree’osh is an easy way to grab something to eat on the go.
They also offer baking and cookery classes if you want to try something a little different!
Honor Bar, Montecito
Open from 11 AM till late, the Honor Bar serves sandwiches, burgers, pizza and light bites during the day and also offers a great range of wines, beers and cocktails in the evening too.
With a slightly more formal dress code, this is a great option for romantic evening meals if you’re looking for somewhere outside the resort.
The Stonehouse is located in the historic 19th-century citrus packing house at San Ysidro Ranch, with creek views and a dining experience that feels as if you’ve stepped into the vineyards of Italy.
The unique take on American style cuisine is award-winning and consistently voted the top dining experience in Santa Barbara. With open fires and an ocean-view terrace, this is a truly romantic dining experience.
Bouchon is a top choice in Santa Barbara with passionate owners, Amy and Mitchell, catering for any dietary requirements and producing spectacular dishes.
A Few of My Favorite Things
- It’s the perfect city escape. Being less than 2 hours from LA, it’s an ideal destination for a weekend break by the ocean.
- The relaxed vibe. Santa Barbara is a favorite destination for the same reason, but Montecito has something special. Thanks to its smaller size and with hotels like Rosewood Miramar Beach being right on the waterfront, you really have the opportunity to unwind and relax.
- The Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel. Being the first truly beachfront resort in Montecito already makes this hotel special. But each detail is so thoughtfully prepared throughout the property that it really was the highlight of our California road trip.
- With the beach and mountains both nearby, there’s plenty to do in and around Montecito and Santa Barbara for any kind of traveler. Whether you’re a hiker or surfer planning an active vacation, or if you’re looking forward to enjoying some downtime on the beach or by the pool on a more relaxing getaway, Montecito can offer you both.