Growing up in Los Angeles, I often spent summer weekends with my family in Santa Barbara. You might have found us squeezed into one of those multiperson bikes, gliding along the boardwalk. After hiking one of the many trails in the mountains above town, we also were fond of grabbing lunch on the main drag, State Street.
In the spring of 2014, I returned to Santa Barbara and cruised around town with my sister, who lives there now. The trip reminded me of all those great family memories. It also showed me that Santa Barbara is perfect for couples. And it got me quite motivated to come back for a visit with my boyfriend.
Inspired by the trip, here is a 48-hour itinerary I put together for a romantic and active weekend getaway in Santa Barbara.
Arriving in the afternoon, check in at Canary, a Kimpton Hotel. This hotel, just off State Street, has Spanish-inspired interiors and a gorgeous roof deck with views of the mountains, town, and sea. Once you are settled into your room, go upstairs to the roof to relax as you watch the sunset.
For your first night-time outing, head a few minutes south of Santa Barbara to the small enclave of Montecito. The area along Coast Village Road is high-end, and there are a number of restaurants perfect for a relaxed and romantic date night. My favorites are Trattoria Mollie (which has amazing Italian food and regularly imports truffles from the Piedmont region of Italy) and Lucky’s (a traditional and delicious steak house).
Viewfinder Tip: Weather in Santa Barbara actually is best during fall and winter, when the skies are often clearer and the light almost magical.
Beach day! Make sure to pack yourself a little day-sack full of beach necessities. And you may want to wear your bathing suit under your clothes, as well. But to start, you need to eat, and there are scores of restaurants with traditional American breakfasts up and down State Street.
Another option: Make a beeline for D’Angelo’s Bread, six blocks away on Gutierrez Street. This restaurant serves full breakfasts, as well as sell freshly baked bread and pastries. The place does get busy, so be sure to get there early to beat the crowds. My favorite item on the menu is “Egg Rose,” which comprises two poached eggs on Kalamata olive bread with artichoke spread. Yum!
After breakfast, stroll a couple blocks to the intersection of Santa Barbara and Cota streets to experience the Santa Barbara Certified Farmer’s Market. Most Saturdays year-round, you can find an awesome bounty of California produce and flora here. In the summer, the market is open from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Later in the day, head on down to the beach and Stern’s Wharf. To get there, you can walk or take the trolley down State Street—it leads right to the water. From the beach, the views of the water, harbor, boats, and mountains can’t be beat. Be sure to walk the length of the pier; it’s another great way to get good views of the area.
Along the shore there are many options for fun activities. At Stern’s Wharf, you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. You also might want to hit one of the dive bars on the pier to have lunch or a brew (Long Board’s is my favorite). Across from the Wharf, you can rent single, tandem, or multiperson bikes. If you like working out on vacation, walk south along the coast until you reach East Park Beach, which has scores of sand volleyball courts. Of course another beach activity is to find yourself a plot of sand on the beach and spend a few hours lounging.
Once you’ve had enough of the beach, meander or take the trolley back up State Street and return to the hotel to freshen-up before dinner. I suggest you try the lovely restaurant, Julienne, on Canon Perdido Street, just off State. This restaurant has a rotating menu that corresponds with in-season produce from the farmer’s market. You can see the current menu here.
On the last day of a trip, I always try to squeeze in as much as I can, just to make the vacation feel that much fuller. For that reason, I suggest starting your final day in Santa Barbara early.
Try breakfast or bunch at The Canary Hotel in the on-site restaurant and bar, Finch and Fork. Another popular brunch in town is at The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. This property’s brunch is served in a room that overlooks the ocean.
Four Seasons Santa Barbara
After a big brunch, it’s time to get moving. One great option is to go for a hike in the mountains above town. One of the most accessible trails is the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail (despite what the name implies, it is highly unlikely you will have a snake encounter in these hills). The trail provides a beautiful and moderate hike of about 3.5 miles. Along the way, you’ll get to escape into nature and see great views of the region.
Finish your day at the Santa Barbara Public Market on Victoria Street. Here you will find a covered market comprised of artisan food stalls. Vendors in these stalls peddle a wide variety of goodies, including green juice, gourmet coffee, homemade pasta, local meats, and more. You can eat here and buy local wine to take home as a souvenir.
However you spend your weekend in Santa Barbara, I have no doubt that a hearty dose of great food, sunshine, nature, and outdoor activity will leave you feeling refreshed. It always did for us.
For what do you look in a romantic weekend getaway?