Drive Two Hours for Two Days in this Charming Coastal Town
Looking for the ultimate SoCal getaway? Only a short drive up the coast, both beloved and charming, Santa Barbara checks all the boxes for an ideal weekend of wine tasting, relaxation and coastal cuisine. Just two hours north of Los Angeles, this picturesque seaside city is nestled in perfect proximity to wine country, framed by scenic beaches and majestic mountains. From sailing on sunset cruises and adventuring on trail rides to indulging in tasting rooms, here’s your perfect itinerary for a weekend in Santa Barbara.
Check into The Steward Hotel
Nestled in the heart of coastal paradise, The Steward Hotel epitomizes both refined luxury and a dedication to mindful living. With breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, this boutique hotel is situated on the grounds of the historic Sexton House, which was built by pioneering horticulturalist Joseph Sexton in 1880. The Steward Hotel offers a harmonious retreat while incorporating elements of sustainability and social consciousness. Take a complimentary Saturday morning yoga class or hop on a Peloton bike in the converted-barn fitness center. Unwind over lawn games or in the privacy of your personal pool cabana. Enjoy flavors inspired by Provence and the Mediterranean at Terra, the onsite restaurant, while admiring the grounds. Don’t forget to visit the working nursery, considered the centerpiece of the resort.
Visit the The Funk Zone
Feeling hip? Head over to The Funk Zone—a once-industrial, now-eclectic neighborhood brimming with creative bohemian energy. Marked by sweeping graffiti murals, groups of converted warehouses now host contemporary art galleries and vintage shops. Sip and nibble your way through galleries, and discover top-notch wine tasting rooms and five-star restaurants, like Pali Wine Co. and The Lark. If you have the time, taste your way along the Urban Wine Trail, where you can sample vintages at more than 20 tasting rooms, or document your local eats on the Eat This, Shoot That food and photography tour.
Check out the Santa Barbara Farmers Market
Spend the early weekend morning strolling Santa Barbara’s official farmers market, which sets up shop downtown every Saturday. Sift through the freshest farm produce from the region’s best agricultural areas, taste the abundance of seasonal fruits and flavors, and peruse the wares of many local artisans. Established in 1983, the farmers’ market has been bridging the gap between local farms and the communities they serve, rotating from Montecito to Solvang throughout the week.
Breakfast at Reunion Kitchen
Get your grub on at Reunion Kitchen, perched smack dab on the beach. This oceanfront situation offers panoramic views from your seaside seat, as you chow down on morning munchies like a classic California omelet, steak and eggs, French toast or a grilled breakfast sandwich. Too much wine last night? Try Raymond’s Hangover Burrito or some huevos rancheros to set you right again. For those who prefer a hair-of-the-dog approach, try their hibiscus margarita or the tequila mockingbird.
Visit Lotusland in Montecito
Step into the botanical marvel known as Lotusland—meticulously curated gardens that have enchanted visitors for decades. Once the private estate of the incredible Madame Ganna Walska—a world-renowned Polish performer with a fascinating life story—the sprawling grounds house rare plants from around the globe. Spanning 37 acres, the themed gardens—from the surreal Cycad Garden to the vibrant Japanese Garden—showcase unique flora and artistic architecture, offering a perfect setting for peaceful reflection.
Lunch at Satellite
Stop in for a satisfying lunch at Satellite—a natural wine bar that serves up unique and beautifully crafted nutritious dishes. Try anything from the panzanella salad—a bowl of mixed greens topped with black fennel, pollen vinegar, burrata and fresh wildflowers—to the Brain Bowl, loaded with chickpeas, olives, green peas, cucumber, tahini and sesame seeds. Choose from a robust list of natural whites and reds, grab a bottle to go—or join the wine club if you can’t get enough.
Shop at Sirena
Embark on a shopping spree at Sirena, one of the town’s cutest boutiques. Find a whole new fit from the shop’s carefully curated collection of beloved brands—from Pistola jeans to Elisa Johnson eyewear. Don’t forget shoes and accessories, like belts, bags, jewelry and sunnies, to cap off your look. Check out the beauty bar and sniff the signature fragrances and heavenly scented candles, or skim the selection of home decor—chock-full of souvenirs like incense, vases, cool prints, inspirational coffee table books and more.
Cave meditation at Salt Cave Santa Barbara
Step right into Salt Cave—offering a serene and unique meditation experience inside therapeutic salt-infused chambers. This tranquil refuge provides a blissful environment for relaxation and meditation, harnessing the natural healing properties of pink Himalayan salt. The 45-minute Cave Session combines mindfulness practices with the calming effects of the salt cave. Try your hand at halotherapy—the simple act of breathing in air that is saturated with salt particles, which is said to be a natural and effective benefit to the body. While you’re at it, book a specialized facial or a mind-blowing massage, and immerse yourself in a soothing sound bath.
Sunset cruise off Stearns Wharf
Hop aboard the Azure Seas, a multi-level luxury yacht, moored at Stearns Wharf, and sail off into the sunset with a Santa Barbara cruise. Cool off along the coast and take in the serene scenery and majestic mountains by boat. Running for an hour and a half, each tour on this stately boat offers a full bar so you can enjoy the ocean breeze with a cocktail in hand. If you’re lucky, you may spot a playful whale or some other friendly sea creatures.
Dinner at Bibi Ji
Bibi Ji is a culinary catch-all, serving up a vibrant blend of Indian flavors set in the aesthetics of Californian coastal flair. This innovative eatery, co-owned by an acclaimed James Beard award-winning sommelier, redefines traditional Indian cuisine through a local perspective. From inventive small plates to delectable curries, each dish embodies a fusion of spices while making the most of locally sourced seafood and produce. You’re sure to dig the lively ambiance, with an extensive natural wine list that properly elevates the dining experience. Be sure to take leftovers to go for the perfect midnight snack—your late-night self will thank you!
Coffee at Dart Coffee Co.
Get your morning joe at Dart Coffee Co. during your weekend in Santa Barbara, known for its specialty brews and friendly community culture. This cozy café incorporates ethically sourced organic, fair-trade coffee from small-lot indigenous farmers, all roasted in-house, while the menu boasts an array of expertly crafted coffee drinks—from painstaking pour-overs to classic espresso. Run by two passionate baristas who share their love of the bean, the space includes a charming outdoor garden where you can sip and savor your favorite brew.
Horseback riding at Circle Bar B Stables
Giddy up! Mount your friendly steed and enjoy an idyllic escape into the beauty of nature on Circle Bar B Stables’ peaceful trail rides. Nestled in the serene hills of Gaviota, begin your horseback adventure on paths that wind along scenic trails, with breathtaking views of the Santa Ynez mountains and sweeping coastal vistas. First-time riders never fear, this family-owned dude ranch has been offering expertly guided trail rides that cater to all skill levels since 1930. Yeehaw!
Shop at Urban Flea Market
It’s time to get your shop on! Sift through scores of vintage treasures at Urban Flea Market, where you can unearth everything from funky gifts, rare antiques and home decor to thrifted threads and retro barware. This boho market also offers an array of handmade jewelry and crafts from regional artisans. Browse through a kaleidoscope of one-of-a-kind items while bopping to the beat of live music and enjoying diverse food vendors.
Lunch at Santo Mezcal
Fill up on south-of-the-border flavors at Santo Mezcal, the dining destination for elevated Mexican fare that celebrates long-held traditions of Mexican cuisine. This vibrant eatery pays homage to mezcal, offering an extensive selection to sip a variety of agave expressions, alongside flavorful dishes crafted from local ingredients. From savory tacos (only $3.95 each on Taco Tuesdays) to innovative small plates, each dish dances with bold flavors and showcases an artful presentation. Salud!
Explore The Shopkeepers
Take a deep dive into the culture of Santa Barbara when you explore this curated retail collective. A celebration of the region’s craftsmanship and local artistry, The Shopkeepers is a boutique that showcases an array of handpicked goods, from handmade jewelry to locally crafted home decor. Each item tells a unique story and reflects the essence of Santa Barbara’s creative community. Make your way through displays of funky charms and pendants, retro framed prints and posters, body balms and self-care serums, as well as fragrant candles, stationery items and accessories from eclectic brands.
Bike to Butterfly Beach with Wheel Fun Rentals
Take your tour on wheels when you rent bikes at Wheel Fun Rentals. From your standard city bikes, e-bikes and coastal cruisers to tandem styles for you and your crew, this rental company lets you customize an optimal cycling experience. They even offer surrey chariots for a group ride, plus wagon add-ons and extra wheels and side-car seats. Make sure to procure helmets and locks to make biking a breeze, and level up with rollerblades, boogie boards or umbrellas and chairs to stay cool in the shade. Butterfly Beach is a 17-minute bike ride from the rental depot, and each rental session is good for four hours.
Based in Los Angeles, Kandace has spent the past ten years in the fashion and lifestyle space, and recently in entertainment at Sony Pictures Studios. She has a Masters in Journalism from Emerson College and has studied in Paris, Firenze, and Washington DC, beginning her career as a style editor and tastemaker for NBC. She is an internationally award-winning filmmaker, having studied screenwriting for film and television at UCLA, and her work has been celebrated around the world, in cities like London, Nice, New York, and Montréal. Paying homage to her French heritage, she is also the creator of The Chic American--a style and culture editorial destination for Francophiles, dedicated to the art of living an elevated, French-inspired lifestyle.