Santa Barbara Trip Guide




This year we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary. We went back to our favorite place on the West Coast, Santa Barbara. When we lived in San Francisco, we would head down once a year. Here’s a little flashback for you. I can’t necessarily pick out the one thing that makes Santa Barbara so great. We just love it. Maybe it’s sentimental because it was the first true road trip we took in California or maybe it’s the mountains surrounding it with the gorgeous Pacific Ocean at your feet. At the end of the day, it’s all of these things combined. We always have an amazing and relaxing time. This trip was no different.

How To Get There

When we lived in San Francisco, we would drive down to Santa Barbara. It took about 5 hours. However, if you don’t live close by, simply fly into LAX. There’s also a small regional airport just outside of Santa Barbara. Our flight from JFK here in New York took 6 hours. It’s an easy direct flight. From the airport, it’s about a 2-hour drive. You can take the 101 all the way there or you can take the scenic route on highway 1 before getting on the 101 to complete the trip. The scenic route is great as it hugs the coast the whole way. Plus you can stop by Neptune’s Net for a quick bite!

Our Transportation

New Volvo S90. It was amazing! Matt grew up with Volvos so this was super exciting! We love Volvo! Now that we have Sebastian (even though he wasn’t with us this time), safety is so important. This car has it in spades along with being luxurious and loaded with features any tech-savvy person would love. Plus the S90 is super sleek. It has a gorgeous interior with plenty of space. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our time on the road. If you are in the market for a new luxury mid-size sedan, look into it.

Where To Stay

Ritz Carlton Bacara

We stayed at the Ritz – Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. This was the perfect place to spend our anniversary. It was our first time there and it was perfect. We originally booked the place we use to stay in when we were much younger. Hahaha, it didn’t work out though. It wasn’t quite what we remembered and it just wasn’t going to cut it this time around. The Villa Rosa will always hold a special place in our memories but we quickly booked the Ritz and stayed there instead.

The Ritz – Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara – The pictures online don’t even begin to show how absolutely stunning this property truly is. It’s located about 12 miles outside of downtown Santa Barbara along the coast. The resort is huge and sits on 78 acres. It boasts a world-renowned day spa and fitness center along with over 350 rooms, all of which include a balcony. Our room was right by the water. We were close to the amazing trail that runs along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. The views are stunning and needless to say offered up plenty of opportunities for pictures.

The pools and restaurants are all great and the service is exactly what you would expect from a Ritz Carlton. It was romantic and relaxing and exactly what we had in mind for our anniversary. We can’t recommend the Bacara enough and while it’s the perfect spot for couples, it is great for families as well. Sebastian will be coming along for our next trip out.

What To Do

Butterfly Beach

It’s truly hard to describe just how magical this place is at sunset. The sky erupts into stunning shades of blue, pink, yellow, and orange. It’s the perfect setting with the palm tree-lined streets and the ocean just below your feet as you slowly watch the sun go down. It is a must see whenever you are in Santa Barbara. The beach is located in Montecito just to the south of downtown Santa Barbara.

Wine Country

The drive here is half the fun. The countryside is something to behold. It reminds us a lot of Sonoma. There are so many similar traits with the rolling wine fields, mountains, and the quiet that just makes for the perfect escape. Not to mention the wines are top notch. Stop into Rusack Winery if you get a chance. Gorgeous! For dinner, drive over to downtown Solvang for some great Scandinavian and Dutch inspired foods. It feels like you are in Europe and it’s just a really neat place.

Boardwalk & Waterfront

Strolling along the waterfront down by State Street is a great way to spend a couple of hours. The beach is amazing and when you turn around back towards the city, it’s so beautiful. The mountains completely surround the city. On the boardwalk, you can grab a bite to eat, get some ice cream, shop and watch the sea lions. You can rent kayaks and take in the views from the water. On one of our previous trips, we got a double kayak and ended up paddling alongside the sea lions. They came right up to us. It was incredible. If you want to head downtown from the waterfront, you can pick up a shuttle that will drop you off along State Street to do some shopping or have lunch.

Shopping Downtown

They have everything from boutiques, consignment shops, surf shops, and all your favorite fashion stores including Anthropologie, Saks, Free People, etc. I ended up needing to grab a few things for pictures and it worked out perfectly. It makes for a fun afternoon of shopping when you don’t have a lot of time.

Where To Eat

Neptune’s Net

This is a top spot to swing in for some seafood as you travel along Highway 1. It’s a no-frills type of place but the seafood is good and it has killer ocean views. They just happened to be shooting a movie in front when we stopped in on our way up to Santa Barbara from LAX. It was a great way to kick off our trip and made for an exciting lunch. Not to mention their fried seafood was delicious. Give it a try!

The Lark

This came as a recommendation and it was perfect. The setting is gorgeous and located in the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market building. Also, there’s both indoor and outdoor seating. The beautiful patio outside offers tables by the fireplace, which is really cool. The menu is locally sourced from the abundant bounty of the Central Coast. So this is a must for dinner when in town.


This is a great spot to start your day. They have three locations in Santa Barbara with one residing in Montecito right next to downtown Santa Barbara. It’s a lovely with outdoor seating and the menus are spot on. Make time to swing by even if it’s only for a pastry at the bake shop. Enjoy!

We can’t wait to come back next year. We might even stop there later this year for a few days before we fly out to Hawaii. It will be so much fun to bring Sebastian to Bacara and just relax and enjoy the grounds. One thing we wish we would have had time for was a boat ride out to the Channel Islands to do some hiking and photography. If you are planning a trip out to Southern California, you should absolutely consider spending some time in Santa Barbara. If you have any questions or have other recommendations for our next trip out, please let us know. Till next the trip…

Thank you for reading!

xo, Olivia

1 Comment

  1. Jandrew wrote:

    Thanks for this great post! I’m here in Vancouver, but I have friends who have recently moved to Santa Barbara. I’ll give them a chance to settle , but you sure have given me the desire to visit .
    Dress The Part

    Posted 7.23.18 · Reply

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