The state of California made a fan of me from my very first business trip there. I’d gone to my employer’sheadquarters in Santa Clara, and then headed to a secluded winery in the hills of San Jose for a private party. From that moment I was hooked. Since then I exercised every opportunity possible to return to the Golden State and explore the unique culture of each city.
Business landed me in Santa Barbara this time around, but it hardly feels like work when the entire town looks like something from a movie set. If you’re into fashion, then you know that Cali style is very relaxed and effortless.Being in Santa Barbara puts Cali life and style into perspective. From the moment you exit the charming little Santa Barbara airport and see the mountains in the distance, stress just seems to melt away. Throughout the city, the vistas are picturesque with lush greenery, beaches, sprawling marinas, streets dotted with people on beach cruiser bicycles, and buildings almost uniformly adorned with Spanish tile roofs.
One of my Santa Barbara colleagues lives on an avocado farm with her family, and another drives along the coast and sees dolphins in the ocean on his way to work. Part of me secretly wonders if they go surfing at lunch. Seriously, does anyone have stress at all here? If you’re ready to experience Santa Barbara yourself, here are a few insiders’ tips to experience some of the best that the city has to offer.
Where to stay
The quaint Hotel Oceana is a stone’s throw from the beach and Stearn’s Wharf where you can walk along the boardwalk, or relax at the marina and watch the sailboats. The three-star property is reminiscent of a collection of Spanish-style villas and while most of the rooms are cozy in nature, the décor is fresh, crisp, and beachy. There are also beach cruisers available complementary to hotel guests so they can explore the city and the recommended biking trails.
Business travelers may find themselves at the Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, a four-star, mission-style property situated on 24 beachfront acres. The views alone, from the beach-facing rooms are enough to inspire tranquility. However, one of the more appealing aspects of the Fess Parker is its prime location. Five minutes from Downtown Santa Barbara and 20 minutes from the SBA airport, both beauty and convenience make this lovely hotel a winner.
For those who are searching for the pinnacle of luxury and seclusion, look no farther than the Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta. The five-star property also sits on the beach and features a full-service spa and fitness center, a kids’ club, three restaurants, a pool with a breathtaking view of the beach, and luxuriously appointed guestrooms. One of my colleagues saw Michael Jordan checking out of this hotel the day we were checking in for our conference. If you’re staying at the Bacara, chances are you’re more than okay with leaving the outside world behind. It’s about a 20 minute taxi ride from the property to Downtown Santa Barbara—which makes it so much better that a vacationer’s every need can be tended to on-property.
Where to eat
Though posh hotels feature fabulous onsite dining, to get a taste of the city, head into Downtown Santa Barbara and explore the State Street area. Not only is there ample shopping, but lots of independent, local eateries. If you find yourself in the mood for Latin fare, check out Cielito in the historic La Arcadia Courtyard. Not only does this spot get a gold star for ambiance, but the food is amazing. I had the pleasure of hosting a dinner there and my guests noshed on scrumptious ceviches and anticucho de filete.
For an intimate seafood dining experience, try Seagrass. The coastal cuisine is caught and prepared locally for superior flavor and freshness, and many of the wines are local as well, hailing from the Santa Barbara wine country. Sautéed diver scallops, yellow fin tuna sashimi, roasted rack of lamb, and California wild king salmon are just a sampling of some of the mouthwatering choices. At dinnertime, the dining room is appointed with mood lighting to give the space an air of effortless luxury.
I also had the privilege of visiting Bouchon, a fourteen-year-old French eatery. The cozy space has a relaxed and inviting atmosphere and its servers possess an infallible knowledgeable of the menu which varies by season. Bouchon specializes in farm to table fare, so all of the selections are sourced from local providers and the wine list features only Santa Barbara County labels. Bouchon has been recognized by both Zagat and Wine Spectator for its outstanding culinary experience.
When it comes to activities, the possibilities are endless. From sailing and other watersports to hiking and biking, the mountain to ocean landscape of Santa Barbara makes the city a winner. And just because it’s a beach town, don’t be misled about the shopping scene. Downtown boasts an array of recognizable retailers, and includes a number of independent boutiques. Also, season offers a new schedule of activities—many of which include epicurean events, the arts, and festivals which are the cornerstone of the city’s culture. Every business trip to Santa Barbara makes it harder to say good bye. Maybe one day in the future, I won’t have to.
QuiaQuerisma is a digital marketer by day, freelance writer by night, and a traveler by nature. Her work has appeared in a number of outlets including the Dallas Observer, SoulTrain.com, and Where Dallasmagazine covering the topics of fashion, entertainment and travel. Follow her on Twitter@querismatic and visit her at about.me/querisma.