Santa Barbara: Romance on the “American Riviera”

Natural Aphrodisiac: Sunrise on a Santa Barbara beach  (Corbis)

Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the breathtaking Californian coastline, Santa Barbara is a seductive haven, where couples can enjoy a heady mix of neocolonial Spanish architecture, palm- and citrus-lined walking trails, and some of the best restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts in the world. It should come as no surprise that Santa Barbara is the choice for celebrities looking for a private getaway—when it comes to intimate destinations, Santa Barbara is it.

The good times flow with an intoxicating array of 40 wineries and nearly 12,000 acres of vineyards located in nearby Santa Ynez Valley. Chardonnays and Pinot noirs are always the vins du jour, and the wineries that bottle them make for pleasurable day trips. The city's State Street is lined with an eclectic collection of boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. And Stearn's Wharf boasts views of the Channel Islands that are some of the most spectacular in the area.

The confluence of gorgeous vistas, regal landscapes, and elegant dining, shopping, and entertainment create a landscape that's every bit the American Riviera. The region is blessed with a confluence of cultures as well, wonderfully embodied by the area's cuisine. For some of the finest authentic Mexican cuisine, the budget-friendly La Super-Rica Taquería (805.963.4940) cannot be beat. Celebrity chef Julia Childs was a huge fan, so expect the mouth-watering flavors to set your mouths and hearts on fire. And for the freshest catch of the day, be sure to stop by Citronelle (805.963.0111), a spot with ocean views that offers jumbo prawns, eel carpaccio, and other innovative seafood for consumption under the stars.

No romantic tryst is complete without the perfect place to lay your head, so look no further than the 77-room, 20-suite Hotel Andalucia located in Santa Barbara's historic downtown district. From the wrought-iron fixtures to the frescoed ceilings, the hotel oozes sensuality from every carefully thought-out detail.

If it's the sand and surf that get your juices flowing, then it's off to the Bacara Resort & Spa, a grand property featuring Mediterranean-style villas situated along two miles of secluded coast. Italian linens, a 42,000-square-foot spa, and a 211-seat screening room are just some of the luxurious amenities offered by this exclusive hotel.

Privacy and Shangri-la are found by unpacking at the celebrated El Encanto Hotel & Garden Villas. With its panoramic views of the ocean and charming cottages, El Encanto—Spanish for "the enchanted"—lives up to its reputation as one of the most romantic lodgings in town.

And for those night owls looking to dance into the wee hours, turn up the heat by checking out the acts at club Soho (805.962.7776), featuring a varied lineup of live jazz, blues, reggae, and folk music.

Published: 13 Jun 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Santa Barbara

$176
Average/night*
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#1
Harbor House Inn
$421
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#2
Canary a Kimpton Hotel
$359-$399
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#4
West Beach Inn
$174-$238
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#5
Lavender Inn by the Sea

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