17 November 2012

Destinations - Santa Barbara: West Beach and East Beach hotels

Santa Barbara, like most California beach cities, can be a challenging place to find reasonably priced accommodations.  However if you pick your dates carefully, and consider some of the less splashy properties in the West Beach and East Beach areas, you may be surprised.

Cabrillo Boulevard runs along the beach in Santa Barbara.  It's a beautiful, palm lined promenade.  State Street, downtown Santa Barbara's main drag ends at Cabrillo, though in a sense it continues over the water to become Stearns Wharf.

To the west of State Street is the area known as West Beach.  To the east of State Street is East Beach.

The greater number of hotels is found in the West Beach area, both along Cabrillo Boulevard and on the side streets behind Cabrillo.  But two of the largest are found in East Beach: Fess Parker's DoubleTree and the Hyatt Santa Barbara (known for decades and up until recently as the Hotel Mar Monte).

East Beach Grill
Prices run the gamut, but in general those on Cabrillo Boulevard (and therefore facing the beach) are more expensive, than the ones on the side streets behind Cabrillo.  For example, the original Motel 6 (which I wrote about in my previous post) is a tidy affair located one short block behind the Hyatt Santa Barbara.

Here are links to two Google Maps I created that plot the locations of most of the hotels and motels:

West Beach
East Beach

Now reasonable prices are a relative thing in Santa Barbara.  Even the Motel 6 on a summer weekend can set you back $200 per night.  But weekday nights (Sunday-Thursday) are nearly always less expensive than Friday and Saturday nights, and the non-summer months will be lower priced than peak season.

What many people forget, even Californians, is that the weather on the coast is at its best in autumn, yet prices can drop sharply after Labor Day.  If you want to keep costs in check yet enjoy lovely weather, you should think about a midweek visit in September or October.

Franciscan Inn
On my mid-October trip I paid about $100 per night at the Franciscan Inn for a small but very nice room in an exceptionally quiet area.  All of the other motels on Bath Street where the Franciscan Inn is situated, are similarly attractive.  Even the Days Inn on adjacent (and busier) Castillo Street is well-kept.

For visitors coming to Santa Barbara by train, the West Beach area is walking distance close to the Amtrak station.  If you have just one wheely-type suitcase per person, you can easily walk from the depot to any of the West Beach hotels in 5 minutes, 10 at most.  (To East Beach hotels you'll need to take a taxi.)

Train 777 leaving Santa Barbara headed north
Speaking of transportation, Santa Barbara is a city that is pretty easy to get around without a car, and they promote it at the Santa Barbara Car Free website.  And if you arrive car-less like I did, but want to rent a car just for a day or two it's easy: Avis is located close to the train station, and Hertz (which I used) has an agency at the DoubleTree Hotel.

There aren't a lot of restaurants in the immediate area but the lower part of State Street (on the other side of 101) has plenty, or if you have a car you can drive a short distance up to the residential Mesa area for a good selection of non-tourist eats.  And two blocks staggering distance from the Franciscan Inn is the Brewhouse Santa Barbara with a large selection of its own brews and pub food.  (I enjoyed a tasty IPA during their happy hour.)

Santa Barbara is justly renowned for its high-end hotels.  And in fact, my next post will be about one of those that is soon to reopen after years of closure.  But if you pick your dates and hotel wisely, you can visit this most beautiful of California destinations without spending a fortune.

What follows is a selection of photos of some of the West and East Beach hotels.

Casa del Mar Inn (West Beach)
Hotel Oceana (West Beach)

Beach House Inn (West Beach)

Blue Sands Motel (East Beach)
Santa Barbara Inn (East Beach)
The East Beach Cottages (vrbo.com property # 79543)

Harbor House (West Beach)

Hyatt Santa Barbara (East Beach)


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