Like an ambassador to the city, the Santa Barbara Inn puts on its best face to welcome visitors. From any direction, the ride there provides views ranging from manicured neighborhoods to wetland preserve areas and picturesque coastal views unlike any place else in California.
Friendly staff greet you the moment you pass under the arched entryway into the valet area. Motorcyclists have the option to park quite near to the reception area’s entrance.
My first impression of the inn began after exiting US 101 at Olive Mill Rd. The roundabout just off the freeway was under heavy construction, providing an initially chaotic view of the area.
This impression would soon be contrasted by the short, idyllic ride along Channel Dr to East Cabrillo Blvd. Ocean views and nature preserves replaced heavy construction equipment, and this brief, tranquil jaunt from the highway was punctuated by the charming facade of the inn at the end, glowing in the afternoon sunlight.
Simple things like looking for light switches in unfamiliar hotel rooms can be one of those minor frustrations inherent with travel. This example comes to mind because walking into the oceanfront suite was immensely welcoming, and immediately felt like a place to base out of for at least a few days.
The foyer, with its own dedicated closet, was spacious enough to shed dirty boots or riding gear if need be, and afternoon sunlight flooded the room from the ocean-facing patio doors. Beyond those doors was a cozy balcony, complete with a table, chairs, a bar cart, and a large wall clock and thermometer designed to complement the place’s aesthetics.
Inside, the living room, bedroom, bathroom, and dressing area all shared the same high level of furnishings and attention to detail. It was a very welcome start to the week’s journeys, and I was tempted to find a reason to stay in Santa Barbara for a few days more.
A mix of high-end luxury and small-town quaintness is woven into the oceanfront location. Exquisite rooms lie behind the doors, adorned with their heavy brass knockers, and in my case, the ocean-view balcony looks down on the outdoor pool and hot tub area with an adjacent on-site restaurant.
Given the room itself had its own hot tub in the immense bathroom, I always debated whether to step outside to explore or to relax in the suite’s spacious surroundings after a long day in the saddle.
Worthy of its own writeup, the on-site Convivo restaurant has received acclaim from various sources for its menu, which keeps with the high level of the surrounding panoramic ocean views. With all this luxury the hotel offers on-site, just minutes from the inn are both the Santa Barbara Zoo and Stearns Wharf, where you can ride your motorcycle out onto the pier for a meal over the ocean and some unique photographs.
Only slightly farther away is the famed State St with its pedestrian-friendly mall. Stretching several blocks, this mix of luxury boutiques and restaurants has history woven into it, with the nearby Plaza de la Guerra serving as a civic and cultural space from 1853 to the present day.
- Great location
- Secure parking with open-air and covered options
- Excellent on-site restaurant
- Welcoming pool/hot tub deck
- Spacious rooms
- Ample power outlets
- High-end decor
- Multiple closets
- Nicely outfitted balcony
- Good acoustic isolation in rooms
- Santa Barbara Zoo
- State Street Promenade
- Plaza de la Guerra
- Stearns Wharf
- Chumash Painted Cave
Santa Barbara is squeezed into a corridor bordered by the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Other than a few small communities, the nearby mountains are sparsely populated and strewn with several small roads not to be missed on a motorcycle tour.
SR 154 heads into the mountains directly from the center of Santa Barbara and winds inland through the mountains all the way to Los Olivos before reconnecting with US 101.
For those wanting a more spirited riding experience, just a few miles outside of town, riders can veer off SR 154 onto Painted Cave Rd. This single-lane strip of extremely twisty asphalt curls up the mountain through a series of stunning views of the city and Pacific Ocean below before reaching the Chumash Painted Cave.
Painted Cave Rd continues on a short distance through a small community before connecting with Camino Cielo. At this intersection, you can either turn left for a short but very twisty ride back to SR 154, or turn right for a longer commitment to twisties winding back to Santa Barbara farther east.
Several other paved and unpaved routes in these mountains lead to the Gibraltar Reservoir, some hot spring sites, and—of course—nearly endless coastal mountain views.
Find them at 901 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbaba, CA, (800) 231-0431