The Santa Barbara Luxury Hotel That Makes You Feel Like You've Stepped Back Into History

The coastal city of Santa Barbara, California between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean is known as the American Riviera thanks to its Mediterranean climate and an overall relaxed yet stylish vibe. As such, it's attracted a lot of celebrities over the years. It's even where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to settle down after they left England: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex now have a stunning mansion in Montecito.

The city also has European vibes thanks to the amount of Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings. One of the most famous is the restored Mission Santa Barbara with its twin domed towers. The mission was built in the 1780s when the area was settled by the Spanish. A hundred years later, the area was known as a destination for guests looking for a healthy retreat, according to Marin Magazine. With the earthquake of 1925, 85% of downtown had to be repaired or rebuilt, according to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. As the city was rebuilt, Spanish-style architecture reigned supreme. One example of that iconic architectural style is Hotel Californian.

Explore wants to acknowledge that this is the traditional territory of the Chumash and Shmuwich (Barbareño).

Hotel Californian has the original 1925 facade

A block from the beach, Hotel Californian was designed by Mark Shields of Design Arc to be in keeping with Santa Barbara's classic Spanish architectural style with its clay tile roof and white walls, per MATT Construction. It's on the site of the original Hotel Californian, which was built in 1925 after the big earthquake, and while the hotel wasn't kept up over the years, the original facade remained. That was the anchor point for building the new Hotel Californian, so when you stay there, you're staying in a bit of Santa Barbara history. The interiors and the room design incorporate Spanish style or Moroccan influence, according to The Blonde Abroad.

Hotel Californian is perfectly positioned to enjoy some historical aspects of Santa Barbara. It's a few blocks from the Amtrak Station, and next to the station is the historic Moreton Bay Fig Tree. The massive tree was planted in 1877, and it measures 80 feet tall and has 170 feet of canopy. The hotel is also a block from Stearns Wharf; built in 1872, the wooden wharf has been in operation ever since.

Santa Barbara is perfect for recreation and relaxation

Hotel Californian is in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone neighborhood, which has a number of tasting rooms featuring Santa Barbara's wines. For wine lovers, Santa Barbara has lots of options; the county has seven designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), per Santa Maria Valley. Along with wine tasting, to enjoy the best of Santa Barbara, you need to get outside.

Get out on the water and go whale watching, surfing, or kayaking; the Channel Islands National Park off-shore is worth a visit considering the natural beauty and history. For a dose of culture, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is home to more Claude Monet paintings than any other West Coast museum, and for some of the best views in town, lace up your walking shoes and hit the trails. The Inspiration Point trail in Los Padres National Forest takes you on a bit of a strenuous uphill hike to a beautiful ocean view, and the Arroyo Burro Beach Loop trail in Douglas Family Preserve overlooking the ocean is great for families, via AllTrails. And for those looking to embrace the roots of Santa Barbara as a wellness retreat, downtown Santa Barbara's Salt Cave has a cave covered in pink Himalayan salt where you can relax and recharge. Or get a massage or body treatment at Majorelle in Hotel Californian.