Skip to main content

Experience Santa Barbara Car-free & Save

By: Santa Barbara Hotel Group / 17 Apr 2023
Experience santa barbara car-free & save

One of the things our guests love most about Santa Barbara is how easy it is to get around without a car. Now, that's not to say everyone arrives without a car! But, whether you arrive via train, plane or automobile, once you check in, so much is accessible on foot. Add public transportation, ride share services, guided tours and our beach hotels' fleet of bikes to the mix, and there's really no need to get behind the wheel.

Amtrak is a particularly attractive transportation option for our guests who live along the Pacific Surfliner route, stretching from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and Ventura County in the south all the way up to San Luis Obispo in the north. Even better yet, Amtrak gives guests access to a 20% roundtrip fare discount if you register through the Santa Barbara Car Free Project site at least three days in advance of your trip. And Santa Barbara Hotel Collection will put a cherry on top of that with a discount of 15% off our best available at the time of booking. So, not only will your budget get a boost, you'll also be treading extra lightly on the environment.

Our three beach hotels—Lavender Inn by the Sea, Inn by the Harbor and Brisas Del Mar Inn at the Beach—are located just three, easily-walkable blocks from the Transportation Center, the Santa Barbara Amtrak stop. For guests of our Best Western Plus Santa Barbara property, we provide complimentary pick-up and drop-off shuttle service between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. daily. (We also offer free airport transfers for our guests arriving by air.)

Once you're settled in at the accommodations of your choice, Santa Barbara is your oyster. Beach hotel guests can hop on our complimentary bikes and take a spin around town to get oriented. The waterfront Cabrillo Bike Path will lead you to the Harbor in one direction or Stearns Wharf and East Beach in the other. You can do a more ambitious loop following the scenic route signs to the Bird Refuge and then on to Butterfly Beach. From there, cruise along Coast Village Road in Montecito—perhaps stopping for a coffee, lunch or a browse in Montecito Country Mart—and loop back to the hotel.

You can bike or walk to the Harbor for fresh catch, a walk along the Breakwater and sea-faring excursions. Whale watching and sunset cruises depart from SEA Landing, where you can also rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. If you're a runner, start your day with a sunrise run up to Santa Barbara City College where you can work up a sweat doing a few rounds of stadium steps before the glorious downhill stretch back to the hotel.

Beach days can be enjoyed at Leadbetter Beach, an easy walk or bike ride from the beach properties as well. Culture, wine and food lovers have the Funk Zone nearby—the lively, artsy neighborhood is home to a big concentration of Urban Wine Trail wineries as well as vibrant murals and great coffee shops, bakeries, delis, restaurants and taquerias. A collection of seafood restaurants also line Cabrillo Boulevard, along with some Italian gems, offering many options for romantic dinners and al fresco lunches.

If you're newer to Santa Barbara, consider taking one of the informative Free Santa Barbara Walking Tours. These guided neighborhood journeys are filled with history and fascinating local trivia and concentrate on three different areas:  The Funk Zone, Waterfront and Lower Downtown. Reservations are recommended and while the tours are technically free a gratuity for your guide is highly encouraged!

If you're traveling with kids, MOXI – The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation is a must-stop on lower State Street. So is the newly reopened Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center on Stearns Wharf. Kids will also get a kick out of a ride on the Lil' Toot water taxi that travels between Stearns Wharf and the Harbor—the captain will often invite them to take the helm for a quick spell, too!

The Downtown State Street retail and entertainment district is also in walking and biking distance from the beach properties (it's a bit longer of a walk compared to the waterfront area). There, you'll find an abundance of shops and restaurants as you stroll along the State Street Promenade. Head just a block or two off State and you'll discover historic and architectural landmarks like El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park and the stunning Santa Barbara County Courthouse—the clocktower recently reopened to visitors, offering amazing sweeping city views. If you find yourself carrying too many shopping bags after a successful retail mission, simply grab an Uber or Lyft back to your hotel. Ride share services are also convenient if you're enjoying restaurants and nightlife after the sun goes down.

Guests of Best Western Plus Santa Barbara can take advantage of being walking distance to Mission Santa Barbara and the beautiful rose garden that sits across from it, with ample lawn space for picnicking and fun and games. If you like to walk, this property is just one mile from the heart of the theatre district at the upper end of the State Street Promenade. In addition to the Arlington, Granada and Vic theatres, you'll find independent boutiques in Arlington Plaza as well as some of the region's best restaurants and cafes along State and Victoria Streets. Plus, the Santa Barbara Public Market is a delectable one-stop-shop dining destination serving up tacos, noodles, pizzas, burgers, brews, ice cream and much more.

This is just a sampling of what awaits you as car-free traveler on The American Riviera. Our front desk staff are always happy to help you book guided tours and other memorable experiences to make the most of your time as our guest. You can also consider one of our packages that bundle activities and other perks to add value to your next Santa Barbara stay. Enjoy the ride!