Unwind and explore with bed and breakfasts in Santa Barbara

Before a backdrop of hazy Santa Ynez peaks and rolling vineyards, Santa Barbara County spreads out with its surf-washed shores and white-painted churches from centuries ago. It's an arty, laid-back place that's steeped in SoCal atmosphere. And there are oodles of alluring bed and breakfasts in Santa Barbara that come with leafy porches and a warm local welcome.

The charms of Santa Barbara B&Bs

Where to begin? Maybe with that hearty smile at reception? Perhaps with the sumptuous suites that brim with antiques and hacienda-style design? Maybe with the jasmine-scented yards and their sloshing swimming pools? Yep, there are loads of things that make B&Bs in Santa Barbara such a special pick.

A forget-me-not style

Many of the bed and breakfasts in Santa Barbara work hard to stay true to the looks of their city. So, don't be surprised to find your room set deep in the grounds of a whitewashed estate that could have been plucked from the sierras of Spain. Expect flurries of Baroque architecture and interiors filled with terracotta tiles and azulejo, too.

Something luxury awaits

It's normal for Santa Barbara B&Bs to sit at the more luxurious end of the accommodation scale. And that's not just with their hot tubs and swimming pools. It's with the service, too – expect wine and cheese soirees in the evenings, and made-to-order breakfasts of local farm-to-table ingredients.

An area guide for those booking Santa Barbara B&Bs

Covering winelands and chaparral-clad peaks, dropping down to wavy ocean coves where surfers ride the swells, and beckoning with immersive historic districts laden with adobe cottages and Andalusian church spires, Santa Barbara certainly has no shortage of awesome spots to hide its B&Bs in.

Downtown's perennial draws

Between the acclaimed Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the clusters and vaudeville theaters, there's rarely a dull moment in the historic heart of this city. You can wander a few blocks to find the stone-built Old Mission from here, or just linger during the summer for ad hoc music festivals and jazz shows. Downtown also plays host to some of the top-rated B&Bs.

Unfurl the towel and get ready to laze by The Mesa

Lived-in cul-de-sacs skirt around the bluffs of The Mesa district. Part bedroom neighborhood, part hip surfer retreat, this is the spot to go to for low-key B&Bs that have walking access to some of the county's most stunning beaches.

Escape to the mountains

You're not limited to picking bed and breakfast in Santa Barbara's buzzing heart. The pull of the mountains – the Santa Ynez range – is strong in these parts. Head that way and the valleys open onto a Shangri-La of verdant grape fields, where guest houses are often located right next to tasting rooms or on the site of organic farms.

Even more sands beckon by East Beach

This darling of the central coast isn't considered the kingpin of the so-called American Riviera for nothing. Gold-tinted sands stretch out on both flanks, but the best in town might just be East Beach. It's backed by regimented rows of palm trees and speckled with family picnic places. There are volleyball courts, too, along with gift shops and parklands just behind.

Ojai's a more far-flung alternative

Not strictly in Santa Barbara but part of the larger county, Ojai is an arty town that beckons on the southern ridges of the Santa Ynez mountains a little to the east. It's a curious place, pitting New Age crystal shops and meditation retreats against chic wineries and country ranches.

Scoring great bargains on Santa Barbara accommodation

Searching for ways to cut the cost of your stay in Santa Barbara B&Bs? Look no further. The pointers below should let you keep more dollars for those sweet Californian wines, helping you spend less on a place to stay.

Warm weather brings bigger crowds

The general rule in this part of California is the hotter it gets, the pricier it gets. June to August is peak season for that reason, and the town's B&Bs – particularly those huddling around The Mesa and the beach – will be more expensive. You might want to plan a trip for fall, when wine harvests add to the draws, or spring, when the hiking is amazing, to benefit from cheaper rates.

Try to book well in advance

It's not just the cost of bed and breakfasts in Santa Barbara County that can shoot up in price if you come at the last minute. You could also find that you'll have to fork out more for car rentals – a breezy convertible, if you please – and wine tours.