Located on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County, Montecito is a lush, seaside enclave, where you'll find ambling homes tucked into the mountainside, cozy eateries, and quaint boutiques that beckon you (and your pocket book).
Before Hollywood was Hollywood, Montecito was the choice playground for filmmakers, starlets, and leading men who came to town to shoot films—and take five from the limelight. While the filmmaking industry did not stick, the town has a colorful history and many celebs still call Montecito home. Charlie Chaplin laid down roots with his Montecito Inn—still a popular hideaway—and The Four Seasons Biltmore's Coral Casino was recently refurbished to its glory days, when the likes of Lana Turner sipped bubbly by the pool, and Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck held court at fanciful theme parties. Hidden in the Montecito hills, the San Ysidro Ranch has hosted everyone from John and Jacqueline Kennedy to Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, and their cozy restaurant, Plow & Angel, is a choice spot for special occasions or a quiet meal by the fire. The area's estates are home to ex-pats of Los Angeles and household names looking to get away—including the media queen herself, Oprah Winfrey. Behind the shady trees you'll find the area's trademark Spanish Revival Colonial-style homes and buildings, built by renowned architect George Washington Smith in the early twentieth century. One of the more well-known homes in town was once owned by a fabled former opera singer who devoted her life to creating a blooming oasis of gardens in her yard. Now open to the public, visitors can tour the lush landscapes of Madame Gana Walska's Lotusland.
Times may have changed from Montecito's early days, but it's easy to forget the year while winding through the sycamore-lined lanes and strolling along the town's quaint main street, Coast Village Road. Walking the short distance from one end of the stretch to the other can take hours if you choose to peek into the street's many galleries, boutiques, and intimate restaurants. Maison K carries chic accents for your home, while shops like Angel and Dressed are the spots to find threads of the moment. For an authentic Italian feast day or night, stop into Tre Lune, where the dishes are hot and delicious and the black and white photos on the wall tell the history of the haunt. Grab a pizza to-go or enjoy a glass of wine with pasta at Pane e Vino, a more casual Italian option nearby. In the middle of Coast Village, Lucky's is always packed. Not only are their steaks thick and juicy, the drinks are mixed to a tee and the crowd is a cross section of the community—from retired locals and twenty-something couples on date night, to families out for dinner and neighbors in for a quick drink. Mexican fare can be found at Cava and Los Arroyos, and cozy breakfast spots like Jeanine's serve strong coffee and sweet treats to kick off the day.
A short drive into the hills takes you to hiking trails that wind up to plateaus with panoramic views of the city, the ocean, and the Channel Islands just off shore. South of Montecito Peak in Hot Springs Canyon, the Hot Springs Hotel once attracted visitors to the area's natural springs, which the native Chumash frequented for healing soaks. After the hotel burned in 1920, the land was eventually purchased for private use and the sulfuric pools now sit untouched—save for the daring hiker or college student who knows where to find them. For a less hidden (and legal) soak, head to town's pristine shores. Butterfly Beach is a popular stretch in front of the Biltmore hotel, which leads southeast toward more off the beaten track beach options including Hammonds and Miramar (both favorites for surfers).
Whether stopping through or staying in town, visitors are welcome to step into Montecito's picturesque surroundings to enjoy the beauty of its mountains and ocean, bustling main street, indulgent resort offerings, or simply to sit back and recall its storied past.
900 San Ysidro Lane
At El Bosque Road
695 Ashley Rd
1253 Coast Village Road
516 San Ysidro Road
Santa Barbara County