You don’t have to squint to see sunny Spain in Santa Barbara
. The city’s terra-cotta roof tiles and whitewashed colonial architecture speak to its past, first as an eighteenth-century military outpost and mission, and later as a climate-blessed stage for silent American films.
“Santa Barbara is known as the ‘American Riviera,’ but it offers more than Europe’s,” says Limor Decter, a New York City-based Virtuoso advisor. “It has a great Spanish and Mediterranean feel, but also the spacious grandeur of California, with the Pacific on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other.”
A gateway to the wine district of the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara has developed a strong reputation for food and wine, bolstered by the recent opening of Smithy Kitchen + Bar
from chef Lauren Herman, who touts locally grown, raised, and caught ingredients. Chef Jessi Singh’s Indian food at the new Bibi Ji
comes paired with regional vintages selected by James Beard-awarded sommelier Rajat Parr. Bluewater Grill
serves the area’s famous sea urchins, as well as oysters and locally caught fish.
Santa Barbara wouldn’t be the American Riviera without swimming, sunning, and surfing on East or Butterfly beaches. Its old-world traditions include Sunday matches at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club
, May through October, to stomp the divots between chuckers.
Venturing round-trip from L.A., Princess Cruises’ four-day West Coast sailing
calls on Santa Barbara en route to Ensenada, Mexico. Shore excursions from the 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess
explore the Old Mission Santa Barbara, café-and boutique-lined State Street, and Santa Ynez Valley wineries.