An intimate and clubby hideaway, Palihouse Santa Barbara brings the Palisociety brand’s signature wit, warmth and charm to the heart of the Presidio neighbourhood. 24 airy bedrooms cluster around a lush Mediterranean-inspired courtyard where vines climb the walls and pink vintage umbrellas shade marble-topped cafe tables and rattan armchairs. There’s a sparkling swimming pool tucked away behind a pale green gate, the perfect place to spend a balmy afternoon sipping Palisade Sangria. It all makes you loath to hop on that free Linus bike and leave the place… though when you’re ready, Santa Barbara’s golden beaches and wine tasting trails await.
Double rooms from £298.51 ($398), including tax at 12.195 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $7.00 per room per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of $33.66 per room per night on check-out.
Rates don’t include breakfast – morning options on the all-day menu include buttermilk waffles, chilaquiles, a breakfast burrito, avocado toast and, this being California, a daily smoothie and a cold-pressed green juice.
There are only bar bites available at the hotel after 3pm, but the front desk will happily point you towards the neighbourhood’s finest eateries for dinner.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, gym, swimming pool, in-room spa treatments on request, lemonade and candy bar every afternoon, underground parking, electric car charging stations and free Linus bikes to borrow. In rooms: private outdoor balcony or garden, deep soaking bath tub, Nespresso machine, Smeg fridge and Diptyque bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Every room is painted in a soothing light blue (a nod to the ocean less than two miles away) with accents of pistachio green, Seventies-inspired checked curtains and chintzy upholstery – it’s a playful Palisociety mishmash that shouldn’t work on paper but charms your socks off in person. If pushed, we’d suggest plumping for the Grand Studio with its eye-popping pink ensuite, adorable balcony and full-size Smeg fridge (handy for dipping into your Funk Zone wine haul).
The palm-fringed outdoor swimming pool is heated, family-friendly and just about large enough to swim lengths in (just). Sunloungers and pastel pink umbrellas line the sides and stripey towels complete the retro aesthetic.
There’s no spa but in-room massages and beauty treatments can be arranged in advance with the front desk. The gym is equipped with top-spec equipment and Peloton bikes.
Anything but monochrome – there’s a lightness about this place that makes you want to do your inner five-year old proud. Girls of all ages should channel Katy Perry in bubblegum brights, jelly shoes and daisy-printed pedal pushers; boys should go unapologetically Palm Beach in green trousers and a bright pink cashmere cable-knit. Revert to funereal black as soon as you get home like it was all a technicolour dream.
All common areas and one guest room (the Grand Studio ADA) are suitable for wheelchair users.
For a charge of US$150 a booking, small dogs (up to 30lbs) will be inducted into the ‘Pawlisociety’ pet program – perks include dog beds, toys and organic treats, plus dog walking on request. See more pet-friendly hotels in Santa Barbara.
All ages are welcome but the hotel isn’t geared towards children. Families should opt for the Grand Studio Double which has two queen-size beds or El Apartamento which has a kitchenette. Cribs and extra beds are available on request.
Outside in the courtyard, beside the lightly bubbling fountain.
Polo shirts and mini skirts.
You can choose to eat in the lobby lounge or the cocktail bar, but with Santa Barbara’s balmy weather, the best option is in the verdant central courtyard where the walls are draped in bougainvillea and wisteria, pink parasols provide shade and woven armchairs are upholstered in fabulous florals. Options on the simple all-day bistro menu range from the Fisher Sandwich (a whitefish patty with tartar sauce on a brioche roll), to the House Burger and the Palicobb Salad. Sweet tooth? Drop by the free lemonade and candy bar every afternoon for a nostalgic pick-me-up.
A glittering pink chandelier, striped armchairs and bamboo stools adorn the intimate cocktail bar. Favourites on the menu are the Santa Maria Martini (vodka, strawberry, lemon, balsamic vinegar and black pepper), the Palisade Sangria (Sauvignon Blanc, peach liqueur, peaches and grapes) and a thoughtful selection of local wines and beer.
Those in the know can also seek out the secret Honor Bar (you’ll get a key when you check-in) – it’s hidden behind a bougainvillea bush in the courtyard so you can grab snacks and drinks anytime.
You can order from the all-day menu from 8am to 3pm daily. There’s a limited menu of bar bites served until 10pm Wednesday to Sunday.
The all-day and bar menus are available as room service during the same opening hours.
Palihouse Santa Barbara presides in the heart of the historic downtown Presidio neighbourhood which brims with independent cafes, boutiques and open-air restaurants.
To reach Santa Barbara’s mid-sized airport (just 15 minutes’ drive away from the hotel), you’ll likely need to connect through one of the west coast’s big cities such as Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco or Seattle.
The Santa Barbara Amtrak station is downtown, just two blocks from the beach. It’s served by the Coast Starlight train (which travels between Los Angeles and Seattle) and the scenic Pacific Surfliner (which chugs along the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego).
If you’ve been cruising California’s coastline and need to stable your hot rod, the hotel has underground parking available (or two electric car charging stations if you’re more of a Prius person).
Worth getting out of bed for
If, after a few horizontal hours by the pool, you’ve turned the same shade of pink as your umbrella, you’ll know it’s time to don a sunhat and strike out for the Presidio neighbourhood’s brilliant boutiques, cafes and galleries. Or, borrow one of the hotel’s Linus bikes and pedal to the waterfront for the seaside sights and sounds of Stearns Wharf, the bustling (but quite tourist-y) pier.
Water babies will find great surfing nearby at Leadbetter Point (best for beginners), Hammond’s Point (intermediate) and Rincon Point (advanced). If you prefer dry land, head into the foothills for a heart-pumping hike – try the four-mile Rattlesnake Trail if you’ve got Fido in tow, the aptly named Inspiration Point hike through ancient oaks and sycamores or the Lizard’s Mouth hike for the best views of Santa Barbara.
Aside from sun, surf and natural beauty, Santa Barbara is also home to a vibrant artistic community; the Santa Barbara Museum of Artholds an impressive permanent collection, including a cache of Monets, and presents ever-changing exhibitions of painting, photography and sculpture. Wrap up the day with wine tasting in one of the many tasting rooms in the Funk Zone to sample Santa Barbara’s best local vintages.
For a day trip, Santa Ynez is a sophisticated cowboy town just 30 miles inland that’s known for fantastic horseback riding, wine tasting and upscale foodie destinations.
If you’re getting a jump on the day, grab an expertly roasted coffee and pastry from Handlebar Coffee Roasters on E. Canon Perdido Street (just a three-minute walk away), owned by a married couple who were both professional racing cyclists before switching gears to become professional espresso experts.
Also just a quick walk from the hotel is the Santa Barbara Public Market, a local favorite with its array of artisanal vendors, sustainably sourced fare and easy grab-and-go delicacies. From pizza to Thai, sushi to vegan bowls, the Public Market will suit any mood or craving – opt for noodles from Empty Bowl Gourmet, falafel from Fala Bar and a beer (or two) in the garden. Another lunch option is Los Arroyos, a casual Mexican restaurant with family-made dishes like sopes, tamales and some of the best ceviche in town.
For dinner, try Sama Sama. Its South Asian fare takes heavy inspiration – and ingredients – from the county’s best local farms and purveyors. Sample the Signature Wings, the Crispy Duck Salad and the Soto Ayam Japanese chicken noodle soup, and save room for cocktails on the patio under the string lights. For seafood and classic California cuisine, flit to Finch and Fork for the freshest coastal ingredients that showcase Santa Barbara at its best (it’s open Wednesdays through Sundays).
There are over twenty tasting rooms to choose from in the Funk Zone, representing the best vineyards in Santa Barbara’s surrounding wine country. We’re partial to The Valley Project for its small batch wines and floor-to-ceiling chalk mural that maps the county’s viticulture.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this hip hideaway on the Golden Coast and unpacked their boutique finds and local wines, a full account of their SoCal stay will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Palihouse Santa Barbara…
Housed in a palm-shaded, tile-roofed mansion in the Presidio neighbourhood, Palihouse Santa Barbara is the personality-packed boutique hangout this coastal California town has always needed. In signature Palisociety style, the decor layers blue-blood details – tweed, chintz, rosettes, and even monogrammed tennis balls – and retro Riviera touches on top of the Spanish-Colonial architecture. Each cool communal space leads to the next via wide arches or French glass doors, so coffee at one of the lobby’s marble-topped tables leads to lunch beside the fountain in the courtyard leads to cocktails beneath that quirky oil painting in the bar. When you’re ready to retreat, you’ll find your room stuffed full of thoughtful amenities. Private balconies, Nespresso machines, Smeg mini-fridges, deep soaking bath tubs and Diptyque bath products come as standard.