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Sweet, affordable places to sleep in Santa Barbara
BRISAS DEL MAR, INN AT THE BEACH
223 Castillo St., 93101; (800) 468-1988 or (805) 966-2219; www.brisasdelmarinn.com
This hotel has probably never looked better. In a 2003 renovation of this 1958 complex (formerly the Tropicana Inn & Suites), the owners gave the place a pleasant modmed feel -- you know, sleekly modern, yet Mediterranean enough to sport the requisite Santa Barbara red-tile roofing and Spanish colonial flourishes. The tile work is colorful. A fountain tinkles out front, and a stucco stairwell curves gracefully skyward. Inside, you'll find upscale Mission and French Country furniture, linens and wallpaper. (The owners also run four other local hotels.) Kids are welcome, and the smallish pool is good for splashing, less so for laps.
Price: $155.68, including tax, for a room with a king-size bed. Rates run $132 to $366, depending on room and season. Auto club or AARP discounts of 10%. Two-night minimum for Saturday arrivals. Cancellation up to 48 hours before arrival.
Amenities: Thirty-one rooms; 16 have kitchens. (Three "penthouse" suites have fireplaces too.) Air conditioning. HBO. Free wireless Internet access. DVD players in rooms, and a free library of 600 DVDs. Continental breakfast included, along with wine and cheese and cookies in the evening. Pool, whirlpool, exercise room and a couple of decks for lounging or sunbathing.
Pros: Most rooms are set far back from the street, and the interiors are very comfortable. Staff was friendly. Upstairs suites have nice views of palms and mountains. And it's an easy walk to the train station and the shops of State Street.
Cons: Name notwithstanding, it's not at the beach; it's two long blocks away. Also, once you step past the design flourishes in front, you see that most rooms are arrayed around an automotive void: a sunken parking lot that must have seemed a great idea in 1958. The current owners' beautification efforts are impressive, but the neighbors haven't caught on yet: There's a bland apartment building on one side, a Chevron station on the other. And you hear the trains' horns as they pass. I liked that, but sopewo. You know, some people won't. --Chris Reynolds
PRESIDIO MOTEL 1620 State St.; (805) 963-1355, www.thepresidiomotel.com
The price is right at this hipster motel-in-the-making on the northern end of State Street. It's not a luxury hotel, but it's more than you would expect for midweek rates that start at $69. And the staff is friendly too.
Chris Sewell and his girlfriend, Kenny Osehan, who leased the two-story structure three years ago, have been remaking it ever since. Most of the 16 rooms have new tile baths and mod, minimalist furniture. The rest, while plainly furnished, sport nice touches such as art photos and, in upstairs rooms, hand-crafted origami mobiles.
Price: $89.60, including tax, for a room with a queen-size bed. (I was upgraded to a king-bedded room upon check-in. I did not identify myself as a reporter. Sewell said he made the switch to accommodate another guest.) Rates are $69 to $129 midweek and $95 to $249 on weekends, depending on the date. Two-night minimums on some summer weekends.
Parking: 16 spaces.
Amenities: Sixteen rooms, all with cable TV, phone, heat, air conditioning and either a shower or shower-tub; some have a microwave or small refrigerator. Small sun deck with lounge chairs. Coffee, tea, fruit and pastries in the morning. Free cruiser bikes if you ask early enough; there are only four.
Pros: Helpful staff. Spotless, comfy bed. Artistic vibe. Near Alameda Park, with a playground, and Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden, with a pond and nature trails.
Cons: About 11/2 miles from the beach and two blocks from the last stop of the Downtown Waterfront Shuttle. Exterior, motel-type access to rooms. Thin bath towels. Spotty maintenance. (In my room, the closet rod was rusty, the microwave's glass plate was missing and the shower lacked a soap dish.) Some street noise.-- Jane Engle
THE INN BY THE HARBOR 433 W. Montecito St.; (805) 963-7851; or (800) 626-1986, www.innbytheharbor.com.
About the most glaring thing at this two-story motel is that it's not "by the harbor." In fact, it's not even next to the harbor but three blocks north facing busy Montecito Street. My small room held a queen-size bed and was jammed with country pine furniture -- with two people you might be forced to do-si-do around each other -- but opened to a pleasantly landscaped central courtyard with a pool and a whirlpool. If you seek quiet, ask for a room away from the road in the back, which abuts Pershing Park.
Price: $155.23, including tax, for a room with a queen-sized bed. Auto club or and AARP discounts of 10%.
Amenities: 42 nonsmoking rooms, two suites with kitchens. Free wireless access and Internet access in the lobby. Pool, whirlpool, laundry and exercise room. Pros: Comfortable beds and pleasing country décor. DVD player (and HBO) and movies available from sister property, Las Brisas, next door. Microwave and refrigerator. Walkable to downtown on quiet residential streets, harbor and State Street. Good variety of continental breakfast choices (included in rate): cereal, fresh fruit, boiled eggs, toast, bagels and muffins. Wine and cheese in the evening, and milk and cookies at night.
Cons: Not near the harbor and faces a street with heavy traffic. Rooms, last renovated in 1999, show some signs of wear: yellowing plastic hair dryer, rust on hinges. Close to rail tracks, so you'll hear the train whistles blowing as they pass.--Vani Rangachar
THE INN AT EAST BEACH 1029 Orilla del Mar; (800) 575-5667 or (805) 965-0546; www.innateastbeach.com.
The Inn at East Beach is neatly laid out on multiple levels around a small swimming pool. It's one block back from beautiful East Beach and a trolley stop and across a public ball field from the Santa Barbara Zoo. Thirty-four rooms and suites are strikingly large with high ceilings, louvered windows and a collection of cheerful, original Haitian art; some have partial ocean views and electric fireplaces. During the Reagan years, when the president was often in residence at his Santa Barbara ranch, the inn was home to Secret Service and White House staff.
Price: $99.68, including tax; rates $89 to $365, depending on the season; cancellation until 48 hours before arrival.
Parking: Free, off-street.
Amenities: All rooms are nonsmoking and have free wireless Internet access, microwaves, refrigerators, coffee makers and ceiling fans.
Pros: The price is right, given the inn's tidiness and close-to-the-beach location. Furnishing is motel basic, but the care that goes into maintenance shines through. Complimentary continental breakfasts are lavish, and it would be hard to find friendlier or more thoughtful Santa Barbara hosts than managers Frank and Linda Santana.
Cons: The inn is upgrading to capitalize on the Midcentury modern architecture, resulting in higher prices. Too bad. Right now, it's perfect; you leave feeling as if you got at least as much as you paid for. --Susan Spano
MASON BEACH INN 324 W. Mason St.; (805) 962-3203, www.masonbeachinn.com
Work is a pain in the neck. The kids are bored, and your spouse is giving you that look. What you need is a relaxed weekend vacation that is not going to bust your budget. Try the Mason Beach Inn in Santa Barbara. This is a no-frills hotel, perfect for a quick, inexpensive getaway, only a block from the beach and a short walk from the clubs and restaurants of State Street.
OK, so the free continental breakfast at this Mission-style hotel is skimpy -- a couple of cold bagels, coffee and orange juice -- but the heated pool and hot tub in the back more than make up for it.
Plus, you can't beat the location, sandwiched between a community park and a quiet residential neighborhood. From here, you can walk to the harbor or ride a bike along the sand for miles. Free HBO and cable are included in every room, plus wireless Internet throughout the hotel.
One caveat: The furniture is dated, looking as though it came from a 1970s garage sale, and what's that smell on the second floor hallway? Try to get a room on the first floor. Still, for the price, Mason Beach Inn is a good deal.
Price: $149 for weekend, double.
Amenities: Free wireless Internet service, HBO, cable and heated swimming pool and hot tub.
Pros: Reasonable rates and great location in a quiet neighborhood near the beach, next to a community park.
Cons: Outdated furniture and a small breakfast.-- Hugo Martín
HOTEL SANTA BARBARA 533 State St. (888) 259-7700; www.hotelsantabarbara.com
This locally owned boutique hotel has none of the mustiness of an old property but all of the charm. The big, elegant lobby even features a vintage elevator that is so small and slow that most of the guests abandon it after a ride or two. But there is an attention to detail that feels of another time -- and a bright, airy look that will appeal to most guests.
The property, built in 1926, has had many lives. In its heyday, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard; stayed here, and actor-conservationist Leo Carrillo; reportedly once rode his horse through the front door.
The hotel was updated in 1997 and offers wireless Internet and all the comforts of the 21st century. The front desk staff is unusually helpful. Rooms are comfortable and very clean, with windows that can be opened to let in the briny-fresh coastal air. The hotel does not have a restaurant but puts out a large complimentary breakfast of croissants, fruits and cereal.
Price: Doubles from $159 weekdays; $189 weekends (two-night minimum.).
Parking: $5 a night
Amenities: Wireless Internet, down pillows, room safe. Pros: Family-owned local treasure in a great State Street location.
Cons: Rooms facing the street can be noisy on weekends; ask for an odd-numbered room -- 401, 403, etc., facing the back of the hotel. -- Chris Erskine
WEST BEACH INN 306 W. Cabrillo Blvd., 93101; (800) 716-6199; or (805) 963-4277, www.coasthotels.com
Several pleasant surprises await guests at this 46-room boutique-style motel. It's across the street from the Santa Barbara Yacht Harbor, with appealing marina and water views; continental breakfast is complimentary; there's a free daily wine and cheese reception; and perhaps best of all, it's was recently been refurbished.
Chic dark brown and lime furnishings, granite vanities, plush duvet bedding and 32-inch flat panel TVs are part of the package.
The West Beach Inn, built in the '50s, is outwardly similar to many of Santa Barbara's small lodgings. Two- and three-story red tile-roofed buildings surround a nicely landscaped courtyard with a small heated pool and spa.
Rooms are comfortable, if a bit small. But the staff is friendly, it's within walking distance of the pretty downtown shopping district and watersports are right across the street. Splurge on one of the waterfront rooms (ask for a second- or third-floor room so you'll have a good view and a private balcony); then wake up to a glorious sunrise. (note to desk---yes the sun rises on this side due to the weirdness of the coastline here).
Price: Doubles from $140 weekdays and $170 Saturdays; harbor view rooms from $170 weekdays and $210 weekend. Ten percent discount for seniors and AAA.(Rates increase after Presidents Day holiday.) Parking: Free.
Amenities: Small pool and spa; complimentary wireless Internet, continental breakfast and wine and cheese reception daily, 24-hour hot drink bar and fresh fruit in lobby. Desk staffed 24 hours.
Pros: Five-star furnishings at a three-star price. Faces Santa Barbara Yacht Harbor. Helpful staff. An easy walk to town and water.
Cons: Walls are thin; it can be noisy. Older rooms are small.--Rosemary McClure
MOTEL 6 SANTA BARBARA-BEACH NO. 1 443 Corona Ddel Mar, 93103; (805) 564-1392; www.motel6.com
This is the mother lode of the Motel 6 chain: the very first one started in 1962 by building contractors Paul Greene and William Becker, who charged just $6 per person per night. This motel looks much like all the others: two stories, nondescript design, wide concrete stairs leading to the second floor, the generic red, white and blue canopy emblazoned with "Welcome."
My room was on the second floor and had one queen bed (with that noisy colored quilted spread), a TV and nothing else except a bar of soap and towels. For die-hard Motel 6 travelers: This site seems well maintained, and desk staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the area. When booking, be careful: There's another Motel 6 on State Street near U.S. 101
Price: Check the Web bargains button online for deals. Current standard room rates are $63.99 weekdays, $85.99 weekends. Summer rates are $83.99 weekdays, $149.99 weekends.
Amenities: In-room amenities include cable TV, data ports and free phone calls. Also, kids stay free, as does one well-behaved pet per room. There's an unheated pool on the premises as well.
Pros: Great location for family or single travelers, as you're just two blocks off East Beach.
Cons: It's a bit off the beaten track and is a brisk, 20-minute brisk walk to State Street. And, like all Motel 6s, it's the bare-bones minimum.--Mary E. Forgione
BATH STREET INN 1720 Bath St., 93101; (805) 682-9680 or (toll-free in California) (800) 549-2284, www.bathstreetinn.com
Those who break out in a rash at the words "bed-and-breakfast" can put away the cortisone cream. Staying at this B&B feels more like coming home to visit your Aunt Alice -- if her taste and culinary skills were excellent and her only desire were to help you relax. This 1890s house has eight rooms (I stayed in the Partridge Room, which felt like a cocoon) and the newer back house has four more, each done in period decor but not even remotely pushing the edge of "cute."
Cake, lemonade and tea are available starting at 4 p.m. in the dining room, and wine is served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The breakfast (the day I was there, a lovely frittata, fresh fruit, homemade granola, freshly baked muffin, juice, coffee) was big enough to satisfy Paul Bunyan.
Price: $144 plus tax, plus $16.67 in taxes (corporate discount). Rates $150 to $270 weekends in and out of season; AAA, corporate and senior discounts.
Amenities: Full breakfast, wine in the afternoons, baked goods in the parlor, cable TV, wireless Internet access, some rooms with Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces.
Pros: Simply lovely. It's quiet, and the grounds are beautiful. (Have breakfast outdoors under the wisteria if you can.) The staff is a delight. Breakfast is huge and should carry you through the day.
Cons: Far from the tourist heart of Santa Barbara, although this may also be a plus