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Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara

Hotel Oceana exterior

Santa Barbara, California, USA
Santa Barbara's magnificent coastline is home to some of the best, and some of the most overpriced, hotels in western California. Blue List Hotel's Matt Short discovers a shore bet with plenty of sun, sea and sand, sand sand.

first impressions
This ultra-stylish, beachfront hotel has all the charm and panache of a Spanish villa. Nestled between the harbour and the marina, this family-friendly four-star getaway is ideally located for every visitor looking to make the most of Santa Barbara. It's only seconds away from thriving downtown and, as its name suggests, boasts hard-to-beat views of the stunning Riviera.

But unlike many of the larger, spa hotels in this affluent spot, the Oceana offers luxurious living without a hefty price tag.

bedrooms
The Oceana boasts 122 guest rooms, each of which are immaculately designed with a modern, chic feel. Recent refurbishments have added wonderful hardwood floors, high-definition LCD TVs and the latest iPod docking stations. Imported Egyptian cotton linens, down comforters and pillows also come as standard.

Rooms vary in size and extras, with accommodation to suit all tastes, needs and budgets. Single rooms and modest but affordable, and are perfect for that overnight, hassle-free stay. Ocean View rooms offer exactly that: sweeping views of the ocean and harbour. These wonderful rooms also have comfortable seating areas overlooking it all, so you can really soak it all in. The Junior Suites are ideally suited for families or larger parties. They boast bespoke, matching furniture and pull-out sofa beds for the kids (or snoring partner).

Hotel Oceana bedroom

All rooms come with a fabulous en-suite bathroom with complimentary Aveda toiletries. There's also a hairdryer, iron and ironing board – essential for looking your best among the rich and beautiful local population!

The rooms are spread among six exquisite, Spanish-style villas, each of which has its own courtyard with water fountains and Mediterranean palm trees.

If you really must work, business travellers may be interested to learn that the Oceana offers free Wi-Fi throughout.

food and drink
Breakfast in the dining room is a grand affair. It includes freshly baked pastries and every conceivable local fresh fruit. Here's a tip: wear trousers with an elasticated waistband ... to fit more in!

If the sun in shining (and in Santa Barbara, it is almost all year-round), grab your plate and head for the outdoor patio to catch a few rays and catch a glimpse of the garden's lush, tropical flowers and birds of paradise.

While there's no restaurant in the hotel, Santa Barbara is brimming with places to eat, and of which are within comfortable walking distance. The main shopping district of State Street comes alive at night, with eateries spilling out onto the streets, offering the finest in local seasonal produce – much of it caught that afternoon from the harbour.

service with a smile?
The large team of young, friendly and enthusiastic staff are on hand around the clock to make you feel at home. Despite the hotel's size, this exceptional service and attention to detail gives the place more of a cosy B&B feel.

A range of tailor-made deals and packages are available (see Local Attractions, below) while knowledgeable staff are always ready to help with any bookings, tours or reservations. This is useful for all types of traveller, especially first-time visitors to the region.

Children are welcome "with open arms", while the hotel has good facilities for business conferences and even wedding parties. There's two outdoor swimming pools, a whirlpool and private poolside cabanas. There is even a brand new fitness centre with all the latest cardio and weight training equipment, as well as a newly refurbished boardroom.

If that's not enough, sample the extensive range of spa services, from massages to manicures, and waxing to make-up.

Hotel Oceana beach

local attractions
SB is a playground for the rich and famous. And that's no surprise given the extensive harbour and marina – home to dozens of multi-million dollar yachts. But it's far from pretentious and attracts millions of visitors from all walks of life. Even the odd, struggling travel writer makes his way here from time-to-time! ('Odd' and 'struggling' being the operative words -- ED).

The hotel itself organises a range of overnight package tours, including family trips the local zoo (perfect for kids and big kids alike), golf day-passes at the local Sandpiper course, and jeep tours to nearby wineries. All of the packages include free parking and a Continental breakfast.

Shopaholics take note: you really can shop till you drop in SB – there are hundreds of boutiques on every block. Most are within easy walking distance of the hotel, too. If you're on foot, keep an eye out for SB's wonderful architecture, especially in and around the Mission district.

But the best way to explore SB is by bike. The Oceana will help organise rentals. There are a number of well signposted routes with clearly laid-out maps.

A trip to SB wouldn't be complete without a stroll along the region's beaches and, if the water temperature allows, a dip in the Pacific. Whale and dolphin tours operate daily and can be booked from the hotel.

will it break the bank?
SB is one of the most expensive places to live in the USA. Real estate costs the earth and house prices are still going through the roof, despite the recession. BUT ... the Oceana is the exception. Rooms start from just $299 per night. Even the largest rooms, the Ocean View, will only set you back $495. Worth it for the view alone!

details
Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara
202 West Cabrillo Boulevard
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Web: www.hoteloceanasantabarbara.com

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