After the Fire & Mudslide

Visiting Santa Barbara

After all the news coverage of the December fire and January mudslide, you might be wondering if it’s a good time to visit. Please rest assured that Santa Barbara is as stunningly beautiful, safe and inviting as ever. Our visitor industry—from our beaches, resorts and parks to attractions and restaurants—is open and ready to welcome you, and really appreciates your patronage.

Thankfully, 99 percent of the Santa Barbara South Coast tourism infrastructure was unaffected. Only two Montecito hotels and a few hiking trails in the distant mountains of Montecito remain closed. Should you choose Santa Barbara for your next vacation, you will find nearly a hundred lodging options and several beautiful hiking trails to choose from, including popular Tunnel Trail leading to Inspiration Point. You can also discover more than a dozen beaches, as well as hundreds of acclaimed restaurants, shops and wineries throughout our community. It’s just as easy as ever to get here by car, Amtrak or the airport. The highway is open and traffic patterns have returned to normal.

Montecito Shines On

Channel Drive overlooking Butterfly Beach in Montecito, California. Photo Credit: Instagram @clairespiration

Although it was hit by the mudslide, Montecito has recovered and is well worth visiting. While two resorts are still being repaired and reopening soon, more than a dozen properties—from charming boutiques to beach resorts—are ready for your visit.

Montecito Inn, the property that was seen in a lot of media images of the disasters, has been restored to pristine condition and is welcoming guests once again. And it’s a wonderful place to stay, especially if being steeped in old Hollywood history appeals to you—Charlie Chaplin himself originally opened the property during the silent film era. Recently, a new celebrity has brought some glamour to the property in the form of “Top Chef’s” Phillip Frankland Lee, who opened Frankland’s Crab & Co.—the first of the hotel’s four new eateries—in April.

When it comes to the two closed hotels, the beachfront Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is slated to reopen June 1, in time for the summer season, while the reopening date for the historic San Ysidro Ranch in the foothills of Montecito will soon be announced.

Although you might see a few homes being repaired, the charming village offers so much for visitors, from its renowned eateries and romantic Butterfly Beach, to high-fashion label-hunting on Coast Village Road and Upper Village. Most of these businesses are independent and locally owned and would be delighted to have you walk through their doors. While in the area, you can also schedule a tour of two local treasures—Ganna Walska Lotusland and Casa del Herrero. Both majestic estates and gardens offer tours by appointment and can give you a feel for the Montecito lifestyle that has attracted superstars like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Brad Paisley, who are among the many high-profile, passionate local residents helping with recovery efforts.

California Poppies in bloom at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Photo Credit: Cecilia Rosell

Hiking Options

While two trails—Cold Springs Trail and Romero Canyon—undergo restoration, there are many other places to trek in Santa Barbara, Goleta and beyond. Inspiration Point is a popular front-country trail that’s challenging enough to make you break a sweat, and the views are really worth it. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s five miles of trails dedicated to showcasing the native landscape are a tamer alternative—and child- and dog-friendly. North of Goleta, one solid option is the scenic hike to Gaviota Peak, where you can take a detour to soak in the Gaviota Hot Springs. If you really want to escape into the wild, head to Channel Islands National Park, visible from the shores of Santa Barbara, for a day trip or overnight campout.

Planning & Logistics

We’ve received questions from visitors about how future rainstorms might impact the roads getting in and out of Santa Barbara.

View of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, in The American Riviera. Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

First, it’s important to put the storms into context. The volume and concentration of rain that caused the mudslide in January 2018 was categorized as a “once in 200-year event,” and it was so damaging because of the conditions created by the unusually large fire just weeks before. Santa Barbara is generally on the drier side, with more than 300 days of sunshine a year and less than 20 inches of average annual rainfall.

However, Southern California does occasionally get rainstorms, and Highway 101 typically remains open on the rare days when it rains heavily. On the very rare occasions where there are evacuations for communities that are in flood-prone (largely residential) areas, traffic can get congested temporarily near those communities.

The safety of our residents and visitors is a priority, so in the rare event where an evacuation is needed or a road is temporarily closed, the hospitality industry works closely with local law enforcement and government officials to communicate conditions and suggest alternative routes and locations in our vast destination. Our hotels know exactly what to do and will guide you as well.

In general, the day-to-day traffic is back to normal. And Amtrak trains and flights via the Santa Barbara Airport are excellent options for those who’d like travel car-free. Whatever way you get here, we hope to see you soon and sincerely thank you for thinking of Santa Barbara.

If you have any questions about visiting our community, please don’t hesitate to call 805-966-9222. We’re happy to help you plan your trip and look forward to giving you a warm welcome!