Santa Barbara, California Read Guide >
Santa Barbara proper is snuggled against the coast by the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains. Outside of town, deep into these mountains, lies Los Padres National Forest, a nearly two million acre park that provides Santa Barbara residents with numerous opportunities for hiking and recreational activities.
Okay, so maybe you're not a nature fan. That's okay! There are plenty of other things for you to do in your new town. Santa Barbara, frequently called the "American Riviera," draws in millions of tourists year round. Because of the vacation vibe, as well as the number of colleges in town, Santa Barbara has a great nightlife scene, world-class restaurants and nightclubs, and unbeatable shopping.
Not everything in Santa Barbara is Margaritaville, however. All this beauty and relaxation has its cost. Literally. Renters pay significant chunks of change for this lifestyle, but anyone there will insist that it is a price well worth paying.
The Riviera The Riviera is no misnomer. Winding hillside roads prevail in this beautiful, secluded area with great ocean views. The sprawling neighborhood overlooks the downtown scene and boasts gorgeous architectural feats. Apartments and private rental houses here will cost you, with two bedrooms going for anywhere between $2300-2700.
East/West/Up/Down State Street, one of the main thoroughfares in town, and Highway-101 create the boundaries for four of Santa Barbara's most populated neighborhoods: the Eastside, East Beach, the Westside, and West Beach. As their names suggest, the first two fall to the east of State Street, while the latter fall to the west. The 101 bisects the town, separating the West Side from West Beach, and the East Side from East Beach. West Beach and East Beach, quiet neighborhoods situated just minutes from the shore, boast gorgeous Spanish-style houses and apartments. Beauty comes with a price, however, with two-bedrooms running between $1700 - $2000. The East and Westside areas attract a more frugal crowd, including a high population of young families and aspiring young professionals. A two-bedroom in these park-ridden neighborhoods will cost you between $1600-$1800.
The Mesa The Mesa is located southwest of the downtown, close to both Santa Barbara City College and the beach. Because it is removed from the State Street crowd, it has less of a tourist vibe than the southern portions of town along the waterfront. East Mesa, which is closer to the college, has a bit of a younger vibe, while West Mesa is better for settled families and low-key professionals. Dwellings in this neighborhood vary from charming houses to drafty apartments to sprawling mansions. Prices for two bedrooms throughout Mesa generally cost in the low $2000s.
San Roque/Foothills There's something interesting happening in the northern portion of Santa Barbara. Because of the breathtaking views in the Foothills, rental prices are quite high in this region of town. However, just below the Foothills neighborhood, the distance from the beach makes the neighborhood of San Roque much more affordable. So, if you're a multimillionaire, good for you! You should definitely check out the luxurious rentals in the Foothills, which can cost up to $10,000 a month. If you have slightly less money to toss around, look into the family-friendly San Roque area, where two bedrooms generally go for the more modest price of $1800-2000. So you won't be in walking distance of the beach, but you'll be a safe distance from the tourist-infested areas that are closer to the waterfront.
Unincorporated and Far-flung In addition to rentals within city limits, Santa Barbara's surrounding metropolis also has a large amount of housing available, often times a bit more affordable than spots located within the city. Perhaps the premier far-flung neighborhood in Santa Barbara is the developing and recently incorporated area of Goleta. This area, nestled between downtown Santa Barbara and the notorious college town of Isla Vista, is full of quiet streets with a number of rental properties great for young families and professionals on a budget. Expect to pay between $1600-1800 for two bedrooms. College students will enjoy the young, party-going crowd living just to the west of Goleta in Isla Vista near the University of California's Santa Barbara campus. Rentals here are slightly more expensive than in Goleta, with the average cost of a two bedroom going for $2000-2300.
It's not only the rents that are expensive in Santa Barbara. Be prepared to shell out big bucks to simply secure an apartment in town. Though deposits vary based on rental type, you will generally pay at least one month's deposit; some rental agencies charge up to 10% of your yearly rent. This is in addition to application fees that generally range from $35-50.
Most apartments in town can be found without the help of a real estate agent, however, property management companies frequently have multiple available rentals within certain neighborhoods. Once you've found your dream neighborhood, you can go through the same management company to find the right apartment for you.
While rush hour may not be as bad in Santa Barbara as it is in Los Angeles County, getting to and from the downtown in the mornings and evenings can be a headache. Traffic on the main streets of town as well as on Highway 101 can make for a slow-going commute.
Santa Barbara MTD provides several local bus routes throughout the city, a well as into neighboring Isla Vista and Goleta. Additionally, express buses operate between the colleges, as well as into and out of downtown during weekday rush hour.
Recent developments have been made by the city to facilitate easier and safer bike paths, and the effort has not gone unnoticed. Santa Barbarians can been seen biking to and from their destinations any time of day.
So welcome to Santa Barbara! Whether you're here for partying, surfing or, I guess, your job, you'll be sure to enjoy the fun, mellow, sun-kissed vibe.
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