Funk Zone Flair: Santa Barbara’s Hotel Californian

One of Santa Barbara’s most popular regions is its Funk Zone, the ocean-adjacent industrial district in which creatives have fashioned a distinctive borough filled with wine tasting rooms, restaurants, art galleries, and shops. The Funk Zone is vibrant, and…funky, so it makes sense that its anchor hospitality spot reflect a bit of that edginess. With its Moorish design, unconventional décor, and imaginative programming, Hotel Californian is an iconoclastic Funk Zone enclave. Add sumptuous amenities, and one of the best swimming pools and sun decks along the west coast, and Hotel Californian is an American Riviera standout.

Owned and operated by the Foley Entertainment Group, the 121-room boutique hotel features dazzling spaces designed by the famed Martyn Lawrence Bullard who has combined old school Hollywood glamour with avant-garde touches to create spaces that are entirely unique. One of Architectural Digest’s top 100 interior designers in the world, Bullard melds California Spanish Colonial Revival architecture with Moorish-themed décor, resulting in unexpected surprise at every turn. From underfoot to overhead, and everything in between, color and pattern combine to create a dynamic environment that oozes Sunshine State optimism.

Hotel Californian Interior

Hotel Californian Guestroom

Though an ideal home base for full Santa Barbara exploration, guests are not faulted for opting to stay on property. Beyond the posh, jewel-toned guestrooms that feature patios, verandas, or balconies with views of the sparkling Pacific Ocean, majestic Santa Ynez mountains, and the picturesque roof-tiled city of Santa Barbara, the hotel boasts everything and anything one might desire of a coastal getaway. The rooftop Tan Tan pool, hot tub, and Mirador sun deck just might be one of the most spectacular settings in town, offering unbeatable and unobstructed views of the coast and mountains. (During summer, sunset seekers gather for ‘Sunset Sessions at Mirador,’ where they can enjoy craft spirits, light bites, and live DJ sets.) A large, state-of-the-art fitness center features equipment from Technogym. And the resplendent, Moroccan-inspired spa Majorelle and its exotic, geometric blue-and-white tile lounge provide the ultimate in treatments that relax and rejuvenate. (Also during summer months, Majorelle offers ‘Saturday Sessions,’ an exclusive fitness series curated by Los Angeles-based fitness instructor and founder of Recharge Wellness Co., Rachel McClusky, who also created The Recharge Method. The series features a rotating lineup of all-star instructors and classes that emphasize the connection of mind and body while moving and creating a release.)

Hotel Californian Tan Tan Pool

Hotel Californian Majorelle Spa

The casual Goat Tree café and its large, palm-shaded patio is the perfect spot for al fresco dining. The hotel’s bespoke restaurant, Blackbird, exudes a throwback vibe, where creatively named cocktails are enjoyed at the backlit bar, and where the days’ freshest catches are artfully integrated into delicious, seasonal menu items such as Avocado Crab Uni, and Local Yellowtail Crudo. Every month, Blackbird hosts a Winemaker Dinner, where Hotel Californian Executive Chef Travis Watson curates and prepares a four-course meal paired perfectly with wines from the Foley Family Wines portfolio, of which each label is featured next door at the hotel’s new wine tasting room, The Society: State & Mason. Here, traveling oenophiles and local wine enthusiasts find a chic indoor/outdoor space in which to enjoy a rotating selection of Foley Family Wines with thoughtfully curated pairings of shareable bites by Chef Watson. (The space also serves as a central gathering spot for The Foley Food and Wine Society, which provides a gateway to an array of travel and entertainment experiences spanning the globe.)

Blackbird Restaurant Dining Room

The Society State & Mason Interior

At the eccentric, lobby-located bar Djinn, legendary Los Angeles mixologist Devon Espinosa curates a menu of inventive and bespoke cocktails to be enjoyed within the library, or al fresco, on the tiled patio. Named for supernatural genies of Moroccan folklore, Djinn is host to HOWL @ Djinn, an open-to-the-public, monthly, full-moon event series starring Espinosa and his mystic libations themed on the lunar cycle. The events feature personalized Tarot card readings, classic board games, and tunes spun by indie record label Val-Mar Records.

Just like its Funk Zone home, Hotel Californian continues to evolve to reflect the desires of both its local community, and those travelling from near and far. Its unique offerings, such as HOWL @ Djinn, The Society: State & Mason, Sunset Sessions at Mirador, and Saturday Sessions reveal a hospitality brand that recognizes its audience – and that audience is stylish, chic, and…yes, a little bit funky.

In addition to Hotel Californian and Blackbird restaurant, the Foley Entertainment Group, established by Bill Foley in 2021, includes the Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League, the Henderson Silver Knights of the American Hockey League, the Vegas Knight Hawks of the Indoor Football League, two community hockey facilities, the 6,000 seat Dollar Loan Center venue in Henderson, Nevada, the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation Hotel Les Mars and Chalkboard Restaurant in Healdsburg, California, Whitefish Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, and Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard in Dundee, Oregon.

Hotel Californian: 36 State Street Santa Barbara, CA

Photos courtesy of Hotel Californian

Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.