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Hotel Check: Palihouse in Santa Barbara

WHERE IS IT: In a restored Presidio neighborhood building, once The Santa Barbara School of the Arts, the hotel is the perfect boutique operation for those that want to walk to great shopping and dining. The beach is not too far, either. Santa Barbara is always popular for road trips, but as a destination, it is often called the “American Riviera.” Once you see its beautiful mountains close to the dramatic shoreline and European architecture, it’s easy to see why.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Like most of Santa Barbara, the distinct Spanish Colonial style recalls the city’s past, and with so many blossoming flowers, red tiled roofs and white stucco buildings wrapped in bougainvillea, it almost seems like you’re in Andalusia. Small in size, but hefty in individual character the Palihouse brand is a growing one. No two are alike giving designers plenty of wiggle room for playful interiors with intentionally mis-matched fabrics and conversation-starting art and furniture. It comes together beautifully although brand aficionados will notice familiar sights like the basket of tennis balls in the lounge area (Palihouse is pet-friendly, and there are plenty of reminders of that).

The hotel is a collection of two-story buildings, some connected via stairway or outdoor courtyards and patios. It feels more like a private residence than a hotel. Guests will notice the hotel’s careful attention to Covid-19 protocols, too, with mask requirements indoors, plastic barriers at reception and extra cleaning measures throughout the hotel.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 24 rooms and suites

ROOM FACILITIES: The rooms feature amenities designed for longer stays with kitchenettes in many accommodations including large SMEG refrigerators and microwaves. Nespresso machines, Marshall Bluetooth speakers and fireplaces are standard in all. Baby blue walls evoke the sky and nearby Pacific Ocean. Enormous beds are topped with Italian linens plus duvets and dream-inducing pillows. The vintage and custom furniture pieces are elegant and restrained in style lending the entire hotel a relaxed and cozy vibe. Large windows overlook the grounds, pool or surrounding cityscape from patios or small balconies. Bathrooms have wide vanities with soaking tubs or glass showers, often with some form of natural light. Large and plump towels plus Dyptique toiletries come standard.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS: The living room and lobby area offer residential style where guests can gather over a drink or with their laptop. Since this is Santa Barbara, the flowered courtyard and trickling fountain is a lovely place for three meals a day. The menu mixes healthy and decadent choices with plenty of California influence, and the cocktail and California-inspired wine menu are a great way to relax after a day of exploring. Once the main bar menu is closed, the honor bar replaces the traditional bar menu, which is a uniquely California concept.

LEISURE FACILITIES: An outdoor pool features lounge chairs and a stash of towels for guests to enjoy. An air conditioned fitness center with Peloton bikes and a variety of other modern equipment is great for those that don’t have time to jog on the beach. The hotel also has bikes that guests can borrow to cycle around town.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES: Free wireless Internet is available throughout the hotel including in the courtyard and by the pool. A meeting room in a freestanding building surrounded by the gardens is ideal for small group events.

VERDICT: If you like a bit of a throwback with eclectic décor in the heart of one of California’s most beautiful cities, Palihouse is the ideal fit.

CONTACT: 915 Garden St., Santa Barbara, California 93101, Phone 805-564-4700,