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Why Santa Barbara Is Called The American Riviera

While conducting vacation research, you may have noticed that Santa Barbara is often referred to as The American Riviera. It sounds nice, as we immediately conjure images of the South of France. But what does it have to do with Santa Barbara?

Just for good conversation that furthers readers’ understandings of our town’s special identity, we put together a short guide to understanding why this is The American Riviera.


The quick answer is that some of the area’s earliest visitors noticed its similarities to the world-famous French Riviera or Côte d’Azur, which is a stretch of Mediterranean coastline in southeast France.


The small-city, coastal vibes of both places is where the comparisons start. Like Santa Barbara, the French Riviera is a popular destination for boating, wine enthusiasts, beach loves, luxury travelers, and artists.

The water in both places offers travelers and locals breathtaking views at all times, and opportunities to head out swimming, or on fishing expeditions at the drop of a hat. Wine tastings and vineyard tours are both scenic experiences, and vintners’ dreams in both locations. And, while Santa Barbara is home to a number of great artists and actors who move up from LA for some peace, the French Riviera has historically been a place of refuge and inspiration for a number of iconic painters, including Monet and Matisse.


While we’re sure that locals of the French Riviera would have a number of reasons as to why their home is its own kind of special, so do we.

Santa Barbara’s worlds mesh in a way that’s unique to this city, like how the local art scene and wine culture collide in the nearby Funk Zone neighborhoods, where gallery viewings and tastings are often the same. We also have a unique blend of surfer culture and Southern California’s incomparable entertainment culture, creating a local atmosphere often rich with live entertainment and unique personalities.

If you can make it out to either world-famous location, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity for some sun-soaked, wine-fueled culture. Check out our special offers to see how you too can explore Santa Barbara, the American Riviera!