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Montecito: Best Place to Live in the Santa Barbara Area


Beautiful homes are a reason this is the best place to live in the Santa Barbara area.

Those of us who call Montecito home know it is one of the best places to live in California, the nation and maybe even the world. The popular website Niche agrees, naming Montecito the best place to live in the Santa Barbara area. The website, composed of a unique blend of data scientists, engineers and parents, does the research to help the public discover the schools, companies, and neighborhoods that are right for them.

Most of the affluent community’s almost 9,000 residents own their homes and enjoy the small-town ambiance. Many are well-known and well-heeled entertainment and corporate professionals. The community is consistently ranked by Forbes as one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. Residents include a number of A-list celebrities including Oprah WinfreyRob Lowe, and Ellen DeGeneres and many more.

Weather Made for Enjoying Nature

Montecito, Spanish for “little mount,” is located in the eastern portion of the coastal plain south of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Parts of the community are built among the lower foothills of the range. The area’s proximity to the ocean means onshore breezes and significantly moderate temperatures, resulting in warmer winters and cooler summers compared to communities further inland.

With its gentle Mediterranean climate, Montecito has long been a desirable location for horticulturists, which means we have many beautiful gardens to visit (or to create at home), including Lotusland: One of the World’s 10 Best Gardens.

March and April are the months to watch gray whales migrate north from Mexico through the Santa Barbara Channel. In fact, the nutrient-rich water is home to hundreds of species of marine life as well as a wide variety of seabirds. Spotting dolphins is a daily occurrence, along with seasonal appearances of migrating whales.

Education is a Top Priority

Schools are a number one priority for a large percentage of homebuyers when deciding where to move. Here, nearly three-quarters of homeowners have college degrees, and more than one-third have advanced degrees. It’s no wonder the public schools here are highly rated. For example, Niche ranked Montecito’s Cold Spring and Montecito Union schools numbers 1 and 3 in Santa Barbara County, respectively.  

There are no fewer than two public and six private post-secondary schools nearby. The largest is the University of California at Santa Barbara, one of the most popular schools in the entire University of California system. Santa Barbara City College is a highly rated 2-year college in the U.S. For a complete list of schools in the area, check out the Schools page.

History of Montecito

The site of present-day Montecito, along with the entire south coast of Santa Barbara County, was inhabited for more than 10,000 years by the Chumash tribe of Native Americans. The Spanish arrived in the 18th century, but left the region largely unsettled while they built the Presidio and Mission Santa Barbara.

In the middle of the 19th century, far from being the best place to live in the Santa Barbara area, Montecito became known as a haven for bandits and highway robbers who hid in the oak groves and canyons, preying on traffic on the coastal route between the towns that developed around the missions. By the end of the 1860s, the bandit gangs were gone, and Italian settlers arrived. In their eyes, Montecito was reminiscent of Italy. So, they built farms and gardens similar to those they had left behind.

Around the end of the 19th century, wealthy tourists from the eastern and midwestern United States began to buy land in the area. It was near enough to Santa Barbara for essential services while still being secluded. They were drawn to the area due to the desirable weather combined with the availability of affordable land.

I recently sold the perfect example of what drew the wealthy to the area, Palmyra: A Grand Montecito Estate. The estate was showcased in the Wall Street Journal “Behind the Listing” section. The new owners are enjoying the Mediterranean home, lovely guesthouse and vintage pool house that rest on the grounds of historic El Mirador.

Montecito Hot Springs

In addition to the mild climate and soothing ocean waters, the region boasted a number of mineral hot springs, the most famous of which were the pools just above Montecito. Travelers from the world over came to Santa Barbara seeking a cure for their aches, pains, and illnesses.

The Chumash believed the waters had curative powers and used the springs for a number of purposes. During the Spanish and Mexican periods, the Californios would journey up the canyon to do their laundry in the warm waters. Today, the Montecito hot springs are located about a mile above the end of Hot Springs Road.

Montecito Architecture

The architect George Washington Smith is noted particularly for the residences he designed around Montecito, and for popularizing the Spanish Colonial Revival style in early 20th century America. At any time, there are amazing homes for sale in the area, including the Quintessential Mediterranean-style Montecito View Estate pictured at the top of this blog. Designed by Award-winning architect Don Nulty, AIA, the privacy, serenity, and security of this estate are paramount as it sits on nearly an acre, with unobstructed ocean and mountain vistas from most rooms.

Beautiful estate illustrating whyMontecito is the best place to live in the Santa Barbara area

Or perhaps you’d be interested in arranging a tour of this Ocean View Mediterranean-Style Estate. The new owners will enjoy 3 private and exceptional ocean and mountain vistas from its primary residence. Although the estate emanates a tranquil ambiance of utmost privacy, it’s just moments from hiking trails, beaches and Montecito’s Upper Village.

A beach house is one reason Montecito is the best place to live in the Santa Barbara areaamar Beach House for sale

Another of my exclusive Montecito listings is this Impeccably Renovated Miramar Beach House. It’s located on a private, gated lane just a stone’s throw from the new Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel. The home distinguishes itself as one of the few on Miramar Beach that have been so generously updated. It now offers an extensive list of modern conveniences and amenities perfect for the discerning homebuyer.

Somerset Estate. An example of why Montecito is the best place to live in the Santa Barbara area

Then there’s the Somerset Estate, combining provenance, impeccable care, skillful renovation and tasteful updating. Originally built in 1938, Montecito’s Somerset estate in the community’s elite “Golden Quadrangle,” stands ready to welcome its new owner.

If you’re considering the best place to live in the Santa Barbara area, I have many more exceptional Montecito listings here on my website.  Do you already live here and are considering selling your home and moving within Montecito? If so, give me a call or drop me an email and let’s talk about your potential move. You can contact me at or +1 (805) 886-9378.


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