Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
The Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is a quaint, charming place to stay in downtown Santa Barbara. The hotel first opened in 1916, but it underwent a remodel in 2022, upon which it received an infusion of modern amenities.
Today, the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara retains the feel of a small, independently-run hotel (it contains just 61 guest rooms). But now the property is owned by Hilton, and it’s part of the company’s Tapestry Collection by Hilton brand. And that individualistic feel is completely intentional, as this Hilton brand was designed to highlight local color and eclectic themes, where no two hotels are alike.
Here’s what you need to know about the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara, including what it’s like to stay there, whether it’s worth it — and how you might snag a night stay for free.
About the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara
If the property feels historic, that’s because it is. When it was built in 1916, it was just two stories. The hotel was largely rebuilt in 1925 after it was damaged in a major earthquake, upon which it expanded (and a third floor was added).
In March 2000, it was designated as a local landmark by the city of Santa Barbara, and it also holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2022, it reopened under the Tapestry Collection by Hilton brand with a remodel that offered updates to aging fixtures, while also adding a new on-site eatery called Brisa Café + Bar.
Booking the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara on points
Nightly cash rates start at about $250 after taxes and fees, assuming a nonrefundable reservation is booked as a Hilton Honors member (the Hilton Honors program is free to join). However, prices swing wildly. Book a stay on a holiday weekend like Fourth of July or Labor Day, and you might pay more than $650 per night.
Since this boutique hotel is part of the behemoth of Hilton, you can also redeem Hilton Honors points. Points rates vary depending on when you stay, but they tend to run between 61,000 and 90,000 points per night. NerdWallet values one Hilton point at 0.5 cent each, though redemptions can be worth more or less depending on that night’s corresponding cash rate.
In general, nights with high cash rates, like summer weekends and holidays, tend to provide an especially-good redemption of Hilton points.
But even 90,000 points for the most popular nights can be hard to come by. For stays on those nights, it might make sense to hand over a Hilton free night certificate instead, which can be earned through the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (doled out annually to cardholders), as well as through meeting spending thresholds on other Hilton-branded credit cards. Terms apply.
Though the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has a seemingly-steep annual fee of $450, that might easily pay for itself if you were to pay cash for a peak night.
Santa Barbara is known for its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and this hotel blends in both inside and out.
The hotel’s lobby isn’t huge, but it feels light and airy thanks to large windows and light-colored mosaic tiles. There’s a small bar inside that serves coffee, breakfast, dinner and alcoholic drinks depending on the time of day, and there’s also a mini market with grab-and-go options.
And if you take the stairs instead of the elevator to the rooms, you'll notice they are also decorated with tile mosaics, some of which feature exposed brick walls.
Each of the 61 guest rooms at the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara has the standard amenities you’d want to see in a higher-end hotel, including a flat-screen television and a Keurig coffee maker so you can make your own coffee in the comfort of your room — free of charge.
While the rooms are small, they’re well-designed to maximize space, such as the placement of a closet in an otherwise-awkward corner. The closet also includes amenities like hangers and a safe.
Modern touches include power outlets sprinkled throughout the room and a nightstand with built-in USB charging ports.
The rooms are stocked with basic toiletries like shampoo and soap, though other products are available upon request at no cost from the front desk, such as sample toothpaste packs in case you forgot to pack your own (or if the Transportation Security Administration wouldn’t let you through with your standard toothpaste tube).
One of the top reasons to book The Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara is its location. Situated in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, it’s just a 15-minute walk from the beach, pier and Stearns Wharf.
It’s an even shorter walk to Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, a vibrant, 13-block neighborhood featuring some of the city’s best restaurants, wine tasting rooms, breweries, boutiques and galleries.
Walk about 15 minutes in the other direction to the Santa Barbara Courthouse (an ultra-popular wedding venue), the Santa Barbara Public Market (a local food hall) and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
The hotel is just around the corner from Santa Barbara’s State Street Promenade, a 10-block pedestrian walkway lined with shops and restaurants that serves as the main artery between all destinations.
For travelers who prioritize shopping and dining just as much as beach time, the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara provides the best of it all.
How to get to the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara
The hotel is about 10 miles from the charming Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
It is also a less-than-10-minute walk from the Santa Barbara Amtrak station. If you’re driving, prepare to find your own parking elsewhere or otherwise get hit with the hotel’s daily parking rate of $30 (which includes valet service).
Amenities at the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara are fairly limited. There’s free Wi-Fi, though that’s practically a given anywhere these days. There’s a small on-site eatery called Brisa Café + Bar and complimentary bikes are available in the lobby on a first-come, first-served basis.
But, there’s neither a hotel gym nor a pool.
If you seek all the resort-style amenities, you’re better off elsewhere, such as the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. There, you’ll find amenities including tennis courts, a pool and a spa.
The good news about the lack of amenities? There are no resort fees.
Is the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara worth it?
The Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara is for those seeking a smaller, boutique vibe, but who might also want the benefit of belonging to a larger hotel chain (allowing them to earn and redeem points or flex their elite status).
Because it’s so small, it’s likely the front desk and valet staff might get to know you — especially for multiday stays — allowing for more personalized service than you’d get at hotels where you’re one of hundreds of guests churning through each day.
The central location is ideal for people who want to be in the heart of Santa Barbara’s restaurants, shops and entertainment, just as long as they don’t mind any potential noise.
The hotel is not pet-friendly, so that may be a con for those who value traveling with pets. Then again, that might be a pro for those who don’t want to sleep in the same bed that once welcomed someone else’s pet.
If you have a Hilton free night certificate to spend or are seeking to maximize Hilton points, the Hotel Virginia Santa Barbara can be worth it for stays on otherwise busy summer or holiday weekends. Plus, the lack of resort fees — all too common in many tourist towns like Santa Barbara — is an especially welcome benefit.
All information about Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
(Top photo by Sally French)
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card