With the hot and humid weather in Los Angeles this week, the last thing I want to do over a long week-end is drive through 4.5 hours of hot desert to bake in 110 degree Las Vegas. One of my friends suggested Carmel by the Sea, and although I love the very quaint town and the beautiful beach, the six hour drive each way was daunting and too long for a quick getaway (there are flights to nearby Monterey, but it’s too late to book any fare running less than $300 roundtrip).

So with a look at a map, I realized that Santa Barbara was the easiest and nicest choice for a cool break. It’s a city small enough to navigate without too much traffic (compared to Los Angeles), and it’s been about three years since I’ve been, so I would have places to explore and to revisit. It’s only about 1.5 hours from Los Angeles, with plenty of walkable areas, great restaurants, and a long beautiful stretch of beach.

Although I love the Four Seasons Biltmore and they are offering a third night free special, I didn’t want to spend $575 a night ($350 after the discount). I decided that having an ocean view was the most important amenity so I looked for an oceanfront hotel nearby. To my surprise I found the Cliff House Inn in Ventura still had rooms available for only $120-$200. The rooms are not as luxurious as the Four Seasons’ rooms but they do offer floor to ceiling windows overlooking the surf, free wireless or wired internet service, complimentary continental breakfast, heated swimming pool and private beach access; some rooms even have fireplaces and jacuzzi bathtubs. The Cliff House is also known for the Shoals restaurant, serving seafood with an ocean view, so if you want to stay in one night instead of sampling the restaurants in town, there is a good option within the hotel.

Is it beach time yet?