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Canary Hotel Santa Barbara: off the Moroccan coast or in Southern California?

Canary Hotel Santa Barbara, a historic, unique, boutique hotel located in the central downtown area of Santa Barbara, near the beach in Southern California.  Owned & operated by the Kimpton Hotel chain.
Canary Hotel Santa Barbara, a historic, unique, boutique hotel located in the central downtown area of Santa Barbara, near the beach in Southern California. Owned & operated by the Kimpton Hotel chain.
- photos by SLICK TRACY

by SLICK TRACY
Hotel Detective & Food Sleuth

SLICK TRACY - Hotel Detective & Food Sleuth
- photo by SLICK TRACY

Southern California is home to a variety of unique locations, hotels, restaurants, and other special venues that attract visitors. The Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara, located on Carrillo Street, is one of those 'stand-outs' that deserves a second look from those visiting the area.

The hotel has been located at the same spot for years, although it has changed its name. It was turned into a retirees' home and called the Carrillo for many years. It was called the Hotel Andalusia for many years also. Then, new owners rebuilt it as a luxury, boutique hotel in 2004 and renamed it the Canary Hotel. Now the Kimpton chain is the owner of the property. The Kimpton owners now call it 'Canary Santa Barbara.'

When it was opened as the Canary Hotel, the theme throughout was a mixture of Spanish and Moroccan influences. It was most often compared to the influence of the Canary Islands and promoted as having 'island tranquility.' The theme and design are definitely depictions of the famous archipelago located off the Moroccan coast, yet under Spanish control.

Kimpton's Canary Santa Barbara is considered the only full-service hotel in the downtown center area and has retained the Canary Islands, Moroccan, Spanish looks. In fact, while the hotel is very upscale, it offers a casual feeling in an exotic getaway. There are dark wood floors, decorative hand-painted tile walls, sea-grass color schemes, elegant wrought iron, an abundance of Moroccan rugs, and other items. Even the guest hallways are lined with framed textile pieces rather than photographs or paintings. It all blends nicely into a relaxing mood that sets into the guest almost immediately upon arrival.

Inside the rooms, you find large walnut four-poster beds, candles, a small fridge, and yoga mats. There are even yellow binoculars in each room with a suggested bird-watching tour around town. The rooms all have great views, large windows that offer an abundance of light, and thick shades to block the light for sleeping. The swimming pool is located on the sixth-floor rooftop. The rooftop area is called The Perch and offers a guest-only lounge as well as terrific views of the ocean, mountains, and downtown Santa Barbara. The lobby floor offers the Finch & Fork restaurant, serving outstanding upscale meals utilizing mostly fresh, local ingredients. The Finch & Fork attracts many area locals for a night-out-on-the-town as one of the premier restaurants in the Santa Barbara vicinity.

Extra touches that create an enjoyable stay include a hosted wine reception in the lobby each evening between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. Morning coffee and tea is available every morning. A unique amenity are the beach cruiser bicycles that are available for guests to use. Free WiFi is part of the package throughout the hotel. This is also a pet-friendly hotel as well as family-friendly.

For those who enjoy leisurely shopping, the Canary Hotel is a short block away from the noted State Street. Strolling up and down this main thoroughfare offers open doors to a variety of small shops and boutique locations.

What about the canary bird logo? No one could really answer that, other than a name association. It is marketed, however, in various ways. The rooftop lounge and pool area is called The Perch. There are bird-watching guides in each room along with yellow binoculars. The bird logo is whimsical.

Not everything was perfect. The drive-through portico was often crowded and difficult to maneuver. The carved wooden poster beds look great, but require a step-stool to climb in and out. The French doors opening onto the room balconies are almost sound-proof except for the trash trucks arriving in the wee-hours of the morning. The rolling of the dumpsters along the tile rattled me awake over and over, notably between 4:00 and 5:00 am. A limited supply of newspapers are available in the lobby, but none are placed at your room door and unless you are early, those papers disappear. A small coffee pot could have easily been placed in the room since there was such an abundance of other items. A trek down the hall, down the elevator, across the lobby, and back requires early risers to get fully dressed just to have a single cup of their morning java.

Brochure rates are rather pricey for the 97 rooms and suites, but discounts and package prices are available. If you choose to visit the Santa Barbara area, the Canary Hotel is definitely worth a look-see.