The Goodland Hotel | Santa Barbara Getaway

Written by and Photography by Charla in Spaces, Travel

The olive green record player in our hotel room was our first clue that we were in a different, hipper place. Or was it the wood paneled station wagon outside? Or the the shiny silver Airstream trailer? The Goodland Hotel in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara, was offering icons of my childhood as the new hip.

Any minute now, I thought, they’ll be playing 80’s music. Sure enough, tunes from the 1980’s were thumping outside thanks to the hip DJ entertaining a crowded pool on a hot summer afternoon under Santa Barbara’s impossibly blue skies. Though it hadn’t been home for me for many years, I felt like I was back.

But back to that record player in our room. A few actual records accompanied it: a Mad Men-era Brazilian jazz album with pianos and marimbas, and the greatest hits of the Wu-Tang Clan. This was just one of the many, many details that made the Goodland Hotel stand out. Drawer pulls made from old bottle openers? Check. The requisite mason jar/edison lamps in the bar? Check. The bright orange bikes for rent? The next morning, we rented them – actually, took them since they were free with our stay – and rode to my old college haunts at UCSB and Isla Vista.

Attention to detail is what makes the Goodland stand out. After many months of complaints from hotel guests putting up with construction and spotty service, and many years before of what used to be the tacky and down-market Hotel Goleta, the Goodland is coming into its own under the Kimpton brand, which I’ve experience elsewhere for its superior customer service and its quirky and hip vibe despite occasional inconsistencies in some of its amenities.

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Every corner of the Goodland Hotel offers something: an artsy piece, stylish lighting, comfortable seating, cool vibes. Distinctly not a corporate-style conference hotel. The landscaping by the pool is tastefully strewn with drought-tolerant plants and intimate seating nooks which may or may not be located near a fire pit that, when lit at night, invites you to have a seat with your glass of wine and just chill. After a while, you start to use words like “chillax” more than usual.

And the there’s Goleta. Even back in my college days, Goleta was the forgotten suburb next to glamorous, stylish, Spanish-styled Santa Barbara. While the city of Santa Barbara leads as the main tourist draw for visitors to the area, Goleta is getting attention too.

Perhaps it’s the higher prices; perhaps $450/night hotel rooms in Santa Barbara on Saturday night – just one night of a required two-night stay – might not be a fit for every traveler’s budget. In fact, high hotel prices were among the primary complaints of tourists who were otherwise enchanted with Santa Barbara. The Goodland fits cleverly into that middle space – a higher quality hotel offering lower priced rooms in the city next door. Works for us! We Uber-ed into downtown Santa Barbara, with remarkable results, and Uber-ed right back.

Apparently the transition from the sketchy Hotel Goleta to a classy, modern hotel typical of the Kimpton brand was not an easy one. Yelp is full of various complaints – though, honestly, Yelp is where one goes for venting ferocious anger when one’s therapist is unavailable. Other travel websites have more nuanced and balanced reviews. A few things need improvement, such as the breakfast menu consisting only of two few breakfast sandwiches.

However, the Goodland is on the right track and we are hoping to go back, ideally with wedding guests in tow. We may even go back beforehand for one more visit, just to sit lazily by the pool. We may grab a cabana if it’s not taken up, or we may get in the water on a hot, sunny afternoon and lounge on what can only be described as a floating pool-beanbag. Where better to chillax than that.