Montecito is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Santa Barbara County, California. As of the 2010 census, the CDP population was 8,965. This figure does not include areas such as Coast Village Road that, while usually considered part of Montecito, are actually within the city limits of Santa Barbara, located directly to the west. One of the wealthiest communities in the United States, Montecito occupies the eastern portion of the coastal plain south of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Parts of the town are built on the lower foothills of the range. Notable roads spanning Montecito include East Valley Road, Mountain Drive, and Sycamore Canyon Road, all of which form part of State Route 192. In addition, the U.S. 101 freeway runs along the south end of town, connecting it with other cities in Santa Barbara County and the rest of Southern California.
The site of present-day Montecito, along with the entire south coast of Santa Barbara County, was inhabited for over 10,000 years by the Chumash Indians. The Spanish arrived in the 18th century, but left the region largely unsettled while they built the Presidio and Mission Santa Barbara farther west.
In the middle of the 19th century the area was 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. Finding an area reminiscent of Italy, they built farms and gardens similar to those they had left behind in Italy. Around the end of the 19th century, wealthy tourists from the eastern United States began to buy land in the area. It was near enough to Santa Barbara for essential services while still being secluded. Desirable weather and several nearby hot springs offered the promise of comfortable, healthy living, in addition to the availability of affordable land.