The Santa Barbara Guide
Santa Barbara—less than 100 miles from L.A. up the PCH—is one of the best things about Southern California. We visit as much as possible, and thought it was time for an updated guide. The area is fast becoming a serious wine destination with the Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and Santa Ynez Valleys, and Santa Rita Hills all offering different microclimates that produce distinctive grape varietals. And with new farm-to-table restaurants, some fantastic beachside resorts, and up-and-coming neighborhoods like the Funk Zone, the town is more exciting than ever
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara1260 Channel Dr., Montecito | 805.969.2261
There's not a lot to hate about this Four Seasons hotel: It's sited along Montecito's best beach, and it occupies a rambling set of Spanish Colonial bungalows and buildings that are lushly landscaped in a way that makes every room feel a bit like a hideaway. Though the on-site pool is lovely, hotel guests can pay a bit extra for access to the members-only Coral Casino Club right across the street, which boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool that's great for kids.
Belmond El Encanto800 Alvarado Place, Mission Canyon | 805.845.5800
Perched on an olive tree-studded hillside overlooking the Pacific ocean, the Belmond El Encanto is more than deserving of its Forbes five-star accolades. The ninety-two room hotel (consisting of Craftsman-style suites and freestanding bungalows) re-opened in 2013 after undergoing a comprehensive renovation, which added a pool and tricked-out fitness studio to the grounds. Thankfully, the historic property’s architectural integrity and immaculate gardens were kept intact. Complete relaxation is the name of the game at the full-service spa where guests and day-trippers are pampered by way of water therapies, steam rooms, and local ingredient-inspired, seasonal treatments. When planning his California-coastal menu, Executive Chef Leo Andres Ayala takes full advantage of Santa Barbara’s bountiful produce offerings—including herbs from Ayala’s on-site herb garden and cheese made from the milk of the Belmond’s resident dairy cow, Ellie.
El Capitan Canyon11560 Calle Real, El Capitan Canyon | 805.685.3887
Made up of cabins and tents (for those who are looking to "glamp" in large decked out tents with a double bed and electric lighting), El Capitan offers a rustic but luxurious way to experience the El Capitan Canyon and beach near Santa Barbara. Perfect for a family trip with kids, choose between doing your own cooking (each cabin has it's own "outdoor kitchen" with a grill/fire pit) and opting for super healthy meals at the Canyon Market and Deli.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta | 844.631.0595
With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, is not lacking in the natural beauty department. And in fact, what sets it apart from the other Santa Barbara hotels is this immediate connection to nature: You can leave your room and walk directly to the beach without dodging traffic or even crossing any streets. It’s the only resort in Santa Barbara with such prime waterfront real estate (seventy-eight acres of it), and it's used to great effect. The hotel will arrange surf or sailing lessons, there are hiking trails to see the region’s flora and fauna firsthand, and tide pools are ready for exploration with one of the expert naturalists. As you’d expect from a Ritz-Carlton, guest rooms are super plush—we love the huge beds with their Frette linens, and the marble bathrooms are the size of some studio apartments.