Santa Barbara Hotels
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta
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.
Sky Ranch at Bacara
8301 Hollister Ave., Santa Barbara
Just north of Santa Barbara, Bacara is the only resort in the area that's directly on the beach, which means that you get some pretty epic sunsets over dinner. While all of the rooms are getting refurbished, they're comfortable without being fussy—and if you participate in one of the Sky Ranch Fitness weeks, you won't be spending much time in them. These week-long wellness weeks revolve around daily hikes through the Santa Ynez and Gaviota mountains, coaching from nutritionists, doctors, and physiologists, as well as gym time: In addition to a four-story spa, Bacara offers a huge (by hotel standards) fitness center, complete with Pilates Reformers and spin bikes. Don't worry: Each week comes with restorative spa sessions, too. While many (healthy) meals happen on-site (the Spa Café is excellent), they also take you out and about in Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, Bacara is a great place for kids. There's a mini-beach adjacent to the pools (complete with tons of toys), kids menus at all the restaurants, and plenty of acreage to explore. They also rent out boogie boards, paddle boards, and surf boards.
El Capitan Canyon
11560 Calle Real, El Capitan Canyon
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.
Belmond El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place, Mission Canyon
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.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
1260 Channel Dr., Montecito
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.
San Ysidro Ranch (Closed)
900 San Ysidro Ln., Montecito
Inarguably, this is one of our favorite hotels in the world—we're not alone, either, as John and Jackie spent their honeymoon at SYR, and Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh tied the knot in the gardens. Set against the Santa Ynez Mountains, on an olive and lavender tree studded estate that was originally built as a citrus farm in the 19th century, you’ll find 41 secluded bungalows. Each cottage comes equipped with a fireplace, private patio (many have outdoor hot tubs and rain showers), and wonderful extras, like heated bathroom floors. Though it’s big with honeymooners, we never need a big reason to come, as it’s the type of place where the occasion is the stay. Among many other things, the ranch is famous for its $130 “Montecito Margarita” made with Don Julio Real Añejo Tequila and Grand Marnier 150th Anniversary—mixed with agave and lime. Situated in the farm’s former citrus packing house, the stone-walled restaurant offers either creek or ocean views. The menu focuses on fancy comfort food—and revolves around the offerings from the ranch’s gardens. Extra-Credit: The wineries of Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valleys are less…
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