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.

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