Santa Barbara placed 5th on Conde Nast Traveler’s 2021 Hot List, behind the likes of Dubai and the Caribbean, but ahead of Zurich and Singapore.
The magazine points to a new pedestrian zone on State Street, plentiful alfresco dining, and the expanded Santa Barbara Museum of Art and city zoo. The weather is generally fine too.
It’s coastal California living at its best, with 5-star resorts, the Pacific Ocean, mountains for hiking and horseback riding, wineries, and winding roads. Its top hotels and best suites are the subjects of this week’s issue.
1. Rosewood Miramar Beach
Awards: Fodor’s Choice; Condé Nast Hot List 2020; Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2020; Condé Nast Readers’ Choice List 2020
US News says of the new resort, “Situated about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara’s Montecito community, the Rosewood Miramar Beach offers an idyllic retreat. Among the amenities available to guests are complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, beach butler service, and beach toys. For lodgers who tire of the sand, the hotel features two pools – one for adults and one for families…Accommodations are equally relaxing, according to past guests, thanks to their airy design: think crisp white linens and French doors that open to a terrace with beach or garden views…The resort’s six restaurants and bars received resounding praise, especially Malibu Farm at Miramar. If travelers wish to explore off the resort, they can make use of the hotel’s house car – a Rolls-Royce Ghost – within a 3-mile radius of the hotel. This is just one amenity covered by the approximately $60 nightly resort fee.
From Forbes Travel Guide, its inspectors say, “True beachfront hotels are rare in California, and the hotel’s location directly on Miramar Beach is an incredible amenity for all ages. Take advantage of your coveted locale by renting sea kayaks with the kids or lifting a glass with colleagues at the seaside bar. Our favorite rooms, especially for a romantic stay, are waterfront — specifically the Beach House suites with ocean-facing beds, fireplaces, and expansive balconies. Dining is a highlight, from Caruso’s Southern Italian fine-dining cuisine to Malibu Farm’s fresh, healthy SoCal fare. Everyone is a pampered guest at Rosewood Miramar Beach. There are luxury welcome amenities, gourmet menus and activities for each type of beloved family member, be it a child or pooch. Treat yourself to a service at Sense, A Rosewood Spa, at Miramar Beach. Featuring indigenous ingredients like wild sage and prickly pear, unique treatments such as the Calming Wild Ginger Tradition provide the ultimate in seaside rejuvenation.”
Ambassador Ocean View Suite
The 1,885-square-foot Ambassador Ocean View Suite offers a large living room with a fireplace, a dining area for six guests, a private kitchen, a walk-in closet, and divided private terraces for the living area and bedroom offering extra privacy.
Beach House Suites
Located directly on Miramar Beach, the resort’s beachfront suites deliver refined seaside living. Each 960-square-foot suite offers a living room fireplace and a comfortably furnished patio where the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean add to the serenity of the setting.
More suites at San Ysidro Ranch.
2. San Ysidro Ranch
Awards: Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Awards 2020; Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2020
U.S. News writes, “At a place where dogs receive in-room massages, you know their owners will be equally pampered and doted upon. According to travelers, such is the case at San Ysidro Ranch. Several different types of accommodations are available, the most prestigious being the Warner Cottage and the Kennedy Cottage (JFK and Jackie’s 1953 honeymoon digs). Even if you’re not laid up in those ultra-luxe digs, recent visitors say you’ll still be more than comfortable.
Guest cottages offer a sense of seclusion and a cozy atmosphere with four-poster beds, Persian rugs, and stone fireplaces. Along with its intimate setting, the hotel hosts two restaurants. The Stonehouse serves up flavorful regional cuisine and Plow & Angel dishes up hearty plates of comfort food (the restaurant is famous for its mac and cheese). San Ysidro Ranch is in the Montecito foothills of California, about 5 miles northeast of downtown Santa Barbara.
From Forbes Travel Guide, it says, “Relish the art of doing nothing surrounded by hundreds of acres of natural beauty. Meander and explore the spectacular grounds accentuated by lovely water features, inviting sitting areas, and dramatic views. Partake of world-class cuisine and wine in legendary settings. Casual or more formal, fireside, or alfresco, the atmosphere is congenial and relaxed.
Choose from 17 miles of hiking trails, the pool, the spa or nearby golf, and beaches as well as the many other attractions in Santa Barbara, including historic downtown, the Urban Wine Trail, Montecito Village, and the Funk Zone.”
Of Stonehouse, it notes it is “an elite group of restaurants around the world to be honored with the Wine Spectator Grand Award. It boasts an impressive wine cellar of 2,100 labels and 12,000 bottles.”
This 6,000-square-foot signature retreat is the Ranch’s crown jewel. Styled to recall a lush European home, the grand entrance opens to the living room featuring hand-selected antiques, a stone fireplace, and a formal dining area. French doors open onto a private oasis overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands.
The outdoor terrace includes a private heated 33-foot swimming pool, barbecue facilities, and a rain shower with an oversized sunken spa. Each master bedroom is complete with a four-poster king canopy bed, stone fireplace, and 65” HD TV. The master bathrooms offer radiant heated floors, artisanal bath amenities, and luxury Italian linens. Warner is complete with a powder room and full kitchen with a French country dining area and full amenities including a washing machine and dryer. This retreat offers complete privacy with a separate driveway and parking area.
See more cottages at San Ysidro Ranch.
3. Belmond El Encanto
Awards: Fodor’s Choice; Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Awards 2020; Condé Nast Readers’ Choice List 2020
U.S. News notes, “Although it doesn’t hug the Santa Barbara coast – you’ll find this hotel on the northern fringes of the city – Belmond El Encanto earns praise for its beautiful setting and excellent views. The property’s suites all feature private terraces or patios looking out toward the ocean, along with hardwood floors, marble bathrooms, and, in some cases, fireplaces. Although the outpost’s homey accommodations may be hard to leave, the property houses a number of amenities worth checking out, such as The Spa at El Encanto, an infinity-edge swimming pool, and seven acres of gardens to explore. And recent guests sing the praises of the California cuisine served at the Dining Room. Visitors can also opt for light American fare at The Lounge.”
Forbes Travel Guide inspectors, add, “With verdant green landscaping spread across seven acres, the Four-Star hotel looks like a quaint forested neighborhood. The outdoor pool is strategically situated so that the shallow end is closest to the views of another body of water, the ocean. From the original 1928 wishing well to the historic lily pond and its 100-year-old wisteria vines climbing up the brick-columned arbor, the Santa Barbara hotel is a throwback in style with modern amenities, such as the use of electric bikes and a zero-edged freshwater pool…With tasting rooms two blocks from the beach and traditional wine country just over the hill 30 minutes away, the surrounding area just adds to the luxury hotel’s charm.”
Oak Tree Suite
Inside this suite, you’ll find plenty of sophisticated space, including a full kitchen, dining space for up to 6, and a stylish bedroom. The bathroom features a deep soak tub and a rainforest shower. From the living room step straight into your own garden courtyard, complete with a beautiful fountain.
More suites at Belmond El Encanto.
4. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
Awards: Fodor’s Choice; Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Awards 2020; AAA/CAA Four Diamond Awards 2020; Condé Nast Readers’ Choice List 2020
US News writes, “The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara in Goleta, California, has all the essentials of a luxury seaside resort – a spa, several infinity pools, multiple dining venues, and, of course, dramatic Pacific Ocean views. The Ritz’s 358 luxurious guest rooms feature gas or wood-burning fireplaces, marble showers, and private patios or balconies, not to mention flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi. When it’s time for a meal, head to the oceanfront restaurant, Angel Oak, to feast on steak, seafood, and more. Many guests are quick to note that the prices here are steep, especially if you indulge in a spa treatment or a fancy meal. But overall, visitors say they very much enjoyed their stay, chalking their good times up to excellent customer service and the property’s relaxed atmosphere.”
Forbes Travel Guide adds, “Even though the Santa Barbara hotel offers ocean views from almost every angle, you could be forgiven for not wanting to stray far from its three zero-edge, 82-degree saline pools. Two of these sublime swimming holes have beach vistas, while the main pool is surrounded by 25 plush cabanas, which can be rented for the day. The massive spa offers 36 treatment rooms housed in 42,000 square feet of space. Situated above the soothing facility is a serene rooftop terrace, where you can relax and soak up the ocean views before or after your treatment.”
The Ritz-Carlton Suite
The 1,500 sq.ft. The Ritz-Carlton Suite features two master bedrooms, a living space with a dining area and office, a kitchenette, two full bathrooms, and a powder room. The full wraparound terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows offer breathtaking ocean views.
More suites at The Ritz-Carlton, Bacara.
5. Hotel Californian
Awards: Fodor’s Choice: Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Awards 2020
Forbes Travel Guide inspectors say, “Occupying three prime blocks of Santa Barbara real estate just a stone’s throw from the beach, the refreshed Hotel Californian has been more than two decades in the making. Styled in part on the original Hotel Californian built-in 1925, the new iteration is composed of three separate buildings, resulting in a charming village-like feel…Featuring a modern riff on the traditional Spanish Colonial Revival architecture that defines Santa Barbara, the hotel’s design goes a step further, differentiating itself with distinct modern Moorish and Moroccan embellishments and interiors, anchoring the revitalization of the beachfront area…And the place isn’t just gorgeous to look at, it’s also enviably walkable, with access to nearby wine tasting rooms, clubs, restaurants, and, of course, the soft sands of both East and West Beach.
US News adds, “The property features a Moroccan-inspired spa, multiple meeting rooms (including a rooftop deck and a ballroom) and two restaurants – Goat Tree and Blackbird. Goat Tree offers casual breakfast fare and picnic baskets with seasonal items, while Blackbird features Mediterranean-influenced cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. Those looking for drinks can head to Djinn for craft cocktails and light bites or Tan Tan, which is located on the rooftop pool.”
Hotel Californian’s presidential suite is the only guest room in the State Building – providing the ultimate Santa Barbara retreat set amongst the city’s vibrant Funk Zone. Spacious seating and dining areas offer the option to entertain or settle in for a long stay. A corner mirador niche provides a romantic vantage point from which to enjoy stunning ocean views and sunsets.
More suites at The Californian Hotel.