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.
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.
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 than an hour north, while Santa Barbara is just minutes away.
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 92-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 cow, Ellie.
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