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Santa Barbara's Spring Awakening

Three rejuvenated resorts offer fresh looks and new experiences on the American Riviera.


Bougainvillea frames Santa Barbara’s Butterfly Beach.

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The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore has updated some finishes that include 24K gold Alhambra-inspired geometric patterns in public areas.

Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

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The spa pool at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara.

Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara

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The Ritz-Carlton Bacara atop the beach.

Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara

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A Beach Suite salon at the new Rosewood Miramar Beach.

Photo: Courtesy of Rosewood Miramar Beach

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The winter of 2018 took its toll on the luxury resorts of greater Santa Barbara as well as on its residents. One of California’s most damaging fires and mudslides ever forced two venerable hotels to close for repairs, while another served as an opulent safe haven for displaced residents and emergency workers. Now the American Riviera beckons anew with reopened, renovated lodgings and revitalizing experiences. A visit this spring could well put some spring in your step too.


Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, Santa Barbara
Perched above Butterfly Beach, this elegant resort with a history almost as long as its name was forced to shutter for five months after mudslides damaged its lush, Kentia palm-lined landscaping. Now as verdant as ever on the outside, Ty Warner’s 92-year-old hotel also recently added a new gleam to its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Alhambra-inspired geometric patterns gilded with 24K gold illuminate beams and arches in the lobby and public areas, while the Moroccan-themed Ty Lounge features an even more intimate chamber known as Luna Terrace. Guests staying in certain room categories, including bungalows with private plunge pools, receive complimentary access to the exclusive Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, built in 1937 with an oversize swimming pool steps from the beach. In 2016, Warner revived its art deco splendor while adding contemporary polish to its Tydes restaurant and Coral Reef Bar, where a wraparound aquarium with live coral and fish serves as the bar’s counter. Give yourself a virtual face-lift with a Kypris Rose Quartz Facial (50 minutes for $200) in the Four Seasons’ spacious spa; then stop to smell the roses in its blooming ocean-view garden. From $595 per night, $970 with Coral Casino access, 1260 Channel Drive, 805.969.2261

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
The Spanish Colonial-style Bacara had just refreshed its 358 rooms as part of The Ritz-Carlton rebranding before it became a refuge during 2018’s natural disasters, but the 78-acre resort continues to bud with new improvements. In December, a sleek, spacious Club Lounge opened in the former poolside spa cafe offering sumptuous treats and quiet nooks throughout the day, plus five food and drink “presentations”—breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres, and desserts and libations. This spring will also see the debut of a newly airy Bacara Bar and its adjacent rooftop terrace, off the main lobby, plus a dramatic redesigned spa entrance with pond, wishing well and heartbeat-synchronized teardrop water feature. Families have already embraced Bacara’s new Ambassadors of the Environment program, a partnership with Jean- Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. One of only four such programs, it offers naturalist-led experiences for children and young adults to explore the rich marine life along the Gaviota Coast and native Chumash culture. The only problem: Parents would love to get their feet wet too. Club Lounge rooms from $494 per night, including resort fee, 8301 Hollister Ave., 805.968.0100

Rosewood Miramar Beach, Montecito
The newest kid on a rather exclusive block, Montecito’s casual-luxury oasis opened in February as Rosewood’s first beach resort in the United States and its sole property in Southern California. The late Los Angeles interior designer Paul Williams and coastal California inspired the residential design of the 127 rooms and 34 suites, spread across all-new structures built on the site of the former Miramar by the Sea. The Manor House includes the lobby, fitness center, spa and several designer suites; bungalows overlook the large ocean-view lawn with two pools (one adults only), and a beachfront wing offers 26 lodgings, beach butler services, and Caruso’s restaurant and bar. Massimo Falsini, formerly executive chef at Solage in Calistoga, brings his Italian-influenced California cuisine to Caruso’s, named for hotelier Rick Caruso, developer of the popular Grove and Palisades Village malls in Los Angeles. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight passes twice daily on the tracks above the beach, which are guarded for safety.  From $695 per night, 1555 S. Jameson Lane, 214.880.4292


Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco

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