In my last hurrah of travels before my self-imposed “rest time” at home in November and December, I spent three nights in Santa Barbara, California, right before Halloween. First, I attended the Alaska Media Road Show at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (and if there are any of my travel-writing peers reading, I highly recommend you request an invite to this event; dozens of Alaska hotels, CVBs and outfitters all in one place). Then I enjoyed a night on my own at Hotel Santa Barbara, which is downtown and right of the thick of things on State Street. Here’s my report:
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
Unsurprisingly, this Four Seasons did not disappoint. Set among lush landscaping in the ritzy Montecito neighborhood of Santa Barbara, this resort is also across the street from a long stretch of beach. The property has a definite Mediterranean feel, with its clay roof tiles and stucco exterior; rooms are in main buildings and sweet little one-story cottages, each housing a few rooms with their own entrances — no towering highrises here. Instead, just plenty of green grass, flowering bushes and tall palm trees — plus a croquet lawn and putting green — on the pretty grounds.
Guest rooms are beautifully appointed in Spanish Colonial style (think rich greens and golds, wrought-iron balconies and beautifully tiled bathrooms). In my deluxe room, I was quite impressed with the large walk-in closet and huge bathroom featuring a rainfall showerhead and deep soaking tub with fountain-like spout! (It took me a while to figure out what the heck it was…)
Other highlights of the property include access to the upscale Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club (no, you can’t gamble on the property). Across the street from the Four Seasons property, this fine facility features a humongous lap pool, children’s pool, hot tub and high-tech fitness center. There’s also a smaller outdoor pool on the Four Seasons grounds in an enclosed jungle setting, a full-service spa, tennis courts and complimentary bicycle use (the resort map you can pick up at the front desk details jogging/bike trails on the opposite side).
I didn’t get a bunch of time to enjoy the Four Seasons facilities while I was at my conference (i.e. would have loved a stint in the steam room), but I sure appreciated the serene atmosphere while I learned and networked. While I didn’t eat off the menu at either Tydes (Mediterranean) or Bella Vista restaurant (Californian with an Italian flair), I did relax with a friend for a drink at the sophisticated Ty Lounge just off the lobby.
My only complaint with this luxury hotel: no free Wi-Fi, which is absolutely ridiculous. If moderately priced and budget chains like Homewood Suites, Holiday Inn and Comfort Suites can offer free Internet access, why do luxury brands continue to charge for what should be a standard, free in-room amenity? Like the hair dryer, Internet access should be ubiquitous in hotel rooms nationwide — heck, worldwide, if the country’s local infrastructure supports it!
While I negotiated for complimentary Wi-Fi during my business stay (um, I’m a travel writer who works on location all the time), others had to pay $10/day. Silly. Thankfully, this beach sunset I saw across the street from the property on the second night of my stay made me much less grumpy about it.
Hotel Santa Barbara
While the Four Seasons is a place to retreat with your family or significant other in a true resort locale, the Hotel Santa Barbara is where you want to stay if you like to be in the thick of things — that is right on one of downtown’s busiest thoroughfare, lined with stores and restaurants.
The downtown core truly a shopper’s nirvana, with locally owned boutiques, a few chain stores and open-air malls, like Paseo Nuevo; off of State Street toward the ocean is the Funk Zone, home to surf shops and beachwear. Tuesdays and Saturdays bring the awesome Farmer’s Market, with stands overflowing with colorful fresh flowers and organic produce; the people-watching here is outstanding!
But I digress. While the Hotel Santa Barbara would indeed be ideal for a girlfriend getaway, due to its proximity to all the stores and day spas, I’d happily bunk here with my husband (romantic Italian meal at Olio e Limone anyone?), too. Prices are reasonable, too. I found midweek rates ranging from $159 (queen) to $189 (double queen).
The building is historic. It dates back to 1926, with this incredible accordion-door elevator (I kept looking around for my white-gloved lift operator). But comfortable guest rooms are contemporary (a complete modernizing renovation was completed in 1997) and wi-fi in the 75 rooms is free, glorious, free!
Another nice service here, a continental breakfast is included in the room rate, and includes the basics like bagels, cereal, fruit, yogurt, as well as make-your-own waffles.
One caveat about staying at the Hotel Santa Barbara or anywhere in Santa Barbara‘s downtown area: there are a heck of a lot of homeless people on the streets. I noticed it particularly when I was walking home from a late-night dinner; many who appeared to have no other place to sleep were curled up with their belongings on many park benches on State Street. For me, coming from a rural place with few begging street people, it was a bit disconcerting.
Nonetheless, for every so-so aspect of a destination, there’s typically loads of goodness. Like the view of the Santa Ynez Mountains from Stearns Wharf on the oceanfront end of State Street:
For more information on Santa Barbara “The American Riviera” visit SantaBarbaraCA.com.
I received complimentary accommodations from the Alaska Media Road Show and the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitor’s Bureau.