After a recent $134 million dollar makeover, Belmond El Encanto certainly lives up to its moniker as “The Charmer.” Perched on a hill overlooking the quaint seaside town of Santa Barbara, the historical landmark has welcomed illustrious guests like President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Clark Gable since its opening in 1918.
And to this day, it still serves as a luxurious hideaway for those in the know. Although much has been spiffed and spruced, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel maintains its old soul with winding cobblestone pathways through lush gardens and pristinely preserved craftsman- and mission-style architecture.
So for your next getaway, be it romantic or relaxation, the “new” Belmond El Encanto channels charm in spades. Here are five reasons to check it out.
Personalized room details
An elegant pillow monogrammed with the initial of your first name, personalized stationery and other touches instantly deliver a very posh home-away-from-home_ feeling. And these tiny but touching details are offered to all — whether you book a bungalow or specialty suite. Other new room amenities include a giant marble soaking tub, Acqua di Parma bath products and a fully stocked Nespresso machine.
Part of the seven-year renovation included the spa, and it shows. Tranquil Four-Star The Spa at El Encanto offers seven treatment rooms, male and female locker rooms with lush robes, ample toiletries and a dry/wet sauna, plus there’s a relaxation room stocked with detoxifying teas and healthy snacks.
Treatments range from the usual offerings (massages, facials and body wraps) to specialty treatments that change regularly to reflect in-season ingredients, such as summer’s Lemon Basil body scrub or the wine region–inspired cabernet and pinot noir scrub. Hot tip: If you want the best massage of your life — you can trust us on this one, we tried it — request Steve, the masseuse with the magic touch.
Originally a retreat for creative types in the early 1900s — the hotel was especially popular with Plein-Air School artists — the Belmond El Encanto carries on the tradition. Its walls, especially in the lobby, dining room and staircase, are adorned with stunning artwork, including pieces chosen to represent the hotel’s location on the butterfly migration path. Look for treasures by artists Damien Hirst, Charles Arnoldi and Paul Villinski.
If the written word is your passion, the hotel offers three-day residential courses hosted by accredited writing professionals from the L.A. Writers Group until the end of 2016. It includes 12 hours of private creative writing workshops, a Superior Bungalow suite, daily breakfast, and a hosted lunch and dinner. Writing retreats are arranged on an individual basis.
Swoon-worthy ocean view
Another new detail to the property you won’t want to miss is the pool. Naturally, the staff is respectfully doting, providing towels, sunscreen or reading material and fetching adult beverages from the bar. However, the real reason to suit up is the view. Snag a lounge chair at the far end of the pool to take in 180-degree vistas of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Livin’ la vida locavore
Be it trying out Ellie’s cheese — yes, the hotel has its very own pampered milking cow — or biting into an heirloom tomato harvested hours ago from the onsite garden or sampling one of the many Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa wines, the dining room’s menu is almost exclusively SoCal local. And new executive chef Johan Denizot, formerly chef at Four-Star Bacara Resort & Spa, knows how to make these ingredients sing. Although there’s only one restaurant on the property, you can eat in the elegant dining room, on the terrace overlooking the ocean or on the balcony or porch of your room.