Whether for spring break by the sea, or an indulgent weekend with a special someone, Santa Barbara and its elite environs on California’s Central Coast offer enviable possibilities. Adults may savor wine tasting in rustic Santa Ynez Valley or the city’s lively Funk Zone, plus fine dining and shopping in the celebrity mecca of Montecito; children may delight in playing at a bougainvillea-framed beach and exploring ocean life through interactive programs and exhibits. Las Vegans also can take advantage of Contour Airlines’ recently introduced nonstop flights from McCarran to Santa Barbara’s municipal airport; the turboprop planes offer first-class legroom. Alight at one of the following new or newly transformed luxurious lodgings to experience the best America’s Riviera has to offer.
Hollywood by the beach
The newest opulent oasis in Santa Barbara, and the only one on the sand, Rosewood Miramar Beach encapsulates what drew Charlie Chaplin to the region a century ago and still appeals to the likes of Oprah today: stunningly beautiful scenery amid an atmosphere of discreet luxury. On Miramar Beach, below the railroad tracks crossed twice a day by the train that first brought Hollywood stars here, the hotel provides complimentary chairs and umbrellas, cocktail service, and rental surfboards and paddle boards. The 26 accommodations in the Beach House provide easiest access to the sand, but all guests can enjoy the outstanding Southern Italian-inspired cuisine at Caruso’s oceanfront restaurant. Romance seekers will appreciate the three Signature Suites in the 16-acre resort’s grand Manor House, as well as the 19 private cabanas around the serpentine-edged Cabana Pool.
For a brush with celebrity, visit Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop Sundries Store, or take the resort’s Rolls-Royce Ghost or whimsical Jollys (Capri-style taxis with wicker seats and canopy tops) to dine in Montecito. The current hot spot: Silver Bough, an eight-seat chef’s table ($550 a person) with theatrical flair by Top Chef competitor Phillip Frankland Lee and pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee.
Rosewood Miramar Beach,
1759 South Jameson Lane, Montecito. rosewoodmiramarbeach.com. From $925.
Local flavors and fins
More than a million tiles went into the Marrakech meets midcentury modern interiors of the Hotel Californian, a 121-room Spanish Colonial Revival inn that officially debuted last April. From its rooftop pool, survey sublime sunsets over the ocean and its neighbors in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, an enclave of wine-tasting rooms, craft beer halls, and artisanal, locally sourced restaurants. Locals flock to the hotel’s own chic Blackbird bistro as well as to nearby Lark, whose seasonal menu features dishes such as juniper-smoked duck breast with kumquat confit and innovative cocktails. Families can walk over to Stearns Wharf, where the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center allows gentle touches of sharks, rays, starfish, sea and other marine life, or drive 10 minutes to the charming Santa Barbara Zoo.
The Hotel Californian, 36 State St., Santa Barbara. thehotelcalifornian.com. From $519.
Coming up roses
The lavishly landcaped grounds, including a rose garden by the spacious spa and a profusion of Kentia palms by the pool, and 12 private bungalows provide a verdant bower for romance at the Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara, which opened in 1927. The original Spanish Colonial Revival main building, now sporting Moorish-style gilding on its graceful arches and beamed ceiling, offers intimate dining and drinks in its casbah-chic Ty Lounge and Luna Terrace, among other excellent options.
Across the road lies Butterfly Beach and private Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, a recently updated Art Deco clubhouse with enormous swimming pool and unique aquarium bar to which most Four Seasons guests receive access. The resort also offers exclusive experiences that include sharpening beach volleyball skills at East Beach with Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers, or riding the waves with Tom Curren, a three-time world champion surfer.
Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara, 1260 Channel Dr., Santa Barbara. fourseasons.com/santabarbara. From $595.
Cousteau and cocooning
The rugged, undeveloped Gaviota Coast invites exploration from the recently renovated Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, an elegant, 78-acre compound on bluffs above the beach. Now children, teens and their families can learn about its kelp forests, tide pools, wildlife and indigenous Chumash culture through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, which opened last fall as only the fourth such partnership with Ritz-Carlton. Adults may want to check out the new tasting room of renowned Hitching Post Wines in Buellton, 15 miles away, or just cocoon at the 358-room resort with its sprawling spa, three saltwater infinity pools and recently added Club Lounge overlooking the spa pool, which serves a variety of delectables throughout the day.
The Riz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara,
8301 Hollister Ave., Santa Barbara. ritzcarlton.com/santabarbara. From $429 ($589 with Club Lounge access).