WHERE IS IT: In the hills above Santa Barbara, this resort offers a stunning angle from which to take in all of Santa Barbara and its Pacific coastline. Known as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara’s numerous entertainment and dining options are not far. A free shuttle takes guests anywhere within a five-mile radius of the resort.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Blending Spanish Colonial and California craftsman architecture, this resort sprawls across the grassy lawns and verdant gardens of this elite area of town. Views of the Pacific Ocean from many corners of the grounds as well as the main building are stunning. Guests enter a main building to find a relaxed lobby and lounge that spills out to a bar and al fresco restaurant. A map shows guests how to meander the pathways to reach the rooms, which are spread around the resort. This is the kind place you escape to for privacy, and its outdoor areas would not be out of place in the south of France.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 92 rooms, bungalows and suites
ROOM FACILITIES: Depending on the category, the rooms, suites and multi-room bungalows have tasteful and understated interiors with beautifully appointing furnishings and hardwood floors. Outdoor patios, indoor fireplaces and plush bedding are all hallmarks here. But, as with all Belmonds, service is the most noticeable amenity with attention to detail in every area. Guest rooms welcome arrivals with a bottle of local wine, and simple and thoughtful amenities like lint rollers in the closet and turndown service with water and bookmarks. Refrigerators stock complimentary Evian water, and Nespresso machines help guests perk up in the morning (there’s also a courtesy coffee and tea area in the lobby in the morning). Bathrooms are enormous with beautiful marble, a stash of Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, thick towels and robes, and hand lotion made by a Santa Barbara business.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS: The Dining Room and Terrace serves three meals a day with panoramic views of the city and shoreline. Crafty cuisine uses local and organic ingredients, and I liked the little extras like the welcome smoothie at breakfast. A separate menu for children is another special perk for families. Afternoon tea in the lounge is a great way to kick back when relaxing in the California hillside, but the lobby bar is great for pre or post-dinner tipples. Guests can order refreshments by the pool or to their rooms for indoor dining, which is especially nice on the terrace. The resort can also pack an artisanal picnic basket if you want to explore a hillside hike or beachfront snack.
LEISURE FACILITIES: An outdoor pool with an infinity edge is the perfect spot for photos, but there is no shortage of gardens around the property. Outdoor meditation or yoga is easy to do here, and the well-stocked fitness center has modern equipment, plentiful towels and fridge of chilled water. Jogging around the hillside is another way to explore this residential neighborhood. Massage and beauty treatments in the spa plus a roster of outdoor activities, including bikes to borrow are available to guests.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES: Indoor and outdoor space for business meetings and social events is everywhere here and popular with groups that want to be nestled in the hills yet close to the beach. From modern boardrooms and ballrooms on the second floor of the main building to outdoor patio space and gardens, groups can decide from a variety of setups and privacy.
VERDICT: The privacy and views of El Encanto are among its best features, but the impressive accommodations and even more doting service give them a run for their money.
CONTACT: 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, California, 93103, Phone 805-845-5800, www.belmond.com