Disembarking from a direct flight—newly offered— from O’Hare to Santa Barbara’s airport, my husband and I took a quick drive six miles up the coast to enter a luxurious oasis. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean on California’s Gaviota coast lies the lush resort of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara.
Stepping into the impressive open-air lobby, we immediately felt like we were a world away. The gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows outlined by abundant local flora lent to the atmosphere of a private enclave on the California coast. Each window and open-air archway frames an astonishing view that simultaneously delights and relaxes. Palm trees blow in the wind, the salty ocean air lingers in the corners, and the brilliant sun shines down on the property.
Spanning two miles of coastline, the resort presides over the coastal cliffs with unmatched ocean views. Designed in the traditional Spanish architecture style that abounds throughout California, the resort boasts white stucco villas, red terracotta roofs, and gardens of fragrant herbs and wildflowers. During our stay the resort was at full capacity, yet the property is so expansive that we felt like we were two of a handful of guests—with the resort maintaining its boutique feel throughout our entire visit. Our hacienda-inspired suite’s private patios are the perfect spot to enjoy morning coffee with an ocean view. The suite’s Frette linens, marble bathroom, and stylish, yet rustic living space are a complement to California’s relaxed vibe.
On property there is an array of activities to choose from, including guided eco-hikes, tennis, and the fitness center’s myriad of exercise classes. We opted to start our morning by joining an outdoor yoga class on the bluff—an expanse of verdant lawn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Our instructor told us to keep an eye out for whales as the marine mammals were migrating through the Santa Barbara Channel and could be seen from our vantage point. We didn’t spot a whale during yoga, but as the morning fog burned off, we were left with a beautiful blue sky day that never disappoints on the California coast. The miles of beach coastline beckoned to us after yoga, and we spent the better part of the late morning strolling the beach with sand between our toes.
After our morning excursions, we made our way to the adult pool — one of three zero-edged saline pools. Two of which, toward the lower level of the property, overlook the ocean and are lined by reservable private cabanas. Conveniently located across from the adult pool and spa is The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge. Designed with a modern, sleek, and welcoming feel, Club Lounge access allows guests to experience complimentary concierge and continuous food and beverage service throughout the day. After a few hours of lounging by the pool, including partaking in the poolside chairs where our feet dangled in the water as we read, I made my way over to the spa.
The Ritz-Carlton Spa Bacara, Santa Barbara is 42,000 square feet of indulgence. Stepping into the sanctuary of the spa one is immediately entranced by the sky-high heights of the entryway and soothed by the Zen atmosphere. Guests can treat themselves to acupuncture, massages, or do as I did and try the Oxygen Facial. The Oxygen Facial’s innovative breakthrough beauty treatment combats signs of aging using hyperbaric oxygen to infuse a combination of antioxidants and hyaluronic acids into the skin. The facial, performed with Natura Bissé products includes an extensive face massage and is pure relaxation resulting in glowing skin for days.
For those seeking more active adventure, the resort partners with a local company, Cal Coast Adventures, that offers an array of activities including stand-up paddleboarding, ocean kayaking, surf lessons, and mountain biking.
Guests can also head to the nearby towns of Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valley where vineyards produce highly regarded chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and Rhone blends. Spend the day exploring the area with a variety of hikes, stopping to take in the scenery and taste local wines at one of the many wineries.
Whether choosing a day of local activities or relaxation on-site at the spa and pools, unwind in the evening with a craft cocktail from San Setto, a contemporary Japanese restaurant featuring sushi, sashimi, nigiri, and other shareables. Situated atop a cliffside bluff, sip your cocktail while overlooking the changing colors of the sky as the sun dips behind the horizon. Continue your evening dining at San Setto, or, do as we did and dine at Angel Oak. As the sun continued its languid trajectory and dipped lower in the sky, we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and the stars emerge in the sky.
Angel Oak is a modern take on the traditional steakhouse serving an assortment of aged and prime cuts paired with the deepest wine cellar in the region and panoramic ocean views. Gorgeous sightings of the Channel Islands off the coast combined wonderfully with our entire dining experience. We enjoyed oysters, which in lieu of a traditional red wine mignonette, Chef Efe Onoglu pairs the delicacy with an apple and jalapeno mignonette which brings out the flavors of the sea. Next up was the crispy buttermilk quail which may be one of our favorite dishes of all time. Covered in burnt sumac, celery shavings and a hint of lime sauce, the quail was perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The dish’s pixie tangerines and pickled mushrooms combined together in an explosive flavor combination. The salmon was served on a bed of saffron risotto beside stuffed zucchini blossoms and confit vine tomatoes. The salmon, along with the halibut drizzled in a yuzu beurre blanc sauce, were cooked to perfection and a highlight of our time at the resort.
Each of the resort’s six restaurants offers its own twist on a successful pairing of ocean views and local flavors. From A5 Japanese Wagyu and local abalone paired with vintage wines by the glass at Angel Oak, to Latin fare at ‘O’ Bar + Kitchen, to wine flights at the Wine Tasting Room, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara’s dining showcases the best of the area.
The resort’s Ambassadors of the Environment (AOTE) program is ideal for family’s traveling with young children. While parents explore the wonders of the property and nearby offerings, the AOTE provides a fantastic opportunity for children to discover the Gaviota Coast’s natural wonders both on land and sea, including a kelp forest, a diversity of birds, the intertidal zone, and traditional Chumash culture through exciting and memorable adventures and activities.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is an escape that can be enjoyed any time of year thanks to California’s year-round temperate climate. Book your direct flight now for your winter, spring, summer, or fall vacation.
For more information and to book your stay, visit ritzcarlton.com/santabarbara.