Belmond El Encanto, “Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five-Star resort,” comprises 92 suites or rooms that huddle in the hills below the Santa Ynez mountains and overlook Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean like sentinels. Though it opened in 1918, the resort was sold to Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. in 2004 and had undergone a seven-year refurbishment.
Rates start at $525 per night and hotel packages are available. A $35 per night resort fee gave us access to WI-FI, motorized bikes, the El Encanto spa and gym, the daily local paper, an in-room Nespresso coffee machine, bottled water, garden tours, backyard games, shoe shining, and shuttle transportation. We used all of the amenities except for the motorized bikes, garden tours, backyard games, and shoe shining. We especially enjoyed making espresso in our room.
I had booked late for a Memorial Day weekend wedding, and I was initially disappointed that I wasn’t able to reserve a room in town within walking distance of bars and restaurants. That changed when we arrived at this hillside oasis. We entered the expansive lobby, located in the main building, through a flower-covered arbor. The receptionist welcomed us with a smile and ensured us that the staff was available to assist us.
We followed the bellman along curved brick walkways lined with gardens brimming with succulents, purple lilies, ferns, and canopied palms. We passed a pond where orange fish darted among water lilies, turtles sunned themselves on rocks, and a pair of ducks waddled. This was the perfect venue for a Belmond El Encanto wedding.
We approached our bungalow covered with a red tile roof and equipped with a patio decked with two chairs and a table. We entered the living room furnished with a sofa, tables, a few chairs, a widescreen TV, and a desk. The living room led to a short hallway with closets on the left and a marble bathroom with a heated floor on the right. The hallway ended at our bedroom outfitted with a king-size bed and a few tables. With the addition of a cot for our daughter who joined us for a night, the suite accommodated our family of four, it felt cozy but elegant.
We unpacked and donned light-weight jackets and strolled down the hill to the El Encanto restaurant for lunch. We dined outside on crisp Caesar salad hearts topped with moist Scottish salmon while overlooking Santa Barbara. We lingered sipping wine from their extensive wine list while absorbing the panorama. The scenery and food enticed us to return to explore their other menus.
Belmond El Encanto’s ambiance left a lasting impression on me, and I hope to return. As we headed to the airport, we felt restored and refreshed. I suspect that was their plan.