Built in 1927 and lovingly restored since, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is one of the hotel group’s most unique properties. It’s tucked away in the exclusive enclave of Montecito—about an hour’s drive (without traffic) from Los Angeles.
It’s not the first time we’ve checked-in. My daughter broke her hand a few days prior to our last stay but it didn’t hamper our experience because there is simply a lot for all ages to do on the property and off. My parents used to live in Santa Barbara and I still never seem to run out of things to do.
This time, we were in Santa Barbara to attend a wedding which meant that good friends of ours were also in residence. My husband and I agree that the Resort is a fantastic spot for groups of families and friends to stay together because of the plethora of activities, low-key vibe and typical Four Seasons luxury.
Architecturally, the Resort is beautiful. Lush gardens full of native plants and bougainvillea dance around ivory stucco, multi-colored ceramic tiles and Spanish red roof. The Spanish Colonial Revival design continues indoors with wooden beam ceilings, clay tiles, arched walkways and then some. This isn’t a high rise hotel. In fact, it’s just a few stories tall with buildings spread out like a private estate.
The Resort’s historian has been documenting life here for over half a century… if this gives you any idea as to how special it truly is.
Located in Luxe Montecito
Montecito borders Santa Barbara to the south and is an intimate, very affluent area full of stunning homes on large plots of land that almost seem to blend into the natural landscape at times. I’ve spend a lot of time here over the years shopping the boutiques and eating in the various restaurants. It’s not uncommon to bump into someone famous going about his or her daily business.
The Resort is very easily accessible from Highway 101 and borders the ocean in front of beautiful Butterfly Beach. You could fly into Santa Barbara airport—it’s a low-stress experience due to its small size—or Los Angeles International Airport and rent a car. Many people do the latter.
I am also a fan of taking the train to Santa Barbara. Business class on Amtrak is a lovely experience with comfortable seats, complimentary WiFi and (most importantly) zero LA traffic. From San Diego, the drive is closer to 3.5 hours.
Gorgeous Spanish Colonial Revival Rooms
I lost count of the different tile styles in our room. With a seating area, walk-in closet, plenty of storage, a writing desk and more the room was clearly designed to feel like home. I liked being on ground level because we could prop the door open while my 8-year-old daughter played around the grassy area within eyeshot just outside the room. Nespresso coffee, tea, and bottled water are supplied. We were also sent a lovely beach bag and cheese plate amenity upon check-in.
The bathroom itself deserves special mention. In addition to beautiful tiles and its generous size, the floor is heated. I adore little things like this especially in Santa Barbara where the air can be crisp in the morning.
Sea-themed Mistral L’Occitane bath amenities embrace both the bathroom color scheme and the oceanfront location.
While I’m a fan of the apple pie served in the Ty Lounge and lunching near the pool at the Coral Casino, we were so busy that we dined mostly in Bella Vista. Not only do they have a fulsome breakfast buffet complete with omelettes made on-demand and gluten-free offerings, but the patio seating boasts panoramic ocean views. It’s not a bad way to wake up in the morning.
On our last night, we were treated by the hotel to a fabulous dinner that was made even better by our server’s wine and food recommendations. Our shared appetizers included grilled octopus, a delectable cheese plate, sweet breads (our server’s suggestion after asking us if we were adventurous eaters… it wound up being my husband’s favorite dish), and meatballs.
For main courses—and I was stuffed by the time they came—I opted for a healthy black cod in tomato brodo with baby squash, cherry tomato, and garden herbs.
But, my husband decided to go with the special of the day. And, while my entree was fabulous his was the epitome of decadence. I present to you the short ribs sandwich with truffle fries. It had parmesan cheese fried onto the bread.
And then we finished with the chef’s signature dark chocolate soufflé. Can never say no to a soufflé when it comes with a vanilla sauce that is basically melted ice cream.
My daughter ordered pasta from the kids’ menu but tried almost every dish. I intended to take advantage of the resort’s jogging trail map the following morning, but the run didn’t materialize.
Pretty Beaches and Pools
Guests of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara have access to the exclusive Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. Built in 1937, many families have been coming to the club for generations to enjoy the oceanfront, heated, Olympic-sized lap pool as well as comfortable seating, dining, and the little kids’ pool. I recommend a lounge chair at the glass wall bordering the sand to soak up the view.
A more intimate pool set amid lush tropical foliage is also available to guests. Dining and drinks can be served here, too.
Butterfly Beach, directly across the street from Four Seasons, is a rather peaceful place to enjoy the sand and surf. It is also considered one of the best vantage points for watching a Santa Barbara sunset. Stand-up paddle boards and surfboards are available for rent.
Speaking of surfing, one of the Resort’s Extraordinary Experiences is a day of riding waves with Tom Curren, a Santa Barbara resident. How cool is that?
My daughter received her first ever manicure and pedicure at this spa when she was about 4 years old. It’s beautiful with a comfortable lounge area, pretty views, and fabulously-relaxing treatment. I didn’t have time to visit it this time but you certainly should. The spa boutique also carries swimwear, flip flops and other items you may have forgotten to pack. The fitness center is also located here.
Gardens around the property feature exotic plants from all over the world that have been brought here and planted over the years. Four Seasons has a self-guided map that guests can use to explore the various gardens or you may reserve a guided tour by the resort’s landscape manager. I snapped a few photos of interesting plants and placements since we’re in the process of redoing our front yard. Because the property is so lush, we saw a myriad of birds and butterflies.
Ride Bikes to the Pier and Beyond
One amenity guests absolutely must take advantage of is the bike rentals. The quiet village of Montecito is just a few minutes away and you can ride all the way along the coast (get a map, however, as there’s one confusing intersection) to downtown Santa Barbara and even to the end of Stearns Wharf where the Ty Warner Sea Center is.
It’s a beautiful ride and the kids in our group ages 6 and up handled it with ease. The bikes have baskets to carry water and other belongings. Bikes and helmets for kids are available, too.
The Kids for All Seasons club is available between Memorial Day and Labor Day and provides supervised programming for ages 5-12.
Since we were headed out to the wedding, we booked a babysitter through the hotel who was willing to take my daughter swimming or anywhere else on the property. I ordered them room service and my daughter quite enjoyed herself, which I always appreciate. They also could have tapped into the Resort’s game closet for board games and other fun.
Good to Know
The train tracks run through the Santa Barbara area along the coast which means they pass relatively close to the Resort. I personally think the slow rumble and occasional horn sound adds to the rustic charm. Kids love it but we didn’t hear it at all in our room. We heard it faintly in our last room but it was not the slightest bit disruptive and shouldn’t impact a stay. Either way, earplugs are provided in the rooms.
Between taxis, Uber, and bikes, it is possible to enjoy a short stay at the resort without a car. But having one is extremely convenient for touring around Santa Barbara. Again, you really could spend a week here and not run out of things to do.
The Resort and Coral Casino are both owned by Ty Warner. This means that Beanie Babies are all over the gift shop and that a little keychain version was given to my delighted daughter at check-in. So, parents, be prepared for the kids’ eyeballs to pop-out when they see hard-to-find and gigantic versions.
Download the Four Seasons app so that you can make easily make requests like turn-down service and more while out and about.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is one of the resorts I can book for you with agent-exclusive amenities that will enhance and add value to your stay. Please send me your dates and I’ll tell you what’s on offer.
We will definitely return. This is our hotel of choice in Santa Barbara.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
1260 Channel Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
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*Thank you to Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara for dinner at Bella Vista and a media rate.
**Coral Casino photo is used courtesy of the Resort.