Staying at the beachfront Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara feels like being at a dear friend’s opulent hacienda.
The iconic hotel, fronted by Butterfly Beach on the Pacific, is built in the graceful Spanish Colonial style with lots of colorful tiles, archways, curved staircases, red tile roofs, and wrought iron railings. The hotel fits so well into the landscape it seems as though it’s been nestled amidst the lush, 22 acres of gardens for hundreds of years. While the hotel is large (181 guestrooms, 26 suites), the clusters of cottages and guestroom buildings are situated at varying angles amongst the shady gardens of palms, ferns, and other jungle style plants so that makes it feel cozy and intimate.
Cradled between the ocean and the San Ynez Mountains, this hotel, which has been managed by Four Seasons since 1987, has been a favorite of old Hollywood and America’s elite since it opened in 1922. At that time, guests arrived via the train and the Coastal Starlight still rumbles by a few times a day, blasting its horn. While ear plugs and a card about the historic nature of train service are provided, it’s still a little disconcerting the first time the train roars by and shatters the idyllic tranquility of this leafy property.
My Superior Guestroom was plenty spacious (350 sq. feet) and came with two double beds (they also come with a single king), a small couch, two tile-topped, wrought iron tables, and reading lamp as well as a a dresser and small, round table and chair for working. The furnishings were all the heavy Spanish style and, throughout the hotel, there are antiques and historic photos that add to the classic feel.
My room also featured a very large flat screen TV and mini-bar, but no in-room coffee maker. Though complimentary coffee is available in the lobby, I missed having a cup while I got ready for the day. A nice touch is the safe provided in the large closet. The lighting, something many modern hotels skimp on, was good with plenty of lamps with dimmer switches, and a complimentary newspaper was delivered each day to my room.
The tile bathroom featured a separate, glassed-in shower with rain showerhead and a long soaking tub. It was delightful at the end of a long day to stretch out in this just-right-sized soaker. Luxurious bath products, fluffy, over-sized towels, and terry robes and slippers made the whole bath experience feel special.
Pet-friendly, Lush Gardens
Unlike many luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara is pet-friendly and it’s common to see dog owners walking their pooches along the meandering, brick walkways. Those walkways, while lovely, can be confusing at first for guests. I found myself completely turned around several times when I first arrived, but when I asked any staff person (including the gardeners) for directions, they personally escorted me to my destination and, within, a few hours, I could navigate the property on my own.
Part of the charm of this hotel is the lovely gardens. Large trees provide both shade and a sheltering feeling. Plants like Australian tree ferns and Kentia palms, and plenty of flowering tropical plants like bougainvillea, are all impeccably maintained by 13 full-time gardeners. They make one feel like you’re in an old Spanish hacienda or Hawaiian jungle garden.
The hotel boasts two pools, including the intimate Jungle Pool which is surrounded by lush foliage and features underwater music and a large, oceanside pool that’s great for doing laps. There are also two whirlpools, including a 104 degree F. mineral water whirlpool.
The hotel has a large fitness facility with treadmills, elliptical trainers, exercise bikes, circuit training equipment, and weights. For an extra fee, you can take yoga, Pilates, aqua aerobics, or other classes. Or you can simply use one of the complimentary cruiser, mountain, or beach bikes and enjoy the lovely beachside setting and nearly perfect Santa Barbara weather. Santa Barbara’s quaint downtown is only five minutes away, easily accessible by bike.
There’s also a private casino and a 10,000 foot spa offering the full range of treatments. The small business center offers a couple of computers and printers. However, they charge $6.95 for 15 minutes of use (you can print boarding passes for free) so you’re better off to bring your own electronics and use the free, in-room WIFI.
The property has three onsite restaurants. Since I was here for a conference, I didn’t experience any of the restaurants, but did enjoy the exquisite catered food prepared by the hotel chefs. Some of the offerings included perfectly prepared King salmon and steak, roasted beets and carrots, Brussels sprouts with crispy bacon, and creative salads, including a delicious wheatberry salad with argula and chicken. Dessert options like blueberry and cranberry cobblers baked in individual cast iron pans and tiny root beer, creamsicle, and espresso ice cream floats were real highlights.
The price for all of this luxury isn’t out-of-reach, especially for guestrooms, and the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara makes a great choice for a special occasion like a wedding or anniversary. It’s definitely a property I’d stay at again and again. – Review by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor