Recently added to The Ritz-Carlton portfolio of 100 properties worldwide, Santa Barbara’s iconic Bacara resort has never looked better. Like any successful makeover, changes to the property are subtle yet undeniable. The swimming pools seem bluer. The lush gardens appear greener. The food is tastier. And the achromatic white Mediterranean villas dazzle in the sunlight. There is no doubt - The Ritz-Carlton brand suits Bacara.
Having established itself as a desired Southern California oceanfront destination since its 2000 opening, the resort and its 358 guest rooms and suites were poised for a polished revitalization. Several ownership groups and hospitality management teams have come and gone through the years, but The Ritz-Carlton’s specific aura of understated luxury is perhaps the most fitting complement to the quintessentially California resort and its stunning natural setting. And those heightened colors and flavors? It’s not pure imagination. The multi-million-dollar transformation included gallons of fresh white paint and additional garden greenery. And new menu items celebrate the bounty of the region. But ironically, the change least visible is perhaps that which is most noticeable – a Ritz-Carlton-infused spirit of supreme service and regard for each and every guest.
Located on 78 acres of California coastline, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is one of the few hotels in the area that offer direct access to the beach. This stretch of sand changes with every low and high tide; no two days are the same as waves deliver driftwood and rock to the shoreline based on the moon’s attraction to the sun. The sand hides a bit in winter weather but reveals itself in all of its SoCal glory during summer, when the resort’s outpost Beach House opens seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day to serve light snacks and beverages. But be it winter or summer, and whether beach bound or not, the coastal views and the sound of crashing waves permeate the Bacara property.
Not a fan of sand in your toes? Then relax poolside at one of Bacara’s three zero-edge, salt-water swimming pools. Rent a decked-out upper or lower cabana overlooking the Cabana Pool with television, refrigerator, dining table, and fresh fruit and water service. Recline at the larger Resort Pool with the ocean as your backdrop, or luxuriate at the adults-only Spa Pool (below), adjacent to the 42,000 square foot Spa. Your stay includes access to the spa’s redwood sauna, eucalyptus steam room, sumptuous fireside lounges, and rooftop terrace. Extend the relaxation by booking a treatment or salon service. (For skin therapies, the Spa utilizes ultra premier Natura Bissé products from Barcelona.) Try the Bacara Signature Massage with its use of hot stones and heated herbal compresses to restore and regenerate muscles and joints, and take additional pleasure in knowing that a donation from this particular treatment is made to Bacara’s local partner Direct Relief to benefit first responder efforts. Cap-off whichever spa indulgence you’ve chosen with a glass of bubbly high atop the Spa’s rooftop terrace.
Guests may be tempted to explore the surrounding area – the resort is minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, the hillside Riviera, and notable wineries. But for those who prefer to valet and forget about their car, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara offers plenty of options. Shop for the latest SoCal fashions in the lobby boutique. Taste local wines on-site at the Foley Food & Wine Society Tasting Room. Hike the on-property nature trail. Receive one-on-one instruction from the resident tennis pro. Check-out the full range of group and private exercise classes at the 24-hour fitness center (above). And join the nightly toast to yet another brilliant sunset with a complimentary glass of signature sangria created by Bacara’s sommelier in honor of the resort’s Spanish heritage and wine region locale. Tote your glass to the bluff for the ultimate vantage point.
Spend the rest of your evening dining at one of three on-site options. The lobby’s circular Bacara Bar is a convivial gathering spot serving wine, craft cocktails, and shareable plates including flatbreads and sliders. Dine inside or out (under the warmth of overhead heaters) at The Bistro, (above) a casually elegant option serving local produce, sustainable seafood, and brick-oven pizza. Or go glam at the resort’s signature restaurant Angel Oak, featuring the culinary artistry of Charlie Palmer-trained chef de cuisine Alex Bollinger. Dine inside or out overlooking the bluff. A highlight from his seasonable menu is the Market Seafood Tower and its bounty of lobster, crab, shrimp, and ceviche. Start with a visually arresting craft cocktail: Smoke on the Water (Woodford Reserve Select Barrel, apple brandy, crème de noyaux, and allspice) is served tableside from a cherry wood smoke-infused decanter. Then move-on to wines and let your sommelier suggest a proper pairing from the list of more than 12,000 labels. Don’t miss dessert, specifically the churros, a humble offering elevated by house made chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.
Bacara’s varied room styles are situated amongst 19 ‘villas’ connected by courtyards, gardens, and meandering paths. Choose from garden view and ocean view rooms in configurations to fit all needs – from a 549 square foot garden view junior suite to the 1497 square foot, oceanfront penthouse suite. Featuring Mediterranean influences such as hues of cool ocean blue, wrought iron accents, and terra cotta floors, all rooms and suites offer plush robes, luxurious bedding, coffee makers, stocked mini bars, and bottled water. In-room iPads allow for quick and easy room service ordering or special requests such as nightly turndown service, for which chocolate lovers will want to partake if only for the small square of milk and dark left bedside.
Bacara would likely have continued to thrive under other hospitality brands, but the Ritz-Carlton is so utterly fitting as its new steward, it is hard to image the property belonging to any other. The Ritz-Carlton infuses Bacara with new sparkle and new life as only it can.