Tucked away on the Pacific side of Route 1, the Bacara Resort and Spa – just outside Santa Barbara, California – is a man-made oasis of beauty, luxury and tranquility… And if that’s good enough for the likes of Michael Jordan and Oprah, then it’s good enough for me!
One of the main challenges of road trips is deciding where to stay. Budget, comfort, convenience, facilities… these are all criteria we’ve worried about in the past.
But while on our drive south to LA recently, we stayed at Bacara Resort and Spa, and it raised a whole new problem we hadn’t expected to face:
We didn’t want to leave.
We hadn’t expected this for a couple of reasons: 1. We don’t usually go for the resort style of travel. 2. We were on a road trip and weren’t aiming on staying anywhere more than a night!
But the Bacara really is very conducive to staying put. Only our flights back to Sydney the following day stopped us from extending our time there.
Unlike the resorts in Europe, which are often all-inclusive, impersonal and exclusive to the local culture, Bacara seems to have blended into the landscape perfectly.
It has more of a Mexican feel if anything, but otherwise I suppose you’d call it ‘old school So Cal’. The resort also feels more established than its 15 years, and in a way took us back to Palm Springs for its retro-ness – if that’s a word.
Perhaps it’s because it was in the planning stages for quite some time before the first brick was laid. From the expansive lobby when we checked in, we felt that decadent grandeur you only get from a classically designed American hotel.
And if nothing else, Bacara has space. The rooms are well positioned, separated into several ‘villas’, which are then subdivided into the rooms themselves.
The villas, dotted around the property, are connected with weaving pathways. Don’t feel bad to call on the front desk to arrange a ride on one of the many resort golf carts to help you navigate the 78-acre grounds.
But if you do walk far enough, you’ll come to the beachside edge of the resort. There is access to the beach, but you can also walk up the hill a way for views out over the ocean.
Talking of space though, our room was amazing. With more floorspace than our apartment back home, this suite had two entrances, two bathrooms, a separate living room, a lounge and a built-in gas fireplace.
The balcony overlooked the pool and faced south out over the Pacific Ocean. Although we couldn’t quite see the sea, we could hear it.
As part of the package, we were given a bottle of wine from the local wine baron William Foley II. He has a number of different estates, which you can sample in the Foley Wine Tasting Room at the Bacara.
You can enjoy a glass of wine from the wide choice from Foley estates, or try a wine flight as we did – along with some olives and salumi plate. We were really quite impressed. Surprisingly the Chardonnay, the Rosé and the Pinot Noir were our favourites.
We also had to have a seat in the Bacara Bar of the resort. Our cocktails were superb. I noticed there was even a cigar menu here and had to investigate the humidor.
I was particularly interested in the Flavored Trios ($105), which come in a tube of coffee beans, and the Ghurka Art Deco 1940 ($165), which is made from pre-embargo Cuban tobacco from 1940!
The tube the cigar comes in is wax sealed so I couldn’t inspect the stick properly, but it looked very appealing. I didn’t buy one.
Initially, we thought we’d drive into Santa Barbara for dinner. But with only a day to explore Bacara, and all the different food and wine venues, how could we leave? Plus it was probably safer after the wine flight and cocktails.
It proved to be an excellent idea. We dined at The Bistro, which serves up a modern blend of Italian fare and pizzas to hungry guests, and the prices aren’t too bad either.
There are a few other places in the resort you can drink and dine at if you have the time. We’d love to explore the facilities further – especially the spa, which we were free to use as part of our reservation.
Director of Spa and Wellness, Victoria Boscarino kindly gave us a full tour of the spa facilities. It really is old school, with relaxation rooms for men and women with connecting staircases to the respective locker rooms.
The men’s locker room in fact leads into the unisex relaxation room rather than a room just for men – a change Victoria made when she started at Bacara.
Each locker room has its own Jacuzzi and steam room!
There is a full gym with machines, free-weights, cardio equipment and even pilates tables.
Upstairs there are treatment rooms and amazing open-air seating areas with views of the ocean where people can come and relax – perhaps get a massage.
Best of all, the spa is in a round building – like a lighthouse. The view from the top down the staircase that wraps around the inside wall is very cool.
We both imagined ourselves spending days and days chilling out here – reading, writing, and generally consuming!
Funnily enough, at check-in, while the lovely Alexa was sorting out our reservation, we overheard the guest at the desk next to us start his two-week stay. A fortnight? Fourteen days? In a resort?
We each raised an eyebrow.
How could anyone stay in a resort for that long?
Now we know.
Bacara Resort and Spa
8301 Hollister Avenue
T: +1 (855) 968-0100
Have you ever stopped in at a place and wished you could stay forever? Do you have any top tips for places to stay in Southern California? Tell us in the comments!
** A quick caveat about the beaches along this stretch of the Pacific: because of the natural oil found in this region, the beaches do have some crude oil deposits on the sand and rocks.
If you get any of this stuff on your clothes, you’ll have trouble getting it off, so be careful. The Bacara has notices explaining this but no one reads warning notices, do they? **