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Belmond El Encanto 4.5

Santa Barbara, California, United States

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Review Summary

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  • Beautifully restored historic landmark with lovely interiors
  • Landscaped gardens overlook the ocean
  • Luxurious bungalow-style rooms have private patios
  • California coastal cuisine and fine wine served on an outdoor terrace
  • Bar and lounge does traditional afternoon tea, as well as offering craft cocktails
  • Top-notch spa and fitness center on-site
  • Outdoor pool is pristine
  • Freebies include Wi-Fi and bicycle rentals


  • Not within walking distance of downtown
  • Expensive rates for services, food, and drink
  • Fee for parking

Bottom Line

El Encanto is a gorgeous historic landmark in the hills overlooking Santa Barbara and the ocean beyond. It underwent a long, expensive renovation that preserved its character while adding modern perks to luxury bungalows, like automatic espresso machines and bathrooms with heated floors. The spa is beautifully done, and even the fitness center has aesthetic appeal with cardio machines set under an arbor on a brick patio. Active guests can hop on free rental bikes to get around. For everything else, expect to pay during a stay here -- a breakfast burrito costs as much as buffets at less storied hotels.

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Wonderfully renewed Craftsman and Colonial architecture, as well as lovely grounds

Renovations of this Santa Barbara institution broke $134 million, and with them El Encanto was reborn with luxe interiors and extra -- but its original Craftsman style and Spanish Colonial architecture still intact. Even the original brick arbors in the gardens were carefully dismantled, restored, and then recreated using the original bricks. Airy interiors are covered in rich dark wood, and decorated with gorgeous pieces by artists like Damien Hirst and Charles Arnoldi.


In the hills overlooking Santa Barbara

From its perch, El Encanto looks out over Santa Barbara, known for the kind of Spanish-inspired architecture that this hotel exemplifies. Home to several colleges and universities, as well as a large yachting scene, the affluent downtown's shopping and nightlife on State Street isn't close enough to walk to, but is only about a five-minute drive southwest. Santa Barbara Mission and its historical park are also within brisk walking distance to the west. Expect a 20-minute drive west to Santa Barbara Airport.


Writing desks, iPod docks, fireplaces, and espresso machines in plush rooms

Belmond El Encanto's luxe rooms and suites are in bungalow-style buildings spread across the path-laden gardens. Red brick or terracotta tile patios lead into beautifully restored rooms in rich earth tones. Hardwood floors, handsome wood and leather furnishings, and breezy white curtains complement the fireplaces that many of the units feature. Large writing desks, mini-fridges, and iPod docks round out the standard necessities, with honor bars and automatic espresso machines also on hand for more demanding tastes. The bathrooms are large and impressive, with heated stone floors, big walk-in rainfall showers, and separate deep soaking tubs. 


Outdoor pool, full spa, fine-dining restaurant (with its own cow), and fantastic outdoor terrace

Seven acres of meticulously landscaped gardens wind around the hotel's bungalows, lined with brick paths, quiet benches, and pretty arbors. The original lily pond, loved by locals and returning guests, was dutifully preserved. An outdoor pool faces the Pacific Ocean, which can be seen from the surrounding sun deck dotted with blue umbrellas and sun loungers. The spa has seven treatment rooms, as well as a full hair and nail salon, a relaxation lounge, and steam rooms. The neighboring fitness center doesn't have the biggest equipment room, but everything is state-of-the-art and a few cardio machines are outside on a connecting patio. There's also an attached dance/yoga studio. 

The pricey restaurant serves California-coastal cuisine with a serious dedication to locally sourced ingredients -- that includes keeping its own cow (named Ellie) on the premises for making fresh cheese. An attached bar and lounge serves cocktails and a traditional afternoon tea which must be booked 24 hours in advance. There are two other special seating areas found here as well -- a private wine room with its own menu and an amazing outdoor terrace with views over Santa Barbara. 

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800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, California 93103-2176, United States

Also Known As

  • El Encanto by Orient-Express

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