Which Is Best? Four Seasons Biltmore Vs Ritz-Carlton Baca Vs Belmond El Encantora


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If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in and around Santa Barbara, you will want to choose between the Four Seasons Vs. Ritz-Carlton Bacara Vs. Belmond El Encantora Vs. Rosewood Miramar Beach. But which is best?

Santa Barbara offers the epitome of sunny Southern California living. It’s where mountain peaks reach blue skies, cozy beach coves warm your soul, creative communities inspire your spirit, and vineyards and renowned eateries cater to your great taste.

Santa Barbara was originally a Spanish colonial mission town set beside the Pacific Ocean. Nicknamed the ‘American Riviera,’ this gorgeous stretch of coastline lies less than 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, which is only a two-hour drive away.

Here, among lofty palm trees, golden beaches, and perpetual surf, life rolls along at an unhurried pace. Californians know this small city as an easy weekend getaway. And let’s not forget the award-winning wine country nearby.

While Summer brings the biggest crowds to the beaches, beware of a foggy coastal marine layer that may make things gloomy in May and June, possibly even July. On the bright side, you will find much cheaper room rates during low season (November to March), when it can be rainy.

The famed Four Seasons Resort, The Biltmore Santa Barbara, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, Belmond El Encantora, and Rosewood Miramar Beach all offer deeply luxurious Californian seaside escapes.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, and Rosewood Miramar Beach offer oceanfront luxury with legendary service. Each has a slightly different vibe, and all offer luxurious amenities for guests who book with our own luxury travel concierge.

Whichever hotel you choose, you will remember glittering Pacific sunsets, chilled signature cocktails, stylish amenities, and the finer points of the Santa Barbara lifestyle.

1. Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands, steps from Butterfly Beach, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is an exquisite 1927 Spanish colonial retreat. This iconic oasis features 207 guest rooms, suites, and bungalows with handpainted bathroom tiles, custom furniture, and furnished patios or balconies.

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara does not feature in our best Four Seasons hotels in the world because of the sheer volume of Four Seasons hotels to choose from. It is undoubtedly one of the best in the world, but our listing was limited to just picking the 10 best! Be assured, this Four Seasons is very special!

The location is better than the Ritz-Carlton below, although this Four Seasons is not in the center of Santa Barbara either. It is around 3 miles south of Santa Barbara proper, actually in Montecito, around a 5-10 min drive from the center of Santa Barbara.

The location is also right across the street from the beach in Santa Barbara, and the Four Seasons has its own Beach Club, which is superb.

2. Belmond El Encanto

Belmond El Encanto is located in the hills above Santa Barbara, 1-2 miles from the center of Santa Barbara. It is still a 5-10 min drive to various shops and restaurants or to the beach. It is not one of the cheapest Belmond hotels in the world, but it is a gorgeous hotel. It features in our best Belmond hotels in the world, but it’s not on the beach, sadly. The Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood, and Four Seasons ARE on the beach!

Belmond El Encanto is the smallest of our hotel choices and has just 92 rooms and suites. Originally built in the 1920s, Belmond has restored this classic hotel to its present, lovely state. El Encanto’s eight acres are dotted with 31 magical bungalows, 11 built-in California Craftsman-style, and 20 in Mission-style architecture. The resort’s central pools are heated to 85º year-round, and there is an excellent spa.

Being 500 feet above sea level, the resort offers sweeping ocean views down to Santa Barbara and beyond. Original architectural features are complemented by modern additions, including a zero-edge swimming pool and lavish spa. The resort is secluded but is close to the center of the action in Santa Barbara. A useful free shuttle service is provided within a 5-mile radius, so you don’t need to worry about parking, and electric bikes are offered to guests for free.

3. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, embodies the charm, beauty, and energy of the Mediterranean in the heart of Santa Barbara and is your best choice if you have an energetic family. While it doesn’t feature in our best Ritz-Carlton hotels, it does offer ocean-view accommodations, a wonderful beach, an indulgent spa, and dining that celebrates local ingredients.

Bacara is a typical large Ritz-Carlton resort with 358 rooms and suites. The location is stunning, on 87 seaside acres in Goleta, about 12 miles north of Santa Barbara proper, or a 10-15 min drive right down the 101 freeway. This means that little is walkable outside this resort.

Plus, points include that The Ritz-Carlton Bacara is right on the ocean, and it’s an easy walk down to the beach. Due to California Coastal Commission regulations, the beach is ungroomed, with driftwood and unraked sand, which might be a shock. Still, the Bacara makes up for this with a luxurious Beach House, which offers food as well as toilets and showers.

Bacara has two excellent restaurants. Angel Oak, the signature fine-dining restaurant, is one of the top-rated restaurants in the Santa Barbara area and the casual and less impressive (and less expensive) Bistro.

4. Rosewood Miramar Beach

Rosewood Miramar Beach is in the Montecito neighborhood and is our fourth choice. It is better located than the Ritz-Carlton, has 161 rooms spanning across 16 acres, and shares a slice of coastline with a handful of beach homes.

The bad news about this resort and a feature that will put off all light sleepers from staying here is that it has an active railroad line running through the property. A 24-hour guard keeps guests from crossing the tracks at the wrong time, removing the need for wailing train whistles. But earplugs are probably required, making this the worst choice of these four luxury hotels.

At the top end, suites include butler service, and the 1,885-ft² suite has a panoramic ocean view. Even moderate rooms are sizable, 530 ft², with a patio or lanai.

The Rosewood Miramar Beach is one of the best hotels in Santa Barbara.

Four Seasons Biltmore Vs. Ritz-Carlton Bacara Vs. Belmond El Encanto Vs. Rosewood

Overall, the Biltmore Four Seasons tends to win. It’s a gorgeous resort with immaculate grounds and brilliant staff. Their restaurant, Bella Vista, is across from the ocean, where you can often watch dolphins playing.

The Four Seasons does tend to be more expensive Vs. the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, but this may partially be because the Ritz-Carlton Bacara is more remote and is comparatively more exclusive.

Its out-of-town location means that you are, to some extent, stuck within the Ritz-Carlton Bacara resort, and The Ritz-Carlton Bacara is a big property, and it feels it. It’s busy with families enjoying the beach and the family pool. It does not have the more boutique and intimate feel of the Four Seasons or Belmond.

At the Four Seasons Biltmore, the location is better, and Montecito is directly behind the resort, with great shops and restaurants. At Belmond El Encanto, you are a minibus ride from the beach. Both the Biltmore and the Belmond El Encanto feel more intimate in size.

The Rosewood Miramar Beach, Four Seasons Biltmore, and the Belmond El Encanto are all located in prestigious residential neighborhoods. Driving or bicycling along the coast from Rosewood to downtown takes you along the stunning coastline and along stylish roads dotted with boutiques, restaurants, and beautiful views. There is no option to explore this kind of environment from the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in the same way, as the surroundings are not as salubrious.

The rooms at the Belmond El Encanto are scattered around the resort in bungalows, which is rather nice. This style of design is probably the best of all, but this sophisticated and peaceful hotel lacks a beach.

With regards to the beach, the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, and the Rosewood all have beautiful beaches.

Wherever you stay, you must watch the sunset beyond the city from the top of Lizard’s Mouth or hike to the top of Inspiration Point and explore the warm sands of Butterfly Beach, Refugio State Beach, or Shoreline Park. End your day with handcrafted Purple Rain or Anacapa Mule cocktails at the Four Seasons’ Ty Lounge.

Wherever you choose, your stay will be punctuated by glittering Pacific sunsets, chilled signature cocktails, stylish amenities, and the finer points of the Santa Barbara lifestyle.

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