Legendary El Encanto, a Belmond hotel overlooking the American Riviera and the Pacific Ocean: the original Hollywood getaway in the Californian sunshine: serenity and style in this throwback to an earlier age where guests included Franklin D Roosevelt, John Kennedy Jr, Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr

Set in the hills with the best views of the American Riviera and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, El Encanto is a serene gem of an hotel, opened in 1918 and part of Santa Barbara’s social scene ever since. This legendary Belmond hotel is Santa Barbara’s ultimate luxury getaway, with a long lineage of happy guests, beginning with President Franklin D Roosevelt and Hollywood film stars including Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr, and continuing to this day.

With verdant landscaping across seven acres of secluded gardens, El Encanto is an enchanting oasis of private bungalows with sweeping views over Santa Barbara and the Pacific Coast. It is gleaming and glamorous, yet relaxed and low-key—the kind of place that invites you to relax poolside, breathe in the ocean air and sip a cocktail or a glass of Californian wine—it’s all so easy, with traditional wine country just over the hill and tasting rooms near the beach, the surrounding area just adds to this luxury hotel’s charm. If you can bear to tear yourself away, there are beaches, wineries, sailing, riding, racing, polo, and of course Santa Barbara itself, home of the first Hollywood Studio, is a fascinating place to explore.

While the grounds of Ele Encanto themselves  ​are magnificent, the rich history is even more compelling. It attracted plein air artists and catered to the carriage trade from the East Coast. And El Encanto has always been a magnet for the American elite, hosting everybody from president Franklin D. Roosevelt to John Kennedy Jr. and, being less than two hours’ drive from Hollywood, an easy retreat for the film stars of America’s golden age—Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Hedy Lamarr—who in her non-movie life is credited as the inventor of the technology behind WiFi, for which she was inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame—were regular guests among many others. Even as it became dated, El Encanto’s charm remained: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gwen Stefani, Barbra Streisand, Wolfgang Puck and Leonardo DiCaprio have all enjoyed El Encanto and Hollywood’s current A-list still likes to escape to this hilltop eyrie, with the chic seaside town spread out like a movie set beneath.

It is certainly a throwback to a leisured age, which is today so attractive. Its original architectural features have been lovingly restored, including the historic, trellised-lined Arbor and Lily Pond and Wishing Well. Modern additions to the expansive outdoor swimming pool and a new beautifully appointed boutique spa enhance El Encanto for today’s luxury-seeking guest. The secluded spa is a destination in itself—it’s pure Beverly Hills.

There are no fences, giving a natural, unobstructed, leisured feel. Brick pathways lead guests around the grounds, and mature trees—cypress, palm and eucalyptus—create mini secluded oases around the bungalows, some of which overlook the ocean, others the gardens, and many have balconies or outdoor patios. The very best have large private walled patio gardens. All are stylish, comfortable and functional, some California Mission in style with traditional red-tiled roofs and white stucco walls, others classic California Craftsman with simple clean lines and earthy wood tones. All have hardwood floors and dark-toned wood furniture. Bathrooms have either deep soaking or free-standing tubs and white marble countertops with radiant heated floors despite the endless Californian sunshine.

Sumptuous contemporary cuisine will also delight with organic and locally sourced ingredients, many grown here in the chef’s garden. The menu is especially strong on excellent seafood and the style is the best American and international cooking. For a drink, stop by The Lounge. Have afternoon tea or a cocktail featuring herbs and citrus grown in the grounds (so too the lavender lemonade with Beluga vodka, lemon, sage and lavender).

The Santa Barbara weather is beautiful year round, so you can go any time (though a favourite time is from March to May when everything is pristine and green after the mild winter rains). It is sunny 300-plus days every year, a consistency which makes it easy and inviting to plan a getaway. You can pack light, and plan to spend your days basking in an average daytime temperature that ranges from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. Low humidity and a gentle ocean breeze complement these ideal climes.

Whenever you decide to go, at El Encanto you will experience an eclectic and authentic ambience for romance and rediscovery.

Getting there is easy. It’s a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles—or there is a direct train, the Pacific Surfliner, which arrives in the heart of Santa Barbara. The hotel is a 10-minute car ride from the train station.

Receive complimentary VIP advantages when booking as a VIP Member of CountryClubuk, including advantageous room rates, instant room upgrades on arrival, daily breakfasts, early check-in, late check-out and resort credit. To check availability and best options for your stay, call Member Services on 020 7399 2960 or fill in the form below to send us an email.

800 Alvarado Place
Santa Barbara
California 93103
El Elcanto, a Belmond Hotel: website

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