Saturday, August 10, 2013

Montecito Magic

If there's a more perfect place for weather in the US, I don't know about it. Sunny in the winter... and this time of year is also perfect, with a bit of fog and cool air from the ocean in the morning and evening with mild mid-day temps at around 80 degrees. But that's just one reason to love this charming Southern California locale. Not only do they have great weather... they make the most of it...

Even the welcome sign to the hotel is carefully hidden in the landscape
Situated on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, Montecito, CA is a residential community with wonderful locally owned shops, restaurants and art galleries that also boasts one of the country's top resort hotels. This place is far from typical. San Ysirdo Ranch has been voted as one of the best places to visit year after year by leading travel publications, and after 3 wonderful nights on property, I concede. Even our friends who live in the area were anxious to join us.

The path from our cottage to the pool
For starters, it doesn't seem like a hotel at all. In fact, the cottage accommodations feel as if you are staying in a guest house on a pristine estate, completely surrounded by gardens, hiking trails to the ocean and other natural wonders. I fell in love instantly and only grew to love it more as I explored the grounds. Yes, famous faces frequent this spot for a getaway or celebration (Gwyneth was married here), but it's far from pretentious. It's actually completely relaxed, totally casual and gives you an idea of how it would feel to be a resident of the area. Service is on point and there are two glorious restaurants onsite, but there are no tall buildings or bright lights. Instead acres of olive trees, lavender, jasmine, orange and lemon groves serve as San Ysrido Ranch's 'wow' factor.

One of the walking trails at San Ysrido Ranch
The actual cottages aren't fussy either, but perfectly curated to capture the spirit of the community in the most upscale way through decor, carefully placed furnishings and views to the outside. Luxurious touches like Bvlgari bath products, a private outdoor shower and hot tub were bonuses as well (loved this feature!). Of all the places I've been this year, this was the hardest to leave. I lingered until the very last second....

Our cottage and the gardens surrounding it
There's close proximity to the thriving city of Santa Barbara, and (my fave) the charming shops along Coastal Village Road just down the street. One of my top shopping haunts of all time is Wendy Foster's boutique, Angel. I was so glad to get back to this shop. On this trip, I also discovered a unique, globally inspired home and gift store in Maison K -- where I bought way too much just because the offerings were so special (head start on holidays!). There are so many finds on a small, charming stretch of road you can get lost for hours.

Maison K
The final perk is the easy route to some of Southern California's best wine tasting in the heart of Los Olivos. More about that experience on my next post. Watch for it later this week, and please do share your travel tips and experiences here!