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El Encanto Hotel Santa Barbara

First Look – As Cali as it Comes: El Encanto
February 20, 2013
By , Galavante Contributor

There are certain qualities we’ve come to expect from California resorts. Seclusion and privacy are a given. Pacific views are a must. Farm-to-table cuisine is practically de rigueur if you’re calling yourself a coastal hideaway. And charm – plenty of charm. Frankly, it takes something special to stand out. And El Encanto, an early-20th-century property set to reopen after a massive restoration, is managing to do just that. Perhaps it’s got a bit of encanto left over from its days as an artist and celeb retreat for the likes of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. But the latest and greatest El Encanto is definitely extra California.

The meticulous seven-year, $134-million restoration – and by meticulous, we mean each brick was removed and replaced by hand and the indigenous flora was transferred to greenhouses and then replanted on property – kept El Encanto’s history intact, but also brought it into this century. The 92 bungalow rooms, in both California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival style, are like hideaways in the hills. Expect modern conveniences, from state-of-the-art flat screens and heated bathroom floors to cozy fireplaces and private patios. Some suites even have their own gardens.   

California cuisine restaurants are a dime a dozen, but El Encanto takes it to the next level. The resort keepsits own dairy cow, grows herbs and vegetables on-site, brews its own unpasteurized beer, and freshly roasts the coffee. The Dining Room menu is seasonal California at its best, with a dash of French and Asian inspiration. (We can’t wait for sea urchin season.) The Santa Barbara-heavy wine list keeps it local, too. When the exec chef has chopped his way to the top at Daniel, you know you’re in good hands.

Of course, organic spas pervade West Coast spa menus, but how many boast vinotherapies? The 4,500-square-foot Spa at El Encanto uses herbs from the garden, seawater from the Pacific, and grape seeds in their treatments. Go for a Pinot and Cabernet Crush Sugar Scrub (and try not to lick it off). The spa also has a private salon for core fitness, yoga, boot camp, and Pilates classes.

After a weekend at El Encanto, you might feel a little extra California too. And charmed, we’re sure.