El Encanto Hotel in the hills of Santa Barbara, California, reopened recently after a major $134 million renovation.
If you are familiar with the old boutique hotel, you know it is full of rich history…It opened originally in 1918 and was a playground to the stars. It boasted lovely gardens, and an original ambiance. It was a little dated, but I still appreciated the personality of the place – personality is one thing I see lacking in many hotels I visit. They all want to be spanking new and luxurious – sometimes turning sterile in the process.
I haven’t visited the new El Encanto yet – It is now managed by Orient Express Hotels… and am worried that the things I loved so much won’t be there. But by the many photos I have been scouring, and reviews I have read, much of the exterior charm has been preserved, and most people, even hard to please and proud locals, have been happy with the new old kid on the block.
The grounds are gorgeous, and a throwback to a glamorous time… just like they were before the remodel. The hotel worked with the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission.
There are only about 90 rooms on the property, which keeps this hotel more intimate – part of it’s allure. Each one has it’s own patio or garden which is terrific. But – the new design, while pretty, looks a little sterile to me. I realize that hotels have to be careful in rooms because they are used so frequently, and things get worn out faster, but a little more zest to match the hotel’s outstanding location and grounds would have made me rave.
Perhaps they didn’t want to show up one of the main attractions of the incredible view overlooking all of Santa Barbara’s coastline. The rooms and public spaces have views… and even telescopes so you can gaze your worries away. Nice touch. Another nice is the feather pen on the desk along with stationery….
Another curious choice is the Damien Hirst piece of art at the reception desk…. Damien Hirst is the surprise… sort of nouveau, in a hotel that represents a golden era of the past.
I realize I am resistant to change with this hotel, but it is truly a special place.
The restaurant is a stand out – open air with views… and California fresh cuisine – straight from the garden! I love farm-to-table food, and if you can get a reservation here, then you must also try the cheese. The hotel invested in it’s own Holstein cow to make the cheese – this may be the most pampered cow in the Ventura/Santa Barbara agricultural area! Speaking of which… the restaurant reportedly has a Santa Barbara dedicated wine list. Note: most locals say right now it is really crowded, and service issues need to be worked out although the staff is friendly.
Overall, El Encanto still exudes romance… and I would love to go.