Situated steps away from Montecito’s Butterfly Beach with panoramic views of the Channel Islands and the Pacific Ocean, sits the Four Seasons Santa Barbara Biltmore. This Spanish Colonial hotel originally opened in 1927 as part of the Biltmore Hotels chain when the wealthy elite from the east coast discovered the idyllic environment of coastal California. Today, the hotel remains a landmark destination for weddings and celebrations, or just a quiet getaway.
Ty Warner, the Beanie Babies tycoon who restored the 20-acre property 10 years ago, owns the hotel. Rather than dismantling the charm, the original elements were kept while modernizing the property with all the latest plumbing and electronics including wireless services and 55” televisions in the rooms. The Spanish Colonial Revival design endures with red-tiled roofs, bougainvillea vines growing on the arches of the ivory buildings and hand-painted Mexican tiles. The coffered ceilings and Saltillo floor tile remain in the lobby.
The property includes 207 guest rooms and suites and is set on 22 acres of lush gardens including 2,000 different species of exotic tropical plants and palms including the rare kentia palm and the famous Moreton Bay fig tree. The hallways to the rooms are decorated with vintage photographs. The entrance of each room is hand stenciled. Rooms vary slightly in terms of color and décor, but all stay true to simple, elegant furnishings with an open floor plan and a subdued color palette of gold, green and white. The beds are made specifically for the Four Seasons, with interchangeable tops where one can request plush or firm. The bathrooms feature original Mexican painted tile floors, modernized with huge bathtubs and dual traditional and waterfall shower heads in the showers. Suites come with self-heating floors.
At the rear of the property, there are 12 single-story cottages situated along winding garden paths. Each cottage has 3-5 guest rooms with their own private entrance and beautiful refurbished wood floors. This includes the Ty Warner Cottage presidential suite complete with a plunge pool that can accommodate 12 people.
The hotel has three eateries: The Bella Vista Restaurant, and next-door is the Coral Café and Tydes restaurant situated in the Coral Casino, the private cabana and beach club open to the guests of the hotel. The Ty Lounge and Coral Reef Bar with its 275-gallon aquarium are also popular among resort guests.
Other amenities include a full service spa, botanical walking tours, tennis, volleyball, croquet, and beach cruisers. Beanie Babies are still sold in the hotel gift shop and fill the lobby during the holidays.
The luxury oceanfront resort is only 4 miles from downtown Santa Barbara. On tracks not far behind its grounds one still hears the sound of an engine and the train’s whistle blowing, reminding us of the more elegantly-paced time when the hotel was first established.