Haute Ambassador: Alicia Piazza Shares Her Favorite Spot in Santa Barbara

Belmond El EncantoPhoto Credit: Belmond El Encanto

California has many wonderful cities, starting from the foot of the state’s boot where San Diego is located, up through the bluffs of San Clemente. The famous Pacific Coast Highway hugs the coast of California through Orange County, Santa Monica and Malibu, eventually reaching the sanctuary of a serene town named Santa Barbara, just about a two-hour drive away from Los Angeles. After a short drive up the town’s hillside, you will find a little jewel called Belmond El Encanto, a quaint, five-star hotel that went through seven years of renovations to restore its historic grounds.

The hotel feels very peaceful and homey, with extended bungalows surrounding the main quarters, evoking charm and elegance at every turn. It incorporates a classic Spanish décor that is rich in history. The design blends a beautiful combination of Martha’s Vineyard and classic California, with lush trees and wisteria mixing with picturesque views of romantic rolling hills.

One aspect that particularly stood out to me was the incorporation of butterflies in the common areas. The story of the butterflies is truly special—it represents how monarch butterflies migrate through Santa Barbara. This is extraordinary because these butterflies are not supposed to migrate so far west—indeed, it is a magical phenomenon that leaves scientists mystified. The long journey these butterflies endure is nothing short of a small miracle. While the many generations of monarchs pass through the trees high above Santa Barbara, Belmond El Encanto is lucky enough to get a front-row seat of the enchanted view.

If you’re looking for a secluded getaway, this is the perfect place where one can always find several inviting nooks to curl up and enjoy a fine glass of wine, read a book or head out for a peaceful hike. There is a magical feel to this boutique getaway, with the mystical beauty lying somewhere between the balance of the vast ocean views against the tall trees and hilly surroundings.

The dining experience in the hotel is exceptional, as well, from the inventive mixology program to the attentive dining staff that is dedicated to making your experience seamless. It offers indoor and outdoor seating options, with breathtaking views from the outdoor balcony overlooking the city. The cuisine is a masterpiece in itself, as the chef sends out perfectly portioned plates that are just as beautiful to look at as they are delicious, with popping colors, intricate presentations and artistic pairings that are picture-worthy. Menu offerings include the latest in hip, California cuisine—all dishes are healthy, yet cutting-edge. To me, this is a major part of a hotel experience—exceptional dining separates the average from the extraordinary, and menus, ingredients and an overall dining experience are all part of this. Attention to detail is very important. Belmond El Encanto receives high marks in all of these areas, resulting in a truly memorable experience. If you want to try a home away from home with a touch of Hollywood glamour . . . then just follow the butterflies.