Sure, there’s nothing more sublime than jetting off on a grand adventure across the pond. But, when you want to stay more local (say for instance, on U.S. soil) and leave the endless hours of travel time, exhaustion and passports at home, it doesn’t get better than Southern California. With glorious beaches, enchanting vistas, memorable fine dining and of course, those world renown sunny days (for the good majority of the year), So Cal reigns supreme. Fall may be kicking in but that fine warm weather isn’t going away and there are plenty of upcoming weekends and holidays to take advantage of. Whether planning a romantic rendezvous, girls only getaway, golf extravaganza, or all out family vacation, these are my two favorite destinations that never fail to dazzle – a taste of Europe right in our own backyards…
Just a short hour and a half drive north of Los Angeles (about 90 miles), Santa Barbara is referred to as the American Riviera. Nestled on the glistening Pacific Ocean, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is perched right at one of the area’s must stunning beaches, Butterfly Beach. The property’s bountiful gardens and lush vegetation coupled with the classic Spanish Colonial style of the main lobby and accommodations envelop you in relaxed luxury perfectly reminiscent of the ultra chic Rivieras in Spain, Italy and France.
The light, sumptuous rooms, including suites and cottages, are cozy and elegant; most have private patios for sitting back and admiring the surrounding foliage. Butterfly Beach certainly beckons, but there’s just something so alluring about the main resort pool – its jungle setting complete with Kentia palms and Australian tree ferns always makes me feel like I’ve been transported to a tropical rain forest. And, then there’s the attentive pool staff who offer complimentary tasty treats like fruit kabobs and smoothies. I’m happy lounging here all day long with a final early evening beach stroll as the cherry on top.
Should you book a Premier level room or above you’ll also be treated to complimentary access to the glamorous Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, just a few steps from the hotel. This private membership social club dates all the way back to 1937 and underwent a recent and very wow-worthy renovation. Glamorous ocean front lounging and dining, a larger-than-Olympic size swimming pool (50 meters + 1 foot), Fins – a fresh squeezed juice and snack bar, a kiddie pool heated to 94 degrees, and Four Seasons service await you. A definite Coral Casino must: take in the sunset, spectacular views and local, sustainable gourmet preparations by booking a dinner reservation at Tydes Restaurant.
Traveling with kids? Kids For All Seasons is the ultimate hang out. Drop off for ages 5-12 is anytime between 9 am – 4 pm. And, a very thoughtful touch… it’s complimentary and the kids have a ball.
In the mood for a little pampering? Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore has you covered with the arrival of Jose Eber salon. This posh, intimate location offers cuts, color, makeup, and blow-dries. Should you care to stay in your robe, simply request services in the privacy of your guest room. Indulge yourself some more by spending an afternoon in the Spa. I especially love taking in the salty air and hearing the soothing sounds of the ocean from the treatment rooms – the Raindrop Essential Oil Massage is the ideal way to end a day of ultimate bliss.
Often times it’s all about the little things, and nothing makes me happier than just strolling along the charming pathways, admiring my favorite, awe-inspiring tree, the majestic Moreton Bay Fig tree that dates back to the 1800’s and simply breathing in this tropical paradise.
Places to eat and things to do while in Santa Barbara: Rori’s Ice Cream for decadent, small batch, artisanal frozen delights. Brophy’s Brothers on the harbor for fresh seafood and sumptuous views. The Santa Barbara Zoo. The Santa Barbara Courthouse for a dose of culture. Wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley (about an hour drive). Santa Barbara Public Market off of State Street – a gourmet food mecca. Ganna Walska Lotusland – a private estate in Montecito that is now a non-profit botanical garden.
Upon arriving at this architectural masterpiece, you’ll instantly feel like you’ve landed on Italian soil. The entire design of the resort takes inspiration from the work of 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, famous for his palatial homes on the Venetian countryside and his philosophy of grand scales and impeccable symmetry. Wrap yourself in Mediterranean-like splendor as you gaze across the the sprawling Tom Fazio designed golf course to the unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean. The 100 year old olive trees, along with pine, cypress, fig and pine trees adorning the property, create an impeccable environment of classic Italian authenticity.
As far as the accommodations go, the plush Bungalow guest rooms with wood beam ceilings are in a class of their own, and at 847 – 1,600 square feet they are some of the most spacious I’ve seen – perfect for entertaining too. All of them have expansive private terraces, the majority with views of the ocean. I also love to get lost in the architecture of this place, and there’s something so soothing about taking in the views of the charming terra-cotta tiled roofs on the other Bungalows just below. You’ll swear it’s Italy!
If you’re looking for a true home-away-from-home experience, the Villas, ranging from 2,100 – 3,500 square feet, are a must. You have an option of two, three or four bedrooms complete with a gourmet kitchen and dining area as well as a private garage, butler service, private clubhouse and pool, and very own Piccolo restaurant.
The striking centerpiece of the resort is the Coliseum Pool. At 136 feet/41 meters in diameter, this family-friendly, yet very adult feeling pool is one body of water you won’t soon forget. And, the accommodating staff will cater to your every whim. I’m in my happy place lounging here all day long while gazing at the glistening glass tiles lining the pool and the views of the ocean just past the lush golf course. Hang here with the kids or treat them to their own special clubhouse with Camp Pelican. This ocean-view haven for ages 4-12 is decked out with a pool, bubble jet fountain, karaoke machine, touch screen computers, plasma TV’s and loads of arts and crafts. Pelican Hill also has your teens covered with Latitude, a hangout for ages 13-17 featuring beach sports, photography hikes and movie nights.
Looking for a little quiet me time? The 23,000 square foot Spa at Pelican Hill is a relaxation oasis. Indulge in one of their exclusive treatments like the Coastal Renewal scrub and massage utilizing organic botanicals grown in California. Or simply drift off on a cozy lounge chair inside the vaulted ceiling Aqua Colonnade after a dip in the decadent Roman-soaking pool. They even offer yoga classes in the Spa fitness studio, wellness classes and personal training. Whatever you choose, this is the place to kick start your health regime.
Italians know exceptional cuisine and boy do they have that down. From the homemade gelato made fresh daily on property to the authentic offerings of fresh pastas, meats and wines at Andrea Ristorante & Bar, Pelican Hill immerses you in all of the culinary delights that Italy has to offer. Not to be missed, Festa Dell’Autunno October 10-12 – their annual three-day event celebrating the autumn season with Italian traditions and festivities. The Italian Street Festa is one of the highlights featuring regional foods, live music and art amidst the the olive trees.
Places to eat and things to do while along the Newport Coast: A day trip to the quaint Balboa Island – don’t forget those tasty Balboa Bars (chocolate dipped ice cream bars) and Frozen Bananas. The most delectable Japanese cuisine and sushi at Bluefin. Shopping at Fashion Island. Orange County Museum Of Art for some culture. Spend the late afternoon at Crystal Cove – 3.5 miles of a marine reserve just minutes from the resort followed by dinner right on the beach at The Beachcomber – pure bliss!
It’s easy to make those dreamy visions of the mediterranean a reality with visits to Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore and The Resort At Pelican Hill, minus the hassle of overseas travel – two ultra memorable Southern California coast destinations that will forever stay with you.