The refreshed lobby at Mar Monte Hotel still has classic charm PHOTO COURTESY OF MAR MONTE HOTEL
After a multimillion-dollar reimagining, the historic Mar Monte Hotel is bringing a fresh sensibility to the Santa Barbara shores.
Once upon a time, a gorgeous beachfront hotel was born, with swaths of open land and sea surrounding it. More specifically, the year was 1931, and the hotel was the Spanish-style Vista Mar Monte, the dream property of hotelier Frederick A. Bartholomew. He had a vision: a destination property for Hollywood’s elite, where guests would arrive by railroad. For years, his hotel delivered the dream.
The hotel’s living room is located off the lobby. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAR MONTE HOTEL
Like most things, time took its toll on the hotel. Luckily, its spirit lives on in its newly reimagined vision: Mar Monte Hotel (marmontehotel.com). Part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, the 200-room property retains the spirit of the original, but has an updated look and feel, two new restaurants, new programming and more.
Adorned with hand-drawn illustrations, Cafe Lido is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAR MONTE HOTEL
My husband and I—with our dog, Joni, in tow—decide to drive up the coast one weekend to experience the property, and to take advantage of its incredible location right across from East Beach. We love the attentive service, the easygoing vibe and the refreshed design that feels authentic to the original but not at all fussy. While on-property, we dine at costa Kitchen & Bar one night for dinner, where we enjoy some of the best food we’ve had in a while: namely dry-aged Santa Carota strip steak served with perfectly charred trumpet mushrooms and a springy fresh pasta. We also dig into a lovely breakfast at Cafe Lido, where we gaze out to the pool and the ocean.
Costa Kitchen & Bar serves California-Mediterranean cuisine PHOTO COURTESY OF MAR MONTE HOTEL
The hotel’s incredible location is a huge part of its draw. One day, we take Joni on a gorgeous walk to the Presidio District for breakfast at the newly opened Parisian-style Alessia Patisserie, where we can’t resist walking away with a box of artfully adorned pastries. Afterward, we stroll down State Street toward the Funk Zone, where we pop into The Blue Door and walk past countless tasting rooms. That evening, we dig into dinner at Loquita, the always buzzy Spanish restaurant on State Street where farm-fresh ingredients, inventive dishes and a magical atmosphere—think lush patio and twinkling lights— make it a must-visit every trip. The next day, we drive a few miles away to the dog-friendly Hendry’s Beach, where Joni runs at full speed alongside crashing waves, reaching full-on happy mode. We pop over to Montecito, where we dig into burgers at Honor Bar and peruse the boutiques.
There are 200 guest rooms spread across five buildings PHOTO COURTESY OF MAR MONTE HOTEL
Through it all, Mar Monte is the perfect respite, welcoming us back to read by the pool, chill out in our room or to sip on some really great coffee in the lobby. My husband and I may not be Hollywood royalty like some of the original guests, but we—and our dog—are certainly treated well. We’ll definitely be back.
The hotel has various hangout areas, including this fountain-centered patio PHOTO COURTESY OF MAR MONTE HOTEL