After Extensive Enhancements, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara Debuts as a Property Devoted to Luxury and Loving Life

Laura Eckstein Jones | October 17, 2019 | Lifestyle

The resort has three saltwater pools that overlook the Pacific.

Luckily for us Angelenos, it’s not necessary to hop on a jet to experience a true getaway. One of our most classic weekend destinations—Santa Barbara—is home to one of the most classic SoCal resorts: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. Having opened in 2000 as Bacara, the beloved oceanfront hotel, which spans 78 acres and features 348 guest rooms and suites, two natural beaches, three salt-water pools, a 42,000-square-foot spa and wellness center, and more, was acquired by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 2017 and has undergone significant improvements to the public spaces ever since.

Now, the resort is ready to make its official debut as a refreshed and modernized version of its former self. “We wanted to bring a little more light to the resort; it was very dark and heavy before,” says Roberto van Geenen, the property’s general manager. “We wanted to feel the ocean, the waves, the smells, the flowers. We made it lighter and more approachable.” This objective, along with the desire to incorporate Hollywood glamour (“The earliest silent movies were all shot here in Santa Barbara,” notes van Geenen), Spanish architecture and the area’s native Chumash heritage, was brought to life by renowned firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, which focused on updating public spaces like the lobby, Bacara Bar, the Ocean Terrace, the spa, the Club Lounge and more.

An oceanside walking path chock-full of indigenous plants dips down to the shore.

Throughout, the overall vibe is light and bright: airy rooms with high ceilings and impressive arches. A white, light-gray, slate blue and natural wood palette pervades, with hits of black here and there. Details like woven chairs speak to the area’s native tribe. “The Chumash are very famous for their basket weaving,” van Geenen explains. And tweed, leather and metal recall Santa Barbara equestrian culture. “Tweed goes back to the tweed jackets, and some of the tables are inspired by a spur or horse bit,” he says. “The glamour is understated and not in your face. People feel comfortable here.”

Along with thoughtful updates to the lobby, the new Bacara Bar and the Ocean Terrace—which overlooks the Pacific with unobstructed views—no detail was overlooked at the freestanding Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge. Guests who book Club rooms (from $549 per night), the Penthouse suite (from $4,000) or The Ritz-Carlton Villa (from $7,000 per night) have access to the luxurious space, which offers five culinary presentations a day including a decadent weekend menu and chocolate fondue every night.

As well, the hotel works with the Sullivan Goss gallery to curate a collection of artwork that highlights the California coast. “Certain art pieces change out once a month, and the whole collection changes each season,” van Geenen explains.


The newly enhanced living room at The Ritz-Carlton Villa is filled with ocean-inspired touches; one of the numerous seating areas in the light and airy lobby.

Next to the Club Lounge is the 42,000-square-foot spa, which includes 36 treatment rooms and a full-service salon, state-of-the-art fitness center and boutique. A mesmerizing fountain greets you as you enter, and reaches up several stories via a floor-to-ceiling pendant light that resembles a water drop. Make sure to look up at the incredible woodwork on the circular ceiling—it’s gorgeous. The reinvented spa is focused on incorporating wellness, and in particular sleep, into the new offerings, including a Sleep Sanctuary Experience treatment menu. The Sleep Ritual Massage (80 minutes for $365) includes clinically backed relaxation music and a set of products to take home. Make sure to unwind pre- or post-treatment in the plush relaxation rooms­—the zero-gravity chairs paired with magazines and tea are the stuff dreams are made of.

Speaking of dreamy, dinner at Angel Oak, the hotel’s California-inflected steakhouse that overlooks the Pacific, is a must. Everything is delicious, but particular standouts include the local abalone and the tuna and salmon tartare. And every evening at 6pm, there’s A Toast to the Sunset, where the resort’s signature sangria is served (on holiday weekends there’s a live guitarist.) It’s peaceful, stunningly beautiful and a celebration of one of the world’s most special locations, one that we’re so fortunate to have a mere two hours from Los Angeles. Cheers!

Photography by: The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara