Santa Barbara: Posh El Encanto reopens with new spa. And a cow

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

El Encanto is back -- with a new spa, new ballroom and its own Holstein cow.

The historic hideaway in the Santa Barbara hills hasn’t gone Farmville but it has undergone a “meticulous restoration” by Orient-Express Hotels, marking the luxury brand’s first property in the West. The hotel reopened Monday to guests with 92 bungalows that overlook the city and the ocean. The official public opening isn’t until Friday. (Sneak a peek with this El Encanto photo gallery.)

Orient-Express spent $134 million and seven years restoring the hotel in keeping with its California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival styles, according to a company spokeswoman. The hotel, which opened its doors in 1918, sits on 7 acres in the city’s Riviera neighborhood and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


“Orient-Express has worked to refurbish the bungalows and main building in accordance to stringent historical regulations as well as in an environmentally sensitive way,” a spokeswoman says in an email.

“It’s a gorgeous, historic property ... its going to be our Chateau Marmont,” Michelle Rodriguez of Santa Barbara’s tourism agency says, referring to the West Hollywood hotel. Rodriguez says people from all over, even a journalist from Beijing, have been asking about the launch of the new El Encanto.

So what’s new? The hardwood floors, plantation-style shutters and private patios for each bungalow and bungalow suite, for starters. The existing pool was repositioned, and a gym and ballroom were added too. A new spa was also added with seven treatment rooms.

What’s not so new? The gardens and the Lily Pond, a centerpiece of a quiet refuge at the site, have been carefully kept faithful to the original. The restaurant with knockout views re-creates the hotel’s signature Floating Island dessert (a meringue and creme anglaise affair) that dates to 1920.

There are also electric bikes for guests to go tooling around Santa Barbara. And then there’s the cow, Ellie, who will provide fresh milk for homemade cheeses at the hotel.

Rates start at $525 a night including tax. As an introductory package, guests who reserve the Enchanted Upgrade package available through May 31 (except Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27) will receive an upgrade.


Contact: El Encanto, 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara; (805) 845-5800.
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