SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. , January 31, 2014 – Bacara Resort and Spa embraces the Santa Barbara coastline with the splendor of a Mediterranean village that has been transported to an isolated wonderland along the Pacific Ocean. It cascades down the hillside, a collection of white villas with red roofs set against a majestic line of cliffs, spilling out onto a pristine stretch of beach alongside a wildlife sanctuary.
With a flair for panache, an impeccable location, luxurious stylings, and the truly brilliant fine-dining extravaganza Miro, Bacara has extolled the serenity of life in the comforts of an exclusive ocean side hacienda for the last 12 years.
Located 12 miles north of Santa Barbara, nestled between Santa Barbara Shores County Park and the cliffs of Gaviota, Bacara is a self-contained retreat for the senses. Its 354 rooms and suites, all of which feature private balconies or patios, is set on 78 acres of manicured gardens surrounded by exquisite natural beauty.
The 18 separate villas of rooms and suites form a perfect semicircle around a series of trademark infinity pools, ringed by private cabanas and lounges, all above an unspoiled beach that stretches for miles.
The entrance resembles a grand Spanish ranch with an airy circular cobblestone courtyard. The lobby is a spacious expanse of high wooden beamed ceilings, and leads to the lively circular Bacara Bar in the rotunda overlooking the property.
Bacara is extremely popular for weddings and special events and has numerous grand ballroom spaces that are used endlessly. One particularly huge and impressive ballroom area was being set up for a massive charity event with Barry Manilow performing with a full concert stage.
It seems each weekend is a movable feast of recurrent celebrations, a travelling road show with an ever changing cast of celebrants and a wide variety of venues. As a result, midweek in the off season you may find the place to yourself, like a seaside Hearst Castle left unattended, before the weekend rush begins anew.
Once on the property there is almost no reason to leave it. Whether in a group or visiting as a couple, the immersive sensibility of romance in the air is palpable
Indeed half the experience of being there is simply being there, wandering the grounds, walking the trail along the cliffs, or strolling down the beach at sunset.
The Cabana Pool at the center of the property is surrounded by private cabanas for daytime festivities. It overlooks the Resort Pool next to the Bistro Patio, a breakfast favorite, which overlooks the wildlife sanctuary and the stunning beach. Be sure to indulge at The Spa at Bacara, an enormous 42000 square foot spa and wellness center, providing a wide range of massages, services and treatments.
Rooms in the villas are exceptionally comfortable with a luxuriously casual air, sumptuous beds, tile floors, private balconies and patios, and in many cases fireplaces. The units in Villa #10 open up onto the beach itself, a wide expanse of sand with a lone tree punctuating the hilltop in the distance. The feeling of splendid isolation in ethereal comfort is visceral and intense.
Walk the nature trails to the top of the hill above the beach and gaze in wonder at the endless row of cliffs, the thundering ocean below, the beauty in every direction. Across the marsh and bird sanctuary, once shelled by a Japanese submarine in World War II, Bacara shines like a Greek village, clinging to the hillside, a vision in white and red, giving way to the cliffs and the sea.
At the peak of the Bacara experience is the fine dining restaurant Miro, located at the top of the property along the cliffs overlooking the beach. This award winning culinary delight creates audacious cuisine in a sublime environment, and features a 12000 bottle wine cellar of unusual depth and quality.
Miro is the rare restaurant where the beautiful setting and stunning location is lovingly overwhelmed by a sumptuously memorable meal under the guiding hand of Chef de Cuisine Johan Denizot.
Potato gnocchi with ricotta and lemon roquette is extraordinary, the gnocchi light as air, the sauce a whisper of flavor against a flurry of texture. Veal sweetbreads on a toasted brioche and an onion soubise are crisp on the surface, succulently juicy and firm on the inside, cooked to perfection.
A 2009 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a rare and exceptional wine to accompany the meal, and a testament to the depth and quality of the wine cellar. It perfectly complements a towering and deliciously tender Mishima ranch Waygu rib eye with Santa Barbara sea urchin and a seaweed tepanade.
Artisan tagliatelle with pancetta and farm egg under a generous blanket of summer black truffle is an exercise in joyous indulgence and simply amazing. Grilled barramundi on a watercress puree is a fitting climax to a fabulous meal, the fish tender and flaky under a crisp glaze.
Appetizers run around $20, and entrees are around $40. Portions are fairly ample though not overwhelming. Share a selection of appetizers and main courses and stretch the evening into the lingering experience it was meant to be.
Leaving Miro and wandering down the hillside to the villa is a glowing walk through a moonlit paradise. The passing days at Bacara have merged into a gentle, lovely and relaxing memory. Waves crash on the beach outside the patio, as slumber comes wistfully to the end of the day with a broad smile on its lips.
Rooms start as low as $350 a night, and suites start at $700 a night. (www.bacararesort.com)
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles.
All photos by Alison Reynolds