The road to a luxuriously restorative staycation leads to Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara
Written by Amy Adams
With the sun-drenched season in full flux, it’s prime time for a summer sojourn. While I truly love and long for the thrill of going someplace worldly or wildly tropical, sometimes a lengthy trip is just not realistic. Rather than struggle to find time to travel abroad for an extended period, I’ve resolved to be the quintessential “staycationer”—and a great advocate of exceptionally long weekends. Thus, when I was recently invited to join friends at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, my response was simple—yes!
The Road to Holiday
When I was younger, I drove from Orange County to SB to visit friends in college. As I recall, my zesty little four-cylinder Volkswagen could hover around 3000RPMS and make the trek in exactly three hours. Now, with a lot more cars on the road and avoiding bustling L.A. traffic hours, I can still make the trip in about the same amount of time. Let me remind you, the view along the way is breathtaking. Once you’ve meandered through L.A. and reach Ventura, the highway opens up and starts to skim the coastline, with miles of glittering ocean waves crashing on the left and towering rugged rock formations on the right; pause at the scenery and feel worlds away. Suddenly, the drive is less about “just getting there” and more about being in the moment, leisurely embracing the journey. If, however, you simply aren’t up for driving, taking a train is an effortless, and rather relaxing, alternative. (Tip: Download the Amtrak app to book your ticket, and monitor departure and arrival times.) Depending on your station of departure, the ride may take a little longer than the drive (from OC to SB, roughly four hours), and you’ll arrive at the resort without a car, but arranging for transportation is easy. That is, if you leave the resort grounds at all.
Bacara Resort & Spa is part of The Meritage Collection (with Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach a sister location), so expect nothing less than an ultra-luxe, ready-made escape. Upon arriving at Bacara, I immediately think, Wow, it’s taken entirely too long to come back here. But why? The short answer: time. But, alas, finally I’m here, in something of a daydream and still riding the high from the beautiful commute, the sky is a vibrant blue, the sun shining, and falls of brilliant magenta bougainvillea are dancing in the breeze. The expansive property, gorgeously sculpted by 78 coastal acres of scattered smooth white stucco bungalows with red-tiled roofs in a sea of lush landscape and walking trails, immediately evokes a sense of serenity and relaxation. Anxious to see my accommodations, I quickly check in. The walk to my suite, however, is anything but brisk. Quiet and tranquil, swaths of verdant lawns and vibrant flowers punctuate rolling pathways, while birds sing sweetly and flutter about hefty trees that shadow the lane as I trail to my room. My oceanfront suite, definitely affording more space than one person needs, feels elegant and indulgent. Spacious and well-appointed with a private patio and sweeping windows facing the sun-baked shoreline, it is absolutely bewitching—and all mine for the next few days. Below is a natural estuary at the foot of the grounds. Inside, in true Meritage fashion, is a beautiful array of fresh fruits, cheese and wine.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Although one could easily laze away in the comforts of this domain, order room service and spend the day reading on the patio and soaking in the hypnotic crystalline vistas, the resort is brimming with a bevy of things to see and do. I start my mornings with a workout. Counterintuitive? Perhaps, but I’m much more likely to explore a new exercise routine while on holiday; plus, there’s the matter of burning off a few extra calories from indulging in chef Vincent Lesage’s decadent tasting menu at the new Angel Oak restaurant. From hiking trails and spin classes to swimming and golfing at one of the nearby courses, a variety of recreation is offered, including a trip to the resort’s legendary—and luxurious—42,000-square-foot spa and wellness center.
Thinking that this getaway couldn’t possibly get better, we tour Santa Ynez Wine Country, hosted by Visit Santa Ynez with transportation by Stage Coach Tours, and yes, I realize, it actually can. Not one for guided tours, I thoroughly enjoy this unique experience. The tour bus is exceptionally nice, a perfect size for our small group, and the bus driver incredibly hospitable and knowledgeable, entertaining us with stories about the area. Roughly an hour’s commute from the resort, we tour and taste wines from Gainey, Brander and Lincourt vineyards, then partake of a phenomenal private lunch of fresh vegetables, risotto and meats at Mattei’s Tavern. Since leaving home, it’s been, quite literally, one indulgence after another…
…after still another. Driving from the vineyards, through the hills, and back to the resort, the ocean comes into view. So close to home, yet so far away—a three-day trip, a lasting memory. One not far from my mind. MeritageCollection.com