I went with several other families over Memorial Day weekend to this horsey guest ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley inland from Santa Barbara, near Lake Cachuma. My family stayed in a small travel trailer for rent, another family stayed in a small cabin and two other friends had motor homes. There is also a tent camping area here in a pretty glade near amenities like the pool and store.
First, the pros: This is in a spectacular setting in the Los Padres National Forest. Beyond the rancho, you can't see anything but beautiful low mountains. The Santa Ynez River runs through the property, though we didn't see it. Lots of hiking. Many, many birds including red-headed woodpeckers. The RV sites are stacked up on a hill so every site has a pretty mountain view. The rancho has nice amenities great for families including two pools, an adults-only hot tub, store, tennis court, basketball half-court, tiny mini-golf setup, horseshoes, grills and more. You can check out gear for free from the store including tennis rackets, balls, golf clubs etc. Everyone had a lot of fun outdoors. If you like to fish, there's a lot of fishing nearby. The resort is well off the main road so it's extremely quiet and peaceful, you don't hear any traffic noise. The staff was friendly and helpful. The Old Stone Lodge is beautiful and quaint. I was told the adult lodge is nice though I didn't go into it. Prices were affordable, especially compared to other guest ranches in the Santa Barbara area which are incredibly pricey. There is wine-tasting in this entire region, though you are in 20 minutes from the main highway and then another drive to wineries. Nice horse stables and you can bring your own horse here, too. My kids went for a trail ride and enjoyed it. The horses look immaculately cared-for and the staff was friendly. There were some other livestock to look at and a stock dog demonstration. They had an ice cream social every afternoon while I was there.
Cons: The resort has a tired air which is really a shame, because it would be simple and cheap to fix. For example, the tennis court surface was okay but the net had a rip in it. A needle and sturdy thread would fix that. The boundaries around the court had peeling paint. A few minutes with a paintbrush would do the trick. The markings were worn off some of the concrete like at the basketball court. Ditto. There's a beautiful patio behind the old stone lodge but no one ever even swept back there all weekend, so it was covered with twigs and generally felt unkempt and depressing. Really, how long would it take to use a broom back there? I would have liked to sit there with my breakfast, but too unkempt. The resort does have meal service at times, but they serve the food on paper plates with plastic utensils. Ugh. Seriously? Very unappetizing. The ice cream social consisted of people doling out ice cream and taking your money. Hmm. Not very social nor fun. All the picnic tables were shabby and needed to be sanded and repainted. The trash by the pool was not emptied the entire weekend. The large pool that children were allowed to use was cloudy as if there wasn't enough chlorine in it. I would not put my head under the water because the last time my son swam in a pool like that, he got an ear infection. Really, how hard is it to put chlorine in a pool? Fortunately my son didn't want to swim. The staff should have monitored the condition of the pool during the day. There was an adult pool but it was unheated and freezing cold. I was disappointed that children were not allowed in the hot tub as they could then have warmed up in there, but I'm sure adults preferred it. There was no fun family indoor gathering place like the adult lodge, the Old Stone Lodge was kind of bleak and dreary and no reason to want to be in there, even though they had a ping pong table in one tiny dank room. No campfires allowed, though you could use charcoal.
We stayed in a shabby old travel trailer we rented for $91 a night. It was fine for us, a warm place to sleep, a stove and you're never indoors anyway at a place like this anyway. It was clean. We brought our own sleeping bags but it would have been additional $10 per person per night to rent bedding. My friends had a cute little cabin, very tiny but with a nice deck. They paid $129 a night. If you are a Thousand Trails member, you get a discount. You should know that lodging in the entire Santa Barbara area is very expensive and at more upscale guest ranches (with more luxury of course) you can pay $250-$400 a night. My friend checked out the tent camping area at night and said it was noisy. I walked through during the day and thought it looked fine, if a little crowded. I would not like to stay in the tent wagons, they are quite far away from the rest of the resort, though near the stables. They have corrals if you want to camp and bring your own horse. There were some flies in some parts of the resort but I didn't find them a problem. Later in the summer, they might be.
All in all, we enjoyed our stay and we will go again. But it was frustrating to see these little details and think how much better the resort could be if someone just spent a few minutes attending to them. Regardless, all our kids had a lot of fun and it was very relaxing without spending a lot of money. So we'll be back.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The spirit of the Old West abounds in this family-oriented rustic ranch setting. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Rancho Oso Hotel Santa Barbara