I was hesitant to write a review of this place at the risk of too many people finding out about it for it is a beautiful secret but I know they want to get the word out to people who would "get it". It is NOT a five-star hotel or a spa or a beach get-away. It's a place to be introspective, to remember who you are & what you're about and attain inner strength. I went the second week in January of this year because I felt like I needed to detox from all the food & wine & emotional upheaval I'd been going thru since October with my elderly parents and thru the holidays. I got a room in the Hermitage Cottage which is a few feet from the gorgeous mansion and spent 5 days hiking, meditating, doing yoga, getting massages, reading and writing. It was a great jump start to a new year, a new beginning, a healthy physical & emotional mindset. It's non-denominational. They don't care what you are, as long as you're respectful of other people and are there to get some kind of peace/growth/emotional well-being out of it. IT IS NOT A HOTEL so you can go hang out in Santa Barbara. It's a destination for contemplation. Being quiet is key. Everyone I encountered - from the ex-nuns working there, the staff, the terrific chef, and my fellow retreatants - were so friendly and calm and helpful...all of the mindset of "so glad you're here, hope you have a great retreat". And by retreat I mean I meditated up to 3 times a day (never did that before!). Some were group-led and others were my just coming upon a bench in a beautiful spot (there are countless) with a babbling brook and my seizing the moment. So you're on your own which was perfect for me. Sometimes groups attend but when I was there it was individuals and couples. (I was told that the week before a woman had come with her friends & rented out the whole house to celebrate her 50th birthday!). Because I didn't stay in the main house I brought some prepared food from Trader Joe's and heated it up in my kitchen and it was fine. I wasn't there for a culinary experience - in fact I wanted to lose some Holiday weight so I was happy to go easy on the dining. The grounds are gorgeous (and is said to have been hallowed ground back from when the Chumash Indians inhabited it); a view of the ocean, 20+ acres of mature trees, rolling lawn, a zen garden, a shalom garden, a labyrinth, and beautiful little chapels. And the mansion! Filled with history, it was built in the 1920's by a Vanderbilt and sold to the Immaculate Heart order of nuns when the Vanderbilt's fortune went south. The nuns used it as a training place for novitiates for years until they got so fed up with the Vatican for resisting change that they left the church! From there it evolved into what it is today - a place where all are welcome to come and find serenity. Oh, and there's a pool and tennis court for the warmer months. I can't say enough good things about my experience there. Now I only hope I can get a room next time I need a tune-up! P.S. And by the way, referring to the review from Myra L., no one asked me for any donation whatsoever.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Center for Spiritual Renewal is part of the La Casa de Maria Retreat & Conference Center which is peacefully located in the semi-rural foothills of Santa Barbara, just 90 miles north of Los Angeles. The 26 acre tranquil sanctuary offers the following amenities, including a dining room, plus an outside dining patio; a large chapel and small meditation chapel; labyrinth; walking paths; hiking, peace garden; organic orchard and vegetable gardens; book & gift shop; swimming pool; yoga; and massage. Individuals and couples are invited to deepen their spiritual journey at the Center for Spiritual Renewal. The Center is the original stone manor house, of both architectural and historic interest. It provides gracious guest rooms and delicious meals Tuesday to Sunday. In addition, a three bedroom, three bath separate guest cottage, the Hermitage, is available seven days a week for retreatants who may prepare their own meals in its kitchen. ... more less