As a travel junkie, and a fan of small, luxury inns, I had high expectations for San Ysidro Ranch. Fortunately, this is one property that knows how to deliver. In planning my trip, I considered both the Four Seasons and San Ysidro Ranch. It seemed illogical to stay away from the beach, but after a friend's disappointing stay at the Four Seasons, I decided to give San Ysidro a try. THIS WAS DEFINITELY THE RIGHT DECISION.
San Ysidro sits at the base of the mountains in the gorgeous enclave of Montecito (approx 15 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara.) Upon entering the property, my first impression was that this was a garden paradise. The buildings and surrounding property were teeming with Bougainvillea, roses, citrus orchards, olive trees, etc., etc., all tended to by resident hummingbirds. On a small scale, it rivaled any botanical garden I have ever visited.
The staff, although young, were all very helpful. We were quickly checked in, questioned about our numerous restaurant reservations (more on that later) and shown to our cottage, Cypress, a small but absolutely enchanting space, luxuriously, impeccably, and comprehensively appointed. They didn't miss a beat. Cypress was complete with a fireplace, spacious private garden, and a very special distant view of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands beyond. It should be noted that not all cottages have an ocean view however the garden and creekside views are all special in their own right and would in no way take away from the overall experience. The Cypress cottage was actually one of the less expensive options, yet still managed to be spectacular.
On our first night, we discovered why Natalie, the helpful young woman at the front desk, was surprised by our many restaurant reservations. San Ysidro ranch has two of the most romantic restaurants that we have ever visited, anywhere in the world. Both the Stonehouse Restaurant, and the Plow & Angel have outdoor spaces that are nothing short of magical. The indoor rooms are gorgeous, but the outdoor spaces are truly unbelievable. We love trying new restaurants, we had three out of four nights planned at noteworthy Santa Barbara establishments, yet we ended up staying three out of four nights on property. The food was wonderful (although a bit pricey), the service was excellent (special kudos to restaurant manager Mike and wait staffers Matt and Adam), and the ambiance was unrivaled. You won't want to leave for dinner.
San Ysidro Ranch also has a beautiful, peaceful pool area, with a heated pool, workout room, and croquet courts, beautiful private event lawns with ocean views, private dining rooms, and a lovely main house, great for a casual breakfast by the fire. We also had massages on our patio, which was a treat.
To fairly review this property, I must mention that, as is the case everywhere, San Ysidro Ranch is not perfect. We had a few services glitches, but it's the way problems are addressed that truly separate nice properties from exceptional ones. When the Front Office Manager, Harry Hirsch, was made aware of our issues (and these were not make or break problems), he went far, far, beyond expectations in making sure we were accommodated. Harry's understanding and professionalism are a credit to this property. As we told Harry, we will be back, and we will recommend our friends to this property as well. Staying at San Ysidro was a truly memorable experience.
Now, back to location. We decided to take a scouting mission to the Four Seasons, which is also in Montecito, but down by the water. This property also gives an amazing first impression. You drive in and think "gorgeous!" and the common areas live up to that expectation. Where the Four Seasons falls short are in ways that, unfortunately, are out of their control. A train track runs behind the property with trains running at least every 3 hours, day and night. We could hear the train, distantly, from San Ysidro, which was far away. Our friends who stayed at the Four Seasons said the train sound was literally a deal breaker. In addition, the Four Seasons was built in 1927 and unfortunately, only a handful of rooms sport ocean views. You may be close to the beach, but you'll still have garden views, and the gardens are no San Ysidro. In addition, the beach club across the street is private, and available free for only the priciest of rooms. The standard level rooms must pay a ridiculous price for admission.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled in the Montecito foothills of Southern California’s wine country, San Ysidro Ranch has provided a tranquil vacation destination for discriminating travelers for over a century. Guests are drawn to the Santa Barbara hideaway for its blend of natural beauty, romantic heritage and classic luxury. Myth and history mingle in the lush garden where Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier exchanged vows; in the setting of John and Jackie Kennedy’s honeymoon retreat. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- San Ysidro Ranch, a Ty Warner Property Hotel Santa Barbara
- San Ysidro Inn