Last year, a family member of mine who qualifies for the State Government Rate was able to reserve rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara for approximately $200+tax/resort fee for one night. A great deal that was, as standard rates were upwards of $700. When the Bacara Resort joined the Ritz-Carlton brand in 2017, it quickly caught my eye and became a hotel I eventually wanted to stay at. Glad I could experience the resort and this was actually my first hotel stay since the pandemic began.
The resort opened in 2000, and it actually is located in Goleta, California, approximately 15 miles away from downtown Santa Barbara. The hotel offers 358 rooms and is connected to a 2 mile stretch of beach.
Quick Takeoff Points:
Date of Stay: May 2021
Room Type: Deluxe 2 Queens Room
Pros: Beautiful hotel grounds, a beach that feels private and a resort-style experience.
Cons: Resort fee and parking will run you over $100 on top of the room rate and the rooms could use some updating for a hotel of this caliber.
Upon pulling up in the porte-cochère, you can opt for valet or drive right through to the parking lot. Both self-parking and valet share the same lot at this time and is $53 per night. We opted for self-parking for our stay. The parking lot could have been a bit better maintained, as there were a lot of weeds in the planters, and they had some construction going on that was not properly blocked off. In regards to planters in general, some of the plants and flowers across the hotel could have been spruced up as well. They weren’t in terrible disrepair, but some TLC would have been good.
At first I got a bit lost from the parking lot on finding which building was the lobby, but an employee driving a golf cart kindly guided me. The hotel has many golf carts zooming across the resort, as the hotel consists of numerous “villa buildings” (19 in all). The golf carts are available to take guests to their buildings as well as around the resort. I really enjoyed the layout of the resort, especially during a pandemic. All the entrances to the rooms are via outdoor corridors and each villa building consists of a relatively small cluster of rooms.
The lobby is nicely furnished (in my opinion, nicer than the room itself). We arrived around 5PM, which was an hour after the standard check in time. Emily quickly checked us in and was very friendly. She got us a room in Villa 2 on the top floor (3rd), which was close to one of the restaurants Angel Oak as well as the parking lot and lobby building. We asked for a 1PM late check-out so we could have the room after our brunch (standard check-out is 11am) and we appreciated that it was granted at check-in.
Upon entering the room, the first thing I noticed was that it was really warm. I went over to the AC unit immediately and it was showing 80 degrees so I turned it down to set at 72. There was also a ceiling fan so I turned that on as well. The room never cooled down and the AC unit pretty much just blew room temperature air! At night, thankfully the crisp Santa Barbara nights in the 50’s allowed me to leave the window open in order to cool down the room. It was a minor annoyance that the AC didn’t work, but it ended up being okay.
The deluxe room type clocks in at 450 square feet. While not the largest hotel room, it was designed relatively well. The bathroom didn’t have dual vanities but still had a separate shower, tub and water closet. Bath amenities are provided by Asprey, which is standard for the Ritz-Carlton brand. Disinfectant wipes as well as Tar Wipes (for visits to the beach) were provided as well.
The bedroom consisted of 2 queen beds and the nightstand in between the beds served as a desk. Two larger lounge chairs were also provided.
If you would like to see my YouTube video of the room, check it out below.
A mini fridge is provided which was nice. The television was a bit small for the room and not the clearest as well. This is something the hotel can fix with a renovation.
A nice highlight of the room was the large balcony with 2 chairs and a table. Considering we didn’t book a room with a view, it was nice to have a (tiny) peek-a-boo view of the water still.
Other items to note in the room: One of the queen beds was comfortable and fine, but the other one was definitely old or heavily used as one side of the bed was sagging quite substantially.
Additionally, the flooring could use a refresh.
Another pet peeve was that the room sound insulation was not the best. When people ran down the hallway, the room vibrated and you could hear a lot of outside noise in the hallway corridor. Thankfully, most of the people on our floor were families and couples that all went to bed early. I believe this hotel was built in 2000, and I feel that a lot of hotels built during this time have poor insulation.
The overall vibe of the room more closely resembled a JW Marriott to me, or maybe an Autograph Collection perhaps. I’ve noticed other reviews pointed this out as well. I would expect a bit more from a Ritz-Carlton room to be honest. I previously stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove Miami in 2019, and had similar thoughts on it being a bit underwhelming. Perhaps I have the wrong impression on how Ritz-Carlton’s should be, or I’ve just stayed at their more basic properties.
Amenities + Service:
During this time as of May 2021, the pool is open but reservations are required for pool lounge chairs. I was only here for a night and I didn’t have time to utilize the pool.
The spa is open and the fitness center as well. Reservations are required to access the fitness center at this time. I walked past the entrance to the fitness center and the doors/windows were all opened for fresh air.
The resort also offers a nature loop for a short hike as well as direct access to the beach. The beach is not the most pristine, but nonetheless nice for a morning stroll. It was quite chilly in the morning when I went on a stroll along the beach, but still pleasant.
Over my short stay, all the staff I encountered were nice and adequate, so no complaints on this front.
There were signs around the hotel to wear masks. All staff I encountered were wearing masks and I would say over 70% of guests would wear masks around the property even with most corridors being outdoors. Felt like a pretty safe environment during this time which was much appreciated.
The website is not up to date with its offerings with regards to restaurant menus. Thankfully, a week before check in the hotel sent out an email with up to date information. Currently, Angel Oak, O Bar and Kitchen and the Bistro are all open. I called in before my stay and made reservations for O Bar and Kitchen for dinner and The Bistro for brunch the next morning. Dining Options include the Room Service, The Bistro, Angel Oak, the pop up Japanese restaurant San Setto, ‘O’ Bar and Kitchen, First Drop (for grab and go coffee and pastries) and the Pool Bar.
When placing reservations, the reservations representative asked if we were celebrating anything special, and I added that it was my mom’s birthday. At O Bar and Kitchen, they wished her a happy birthday at the beginning and at the end, ended up comping a dessert we ordered. At the Bistro, the gesture was more festive and executed nicely; as once we were seated the host surprised my mom with a glass of Mimosa. She was so surprised!
O Bar and Kitchen is located right off the hotel lobby and has both indoor, and a large outdoor terrace. It’s currently open daily from 3PM-10PM and the menu read as follows:
The O Bar utilized QR codes for pulling up the menu on your phones which I liked, and I was able to preview the menu from the room, as the room provided QR code links to all the restaurants and their menus.
We sat out in the terrace and had a traditional style table. They also had seating in front of a firepit but with less table space (more for those only having a drink and snacks). O Bar and Kitchen serves Spanish-style cuisine, and our table had the Argentinean Style NY Strip, Pacific Bass and Tacos al Pastor. All three main dishes tasted great! Additionally, our table tried the Bass Ceviche for an appetizer which was very good as well. We were very happy with our meal. I opted to try the Meza Margarita which was so-so and the Spanish Churros were mediocre as well.
I visited the Bistro for brunch and sat outside in the terrace. The outdoor terrace was large and had some peek a boo views of the ocean. The Bistro serves brunch from 7AM-3PM daily and the menu for the Bistro was on the smaller side and read as follows:
It’s a bit funny, the Bistro menu provided by scanning the QR code in the room showed the menu above, but when arriving to the restaurant, they gave paper menus with prices approximately $2 higher per dish. Interesting…
Anyways, the Egg Whites omelet I got was very good and I liked the potatoes. The avocado toast was not too bad, but I have to point out that the fruit plate was a bit disappointing. The fruit was somewhat sweet, but for the price I would expect better presentation and perhaps some berries or more variety of fruit.
Overall, I enjoyed both my meals at the resort!
The resort fee is $50 per night which includes:
- Internet, Press Reader for newspapers and magazines
- Daily one hour access to private, professional grade clay tennis courts, including rackets, tennis ball machine use, and 30 minute tennis clinic with pro for 2 people
- Daily water aerobics classes for 2 people, including water aerobics equipment
- Ambassadors of the Environment Guided Eco-Hike Tour for 2 people
- Daily bike rental for 2 people, 2 hours per day
- Guided beach walk
- Shuttle to and from Santa Barbara Airport (advance notice required)
- Daily one hour yoga class for 2 people, equipment provided
Considering I used none of these benefits, I wish the fee was lower/non-existent, but maybe some people would fine these inclusions nice.
Additionally, both self and valet parking cost the same and will run you $53 per night. So you’ll be most likely adding over $100 in fees on top of your room rate.
In all, I truly enjoyed my stay at the hotel and I was happy that I got to experience it. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is a beautiful property and a nice place for a resort-style weekend escape. During the pandemic it’s a perfect resort with the open-air aspect as well. Given that, the hotel can use a nice refresh in the rooms, especially when standard rates are over $700 a night. If my travels bring me back to the Santa Barbara area, I would love to try the hotel out again, especially if they complete a renovation of the rooms.
Have you stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara before? How was your stay here? Comment below!