“Encanto” means “spell” or “enchantment” in Spanish, and that’s exactly what Belmond El Encanto is – it’s the charm of Santa Barbara. Since Tor and I tied the knot just outside Santa Barbara one year ago, we felt it only appropriate to begin our anniversary week in the coastal California town just outside of Los Angeles. It proved to be the perfect romantic escape from the hustle and bustle of our lives in LA.
Tor and I are not strangers to Belmond. We first stayed at Belmond Splendido in Portofino during our honeymoon (see our posts here and here), so it seemed only appropriate to stay at their Santa Barbara property to celebrate one year of marriage. As soon as we arrived at Belmond El Encanto, we knew we were in for a treat. It was also easy to tell right away why it’s Forbes’ only 5-star rated hotel in Santa Barbara. The hotel is situated in the mountains with a 180 degree view of downtown and the coast below. The first second we stepped out of the car and looked at our home for the next few days, that’s exactly how we felt Belmond El Encanto was to us – a home. It has such a homey, inviting appearance that would rival anyone’s coastal dream home. It also gave us major nostalgia from Portofino. Our little suite felt like the perfect home itself, thanks to large windows overlooking a vegetable garden, our own large patio under the trees, and our bed with a monogramed pillow marked “C” for Coombs.
It was cloudy on our first day, but that didn’t stop us nor stop any of the other guests from enjoying what Belmond El Encanto has to offer. After enjoying a delicious lunch and rosé on the main patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Tor and I went walking about the grounds right away as we quickly wanted to explore what felt like a little village of quaint cottages. Belmond El Encanto reopened in 2013 after a seven year, multi-million dollar renovation so in my eyes, it’s still “new”. Prior to it’s renovation, it hosted guests such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Kennedy, Jr, and as a history buff myself I naturally geeked out at that information. Maybe it’s because I am such a history buff, but the hotel gave off vibes to me that it is evoking a modern day approach to the kind of life FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt would have had at Belmond El Encanto.
After taking the hotel’s courtesy car to and from town for dinner, Tor and I decided not to rush back to our room and to curl up on a sofa on the patio with blankets. We then ordered some champagne and El Encanto’s dark chocolate soufflé, because what could be more romantic than cuddling under the stars with some bubbly and chocolate? If you watched my Insta-story, you’ll know how we felt about that soufflé. It was a rich and smooth chocolate with a decadent vanilla bean sauce and a side of salted caramel ice cream and cookie crumbles. I told the staff at the restaurant to make sure that dessert never leaves the menu, and we decided to skip dessert in town from then on so we could return to El Encanto and have their soufflé each night.
For our first morning, we dined at the hotel restaurant before we headed down to the spa for a couples’ massage. Tor and I had been battling a nasty cold virus the week before, and while Tor was feeling much better, I was still feeling some lingering effects. My masseuse Katie knew exactly what to do to “flush” the remnants of the virus out of me and I was transported to Planet Relaxation in no time. However, I completely abandoned Tor when I spent more time in our respective steam rooms than he did because I was feeling so relaxed (and thanks to Katie for the eucalyptus oil to kill the last of my cold virus).
After our luxurious morning at the spa, Tor and I went up to Belmond El Encanto’s gardens that were draped in glorious bunches of wisteria. My bestie and her husband had actually been to Belmond El Encanto the week before to attend a wedding that was held in those exact gardens, and it’s not hard to see why it’s a popular wedding spot. The gardens ooze a sense of beauty and tranquility. Plus in the middle of the gardens is a lily pond full of fish and SEVEN turtles! Leave it to Tor and I to find and befriend animals wherever we go (we even befriended a staff member’s 9-year old Border Collie at the pet-friendly hotel on our last day!). We are sure they have names, but Tor and I gave them nicknames of our own. If you watched my Insta-story, you saw we called a few of them Gus, Duke, Henry, and the ever so friendly Bob.
Tor and I spent one day at the beach, but we knew we wanted to get some pool time in, too. We had a few hours before dinner, so we took a dip in Belmond El Encanto’s heated mineral pool. While Santa Barbara was hustling down below, we enjoyed the serene peace up above from where we were.
All good things must come to an end and we needed to get back to Los Angeles, but our visit to Belmond El Encanto was the perfect escape we needed to celebrate our love and first year of marriage. Despite an abundance of adorable suites and cottages spread throughout the grounds full of guests, there was always a profound sense of privacy. It was exactly what we needed. And even though at many times it felt like we had the place to ourselves, occasionally we saw a few guests with their families who all appeared as blissfully happy to be there as we were. On our final morning at breakfast, we saw one family with a three-month old which made me think ahead of how maybe we will have to return someday with a little one ourselves. For now, we will indulge on what Belmond El Encanto has to offer for couples’ celebrating their love and marriage as we were – romance and enchantment.
Thank you to Belmond El Encanto for hosting us. Photos by Torrance Coombs.
Look 1: SkinnyShirt bow shirt, MDS stripes skirt (dress version here), Sigerson Morrison shoes, Cult Gaia bag, Ted Baker scarf
Look 2: Roberta Roller Rabbit swim cover up, Marc Fisher sandals (also available here and here)
Look 3: Splendid bikini top and bottom