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BEST of the BEST 2014 | Journeys | Resorts: Belmond El Encanto

  • Bruce Wallin

The eucalyptus-covered hills of Santa Barbara’s Riviera neighborhood conceal some of Southern California’s finest examples of Craftsman- and Spanish Colonial Revival–style residences. Since 1918, travelers looking to immerse themselves in the local landscape have absconded to Belmond El Encanto (805.845.5800, www.elencanto.com), a Riviera-area retreat with a collection of Craftsman cottages and Spanish Colonial Revival bungalows spread over a 7-acre hilltop site. When El Encanto closed eight years ago for renovations, longtime guests—and inquisitive locals—fretted over potential changes that might alter the property’s residential charms. The resort’s reopening in March 2013, following an exhaustive restoration and expansion, quelled any such concerns. Belmond (formerly Orient-Express Hotels), which acquired El Encanto in 2004, graciously updated the resort’s original accommodations while adding new rooms that remain true to the property’s architectural underpinnings. Garden paths lead from the 92 cottages and bungalows to a newly built infinity-edge pool and a Craftsman-style main lodge with a seven-treatment-room spa and a fine-dining restaurant. The restaurant’s staff will pack a picnic lunch for guests interested in venturing out into the surrounding suburbs, which are best explored aboard the resort’s complimentary electric bicycles. ($525–$2,825).  

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