Bacara Resort & Spa

Big Bear Lake California
Photo by hlehnerer/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Bacara is set directly on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Bacara is set directly on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

We’ve been all about Bacara Resort & Spa, the California resort set seaside along the Pacific just outside of Santa Barbara, ever since it opened in 2000. Promo photos showing off its iconic pools looking out over the ocean had us at “hello,” but we’d never actually gotten there to check it out, until January, that is.

Happily, Bacara, which is set on 78 acres of gorgeous land, did not disappoint, even with our pent-up demand and high expectations. A great suite (that’s an Ocean View King Signature Suite, to be specific), with a terrace that overlooked the water and sported amazing sunset views paved the way for a great stay, but we say there’s plenty to the entire resort that will make this a respite worth repeating again and again.

Resort Renovation: Guest rooms now have new bedding, deep soaking tubs and 48-inch LED TVs.
Resort Renovation: Guest rooms now have new bedding, deep soaking tubs and 48-inch LED TVs.

For starters, when we ambled up to the lobby on our first evening there, a wine tasting was in full swing, with cheese and fruit and crackers and plenty of guests and locals all chatting away in a most convivial setting (think roaring fireplaces, music and the tinkling of ice in cocktail glasses at the bar nearby).

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Dining options were great at Bacara, including the Ocean House, with amazing views of the ocean and the Bistro, for a more casual take on resort dining, but we loved grabbing a cozy seat at the aforementioned Bacara Bar more than anything, perhaps because locals assemble here to hear live music and shoot the breeze. Awesome cocktail options include the Coastal Caipirinha (mango is the secret sauce) and the Anacapa Ginger, with pineapple vodka, mint, ginger, fresh lemon and lime juice. (Yes, please.) We opted for the charcuterie board and the braised short ribs poutine, but could have truthfully opted for any of the “small bites” or “shared plates” selections on the menu.

The next morning was “me time” at the spa, a huge, 42,000 square feet stand-alone building with its own pool (no children allowed). Sixty treatments are on offer but we say the one that screams “Bacara” is the “Seabreeze Rooftop Massage,” which sort of speaks for itself. Victoria Boscarino ([email protected]) is the spa manager and can arrange for any unique guest experiences.

After spa we had a date for lunch by the pool, where we felt all Hollywood as we were pampered by the vigilant pool attendant. We even wondered who some of the other guests were (Los Angeles is the resort’s largest market), but the thing is, Bacara is incredibly private, there’s no tourist traffic traipsing through, and VIPs can just mellow out in discreet comfort.

We pulled ourselves away from this sunny sojourn to saunter over to the resort’s little piece of heaven; that’s the Foley Food + Wine Society Wine Tasting Room, which sits right at the entrance of the resort. The vibe here is completely California Wine Country (Bacara is the closest resort to the Santa Ynez Valley), with flights of wine offered by winery partners from the area, including Roth, Sebastiani, Chalk Hill, Foley-Johnson, Kuleto, Lincourt, Merus, EOS, Foley Estates and Firestone. We spent true quality time with Jason Wojciechowski, who walked us through the different varietals as we sipped and listened. Note: You can purchase full bottles of wine here to enjoy during your Bacara stay or to take home. Consider this an ideal venue for a private event, and keep in mind that the team on hand has strong knowledge of all the wineries in the area.

 
Pictured: The Bacara Residence has two bedrooms and two terraces and is the closest
accommodation to the beach.

Speaking of which, the head concierge, Maggie Perry ([email protected]) has arranged a program that allows you to show your room key at 15 nearby wineries; that gets you a free wine tasting at each.

The funny thing is, we had every intention of driving around and sampling the area’s wineries but we never quite made it since we had so much choice right at the tasting room, where we didn’t have to declare a designated driver.

Bacara has been owned by the Pacific Hospitality Group since 2013; they kindly added Foley’s and have upgraded the resort to the tune of $20 million. A large part of that has gone into guest room renovation, which has added deep soaking tubs, 48-inch LED TVs with cool entertainment systems, new bedding (think two-poster platform beds and Frette linens) and fun iPad minis and a downloadable Bacara app that lets you order room service, make spa appointments, notify the valet to get your car ready. You can even order food poolside. (Hint: It’s also a charging device.)

The Spa At Bacara has 36 treatment rooms, a rooftop terrace and an adults-only heated saline lap pool.

We loved our suite with all our heart; it was 925 square feet in size, had two full bathrooms and a living room that could be completely closed off and a fireplace, but we hear that standard guest rooms are quite spacious as well, at 450 square feet. And then there’s The Residence, which essentially serves as Bacara’s Presidential Suite. At 3,700 square feet, this is a two-story experience, and the top level has quite an expansive patio that appears to sit at the edge of the ocean. This very-in-demand space comes with its own fire pit and just begs for you to invite some of your closest friends over for a soiree; and just think of how much fun it would be to have room service send up some Garlic Scampi Linguine with fresh herbs, white wine, chili flakes, and pecorino cheese or some Crispy Skin Local King Salmon with marinated artichoke, roasted heirloom tomato, potato puree. For dessert, we’re all in for Apple Crumb Tart with Tahitian Vanilla Anglaise & Crème Brûlèe and/or a slice of Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cake.

Bacara, which is pet friendly, is just five miles from the Santa Barbara Airport and a short drive into Santa Barbara, a magical Mediterranean-style town of shops, restaurants and dappled sunlight that will make you ponder why you live anywhere else.

The resort is run by Kathleen Cochran ([email protected]), managing director, who welcomes contact with luxury travel advisors. The advisor liaison is Jesse Pennella ([email protected]), who can assist with special requests.

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