Bacara Spa & Resort: An Oceanside Treasure
Story Asher Cory
Nestled in the rolling hills and high atop Santa Barbara sits Bacara Spa and Resort: a picturesque sanctuary where the elite go to revive their inner spirit and play along the Gaviota Coast. There is no finer place to acclimate one’s self in the New Year than in this ocean-side abode, trimmed in a soft neutral pallet and accented with cool coastal tones. I spent a week at Bacara this past summer and experienced all that this resort and surrounding area has to offer.
Santa Barbara is often referred to as the gem of California. Miles of beach front property grace the city, which is home to Stearns Wharf, where travelers and guests can experience myriad local cuisine creations and entertainment galore.
The architecture is predominantly Spanish-Moorish, a holdover from when the community was originally settled in the late 1700s. The Santa Barbara mission is perhaps one of the most notable landmarks in the city and finest examples of Spanish-Moorish architecture. The mission was founded by the Franciscan order in 1786 and was named after Saint Barbara of Greece, the virgin and martyr who was allegedly beheaded by her own father for following the Christian faith.
Another notable landmark is the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara’s largest movie theater and principal performing arts venue. The Arlington Theatre, built in 1931, was originally owned by FOX and now stands proud as one of the movie palaces of the past. It can be found on the grounds where the old Arlington Hotel stood before it was destroyed in 1925 due to earthquake damage. With a covered courtyard, a red-tiled roof and an elaborately decorated interior, the theatre is a true testament to the Spanish revival architecture of the 1930s.
When you enter the Arlington Theatre, off State Street, you begin to grasp just how magical this period of cinema must have been. The main space is lined with facades of buildings and terraces, with tiny pin lights twinkling in the ceiling, giving you the feeling as though you are seated in an outdoor courtyard while enjoying the entertainment that plays out across the screen. The theatre and all of its embellished detail is a majestic and architectural treasure.
Once you have experienced all the city has to offer, it is time to return to your personal haven, Bacara, which is only minutes away. The resort was built in 2000 and boosts 354 guest rooms, set in villas and complete with private terraces and courtyards. Perhaps the most astounding feature of Bacara is the 42,000-square-foot spa and wellness center. Here, guests can experience an array of sensory delights such as stone therapy, a light pressure Swedish massage that uses cool and warm sea stones to promote deep relaxation. Other wellness specialties include a lavender lift, which is both hydrating and aromatic, and involves a lavender body scrub followed by a luxurious lavender butter wrap that is sure to be the ultimate soul soother.
The staff at Bacara prides themselves in offering numerous locally inspired and European treatments for the body, mind and spirit. The spa at Bacara is recognized as one of the finest spas in the world. With over 36 impeccable treatment rooms and a one-of-a-kind rooftop terrace which features mud-based treatments and scrubs, as well as a private European sunbathing area. Bacara is the perfect place to begin the New Year and reconnect with your core essence.
The resort is home to seven different restaurants and bars. The newly re-modeled Bistro is led by Chef de Cuisine Chris Turano, who earned the prestigious role after competing on the Food Network’s “Chef Wanted.” The new restaurant blends flavors of Italy with the finest locally sourced ingredients. Rich in fragrant olive oil and local vegetables, menu highlights offer traditional Italian dishes, such as pastas and brick-oven flatbreads, complemented by lighter, coastal cuisine. Signatures include Veal Milanese, Santa Barbara Cioppino, Rigatoni with Italian Fennel Sausage, and Brick Oven Roasted Sea Bass.
After an extensive renovation, the new dining room incorporates hints of Santa Barbara’s beautiful panorama. Traditional elements such as chiseled ironwork, upholstered panels and Moorish archways help to create a fresh, modern aesthetic. Like California, the new look represents a measure of balance and contrasts: Old World while modern, spacious while intimate and understated while luxurious.
Patrons can relax indoors or outdoors on a spacious oceanfront patio while savoring time-tested family recipes by Chef Turano. Taking the helm of an Italian restaurant is a natural progression for Turano, who grew up cooking Italian cuisine with his Sicilian-born father.
Prior to joining Bacara, Turano served as executive chef of Chicago Firehouse Restaurant and the Quadrangle Club at the University of Chicago. In addition to formal training at College of DuPage in Illinois, Turano’s impressive background includes a stint under famed Chef Ted Cizma, Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef of 2001.
After a day of pampering, wining and dining, there is no better way to unwind than to take a leisurely stroll along the coast or simply relax poolside at one of Bacara’s three pools. This oasis is one of the most breathtaking resorts I have ever traveled to, and I hope to return for a stay again this coming year. So pamper yourself, and enjoy all the amenities Bacara has to offer.