Originally opened in Santa Barbara in 1925, the Hotel Californian was nearly destroyed by an earthquake before its first anniversary. Over the years, the hotel has survived floods, identity conflicts, economic disasters and neighborhood blight.

Hotel Californian after the 1925 earthquake (Credit: Santa Barbara Library)

Hotel Californian after the 1925 earthquake (Credit: Santa Barbara Library)

Hotel Californian review: Wonderful waterfront location

With a great deal of fanfare and flourish, this historic property reopened as a luxury hotel in September 2017, set on the most desirable location on the Santa Barbara Riviera.

This reborn property features romantic Spanish colonial revival design with Moorish influences throughout its 121-rooms and public spaces, crowned by a rooftop offering guests the finest panoramic views of the area coastline and Santa Ynez Mountains.

Built on the same site as the original hotel at 36 State Street, it is part of a long-awaited development known as La Entrada. The grand opening celebration included a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Mayor Helene Schneider.

Hotel Californian

Hotel Californian

Hotel Californian review: Distinctive cuisine

The two restaurants on the property include Goat Tree, a gourmet cafe (open from 7AM to 9PM) and Blackbird, the signature Mediterranean-influenced restaurant (open evenings 5PM to 10PM).

Lunch at the Goat Tree Cafe

Lunch at the Goat Tree Cafe

Blackbird offers a chic but comfortable dining venue with a lively bar and a menu full of favorites to please every taste, including a few Moroccan-inspired dishes. One appeal of its State Street location is that diners can walk off the calories with a stroll along the scenic ocean boulevard after dinner.

The Goat Tree Restaurant offers healthy gourmet foods with a Moroccan twist both in the restaurant and on a charming outdoor patio overlooking State Street toward the wharf. The menu is filled with healthy and delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner items. A breakfast of quiche with onions and bacon, arugula salad and a cup of amazing fresh fruit is a great start for a perfect day in Santa Barbara. Other chef -inspired dishes include fish stew-Bernard, rabbit and squid with crispy couscous, quinoa tabbouleh and lamb meatball sandwiches. If you love cold pressed juices and smoothies, they are available throughout the day.

Hotel Californian review: Chefs with impressive pedigrees

Executive Chef Alexander La Motte, formerly Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, oversees all culinary operations at both restaurants and creates customized offerings for special events, celebrations and at the spa.

La Motte graduated with honors from The Culinary Institute of America and went on to intern at prestigious New York City dining bastions Jean George and Daniel Boulud.

Moving to Napa Valley, he embraced roles at Thomas Keller’s Per Se and The French Laundry, where he served as chef de partie. La Motte also served as the saucier at Café Boulud in Palm Beach, sous chef at Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas, chef de cuisine at The Park Chalet in San Francisco, executive sous chef at The Clift Hotel in San Francisco and executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, California.

Pastry Chef Benjamin Kunert, formerly Executive Pastry Chef with Hotel Atlantis and Giardino Group in Switzerland, is the main man for overall fresh bakery goods and pastries that are magnificent.

Hotel Californian review: The Majorelle spa

Lobby entrance to spa, boutique and gym

Lobby entrance to spa, boutique and gym

The Majorelle spa is a dreamy venue, straight from Moroccan heaven with a surreal waiting room covered with handmade blue-and-white tiles and tempting designer seats under a magnificent light fixture. The spa menu features the latest new trends, and some uniquely healthy signature treatments. The finest skin care products are carefully sourced, and the spa is staffed by expert therapists and estheticians to meet every patron’s treatment needs. From purist oil blends for healing to a fun Funk Zone Massage, it is all a pleasurable experience.

Hotel Californian review: Rooftop delights

A most impressive feature of this revived venue is the lovely rooftop sun area and pool that offers quiet relaxation and panoramic views of the Santa Barbara oceanfront and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Spa guest are welcome to enjoy this respite following their treatments, and a bar cart is filled with refreshing beverages.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • This beautiful hotel has a full service spa and is handicapped accessible.
  • This property is conveniently located – only a short ride from the airport, one block from the Amtrak Train Station and a pleasant walk to the ocean and waterfront area.
  • The Santa Barbara Shuttle stops in front of the hotel to take guests up State Street to numerous museums, shopping and restaurants for twenty-five cents.
  • Guests can visit the nearby Funk Zone for wine or beer tastings, and a collection of great restaurants.
  • The hotel offers bicycles; boat rentals, fishing boats and restaurants are only three blocks away at the harbor.
  • The relaxed rooftop pool offers a beautiful view of the entire waterfront.

Take note

  • Guests are advised to make dinner reservations at Blackbird in advance.


*Lead photo: Hotel Californian. All other photo credits (unless noted otherwise): Bonnie Carroll

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