When it comes to upscale hotels, the word “understated” is so overused that it’s almost lost its meaning. Not at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, where I happen to be speaking at a conference today.
Nothing about this historical Spanish Colonial beachfront hotel seems over-the-top. The room interiors are spare. The beds don’t have any of fancy duvets and useless frilly pillow that are practically synonymous with luxury resorts. The soaps and shampoos are almost fragrance-free compared with some of the ultra-perfumed amenities you’d find in a lot of five-star resorts.
Everything is functional, as it should be.
Well, almost everything. Oddly, the bathtub in my room was missing a spout. It still worked, but the water came shooting out of the wall. I used the shower.
The staff is friendly, but not in a forced way. You know what I mean by forced-friendly? It’s that saccharine smile that says we are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen. Instead, when staff members happened to make eye contact with me, they nodded or just said “hello” instead of coughing up a military “good morning, sir.” That put me at ease.
The Four Season is a perfect place to get away from everything. The beach is right across the street, with thunderous waves that can be heard all the way from the check-in desk. It’s surrounded by exclusive, privacy-obsessed Montecito, Calif. (I haven’t seen hedges this tall since I drove through pre-hurricane Jupiter, Fla.)
Would I pay $725 a night to stay here? Not with three young kids, even though I’m told their children’s amenities are pretty impressive. No, this is a place for special occasions — weddings (there was a very loud one under my window last night) bar mitzvahs and anniversaries.
I’ve stayed at several Four Seasons, and this is one of my favorites. Nice location, terrific service … and, even though it’s a cliché, understated.