A Historic Santa Barbara Hotel Connects the Modern Traveler with an Enchanting Past

Romance revived.

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  • Written by
    Darren Elms

If you were curious what Santa Barbara looked like nearly 100 years ago, just stroll the hallways of Mar Monte Hotel. Framed black-and-white photographs show the lovely Spanish Colonial Revival structure surrounded by ocean, trees and a charming city center. 

The gateway to the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara attracted celebrities and adventurous Angelenos, who sought out this Mediterranean-inspired retreat in the shadows of the Santa Ynez Mountains. In 1930, when hotelier Frederick A. Bartholomew announced his plans for a new oceanfront hotel in town, he declared, “There will be nothing finer on the coast.”

Like the landscape surrounding his dream hotel, the Vista Mar Monte—its original name—transformed over the coming decades, taking on different names and brands to suit the times. It was only recently that the property was revived in the glorious spirit of its first incarnation and rechristened the Mar Monte. Now new generations of Santa Barbara visitors can experience a piece of hospitality history with nods to a glamourous past.

Lovingly restored with features closely matched to its 1930s design, the 200-room resort expands on the original footprint while preserving the integrity of the main structure. Part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, the hotel features reimagined guest rooms, two new food and beverage concepts, and programming reflecting the local culture and community.

Connected by outdoor spaces with ocean views, the two dining options offer fresh local fare in stylish settings. The poolside Café Lido is your best bet for a casual breakfast or lunch, served in a bright and welcoming space. 

Next door at costa Kitchen & Bar, sample old-world coastal Italian cuisine infused with Middle Eastern influences and a killer list of Santa Barbara wine, craft beer and cocktails. Be sure to finish your meal with the California olive oil cake with caramelized white chocolate, basil-infused caramel and seasonal fruit.

While Mar Monte would love to keep you on property for your entire stay, the hotel is a huge community supporter and encourages guests to explore the nearby boutiques and tasting rooms of the Funk Zone—Santa Barbara’s bustling arts, culture, business and industrial district. Sip rosé all day at Paradise Springs Winery or cruise up the coast to majestic Montecito for antiques and artisanal goods. 

The weeklong Taste of Santa Barbara will celebrate the bounty of local farms, ranches, vineyards and fisheries starting May 15. Stick around May 27–29 for the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, when artists transform the Old Mission plaza using pastels on pavement to create 150 vibrant and colorful large-scale images. Santa Barbara is the first to bring this romantic festival to the Western Hemisphere from its sister festival in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy. 

For more on local events, visit santabarbaraca.com

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