Montecito Serenade

Exploring a scenic oceanside paradise
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The compact community of Montecito, California, is “so beautiful it’s like a screensaver,” says Seneca Beverly, a barista at the seaside town’s Rosewood Miramar Beach resort.

Montecito, with a population just under 10,000, sits picturesquely in the shadow of the 3,000-foot Santa Ynez mountain range, with the beach bracketing the village at the other end only two miles away. This location makes it possible to have breakfast under an umbrella on the
sand, then a hike in the sage-scented hills – all before noon.

The area’s newest homey-high-end lodging option, the Miramar, opened in 2019, and its “edge of the world” coastal placement gives guests a stay as close to the sea as possible without being in it.

Stretching across 16 acres, the complex’s buildings and bungalows, bocce ball courts, pool and large lawn rolling straight towards the ocean are sophisticated, elegant and airy. The sea-facing
patio in front is a perfect spot to sit with a flute of Prosecco, or cup of the spa’s berry-mint black tea, and take in the views.

Start your day in Montecito as the locals do (and their dogs, too) and head for the dirt path at the bottom of Eucalyptus Lane, a road running alongside the hotel. The trail that begins there weaves through a jungle-like tunnel of tropical flowers on its way to Hammond’s Beach, where you’ll find tidepools full of Pacific seaweeds and saltwater creatures.

Montecito shares its rare, perpetually perfect “cool Mediterranean” climate with only 3 percent of the globe. Almost everything grows under these conditions, including the ubiquitous oak and eucalyptus trees, olive groves, palms, bougainvillea, lavender, orchids and hundreds of other extravagantly beautiful foliage seen in gardens surrounding the many palatial, gated estates (some of which house celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe). For any plant lover or architectural enthusiast, just driving around Montecito is the ticket.

A mile from the Miramar, in Montecito’s Upper Village, is Pierre LaFond Market & Deli, a gourmet food and gift shop that’s been in business for 55 years and is “the spot” for locals. Settling out front by the brick fountain with a square of its sausage lasagna and a tangy lemon bar guarantees the best people-watching in the zip code.

Just across the street, in a group of shops above the village’s red pharmacy, is Lost Horizon Bookstore. Its owner, Jerry Jacobs, has kitted out the space with oriental carpets, comfy leather chairs and hundreds of books on art, photography, architecture and a wide array of other subjects, as well as vintage art, rock & roll, and travel prints and posters. A small room at the back provides a secluded corner to pass some peaceful time leafing through interesting finds.

A visit to the nearby Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church caps off the afternoon with an opportunity to wander the serene grounds of the southwestern pueblo-style adobe structure and check out its decoratively painted interior. Built in the 1930s, a testament to this landmark’s loveliness is the years-long waiting list for those wishing to get married there.

As the sun sets in the west, a quiet dinner and drink from the Montecito Wine Bistro’s long list of offerings from Santa Barbara County farms and vineyards is a perfect accompaniment to one of those beautiful, lock-screen-worthy Montecito scenes, and a fitting close to your sojourn.

Only 80 miles from Los Angeles, yet worlds away, a weekend in Montecito is proof it truly “takes a village” to strip away the stresses of the day, in style.

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