Video: Our Visit to San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California

San Ysidro Ranch ~ Santa Barbara, California – The first resort on our 10-Day California Central Coast Road Trip was a place which looked to be dropped right out of a children’s fairy-tale:  San Ysidro Ranch.

Having accommodated its first guests in 1893, San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort is among California’s most exclusive and historic hotels. For more than a century, celebrities, notable writers, politicians and other discriminating travelers have chosen the Ranch for its blend of exquisite natural beauty, storied heritage and discreet pampering.

Situated in the exclusive enclave of Montecito, near Santa Barbara, San Ysidro Ranch encompasses 500 acres between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Forty one individually decorated private cottages, suites and rooms wind along San Ysidro’s hillside creek- and tree-lined paths. Built in classic bungalow style, most offer plush king-size beds with fine linens, fireplaces and patios. Recently renovated suites and cottages feature hot tubs on private outdoor patios with outdoor rain showers, hand-cut stone or Old World masonry fireplaces, radiant-heated bathroom floors, flat-screen TVs and hand-selected antique furnishings.

The property was originally titled in 1769 by the King of Spain later serving as a way station for Franciscan monks in the late 1700s and then a working citrus ranch in the 1800s, before becoming a guest ranch.

In the 1930s, Hollywood actor Ronald Colman and hotelier and former Senator Alvin Carl Weingand acquired the Ranch and transformed it into a haven – known for its idyllic setting, personalized service and guarding of guest privacy – for celebrities and luminaries from around the world. The numerous famous guests over the years range from Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and Groucho Marx to Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham and Sinclair Lewis. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married at the Ranch, John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned there and John Huston completed the script for African Queen during a three-month stay.

In 2000, entrepreneur Ty Warner acquired the Ranch and made it part of the exclusive collection of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, LLC. Under Warner’s guidance, the Ranch has been undergoing a major restoration to ensure it remains one of the most acclaimed luxury hideaways for discriminating travelers.

To top off the wonderful history of San Ysidro Ranch, the property collected quite an impressive collection of awards for 2010:

  • Condé Nast Traveler: Gold List
    United States
  • Condé Nast Traveler: Readers’ Choice Awards
    Top Small U.S. Hotels
  • Forbes (formerly Mobil) Four-Star Award
  • Harper’s Hideaway Report: World’s Best Hotels, Resorts, Hideaways
    Top 20 U.S. Hideaways
  • Open Table: Diners’ Choice Award
    Best 50 Restaurants with Best Service in America
  • Best 50 Most Romantic Restaurants in America
    Top 50 Resorts in Continental U.S./Canada, no. 1
  • Travel + Leisure: World’s Best (Readers’ Choice)
    Top 100 Overall, no. 4
  • Travel + Leisure: 500 World’s Best Hotels
    United States
  • Trip Advisor
    Top 10 Celebrity Honeymoon Hotels in the World
  • Wall Street Journal/
    Most Romantic Hotel/Resort in the United States

I normally wouldn’t dedicate so much space to the description and historical information on a resort, but clearly this is a very special property and I wanted to make certain that you understood that.

Our Impressions

Unfortunately, our three nights at San Ysidro Ranch were socked in with fog and rain.  As a photographer, I was quite bummed at this.  However, I rose early one morning to take my camera for a walk.  As I walked around the rain soaked atmosphere I was given perhaps a rare glimpse of San Ysidro Ranch that few others ever find.

The sun was just rising and there was just enough light to capture the beautiful gardens but yet keep the evening glow of the cottage’s internal lighting.  Seemingly hundreds of hummingbirds were darting around enjoying the garden’s many varied nectars drenched in the morning dew while the dripping fog provided a closed-in intimate feeling everywhere I ventured.

As I explored the varied cottages, I noticed that each was designed with a very private entrance that begged your entry, but yet also gave the assurance that upon entry you would be whisked away to a very magical and private place.  I recalled the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and wondered if I might find Naria behind one of these mysterical entryways.

We stayed in the Olive Cottage (pictured below) and greatly enjoyed our own little private fairy-tale land away from the pressures of the outside world.

Another treat, when staying at San Ysidro Ranch, is that they possess one of America’s best 50 restaurants, according to Diner’s Choice:  The Stonehouse.

I enjoyed Mountain Meadows Colorado Rack of Lamb (Pee Wee Potatoes, Lardons, Goat Cheese, Spring Vegetable Hash, Lamb Sauce) while Carol crooned over Parmesan Crusted Halibut (Gnocchetti, Asparagus, Kalamata Olives, Oven Dried Tomato Sauce, Basil Butter Sauce).

The restaurant is set in a 19th-century stone citrus packing house, features original oil paintings from Ty Warner’s collection on the walls, and offers a remarkably romantic setting.  While we were there, we met a couple who had just become engaged in the restaurant.

Sous Chef Matthew Johnson (pictured) did a fanatastic job with our meal and was kind enough to come out for a brief visit and photograph.

As you can probably imagine, this #1 resort in the nation commands a fairly high nightly rate, but deserves every last penny.  You will come away with a memory of a lifetime from this magical place.  I promise.

You can also watch their website for seasonal special offers, or “like” the Rosewood Resorts Facebook Page for special offers from all of the Rosewood resorts.

San Ysidro Ranch is our second Rosewood Resort property, the first being Caneel Bay (see our video and review), and we are dying to get to Las Ventanas al Paraiso (Los Cabos, Mexico) one of these days.

We greated enjoyed our visit to San Ysidro Ranch, it commands a very high spot on our list of favorites, and we highly recommend it to the discriminating traveler.

Disclosure:  a portion of our stay was provided by the kind folks at San Ysidro Ranch.  Thanks!  Note:  the first two photographs are from the San Ysidro Ranch Digital Archives with a little editing from yours truly.
3 Responses to “Video: Our Visit to San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California”
  1. David Smania says:

    A page right out of BlendTec’s marketing handbook. (

  2. EnjoyLife says:

    Thank you for your lovely review Smile

    I am going to this Ranch to celebrate my partner’s birthday. Very excited to enjoy this property and a dinner at Stonehouse.

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