Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort

Hotel in Santa Barbara

Guest Ranch and Resort

My city slicking compadres, there is a place nestled within The Santa Ynez Valley that puts the proverbial giddy in up.

Where deep in the soul of the Santa Barbara County wine country, the west cracks open, fresh air pours out, and horses gallop freely.  Sailboats drift on a hundred-acre lake, meadows meander beneath cattle and multiple golf courses, and you are welcome to while away the day like something out of a sunset worshipping storybook you wished was for real.

At Alisal, it is.

With a raw beauty that refuses to commercialize, bygones beckon in way otherwise unexperienced in our modern day.  Soaring, sky-scraping Sycamores, verdant viburnum bursts in celadon pom-poms, and the heady waft of wisteria, lavender, and lilac lavishing the shock of fresh air.  Nature reigns supreme on 10,000 sprawling, pasture-preserving acres; where the expanse is enraptured at the expense of technology.  No TV’s in the room, and extremely limited cell service, by design.  And while the activities assure an experience that is as un-precious as it unpredictable. (When was the last time you caught a fish? Collected fresh eggs? Ate pancakes al fresco after a morning horseback ride while being cultured by cowboy poetry (it’s a thing...)?) Rest assured, you will rejuvenate to a standard that rewards your trail riding, go fishing, egg gathering kind of day.

And therein lies the distinguishing beauty of Alisal.  What it lacks in brassy lavish it makes up for in bountiful landscape, and the warranted, well appointed, worship of it.  All in the absence of attitude or affect.

And while you’re retrogressing to a more primitive, simplistic, un-technologically driven time, your taste buds shall know nothing but the exemplary. Complements of Executive Chef Pascal Gode, Ranch cuisine at Alisal can beurre blanc and it can bok choy (though not on the same plate.  Please.)  Think seared scallops or oven braised veal, all celebrating locally grown organics in a dining enclave exclusive to its guests.  The set-up is such that dinner is served between 6:00pm and 8:30pm.  Come when you’re ready, they’ll save your table.  And the feel is a campy and communal one.  Gracious in every way.

The service at Alisal requires pause.  It is not just exceptional, it is defining.  It leaves no questions as to why this is a dwelling families return to year after year, decade after decade.  There is a communal charm here that sets it apart, a quaint come and stay for awhile feel where life loosens easily and reunites in a way that is nothing shy of magical.

Morning horse-back rides are a must, take the hayride if you prefer, but being up atop that mountain with the waft of flapjacks and fresh berries, scrambles and scones all served up buffet style, it’s a breakfast picnic destined to wedge its way into your memory bank, which the hope of re-visitation.  Go ahead.  Ask anyone joining you on that ride.  Their stories sound even better over the crackle of that campfire.

We hiked a colossal loop around the property.  He played tennis and I enjoyed a spotless fitness center beneath a soaring cathedral ceiling.  A cobblestone fireplace anchored our deluxe suite, glossed adobe tiles, plush seating, an extended, generous layout; rustic refined to the nines.  The view from our patio was one more exemplary example of this haven for horticulturists, or anyone who enjoys a glass of wine (you are in its country...) beneath the bucolic bounty always within eyeshot, animal chatter within earshot.  An agricultural alchemy of leisuring and living the land amongst the creeks and cottages, hollyhock flocked and free.

Difficult to define whether this refuge is better suited for the couple or the family or the reunion or the solitary retreat.  The nurture of nature is immeasurable, and easily inclusive of all age brackets.  It is in fact a star-canopied sanctuary that sings to just about everyone.  We are all bettered by some dawn to dusk counsel, compliments of Mother Nature.  Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is a slow dance with time, where activities are as vast as the sky is wide, and the access to both, is a rarely captured treat.  For the golfer, the go-getter, the grazer and the bluegill fly fisher, this is a place to congregate.  And celebrate the beauty of nature knowing better than to ever become anything else.

Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles

Reviewer's Rating
Golf, Outdoor / Adventure
Services Free High Speed Internet, Free Parking, Restaurant, Fitness Center, Swimming Pool, Health Spa, Family Friendly, Conference Rooms
Dress Code Casual
Cost High
Ambience Rustic
Number of Rooms 73 guest units on property, studios to suites

Room and Suite Categories

Studio Room, Deluxe Studio, One Bedroom Suite, Deluxe Suite.

Additional Ambience Information

Santa Barbara Wine Country surrounds, steeped within a working cattle ranch, Alisal captures a magical blend of serenity meets smorgasbord of wide open out and indoor activity. Be prepared to go cold techno turkey. No TV’s in the rooms and cell reception is extremely limited. (Verizon is the only carrier providing coverage). Many multi-generational families who gather here annually, in fact everyone who shows up once seems to return annually. It has that inescapable draw.

Additional Price Comments

Their featured packages can save you a mint. Check out the “Round Up Vacation Package,” which we experienced. If you can schedule within that offer, it bakes in a ton of extras. Also note that room rates include full breakfast and dinner, which cuts a lot off the initial cost.

Last updated on 02-10-2015

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