Just a 90 minute car ride north of Santa Monica on the coast sits Bacara Resort & Spa on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, a luxury vacation hideaway that has a Mediterranean feel that gives guests a sense of being in a small Italian town.
With 78 acres of ocean front property – including two miles of natural beach – the property boasts 354 guestrooms, specialty suites or luxury retreats, all of which feature private balconies or patios, with garden, mountain, or ocean views.
It has close proximity to all of Santa Barbara’s many attractions, including wineries, ocean excursions, historic sightseeing, and upscale shopping on State Street.
At the helm is General Manager Kathleen Cochran who has been running the property for just over a year.
She brings her 35 years’ experience in the industry, which included the role of Sales & Marketing Manager at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel when it opened in 1989.
More recently, she was General Manager at Loews Coronado Beach Resort near San Diego before deciding to move to the Central Coast to be closer to family to round out her career.
Cochran said occupancy at Bacara was lagging at about 35 percent about a year ago, but she has since doubled occupancy to approximately 70 percent in the past year.
“We’re the only beachfront hotel in Santa Barbara,” Cochran said. “This hotel was built with a lot of vision and a lot of money was spent. It has great bones.”
She said the property, which opened in 2000, had struggled in the five or so years prior to her arrival as there had been no focus on marketing or offering much in terms of activities and excursions for resort guests.
“It was kind of dead here,” she said. “When you aren’t making any money you can’t continue to reinvest and there wasn’t a lot of programming or reinvestment going back into the resort. I’ve been working on really opening up doors and introducing Bacara to a lot of people. It’s been great and the reception to the changes I’ve made have been absolutely fantastic.”
The property now has four fine dining restaurants, including the four-star Miro restaurant. The property’s four-diamond Spa at Bacara is a 42,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, one of the largest in the country offering treatments from massages to facials and everything in between.
Additional resort recreation highlights include beach activities, three zero-edge swimming pools, four lighted tennis courts, a supervised kids’ club, specialty retail shops, and adjacent hiking trails.
Cochran said the property was a popular place for wedding and reception venues, with its beautiful ocean views, terraces, and patios.
“Every day is different and I enjoy all the people I get to meet,” she said. “I love getting to know people from all walks of life and getting to know their loved ones. The resort is also very appealing for couples. I’ve been involved in proposals which are exciting, and then helping couples with planning their wedding here. I really get a lot of joy and excitement of being a part of someone’s experience and making that experience memorable so that they will always want to come back. Our repeat clientele is excellent.”
Its restaurant, named after the Spanish artist Joan Miró, offers views of the Pacific Ocean, an artistic interior, and high-end cuisine.
Guests have the choice to dine indoors or out on a spacious oceanfront terrace while enjoying Executive Chef David Reardon’s contemporary twist on dishes from around the globe.
Reardon has been executive chef of the entire resort since its opening in 2000.
In addition to Miró, he oversees The Bistro, Spa Café, Bacara Bar, Beach House, in-room dining, and banquets.
He said he enjoyed working at Bacara for more reasons, with the location at the top of the list.
“Santa Barbara offers access to some of the freshest seafood and produce on the West Coast in addition to a renowned wine region, a very rare combination,” Reardon said. “At Bacara, I’m able to prepare world-class cuisine in a five-star setting. No expense was spared when we built the resort, everything from our 12,000-bottle wine cellar and tasting room to intimate dining on the edge of the Pacific.”
Reardon along with Miro Chef Johan Denizot have created a seasonal menu highlighting “New American” cuisine, a term he said can sometimes have many meanings.
“To us, it’s a catalyst for creativity,” Reardon said. “Taking the best possible ingredients and finding new and inspired ways to prepare them. Enhancing the experience is an award-winning wine program and spectacular views.
He said the restaurant uses on the freshest and highest grade of everything.
“This means organic products, hormone-free, and pesticide-free,” he said. “We cook healthy, keeping the dishes moderately low in fat. We have an onsite butcher who cuts our meat and fish.”
The restaurant recently introduced a Tasting Menu, which changes each week.
It allows the restaurant to utilize the freshest ingredients available to the chefs.
Reardon said he had the flexibility to change the dishes on a whim.
“Once, we created a dish inspired by a spectacular sunset after a rainy day,” he said. “Because a lot of our diners are repeat guests, it’s nice to continually offer something new. For new diners, it offers a reassurance that they are about to enjoy a taste of our Chef’s top talents.”
As for a signature dish of the restaurant at Miró, Reardon said the beignets, adding “we took them off the menu once and never made that mistake again.”
Bacara Resort & Spa is located at 8301 Hollister Avenue, Goleta. For more information, call 805.968.0100 or visit www.bacararesort.com.
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