After the devastation of the mudslides early in 2018, the village of Montecito in Santa Barbara is back and stronger than ever. The always tight-knit beach community had the horrific task of cleaning up debris and struggling with loss, and in many ways is still recovering. The June 1 re-opening of The Four Seasons Resort Biltmore and the guest-and-members-only Coral Casino Beach and Cabana club, signals the complete restoration of the resort’s 22 acres of oceanfront land. Butterfly Beach, too, has reopened, and from dawn till dusk, its surfers and sunbathers and dog-walkers dapple the quarter-mile long beach. Another beach-front luxury resort, Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, about a mile east of Butterfly, is slated to open in early 2019.
Montecito is an understated coastal village. In 1928 Charlie Chaplin built the Montecito Inn there (which now has a permanent memorial honoring the 23 lives lost in the mudslides). Inland is the San Ysidro Ranch, where Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married and where John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned. Sadly, the San Ysidro Ranch was decimated by the mudslides and remains closed. Local celebrities like Oprah, Ellen, Rob Lowe and Brad Paisley all chipped in with fundraising and recovery efforts.
The best thing about Montecito is its intimate, unfussy village vibe. Most everyone eats at the same restaurants (Lucky’s or Via Vai) or spends lazy mornings getting bowl-size lattes and breakfast at Jeannine’s. The beach is barely a five-minute walk from Coast Village Road, the main thoroughfare. It’s an unassuming, charming and relaxed California chillfest.
Strolling along the beach, watching the surfers, dolphins and whales, gazing upon the Channel Islands 20 miles west, and taking in a sizzling sunset, is nothing short of cinematic.