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  • Writer's pictureGigi Becker

El Encanto - DogCation in Santa Barbara

Our black lab, Jessie, enjoyed a DogCation recently at the luxurious Belmond El Encanto with 92 suites & bungalows in the hills overlooking Santa Barbara. Though I’m sure she would have been just as happy to stay at a B&B, we wanted her to enjoy the panoramic view of the blue Pacific coastline, because, well, selfishly, so did we.

On arriving, the valets – young, eager guys who looked like they were positively in love with their jobs – could not have been more welcoming. To Jessie. The chatty bellman gave her a royal welcome, grabbing her leash and walking her to her – that is, our – suite, once occupied by FDR and other celebrities he tells us. Once there, he presented our pampered pet with a bowl and treats waiting just for her. We know she was in dog heaven because her tail gave it away. This was something to bark home about.

Like other dog-friendly resorts, there is a cost associated with bringing your best friend along, but a reasonable one and worth it. If you’re a dog-lover who spends your vacations worrying about whether your pooch thinks you’ve abandoned her, having her along for the ride can be a great stress-reliever. The hospitably attentive El Encanto staff appears to know it, too.

On this trip, we planned it to be a DogCation because of the nearby off-leash dog beach, Arroyo Burro Beach, also known as Hendry's Beach by the locals. There are other dog beaches along the coast, from Coronado to Carmel, but this is one of the nicest. It even has automatic dog washing machines.

We had a lovely lunch at The Boathouse at Hendry's Beach, a charming beachfront seafood restaurant just steps from the beach. One thing to note - dogs are not allowed on the restaurant patio. They did have a doggie holding area within eye shot where we secured Jessie. Hopefully, they'll rethink this because it's in a lovely location and there's plenty of room. We enjoyed a wonderful plate of steamed mussels and crab cakes.

Next Stop - The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. What a ridiculously serendipitous find! And once again Jessie was welcomed with smiles and treats. The cost of our admission was reasonable and dogs are admitted free! 5.5 miles of wooded paths to explore including an authentic Japanese Teahouse & Tea Garden.

That evening back at El Encanto, we dined on the ocean-facing lounge terrace with stunning views. I could make a vacation just sitting there daydreaming.

Bill went nuts over the oysters on the half shell. Something about them being the most succulent he’d ever had.

Strolling the lush grounds, we came across a Koi pond. This, I think, was Jessie’s favorite part of the trip.

As the Koi and turtles paddled up to her nose, I felt like I was tacking in gale force winds to keep her from enjoying a gourmet meal. But elsewhere, after seeing another visitor’s dog happily bounding about off-leash, and knowing how well-behaved ours is, we allowed Jessie the freedom to Google the lawns and shrubs. While we always carry supplies, El Encanto provides a poop bag station as well as a depository. That’s what I call attention to detail!

The 5 Star Belmond El Encanto is a Virtuoso Member. Virtuoso amenities include; Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability, Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests served in the restaurant or room service, $100 USD resort credit.

Between December 19-23, 2018, two night minimum, El Encanto is offering a

"Winter Solstice Wellness Retreat." Package includes; $60 daily breakfast credit per room, $380 spa credit, Thursday: Group workshop & dinner, Friday: Chakra yoga, group lunch & workshop, Saturday: Full moon yoga.

When we left, the valet asked if he could lift our 75-pound furball into the car and did it without waiting for an answer.

What started out as an overnight stay and turned into two nights because we didn't want to leave, I would recommend El Encanto to anyone wanting a quiet, romantic time away from the ordinary. But if you’re looking to take a dog-cation, it would be hard to top it for dog-friendliness. In fact, Jessie’s hounding us to return.

At the Lounge Restaurant, our server provides Jessie a water dish upon seating. Additional touch to detail were the en-suite doggie treats and welcome card.

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