Butterflies Add Extra Enchantment to El Encanto
At many hotels around the world, guests can find promotions and packages based around seasons, holidays, or special anniversaries. Orient-Express properties go one step further, exploring unique characteristics of a hotel’s surroundings to draw visitors in and give them a taste of the local culture. The company’s recently renovated El Encanto hotel in Santa Barbara stays true to theme, treating guests to their own transformation retreat along the migratory path of monarch butterflies.
Each year from October through March, monarch butterflies that spend their summer west of the Continental Divide migrate to the coast of California for the winter. El Encanto, in its perch above downtown Santa Barbara, is privy to sightings of these majestic creatures and honors that special connection with butterfly motifs throughout the property. Be sure to stop at the Damien Hirst diamond-dusted silk screen “Psalm print: Verba mea auribu,” located to the left of the front desk. Tiny blue butterflies follow the spiral staircase down to the spa, and a print of purple and pink wings graces the cover of the El Encanto bar menu.
From now through March 15, 2014, El Encanto is also offering a “Monarch Butterfly Migration” package. Guests who book this special package are in for a real treat, which I discovered during a recent stay at the property. The visit kicked off with a delicious Diamond-Dusted Monarch cocktail, created specially for this promotion and made with brandy, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Grand Marnier and garnished with a sugar rim, an orange half wheel, and a cherry.
At the spa, I indulged in a Healing Cocoon treatment—my first-ever thermal wrap. The treatment began with a full body, dry brush exfoliation before the massage therapist applied a white algae body mask and wrapped me in a heated cover. I let the warmed mask soften my skin while the therapist gave me a relaxing scalp massage.
I showered off and returned to the massage table for the last step in my treatment: an anti-aging balm smoothed onto my skin, locking the moisture into my clean pores. The whole process was heavenly, and I wondered if this is how monarch butterflies feel as they emerge from their chrysalis. I sure felt amazing, and the glowing comments from my fellow journalists made me think perhaps I actually had sprouted beautiful orange and black wings.
While I was experiencing my own metamorphosis, I also had the chance to view and learn about the monarch butterflies in their own habitat at the Goleta Monarch Butterfly Grove. Located about 20 minutes from El Encanto, the butterfly grove is in the Sperling Preserve on the Ellwood Mesa, right along the Pacific coast. From mid-November through mid-February, docents are available weekends from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give visitors a greater understanding of the monarch butterflies and help them spot the beautiful creatures among the leaves of the trees. El Encanto can arrange for transportation or provide driving directions to the reserve upon request.
When it’s time to turn in after a long day of butterfly sighting, the hotel offers a variety of accommodations to suit a guest’s every need. Actually, to call El Encanto a hotel just doesn’t sounds right, when recalling the sprawling property dotted with charming bungalows. I felt as though I was living in a fairy tale village, rather than boxed into a cookie-cutter guestroom. There was even a wishing well outside my window, for goodness sake.
Built in 1913, El Encanto recently underwent a seven-year renovation, sprucing the place up while maintaining its original charm. Its buildings still reflect the California craftsman and Spanish-style architecture common in Santa Barbara; its rooms give off a cozy, rustic vibe. My guestroom came complete with a plush king-sized bed, a patio facing the coast, and a fireplace (my favorite part). It might not get that cold in coastal California, but, when walking back to my room on a chilly November night, I was thankful I could simply dial “0” on the guestroom phone to request a technician to light the fire.
In the spacious bathroom, bath salts and a terry cloth pillow mean guests might pass-up the rainfall shower for a relaxing bath.
Included with the Monarch Butterfly Migration package is a $60 daily breakfast credit, which can be put to good use in El Encanto’s dining room and terrace. With breakfast options including a Greek yogurt sundae (topped with caramelized pineapple and house-made coconut granola), a scrambled eggs breakfast sandwich, the chef’s French toast, and huevos rancheros gratin, it’s hard to go wrong with a satisfying, delicious breakfast perfect for getting each day at El Encanto off to a great start.