Bacara Resort & Spa’s clusters of low-rise villas (from $450) are so private that an A-list celebrity (Jude Law, Oprah) could be right next door and you won’t even know it. Despite its star magnetism, the five-year-old resort feels delightfully pre–Access Hollywood, with croquet mallets clacking on the Oval Lawn (book a game two weeks before you go for a personal attendant, champagne, and hors d’oeuvre). Salads rule at the all-organic Spa Café, which features produce picked daily at the hotel’s private ranch, located five minutes away.
If Bacara recalls Old Hollywood, the beachfront Four Seasons Resort, the Biltmore Santa Barbara (from $550) really was a Tinseltown stomping ground in the fifties. (Rock Hudson’s short-lived 1955 marriage to his agent’s secretary, Phyllis Gates, took place in cottage No. 5.) Now you might just run into Britney Spears in the spa, where the super-customized Hands of Healing treatment includes a pre-massage conference with your therapist.
Jack and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned at San Ysidro Ranch (from $639), and its cottages, scattered among 40 acres of lush gardens dotted with lemon trees, still exude a quiet, old-money ambience.
A less presidential (yet still charming) option is the Cheshire Cat (from $189), a Victorian bed-and-breakfast ringed by rose bushes and filled with English antiques, fireplaces, and in-room hot tubs—perfect for a long soak after a day hike in the Santa Ynez foothills.