Before vacations were defined by beds made of Legos or bow-tied mice roaming a cruise ship, they were a thing of relaxation and recalibration. So when you crave a little luxury for your getaway, head north, just past Santa Barbara, to the Bacara Resort & Spa. With nature walks and a stunning butterfly preserve, there’s enough here to keep both the kids and your indulgent side satisfied.

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Settle In Somewhere Beyond the Sea
Salted air, sand-scaped sunsets, that smooth Spanish architecture and those Santa Ynez vistas; nobody is immune to Santa Barbara’s charms. Once the young ones get a whiff of those Eucalyptus breezes, a glance at that infinity pool, and a walk amongst the butterflies they’ll forget all about amusement parks.  That the resort is amazing and dreamy is a given, but that such elegance offers up nearby fun for the kids is a wonder. Shoes off, sand between the toes, and let the monarchs lead the way.  RTBacarapool

When Backyard Equals Beach 
When you can see the sea from your room, your first stop has to be taking the tykes to the tide. Hiking trails range from the toddler friendly to the serious runner.  The Beach Run is just about a mile long and laden with bunnies and ocean views—perfect for nature newbies just getting their hiking toes wet. The Nature Loop Run is somewhere between 2.5 and 3 miles, and is moderately challenging for bigger kids, and The Santa Barbara Shores Run, somewhere between 4 and 5 miles, is for the seriously savvy sand and sea queen or king (or Mama who wants to get up and sweat while everyone else swims or catches cartoons). RTBacaragirlsbeachcombing

By Paddle, By Surfboard, By Horseback, By Bike
Bacara Land & Sea Adventures makes any outdoor adventure possible. Hourly rentals, group lessons, family bike tours all at the ready. Bacara, while painstakingly easy on the eyes, is not just a pretty face. They fully capitalize on their captivating surroundings and all ages are welcome. Stand up and paddle, sit down and kayak. It’s all there, beach horseback riding to family mountain biking. Penchant for paragliding? Yes, you may. The sea, the sun, the sand’s provided. Signing up is all that’s left.  Talking to the friendly concierge to arrange whatever adventure you like for just you or the whole fam. RTBacaratotheMonarchs

Meet the Monarchs
When you’re done dabbling in the sea, it’s time to move off the property.  Perhaps the best-kept Bacara adjacent secret resides just about a mile away. Rent bikes or hop in the car and head down the block to the The Coronado Butterfly Preserve and Goleta Butterfly Grove. Have your cameras ready! Look up, and see thousands of butterflies dangling in their habitat. No, those aren’t leaves, though they may look it at first glance. Peak time to catch this stunning sight is December through February, so now is the time to go.  The monarchs are like our kids and love the sunshine, so they’re easiest to spot in the middle of the day.

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photo credit: Michael R Perry via Creative Commons

The Bistro: Coastal Cuisine With a Side of Breathtaking
The beach and the butterflies ate up your first day (or two of vacation).  So next morning, wake up to a relaxing brunch.  Al fresco all year long, your table at The Bistro has a stunning view of Santa Barbara panorama anchoring the coast. But the real beauty of dining at The Bistro is not just the soundtrack of the seagulls or the panorama of the Pacific; it’s the built-in magic of having a grass lanai table side. In parenting land, that translates to coffee refills.  It means that when they’re done eating and you’re aching for more caffeine, you don’t have to accede to their wishes to avoid a meltdown. They can run up and down the hill to their hearts content, and you can kick back with as much Joe as your central nervous system can handle, while watching them Jack and Jill a few yards away.RTBacaraChumashNatureTrail

Do You Speak Chumash?
They’re all warmed up from relaying on the lanai, you’re warmed from the rare joy of relaxing with a third, fourth (maybe fifth?) coffee. You’re all ready to do something.  Easy as pie: straight from the Bistro, take the resort’s Chumash Nature Trail. The path is legibly marked with ancient intel on Mother Nature’s raw and ravishing gifts (who knew we owed the wonders of baby powder to Rosa Californica?), read, skip, jaunt, and end up back at the ocean. Bacara’s private beach, in fact.RTBacaratheregoesAnnie

So Close, Yet So Bacara
Just off the 101, a virtual Riviera awaits, and with the butterflies fluttering in the winter months, it’s one spot where off season is even more spectacular, giving you a great reason for a mid-winter weekend getaway. And it’s secretly kid friendly: Bacara doesn’t advertise their kids meals (but they have them) or kids clubs (but they run them seasonally; call when booking to inquire), and they provide a beautiful backdrop for a seriously serene and scenically sensational family getaway. When Bacara beckons, make your way towards the Monarchs. They’re just hanging out, waiting to put wings on your memories.

Bacara Resort & Spa
8301 Hollister Ave.
Goleta, Ca 93117
Phone: 855-968-0100
Online: bacararesort.com

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Where do you escape to where luxury and kid-friendliness collide? Let us know!

-written and photographed by Jolie Loeb