by Alicia Ellis
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is located in the heart of Santa Barbara County, nestled in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. The Ranch sits on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch, and is home to beautiful unspoiled land everywhere you turn. In addition to the enormous ranch, Alisal guests have access to a private, 100-acre, spring-fed lake, which is home to a wide array of wildlife. If you are looking to get the kids back in touch with nature, this is a good place to do it.
Our Editor Loves
- Operating cattle ranch
- Loads of outdoor activities
- All-inclusive rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
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There are 73 guestrooms at the ranch, which range from studios to spacious one-bedroom suites. Each unit includes a wood-burning fireplace with firewood, high-beamed ceilings, a refrigerator and coffee maker. But be sure to warn the kids that there are no in-room TV's.
Spent 2 nights recently at Alisal Ranch and loved it! It feels like you're in a whole different world yet just a few hours from LA and close to the beach. Lots of activities to choose from..we chose the breakfast horse back ride and we rented a bass boat to go fishing and both were a lot of fun. The rooms have a rustic feel yet had enough updates that you didn't feel like you were roughing it. I see the no AC thing has come up and I do agree it can get hot but we had great temps at night so no issues..could be a problem in the summer months. Overall a very pleasant and fun stay while at Alisal Ranch.
I stayed at this place twice before in the last 10 years and loved it, it was an amazing experience well worth the money. It definitely has gone downhill. First of all, THERE IS NO AIR CONDITIONING. They do not mention anywhere when booking. My previous stays were during the colder months, but this stay was in a 100 degree heat. The front desk told us that the wall units are only for the disabled and the elderly, however, we saw plenty of other cottages where people had them who were not elderly or disabled.
The front desk gave us 2 keys of different size and shape but assured us that they would both work. Guess what, only one did. When we went back to exchange the nonworking key, they tried to convince us that this key was for the safe, which, btw, is a numeric button one.
It gets better. The bellhop who took us to the room (because, btw, you cannot drive up your car to most cottages, which is inconvenient) did not know how to operate anything and was useless (he did suggest "ice outside the library," so helpful).
The room was decorated poorly and was extremely outdated, felt like the early 70s, not something you expect for over 1K a night. The highlight of the room was, besides leaving it, was a tin impression of the pig head about the coffee maker. The "champagne" that we ordered for our arrival was prosecco. The flowers that we also ordered was a scary-looking bouquet with dry sticks and half-dead flowers.
There are no phones in the room to quickly call the front desk, we had schlep there every time we had a question or a problem (which was a few times).
The room that was called a "Suite" was in reality a "Loft" with a curtain to divide the sleeping areas.
Now about the hidden charges. The room charge was $775 per night, plus the following fees that they surprise you with at checkout: " $155 service charge, $70 bed tax, per day. The boat was supposed to be $50 according to their posted prices, but they charged us $60.
At our first dinner (the food was excellent), we were told by the manager that we get $36 credit for the drinks per night and encouraged us to switch our drinks order to more expensive wine. At checkout, we were surprised with all of our drinks charges that were under $36 per night credit. The person at the front desk had no clue what we were talking about, but reluctantly agreed to honor the $36 charge, but did it for only one night.
The staff at the resort have no training about the resort and where things are located. They also like to argue with the customers apparently at any opportunity that presents itself. For instance, when asked where our picnic basket was that was supposed to be ready by 7:30 (at 8 a.m.), we were told that it would be ready at our designated time. We had to point out again that it was due by 7:30 a.m. Turns out, they forgot to make it at all and had to make after we asked. The bellhop at the end of our stay asked how our stay was, and when I said it was not good, he laughed in response, not even "I'm sorry to hear that."
Now, about a few positives. The best one was leaving this place. Again, the food was great, especially at dinner. The breakfast horseback ride was great as well, except that they serve breakfast in a beehive, it feels like. There were swarms of yellow jackets there, which made me eat my food much faster than usual. The barn interacting with animals experience was wonderful, cannot describe it in words, they had goats, calves, rabbits, chickens, and pigs. The animals were well-kept, clean, and friendly. Overall, not worth a return visit anymore.
A big draw for families is the horseback riding, and Alisal has more than 50 miles of trails to explore along the valley. Depending on your experience level, you can take lessons or choose from more than 100 horses, and even participate in rodeos in the summer. On Tuesdays and Thursdays riders are treated to an evening trail ride with gorgeous sunsets and view of the local wildlife. Kids ages 4 to 6 receive personalized attention with arena lessons available three mornings a week. Hop aboard the hay wagon or follow the guide for breakfast buffet at the Alisal's historic Adobe Camp where you'll find a campfire, flapjacks and a even singing cowboy.
Not many ranches are also blessed with a private lake. Fishing (for bass) on Alisal Lake is reserved for guests of the ranch. All bass are natural spawn wild fish and fishing is "catch and release." You can rent a good selection of fishing equipment and boats for a reasonable fee, including two-person fishing boats and motorboats (which start at $40), kayaks (start at $30) and fishing rods (which start at $15). You can also rent of one three Catalina Expo twelve and a half foot sailboats, and take sailing lessons if you so desire. Or, simply take it all in on a nature walk around the lake.
During the summer, the Alisal offers a kids' program for children. Kiddie Korral is for kids ages 3 to 6, the MAC Club is for 7 to 12, and Teen Times for ages 13 to 17. There are activities that take place all day, every day for the kids. When you check in you get an activity schedule that outlines all the great things that kids and families can do. Just as an example of a few of the many activities for kids are relay races, face painting, roping classes, chalk art, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, helping at the barn, water balloon tosses, mountain biking, target paintball, volleyball, teen night out at the movies, parties, dances, and zip lines. There are also two golf courses with a pro shop and lessons available. The Fitness Center and Spa is spread out along 6,000 feet and features a well-equipped cardio weight room, private or group fitness class and the Spa features our signature treatments including hot stone massages, facials, and more.
Designed by the legendary Billy Bell Jr., the Ranch Course, open since 1956, is exclusively for Guests and Members. This par-72 course stretches for 6,500 yards.
Breakfasts and dinners are included in your room rate. Breakfast is in the form of a buffet which features fruit, homemade cinnamon rolls and your favorite morning entrees. Dinner time is dress up time with jackets required for men over 16 and no jeans allowed, and the chef specializes in "California food with a Western flair." The dinner menu changes daily and always includes at least 10 choices. The Oak Room features nightly entertainment; and there is a list of babysitters available from the ranch for a night out. Lunch is available daily at the Chuck Wagon and serves a variety of traditional favorites for kids.