Quiet beachfront getaway: A review of Hyatt’s Mar Monte Hotel in Santa Barbara
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The last time I stayed at a hotel was a year ago when I left New York City and flew back to Southern California to be closer to family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did I know that would be the last time I would be traveling anywhere, at least for the foreseeable future.
When I landed at LAX, I self-quarantined at a local hotel for 14 days before going home to my house in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County.
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A year later, the farthest I’ve traveled outside my immediate neighborhood has been to Dodger Stadium to take my mom and aunts to get their vaccines. Beyond that, I’ve stayed close to home, taking every precaution necessary to keep my family safe and minimize exposure to COVID-19.
As more people get vaccinated in California, I’m feeling more comfortable venturing out a little farther. So when the opportunity to get away from the South Bay for a few days came up, I jumped at the chance for a change of scenery after a year working entirely from home.
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Hyatt’s Unbound Collection includes a global portfolio of one-of-a-kind upscale hotels that promise “shareable, story-worthy experiences for guests.”
The Mar Monte is a Category 5 hotel in the World of Hyatt program, meaning award nights cost 20,000 points apiece. Thankfully, it’s very easy to earn Hyatt points since the program is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Right now, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
This means you could earn four free nights at this property just by signing up for the card, meeting the requirements of the sign-up bonus and then transferring your points into your World of Hyatt account. I booked my two-night stay with a total of 40,000 points.
If booking by cash, the typical average nightly rate at Mar Monte ranges from $259 for a standard room with a queen-sized bed to $339 for a suite. A daily resort fee of $30 is waived if you have Globalist status.
If you want to step back in time, the Mar Monte embodies a Spanish colonial feel that evokes an old-school California vibe. Opened in 1931 as Vista Mar Monte, this 200-room property is spread across three three-story buildings.
But the real star is Mar Monte’s location off East Cabrillo Boulevard. If you’re lucky enough to snag a room with a balcony facing East Beach, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Pacific Ocean just a few feet away. At night, you’ll be rocked to sleep by the sound of the ocean waves just outside your window.
The hotel is near local attractions such as the Santa Barbara Zoo and Stearns Wharf, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle of a downtown area.
When I entered the lobby, the hotel staff were masked up and behind large clean plexiglass barriers. The hotel enforced COVID-19 protocols including masks and social distancing.
Checking in was seamless and I was immediately upgraded from a standard room with a queen-sized bed to a room with a king-sized bed and a balcony facing the ocean, thanks to Globalist status.
The hotel staff made sure I knew about all the amenities that came with Globalist status — including free parking, which would normally be $20 a day.
My room was located in the center building called Santa Cruz. It was on the second floor so I took only one flight of stairs to get to my corner room.
When I opened the door, the room was flooded with Instagram-worthy natural lighting. It was a lot smaller than I expected but spacious enough to be comfortable.
The 300-square-foot room featured an outdoor balcony facing East Beach complete with two comfy chairs and a table, making it an ideal place to get some work done while enjoying the California sun.
The room featured everything you would expect: a 55-inch flat-screen HDTV, in-room safe, refrigerator, Keurig and individually controlled heating and air conditioning.
The king-sized bed was soft and comfortable.
The decor in the room is chic, adding a modern touch to this historic hotel.
The bathroom was huge as it also contained an open closet with fluffy bathrobes and an ironing board.
The shower featured a rainfall showerhead.
The decor in the bathroom featured the same modern, chic styling as the rest of the room.
The Mar Monte offers free Wi-Fi but since I needed to be on several video calls, I opted to upgrade to premium, faster internet. Since the room was booked with Globalist status points, the additional fee for higher-speed internet was waived. According to Speedtest, the upgraded service was a good decision at 14.1 Mbps.
During my stay, California announced that Santa Barbara County had moved to the red tier, a less restrictive reopening phase which allows for more indoor business operations at limited capacity.
While some things loosened up, the Mar Monte adhered to previous safety measures and indoor dining remained closed.
Some of Mar Monte’s services were closed, like the fitness center. But the pool and hot tub were open for those wanting to take a quick swim.
If you are fond of exploring a new area by bike, the Mar Monte offers complimentary bikes you can use for three hours. I did not get a chance to take advantage of this but there’s no better way to explore a new place than via bicycle.
Throughout the property, there are many places to unwind.
Indoors, you can spend some time in the lobby and office area.
And for those who love bocce, you can borrow equipment from the hotel and play on their court.
On the lobby terrace, the open-air lounge is the perfect place to catch up on your favorite book or get some work done.
Food and beverage
Due to COVID-19 restrictions based on local health advisories and requirements, Mar Monte’s restaurant Costa Kitchen & Bar was closed. Cafe Lido was limited to serving breakfast either by grab-and-go or via contactless room service.
Thanks to Globalist status, breakfast was free so I opted for contactless room service, where they would deliver food by knocking on the door and leaving it there.
For other meals, you’re on your own. There are not many options near the hotel so you would have to drive to the center of town for more choices or take a five-minute walk to the nearby Convivo restaurant.
Whether you’re a Californian or visiting from out of state, Mar Monte is a great option if you’re looking for a quiet beachfront getaway. Its location can’t be beaten. It’s just the right amount of solitude and yet still close enough to major attractions.
Even though I was born and raised in Southern California, I had never been to Santa Barbara before. And after a decade away living in New York City, this short trip has inspired me to rediscover my home state and explore more of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection.
Featured photo by Leezel Tanglao/The Points Guy.
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