Woof and Wellness at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Test Driving The Latest VIP Retreat For People and Pets

By Si Si Penaloza

Photo: Four Seasons

I confess, I may have face planted on Lulu the Yogi Dog while attempting to plank alongside Santa Barbara fitness goddess Nora Tobin. It was only for a moment, but as that buttery soft Maltipoo fur tickled my nose, I felt that priceless feeling of unconditional acceptance that only dog people understand. This sweet beacon of furry love while clenched in excruciating core exercises made me truly appreciate how staying active with pets is so mutually beneficial. Check out our own much loved Get Leashed Doga program for your own dose of bonding and healing.

Photo: Four Seasons

Game for a challenge and full of moxie, I am here to test drive the brand new Wellness Retreat programming on deck at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. As a yoga, paddle boarding and boot camp junkie, this itinerary is right up my alley. Realign your mind, body and soul on a blissful three night wellness retreat from June 7 to 10, concluding on Global Wellness Day. This brand new retreat concept is ideal for Jetset readers, setting a higher standard in self care, kinship wellness and immersion travel.

A breezy two hour drive from Los Angeles, the resort features sprawling swaths of green park land that makes it easy place to stay with a pet. On arrival your room will be decked out with dog bowls, treats, and a dog bed for your fur baby. Even emotional comfort animals could use a little comfort of their own. Human guests are presented with a lovely local fresh kiwi welcome amenity.

Photo: Four Seasons

The resort’s natural beauty and ravishing Spanish Revival architecture induces, if not emotional epiphany, then at least a certain awe. The staff is at the ready to pamper your pet; you’ll also fancy the hotel’s VIP pet literature which highlights useful info for guests with dogs. There are listings for local vet, as well as a menu of pet items from room service and offerings for in-room pet massage.

Photo: Four Seasons

Health and fitness expert Nora Tobin is the resort’s top asset, drawing in those in the know when it comes to wellness. Imagine a woman with the aspirational aura of a Victoria’s Secret Angel, but with the accessibility and breezy ease of a California surfer. Santa Barbara blonde and raised, the ever cheerful Tobin believes in fitness salvation via deep breathing, push ups, crunches and more crunches.

After a blissful breakfast and a bit of time to digest, a quick dip into the hot tub (a necessity after rounds of seemingly non-stop squats) and then it’s Tobin’s turn, the babyface assassin – ahem – personal trainer, to get us sweating again. If you value lashings of personal attention and handcrafted, nourishing meals, this will far surpass any health farm. The retreat includes innovative classes and one-on-one sessions with Tobin as well as guided meditations with Celebrity Healer and Intuitive Aiden Chase. The idea is that attendees return home revived and reborn, so give yourself over to this top notch itinerary.

Photo: Four Seasons

Holidays are typically about getting out and exploring; I never would have thought that being on one property for four days would be even bearable, yet alone ideal. Much of this is thanks to the “luxury lifestyle campus” formed by the partnership between the resort and the legendary Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club next door.

The splurge on the retreat is well worth it for bragging rights alone, as attendees gain access to this elite members only enclave. In fact, a few of the classes take place behind the club’s storied walls. Peter Marino’s celebrated redesign is nothing short of spectacular; both the resort and private club are owned by Ty Warner with club initiation fees starting at $250,000. The retreat gives you the distinct possibility of rubbing elbows with high-powered members at the club’s gym, Olympic swimming pool, beach, organic farm-to-straw juice bar, and elegant Tydes restaurant.

In one day on this well paced retreat, I thrive in a cardio swim class that massively improves my front crawl, nail a power yoga class for my core, and finish with a brisk paddle board session off Butterfly Beach. I feel sensational, reveling in such a sense of accomplishment. Everywhere I turn on property, the inspiring sights and sounds of active guests sets an upbeat tone. Some people go on holiday to put their feet up, others to enjoy five-star luxury. If sport and mental training on holiday is your thing, this may well be nirvana.

Photo: Four Seasons

My private session with Tobin is akin to communing with a holistic health oracle. In other words, it’s invaluable. I cozy up under a cashmere throw in the Ortega Bungalow, in a sitting room that looks like a sublime spot where Grace Kelly would have enjoyed high tea. Tobin identifies my nutritional kryptonite and gives me a few maxims for reaching my goals. Focus less on the future and on all that work I have to do, and give myself over to awareness of the present.

By the end of the second day, I begin to adore Tobin and relish the pain – this is probably why they call it Stockholm Syndrome. On my favorite day of the itinerary, she has us take formation in the iconic Coral Casino pool, swanning on kickboards like Esther Williams on an ecstasy bender. Tobin’s reign of taut terror is perfectly balanced by the soothing ministrations of Aiden Chase, an in-demand third generation healer who truly enthuses us in his art. Known as “Hollywood’s Healer,” he brings guidance to Hollywood’s A-list celebrities and power players.

     

Photo: Four Seasons

The retreat is grounded in daily guided meditation with Chase in spellbinding architectural locations around the resort. Mindfulness may be all the rage but eludes even the most devoted wellness junkies, myself included. Our first session with Chase put my mind at rest – literally. Blissing out on the sofa with the help of various bolsters and blankets, he invites us to focus on the sensation of our breath. A mere twenty minutes later I’m semi-comatose, lulled by my own breathing and calmed by his gentle assurances not to worry if my thoughts wander. Guided by Chase, in a sotto voce part nursery school teacher, part Svengali, I finally learn to calm my mind instead of contriving some preconceived notion of zen. Meditating in power places can optimize energy absorption, creating a state of relaxation that can be more effective than sleep.

Photo: Four Seasons

Tobin and Chase are both devoted animal lovers, with a soft spot for pooches. In fact, Lulu the Yogi Dog took a particular liking to Chase’s meditation circles. This resort is as pet-friendly as it is gorgeous. The Four Seasons cleverly provides hang tags for the door that read “Pet in Room” so dogs don’t startle housekeeping staff. The management really has thought of everything pet owners need for a stress-free stay.

By the third class of the day, I hit a wall that only a spa treatment and steam room session can remedy. I emerge rejuvenated, revitalized and sufficiently toned to kickstart gym work with robust enthusiasm. My skin is glowing, my eyes appear whiter, and I have a ridiculous overabundance of energy. This is the sweetest kind of punishment with privileges. Relentlessly beautiful, the spa here really appeals to the flagrant hedonist in me. Unlike more austere health retreats, at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara you’re encouraged to indulge in fluffy robes and relaxing rub downs.

Photo: Four Seasons

A divinely curated wellness menu is a main draw as this is a Four Seasons holiday after all: think coconut chia pudding topped with mango salad and toasted pepita seeds, compressed watermelon asian salad, cauliflower steak with watercress puree and grilled pineapple. The culinary highlight of the retreat comes with a truly remarkable farm-to-table dinner prepared with panache by Executive Chef Marco Fossati in collaboration with Eco Conscious Aquaponics. Within detox protocols of portion size, fat content, minimal salt and carbohydrate, Fossati produced inventive dishes where satiation was achieved purely through the integrity of star ingredients. My favorite moments of this trip are ones of shared kinship and camaraderie around the table.

Many of Santa Barbara’s most renowned businesses are in some way geared towards well being, if not enlightenment. The destination brims with organic cashmere shops, pilates hotspots, artisanal cheese and gluten free bakeries. Be sure to leave some time to explore such delights before heading home with pooch.

Photo: Four Seasons

The retreat leaves me more mindful: I melt on the massage table, observe the breeze whistling in the treetops and savor a Rishi herbal tea turn down with so much joy. The feeling stayed with me well after I got home, due to highly practical tips from Tobin and Chase easily adapted into civilian life. The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s wellness philosophy helps me feel as in harmony with myself as the hotel is in tune with its surroundings. That for me, is healing power of place.

Photo: Four Seasons