Chaplin opened the Montecito Inn in 1928 to accommodate his Hollywood friends and associates during his years working with Flying A Studios in the Santa Barbara area. The hotel guest list was a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood’s Golden Age film stars, including Norma Shearer, Janet Gaynor, Wallace Beery, Carole Lombard, Gilbert Roland, Warner Baxter, Marion Davies, Conrad Nagel, and Lon Chaney, Sr., just to name a few.
The story of this renowned jewel box property begins In 1928 when Chaplin and some associates joined forces to build it. Over the years is has had several owners, gone through many changes that have left their mark on its history to date, but the January 9th flood, following the Thomas fire in Montecito was a truly major catastrophe for the historic boutique hotel. The community shock, total disruption of business, major cleanup and rejuvenation to the property for a return to business as usual status was long and difficult, but the entire community of Montecito seems to be experiencing hope, recovery, and renewal. Shopkeepers I spoke with including Amanda of Viva Oliva said they are anticipating busy days ahead for the upcoming holiday season and new year.

Montecito Inn The Monarch Chefs Philip Frankland Lee & Margarita Kallas-Lee

Upon entering the hotel lobby guests are instantly attracted to the original 1927 Otis elevator that travels to the upper hotel floors. The award-winning suites include graceful domes, crafted ceiling coves, arched windows, French doors, and hand painted designs – all complementing the inn’s existing Mediterranean motif and charm. The original Tower Suite, with its upstairs bedroom, downstairs sitting room, and a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains, continues to be a romantic favorite.

Chaplin’s Martini

The boutique hotel is now home to The Monarch, a new restaurant where Chefs Philip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee are at the helm of innovative dining area and bar. Their menu offers superb meat, fowl, seafood and vegetarian plates spotlighting fresh produce straight from the farm. Their unique meat and fowl preparations, cooked in the open oven, offer an end result of ‘melt in your mouth’ exceptional entrees. It is a known fact that Chaplin loved a good steak and visited Musso & Frank in Hollywood often, where today they still have a table named for him. Needless to say, the steak at The Monarch is outstanding coming off the open grill, as is the duck, and I’m sure Charlie would approve. From appetizer to dessert it is all excellent at The Monarch!

Steak from the Open Oven

A secluded private pool with a jacuzzi sits at the rear of the hotel, where guest can relax at the end of the day or following a workout in the fully equipped gym, and for guests who enjoy walking the Butterfly Beach, which is located a few blocks away, can be an exceptional way to start or end a day, or to share a beach picnic. Guests are also welcome to book a treatment with Mobile Massage to enjoy in their room. Another sweet surprise for guests is the light breakfast that is served just off the lobby each morning, along with your favorite newspaper. Breakfast is complete with coffee, tea, fresh juice, freshly baked pastries, fruit, and yogurt. I so enjoyed the kind parking attendants who cheerfully kept my car available for short trips during my visit. The entire staff is so helpful.

Charlie Chaplin Poster

If you are a lover of exotic plants and trees you will find the 37 acre grounds of Lotusland, a botanic non-profit garden that opened in 1993 quite fascinating. It is located seven minutes away by car from the Montectio Inn and is beyond anyone’s wildest dream of plant fantasy. Madame Ganna Walaska, a wealthy resident in Montecito, created this wonderland for lotus, cactus and other exquisite plant life, and she enjoyed her years living in a mansion that remains on the property. Please note there are no pets allowed, and that no food is allowed on the grounds so it might be wise to have a meal before you go. For reservations or information please visit

Montecito Inn Hotel

Shopping on Coast Village Road, which in 1927 was the only major highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, has become quite a shopping destination featuring shops like Allora by Laura, Viva Oliva, Angel, Whiskey & Leather, Liquor & Wine Grotto and many more. The Rodeo Drive style road offers a chic but casual approach to personal and gift shopping. A bevy of dining venues can be found along the road, including Lucky’s Restaurant, Los Arroyos take-out Mexican, Olive’s and more. For those with a taste for authentic French flavors, there is the newly opened Renaud’s Bistro and Patisserie.
The fun experience of a staycation at this nostalgia-filled hotel is solidly felt during a visit to Chaplin’s Martini Bar, where a collection of historic cocktails can be savored along with sensational small plates before or after dinner. I found it hard to hold back a smile when imagining the good times that were had by Charlie and his collection of Hollywood royalty while at this hotel in the day. I’m inclined to agree with Chaplin who said: “A day without laughter, is a day wasted.”
The Montecito Inn certainly not only offers the quaint elegance and attentive service of the 1920s but also offers state-of-the-art modern conveniences to be found in the finest contemporary hotels throughout the world. It’s the perfect get-a-way to laugh a little in a destination that is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful vacation areas in America! For reservation information call 805-969-7854 or visit:
Montecito Inn
1295 Coast Village Road
Santa Barbara, California

By Bonnie Carroll

Bonnie Carroll has been a food/travel/lifestyle writer since 1983. She is the founder & publisher of Bonnie Carroll’s Life Bites News (, award winning blogger, does travel, entertainment and food reporting on local Radio/TV, and contributes to a variety of national and international travel/lifestyle publications. She is a member of IFWTWA and NATJA. Contact her at