[spotlight series. taiana giefersky gilbarjill nelsen]

[Montecito soundtrack. California sunrise]

Tucked perfectly between the mountains and the sea, and boasting constant sunshine and a near-perfect climate all year round, it is no surprise Montecito is considered one of the most beautiful communities in California. A very special place, we feel lucky to have called this coastal beauty our on-again-off-again home (one of many) for the past couple of years.

We are so grateful to our three Montecito insiders - all of whom have spent the most part of their lives here – for their insider knowledge and recommendations. Be sure to check out their favorite spots. In the meantime, here are some of ours…

To eat.

Weekend brunch at Tre Lune: order poached eggs, and fresh oJ.

For lunch on the run: grab a burrito from Little Alex’s (the vegetarian one –add avocado – is amazing), or a big, delicious sandwich fromPanino.

Great sushi at Sakana Sushi Bar, just next to the Montecito Country Mart on Coast Village Road.

Grab a seat at the bar, and order a steak and glass of red at Lucky’s: a Montecito institution. Amazing people watching.

Cocktails and dinner in the stunning sandstone courtyard at the San Ysidro Ranch: this is our most favorite spot in all of Montecito. A beautifully private retreat at the food of the mountains – surrounded by manicured lawns and a stunning garden of lavender, rosemary and pink bougainvillea – this is heaven. Request a table in the courtyard, and sit under fairy-lit trees (wrapped in blankets if its cold), and enjoy the most amazing meal and incredible cocktails (the Blood Orange margarita is always our guy). Oh and make sure you try the chocolate soufflé, or the fresh (from their very own garden) mint/choc chip ice cream. If it was good enough for JFK and Jackie…

A cocktail on the outdoor patio at the Four Seasons Biltmore is always a good idea. Order Oprah’s Pomegranate Martini, and look out over the Pacific Ocean and out to the Channel Islands.

Ice cream from Rori’s. This place will blow your mind. Hand-crafted and organic ice creams – made from only whole and simple ingredients (Straus Family Creamery organic milk, cream (from Grass-fed cows) and eggs) – we cant resist their dairy-free coconut and chocolate; and the fresh mint chip. Oh and our current favorite – the chunky peanut butter with home made choc/peanut butter cups.

To sleep.

San Ysidro Ranch will always be our #1: a splurge, yes, but one of the most beautiful and luxe retreats we know. Channeling old-Hollywood (JFK and Jackie Onassis honeymooned here)…the 21 private cottages are scattered among acres upon acres of manicured lawns and beautiful gardens. Private terraces, stacked firewood by the door, even your own personalized stationary once inside. This is a treat worth investing in.

Understandably though, if the budget wont quite stretch that far, there is always Airbnb. You will find so many awesome options, including this super cute “surf shack” right near the lower village.

And lastly, you could always try the Montecito Inn(conveniently located on Coast Village Road, right near Lucky’s).

To shop.

Upstairs at Pierre Lafond is the perfect stop if you need a gift. Books, homewares, candles, clothes, kids stuff, and more. In the upper village.

Also in the upper village, the Jenny Kayne home store has some beautiful things. Likewise, check out Elu – for beautiful clothes and our all-time favorite felt scarves by Taiana.

At the Montecito Country Mart (same owner as the Brentwood and Malibu ones as well), we loveHudson Grace – for beautiful interiors – andSpace NK for all things skin and delicious fragrances.

To do.

Start the day with a hike. So many amazing trails to choose from. Some of our favorites including the Hot Springs trail (up to Saddle Rock), theCold Springs trail, or the trail that starts at the entrance to the San Ysidro ranch. All pretty steep in parts, but stunning views over the mountains and the ocean, and a great workout.

Hang on the beach – Butterfly, Hammonds – or any of the others nearby. These beaches are peaceful and beautiful, and sometimes get decent waves as well.

Pilates at La Playa: this is the most beautiful Pilates studio we have found so far, with exceptional trainers as well. If you have time, be sure to book a private session with Colleen Ferguson (of Atwill Pilates), or founder, Kristin Turner – both brilliant trainers, who will work you hard. One visit will not be enough.

Visit the Friday morning farmers market on Coast Village Road: for fresh flowers, organic fruit and veg, nuts, cheese and more.

Check out Lotus Land.

Visit the antique stores in nearby Summerland.