After days of sitting inside, who isn’t desperate to stretch their legs? With 24 hiking trails to explore, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and get moving in Santa Maria Valley. If you’re still looking to maintain some social distance, Los Flores Ranch Park offers a “Do Not Disturb” experience that is perfect for you. Not only does Los Flores Ranch Park have 1,778 acres of open space in which to enjoy a myriad of outdoor experiences, it also gives hikers 15 miles of hiking trails to explore, where you can spot all kinds of wildlife. If you’d like to learn a little while enjoying the great outdoors, Los Flores Ranch Park offers guided tours and nature walks that are fun for the whole family. For the intrepid hiker who is ready to sweat, try the Paradise via Point Sal Trail. This popular, 10-mile, out-and-back hike offers views of Sea Lion Rock. No matter which of the 24 hiking trails you choose in Santa Maria Valley, you’ll relish the feel of the crisp sea breeze as you get your body moving.
For months, many of us have been dreaming of hitting the open road with the top down, the coast on the horizon, and carefree days of unfettered outdoor activity at our fingertips. It’s time to get out of our homes and start reclaiming those abandoned travel plans.
What better way to do that than to take a nice, old-fashioned road trip on Highway 1 to Santa Maria Valley? Just a short drive from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno, or Bakersfield, Santa Maria Valley’s charismatic culture has something for everyone. Get outside and explore a vineyard at its prime, hop on a bike to ride through the rolling hills, spend a day at the beach, or search for a rare bird at Oso Flaco Lake. It’s all waiting for you, just a short drive away.
As the state, along with the rest of the country, carefully navigate recovery and reopening phases, businesses throughout Santa Maria Valley are adjusting operations as needed according to the recommendations and mandates as outlined by the Governor and Santa Barbara County. We have compiled an online resource for visitors to stay up-to-date on the status of restaurants, breweries, wineries and attractions in the area.
If you’re planning to travel to Santa Maria Valley, we encourage you to do so safely and responsibly. Please join us in following the #RespectCalifornia guidelines from Visit California, so that we can all do our part to protect ourselves and each other.
From Beaches to Bikes to Barbecue - Get Your Outdoor Fix in Santa Maria Valley
FOR THE BEACH LOVER
With 15 beaches within a 30-minute drive, Santa Maria Valley is the destination for anyone who wants to feel sand between their toes. Not sure which beach to visit? Don’t worry, several can be seen within a short excursion, so you can visit them all.
Birdwatching is a popular activity for those visiting Oso Flaco Lake, which also provides coastal access. Nearly 300 species of birds use the Oso Flaco Lake area as a stopping ground to rest and feed. Break out the binoculars and take in ospreys, pelicans, pintails, and more.
A more active and exhilarating beach experience can be found at one of the most captivating attractions in Santa Maria Valley: the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, the second largest stretch of dunes in the state. Starting at Pismo Beach and ending at Point Sal, the dunes offer 18 miles of breathtaking views of the California coast, as well as many adventures. Tucked inside the expansive dunes is the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve, where you can find 550-foot-tall dunes — the tallest on the entire west coast. Here, you can hike, fish, and birdwatch — so be sure to bring your binoculars. You never know when you might see an egret or a snowy plover!
If you’d like to add a little beachfront shopping to your visit, make sure you visit Avila Beach, which spans the entire waterfront of the town of Avila Beach. Snack on saltwater taffy or purchase a kite to fly off the pier.
Looking to couple your beach experience with some exercise? Then head to Point Sal State Beach, which can only be accessed by hiking in as its road has worn away over time. With two miles of ocean frontage, Point Sal State Beach is a great spot for fishermen looking to catch their dinner.
FOR THE HIKER
A speedy and active way to explore Santa Maria Valley’s beautiful open spaces and vineyards is by bike. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old pro or a new rider — there are trails for all skill levels in Santa Maria Valley. If a family ride is what you need, look no further than Waller Park, where you’ll find safe, secure roads to ride on. The kids can feed the ducks in the pond, while mom and dad set up a picnic after a nice, easy, family-friendly bike ride. If you’re looking for a customizable and more challenging mountain biking excursion, consider the Orcutt Hill Trail. With its varying degrees of difficulty, the Orcutt Hill Trail is great for a solo ride or a day out with the family. A 3.1-mile trail near the Orcutt Community Park, this trail has gorgeous views of the hills and charming towns in the Valley. New to cycling? No problem. Head over to the Santa Maria River Levee Trail for a long, but easygoing, ride along the banks of the Santa Maria riverbed.
FOR THE CYCLIST
visit SANTA MARIA VALLEY
FOR THE WINE ENTHUSIAST
Santa Maria is a valley of vineyards home to 34 wineries and tasting rooms. Not sure where to start? Try the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. Home to 14 world-class winemakers, the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail runs through 30 miles of rolling hills and stunning views. One such winery is Rancho Sisquoc, which has been crafting quality wines for more than 40 years. With a charming atmosphere, as well as a sumptuous, award-winning pinot noir, Rancho Sisquoc is a perfect place for a picnic.
For women who want to support other women, try cnagy wines in Old Town Orcutt! Created by Clarissa Nagy, who has a passion for the winemaking experience, cnagy wine’s pinot noir and pinot blanc are almost as impressive as entrepreneur Nagy herself.
Also in Old Town Orcutt, you’ll find Vino et Amicis, one of the Central Coast’s best-kept secrets. Step into a relaxing local wine bar, which boasts more than 40 varietals from 30 wineries. The owners, Dawn and Kurt Hixenbaugh, create meaningful relationships with local winemakers and wineries to keep their bar consistently full of only the top-notch wine in the region. No matter which winery you choose, you’ll find gorgeous vistas and delectable wine.
You’ll have worked up an appetite after so much outdoor activity, so satisfy your hunger with Santa Maria Valley’s signature barbecue. A 150-year-old tradition that was born in the ranch kitchens of the valley, Santa Maria Valley barbecue has since grown into so much more. Now, tri-tip or top-block sirloin is rolled in a mixture of granulated garlic, salt, and pepper. Then, the meat is slow roasted over red-oak coals, giving it a rich, smoky, irresistible flavor. Found in many of the 50+ restaurants in the central coast area (notably The Hitching Post, which has been in the valley for more than 70 years), you’ll have plenty of opportunity to try this regional favorite.
FOR THE FOODIE
Santa Maria Valley offers travelers an array of truly unique experiences, from the barbecue and notable dunes to some more interesting traveling experiences. For instance, Santa Maria Valley is where you’ll find The Luffa Farm. Luffas — yes, those sponges used to exfoliate the skin while bathing — are gourds, like pumpkins or squash. Luffas grow on flowering vines, and this luffa farm is one of the few left in the United States. While you’re there, purchase some self-care necessities like soaps, bath salts, lotions, and, of course, luffas!
If you’ve been missing movie theaters but aren’t ready to sit in a crowded room full of strangers, fear not. In Santa Maria Valley, you can take in a movie and still be responsibly distanced from others at the Hi Way Drive-In. One of the last of the drive-in movie theaters in the state, Hi-Way Drive-In is affordable and kid-friendly.
For some friendly competition, check out The Shack Paintball. A family-owned and operated business right in Santa Maria, this is the only legal paintball field in Santa Barbara County and a safe space to let out some energy on an outdoor field.
With so many outdoor activities to experience and just a short drive from many major California cities, Santa Maria Valley is a perfect destination for those looking to scratch their travel itch. Visit santamariavalley.com to start planning your trip!
FOR THE ECLECTIC TRAVELER