Located in one of the most appealing regions along California’s Central Coast, Santa Maria is within the Santa Maria Valley, nestled in the foothills of Santa Barbara County wine country. The valley stretches from the Santa Lucia Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean. For thousands of years, the Chumash tribe of Native Americans inhabited the area.
In the late 1700s, following the Spanish Portolà Expedition, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in San Luis Obispo, and Mission La Purísima Concepción in Lompoc were built nearby. The area remained part of Mexico until California was ceded to the United States in 1848, with the city eventually becoming Santa Maria.
Although oil was discovered nearby in the early 1900s, the rich fertile soils of the region naturally attracted farmers and agriculture which remain locally important in the fast-growing wine industry, as well as ongoing farming of crops such as strawberries and vegetables, and expansive cattle ranching. Santa Maria is rural in nature, yet only about 120 miles north of Los Angeles, making it desirable as both a filming site and a getaway destination for many in the American entertainment industry. From the Pacific Ocean, to quaint nearby towns such as Lompoc and Solvang, to the burgeoning wine industry, there is certainly much to be savored in the Santa Maria Valley.
Must See: A visit to the artisan wineries, many with tasting rooms open daily, is a must. Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay wine-grape varietals thrive in this ideal coastal climate. After winetasting, it would be fitting to culminate the afternoon with a meal that includes the 150-year-old culinary tradition of Santa Maria –style barbecue. Alternately, the coast is close by and a stop at Hearst Castle, William Randolph Hearst's famous estate, would be fascinating.
Lodging: For a stay in the heart of the city of Santa Maria, the historic Santa Maria Inn has been a Central Coast landmark since 1917, blending the feel of an English country inn with the elegance of a bygone era. For a “wine country getaway” stay, the Santa Maria Hotel is surrounded by 58 wineries and nearly 20,000 vineyard acres.
Cuisine: Sunset Magazine recently named Santa Maria, California “The West’s Best BBQ Town." A trip to the Santa Maria Valley requires the experience of Santa Maria–style barbecue, which is distinguished by local methods and native ingredients that have been perfected over generations. The traditional menu includes grilled beef prepared with a special dry rub and cooked over indigenous oak. At The Hitching Post 1 in nearby Casmalia, California, many items are prepared on an indoor oakwood barbecue pit. For another local option, diners will find pure, organic and fresh California cuisine at Adelina’s Bistro & Market Place, which serves up a contemporary selection of regional cuisine made fresh daily from local, organic ingredients.
Ground Transportation: After arriving in your private jet, Santa Maria is most accessible by car. Hotel transfers, taxis and private drivers are available to quickly deliver you to your destination. To fully experience this remote destination, it is ideal to rent a car or hire a driver.
Packing Tips: The year-round, cool Mediterranean climate of California’s Central Coast is enjoyed in Santa Maria. It is best to pack a variety of clothing options that can be layered, mixed, dressed up or worn casually around town.
Recommended Book: Sideways: A Novel, by Rex Pickett follows two friends, Miles and Jack, an a getaway to the wine country near Santa Maria for one last “Guy’s Trip” before Jack plans to get married. The book was later made into a highly successful film. It is a racy, somewhat startling, yet entertaining and thoughtful story about human relationships, mixed in with quite a bit of information about the local area and wine.
Currency: The U.S. dollar is the local currency.
Calling Code United States: 1
Best Travel Dates: With Santa Maria’s Mediterranean climate, rainfall is seasonal and not overly abundant, with the region receiving only about 14 inches every year. Therefore, most days are sunny, cooled by a refreshing ocean breeze, and intermittently dotted with the impact of typical coastal fog. It is truly a pleasing place to visit throughout the year.