California is a huge state—larger than all of the United Kingdom or Japan in square miles. When you think about California, you may think of its big cities, maybe Lake Tahoe, or maybe wine country. But what might slip your mind are the hidden gems throughout the state, just waiting to be explored. And Santa Maria Valley is one of them. We’d consider it a California hidden gem because it’s lesser known compared to other wine hotspots in the state. (Wanna ditch those crowds? Now you know where to escape to.)
Santa Maria Valley is also a hidden gem in California because of its affordability. Unlike other cities, you can stay a few days to enjoy unique experiences, award-winning wine flights, outdoor adventures, and delicious cuisine without breaking the bank. We want visitors to come and immerse themselves in all our region has to offer, which is why we ensure you’re getting the best value possible.
Find Delight in Every Moment of Discovery
Want another reason why Santa Maria Valley is a Central Coast hidden gem? Because of all the unique experiences you can find here! (Yup, we’re talking about the hidden gems of the hidden gem.)
The Luffa Farm in Santa Maria Valley
Santa Maria Valley has plenty of hidden gem attractions for every kind of traveler. If you want some that will surprise your friends when you return from vacation, these are the three we’d suggest you try:
Maybe you’ve never thought about where luffas come from before they come to your house. You might be surprised to know that these skin-exfoliating wonders are actually gourds that grow on a vine. If you want to learn more and see them before they become part of your bath time routine, check out The Luffa Farm in Santa Maria Valley, one of the few left in the U.S.
Dewlson Family Farm is quite the California hidden gem for coffee, tea, and exotic fruit lovers. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, Judy Paulson and Ron Dewey opened a farm in Santa Maria Valley to share their homegrown, sustainable goods with family and visitors. Make a reservation to take a tour of their farm.
What’s orange, black, and white, and lives in trees most of their lives? If you said “tigers”, you’d be right, but right now, we’re talking about monarch butterflies! From late October to February, you can admire the 19-acre Monarch Dunes Butterfly Habitat in Nipomo. Fun fact: Pismo’s colony is one of the largest in the nation, some years hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies, making it a total must-see out of all the hidden gems in California.
Naughty Oak Brewing Co.
Sometimes, the hidden gems in California aren’t so hidden. You’re on vacation—and in wine country no less! So, why not wet your whistle in one of the world’s most dynamic wine-growing regions?
Tres Hermanas Vineyard & Winery started with the planting of a small vineyard on Marvin & Paulette Teixeira’s cattle ranch back in 2001. The winery received its namesake from the couple’s three daughters, Stacey, Tracey, and Marcey. Book an appointment to sample some of their French & Italian varietals.
If a glass of Syrah is your favorite bevvy to help you unwind, you should definitely check out Zaca Mesa Winery, which was the first winery to plant Syrah in Santa Barbara County. Their sustainable wine-making practices stem from tradition and a deeply rooted passion for the craft. Stop by while you’re enjoying all the hidden gems that Foxen Canyon Wine Trail has to offer.
Naughty Oak Brewing Co. is a great place to kick it if you prefer beer over wine (or if you just want to expand your palate). They have a variety of craft beers on tap to choose from, and there’s always something going on, from live music and food truck appearances to beer yoga and trivia! Check out their events calendar to see what’s coming up.
Settle into Guadalupe’s historic downtown at the newest wine bar and event space, Guadalupe Social Club. On top of a classy, intimate interior, it offers wine, beer, cocktails, and food in a family-friendly space! While you’re sipping on your beverages, you can also play with some of the lawn games they have, like bocce ball, cornhole, and life-size chess.
Oso Flaco Lake
It’s okay to get inspired by what you see on social media—but it’s even better to get outside and live it! In Santa Maria Valley, there are so many sights worth seeing firsthand (and without a bunch of people to photobomb your pictures).
Soak up the tranquility of Oso Flaco Lake, a California hidden gem just north of Guadalupe. Stare in awe at picturesque landscapes, from dirt trails to boardwalks, surrounded by tall grasses and serene blue waters. This area is teeming with songbirds and wildlife, offering a scenic journey ending with a great view of San Luis Bay to share on your IG Story.
Wander barefoot to feel the soft sand between your toes or play in the ocean at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. There are several experiences you can find at different parts of this dune ecosystem, including California Central Coast hidden gems like off-roading on the Sand Highway Trail and seeing the sights while on horseback, thanks to the Pacific Dunes Riding Ranch. (You’ll want to bring shoes for these!)
But don’t just see the ocean—explore it! Silver Shoals Park is a popular spot for birdwatching and tidepooling. Take a walk through a grassy park to access this beach, where you might discover shells, crabs, snails, barnacles, and small fish. Kids and adults alike are sure to enjoy this unique adventure.
Maya Mexican Restaurant
Everyone wants delicious food to fuel their excursions, and you already know about mouthwatering Santa Maria Style barbecue. Since we’re all about sharing hidden gems in California, here are some local favorites.
Bob’s Well Bread offers truly tasty treats, from English muffins and bread loaves to pastries made with seasonal produce. Everything is made in small batches, so you know you’re getting something fresh. (Does being named by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the 15 Top Bakeries in Small Towns make this less of a Central Coast hidden gem? We don’t think so!)
Indulge in a wine-tasting flight paired perfectly with a mezze picnic. In the Presqu’ile Wine + Food Experience, the chef brings you a feast of local goodness from their very own garden. It’s not just a dinner; it’s a vibrant celebration of flavors!
Maya Mexican Restaurant has been in business for over 50 years (which pretty much makes it a staple for Santa Maria Valley residents). They are a full-service Mexican restaurant that provides great customer service and great meals for any time of day. Might we recommend menudo, pozole, or caldo de pollo?
Voted “Best Breakfast” in Orcutt, California for 23 consecutive years, Kay’s Country Kitchen is family-run and has a huge variety of breakfast and lunch dishes. It’s open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.