Lovers of wine, tacos, and the outdoors will find plenty of things to do in Santa Maria, California.
Situated on California’s central coast, between Pismo Beach and Santa Barbra, the Santa Maria Valley is a perfect base camp for exploring central California. Sure, Santa Maria might not be the most well known destination in Cali but what it lacks in fame it makes up for in charm.
Sand dunes, hiking trails, cycling trails, and horseback riding can be found in the Santa Maria Valley. Those who venture a bit further out will discover even more activities. Within a short drive (or a nice bike trip) from Santa Maria intrepid explorers (just like you!) will find 13 beaches, 7 vineyards, 34 tasting rooms, 5 breweries, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Let’s jump into the details and explore all of the best things to do in Santa Maria!
Table of Contents
Things to Do in Santa Maria
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Explore Sand Dunes
Do you want to explore sand dunes that tower up to 500 feet tall? How about taking a nature walk through a pristine dune ecosystem? Fancy a little bit of birdwatching? Perhaps you’d like to drive some buggies along the beach? Or do you feel like having a swim, a surf, and a lunch on the beach finished off with a bonfire? Well, you’re in luck. You can do all of this, and more, while visiting the Santa Maria Valley.
A ten minute drive from Santa Maria brings you one of the most beautiful ecosystems in the United States. Stretching across 22,000 acres, and 18 miles of coastline lay the majestic Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. The National Wildlife Refuge is home to hundreds of dunes, miles of beaches, some freshwater lakes, and a host of native plants and animals.
So, whether you want to do any of the above activities, or just take a rambling hike through this remarkable ecosystem, visiting the dunes should be on your list of Santa Maria activities.
Taco Tuesdays on the Taco Trail
Tacos. Is there anything more delicious than a plate full of tacos? Probably not. So, when in Santa Maria, take full advantage of all the delicious tacos available to you.
One of the best ways to explore the taco scene in Santa Maria is to hit the ol’ Taco Trail. This walking tour of the town will lead taco hunters to no less than 19 different taco restaurants and eateries. Have a look at the map, and start planning your taco tasting trip.
Tip – You don’t need to wait for Tuesday to start the tour. You can literally do it any day of the week. If we were there right now you can bet we’d be all about the tacos. ALL about the tacos. Ahhh, tacos…
Ok, we need to move on before we salivate all over our keyboard.
Foxen Canyon Wine Trail
Wine. Is there anything more delicious than a plate full of yummy… Wait, hold on, we’re still thinking about tacos.
Anyway, wine. Wine is great. Wine is good. If you love wine you will probably really enjoy your trip to the Santa Maria Valley. The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is a 30 mile stretch between Los Olivos and Santa Maria. You will find 14 wineries on this stretch of road, offering world class wine for you to sample, and buy.
For more information on the different wineries you can visit, the the trail itself, visit the Santa Maria Valley website.
Farmers Markets in Santa Maria
If you are anything like us then you LOVE exploring local farmers markets. What better way to learn about local cuisine, sample local produce, and support locally owned businesses than a jaunt in a famers market?
Thankfully Santa Maria has a couple of markets for you to explore. The Orcutt Certified Farmers Market is open on Tuesdays from 10am – 1pm and should absolutely be on your list of things to do in Santa Maria!
On Wednesdays, from 12 to 4pm you can visit the Santa Maria Certified Farmers Market.
On Fridays from 5pm to 8pm don’t miss out on Downtown Fridays. Live music, food trucks, farmer stands, beer and wine, and children activities await!
Monarch Butterfly Grove
Each year thousands of butterflies swarm towards Pismo Beach to evade the coming winter frosts. You can visit these butterflies and marvel at their beauty from October to February at the grove.
Blacklake Golf Resort
Get some golfing in during your visit to Santa Maria at the Blacklake Golf Resort. Blacklake offers 27 holes over 3 beautiful nine-hole layouts. There are numerous course combinations for all skill levels to try their drives and putts on.
If you are looking for a golfing getaway this is probably right up your alley.
Santa Maria Lawn Bowling
Looking for some silly family fun? Try your hand at lawn bowling.
Our suggestion for Santa Maria? Hand out tacos to the winners of Lawn Bowling matches and watch this activity explode in popularity! Heck, just send us some tacos. We’re still thinking about them.
The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum
Your kids will love a visit to the Discovery Museum in Santa Maria. Featuring all sorts of hands on, kid friendly exhibitions that include a pirate ship (!!) the museum is a delight for kids of all ages. Heck, you might find something to do there as well as your kids get a valuable interactive educational experience.
Santa Maria Museum of Flight
The Museum of Flight preserves and displays the history of aviation, from the Wright Brothers, to World War 2 planes, to modern day technology. Anyone with an interest in aviation should add this to their list of things to do in Santa Maria.
Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum
Dedicated to the pioneers of the Valley, the Historical Society Museum is THE place to do to get an in depth look at how history, and man’s place in it, evolved in the Santa Maria Valley. From the early natives to the settlers and farmers that built Santa Maria up, take a jaunt through history at this living relic.
Dining in Santa Maria
If you love BBQ, tacos, wine, and craft beers you can spend a LOT of time eating and drinking in Santa Maria. We’ve already told you about our taco cravings, but there is more to the food scene here than just delicious yummy amazing tacos.
Learn more about the dining options in Santa Maria here.
The Luffa Farm
Did you know that luffe grew on trees? Did you know ‘luffe’ was the plural form of luffa? Well, neither did we.
Learn all about the magical exfoliating plants at the Luffa Farm. This might be one of the quirkiest things you do in Santa Maria, but hey, nothing wrong with that, is there?
Click here for a list of great hotels to stay in Santa Maria Valley!
So there you have it, folks. We reckon this list is enough to get you started on your Santa Maria adventure. The beauty of central California awaits! If you feel we missed something that should definitely be included in this article DO let us know! As always, safe and happy travels, and we will see you on the road!
Photo Credits –
Thanks to the Santa Maria Valley and APR for supplying us gorgeous photos to display the beauty of Santa Maria.