Leaving Los Angeles two hours behind us was all that it took to discover one of California’s sleepiest and most scenic places to indulge in the good life: The Santa Ynez Valley.
Santa Barbara and Northwards offers serene and almost untouched coast. There are some beautiful golf courses and hotels that dot the area but in between them are stretches of forests and undergrowth that preserve a wild look. It is nice to see this area very much in a natural state. There are access points, hiking trails and scenic overlooks and the crowds are nowhere in sight.
We really recommend the Ritz Carlton Bacara as a hotel to enjoy in this area. It is a thirty minute drive from all of these attractions and it has all of the amenities and beach access one could want worthy of its hotel pedigree.
The Pacific highway turns inland a bit and starts climbing dramatic hills with panoramic views over the Los Padres National Forest. Here is where the Santa Ynez Valley begins and a magical vineyard landscape unfolds.
Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is the centerpiece of the wine culture here. Picnics are still welcome on the premises of most wineries. Most have a full range of food products, but there is no pressure to buy anything. The vineyards keep a low profile and weekdays are the most relaxing times to visit.
Most places offer tastings, wine by the glass and whole bottle purchases.
Tip: If you don’t have time to drive around to the various vineyards most properties keep a tasting room in Los Olivos.
Santa Ynez is a fascinating town itself which arose out of a beautiful mission which can still be visited today. Another attraction is the Danish themed town of Solvang that features unique restaurants, craft stores and museums. Our favorite little place is Los Olivos. It is a town of charm and character. Architecture is unique, the feeling is relaxed and it has some of the best restaurants and wine tasting venues in the whole region.