The Comprehensive Insider's Guide to the Central Coast
Collected by Jill K. Robinson , AFAR Contributor
800 Alvarado Pl, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, USA
There’s a reason this hotel is named after the Spanish word for “charmed.” An oasis for old-Hollywood stars since the 1920s, this upscale resort offers guests an away-from-it-all feel, even though it’s just minutes from downtown. Sitting on a...
131 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
Named for the overnight train that served Santa Barbara from 1910 to 1968, the Lark restaurant showcases the Central Coast’s seasonal bounty. Located in the Santa Barbara Fish Market Building, in the heart of the city’s Funk Zone, the...
702 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
Since 1983, food lovers in the know have headed to Santa Barbara’s renowned Paradise Café. Housed in an early 20th-century brick and stucco building with a relaxed atmosphere, the café’s oak wood grill is fueled by Santa...
905 Country Club Rd, Ojai, CA 93023, USA
Spread across 220 acres of coastal valley, the Ojai Valley Inn opened in 1923, originally commissioned by an early 20th-century glass tycoon. With white stucco and terra-cotta buildings, the mission-style retreat looks like a dreamy California...
302 W Matilija St, Ojai, CA 93023, USA
For bibliophiles, a beautiful bookstore is akin to a church. Voices hush, smiles abound, and books are handled gently, like precious relics. An old home packed with an extensive collection of used and new titles, Bart’s Books opened in 1964, when...
734 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
This stylish wine bar, bottle shop, and all-day restaurant is the brainchild of two food and wine world forces: Jessi Singh, the chef from San Francisco and New York City’s acclaimed Babu Ji, and James Beard Award–winning sommelier...
315 N Montgomery St, Ojai, CA 93023, USA
This playful picnic and wine shop is quintessentially Ojai. Set in an old Spanish house, Tipple & Ramble sells indoor/outdoor decor, vintage and new barware, retro games, coolers, and small-batch specialty food items. Stock up on artisanal s’mores...
695 Ashley Rd, Montecito, CA 93108, USA
As the name suggests, this 37-acre Santa Barbara garden is horticultural heaven. For more than 43 years, socialite and opera singer Madame Ganna Walska filled the grounds with more than 3,000 plants; after her death, Lotusland opened to the public...
1208 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
Growing up in Indonesia, chef Ryan Simorangkir says he only craved kid’s food. But as an adult, he fell in love with the local street food of his home country and began to cook from family recipes. After attending Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu school,...
2670 Ontiveros Rd, Los Olivos, CA 93441, USA
Successful first acts often lead to equally successful second acts. After years as leaders and pioneers in the electronic music business, Tom and Judy Beckmen decided to turn their attention to winemaking. Today, with their son, Steve, they’re...
406 E Hwy 246, Buellton, CA 93427, USA
You can’t leave the Central California Coast without filling up on Santa Maria barbecue. This regional style of barbecue dates back to the 19th century, when ranchers held Spanish-style cookouts, grilling simply seasoned top-block sirloin and...
1054 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463, USA
This elegantly rustic 10,000-acre ranch tucked into the Santa Ynez Valley encourages you to get unplugged and get outdoors. In fact, there are no TVs or phones in the guest rooms. Instead, guests head to the barn to choose a noble steed and enjoy...
225 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440, USA
The heart of this Los Alamos restaurant is the 22-ton stone behemoth of an oven that owner Clark Staub built in 2003. Almost every dish at Full of Life Flatbread owes its smoky flavors to it, and all diners share space with it, as it takes up a...
380 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440, USA
Wine industry workers say that it takes a lot of great beer to make great wine: That is, after a long day in Santa Barbara wine country, winemakers, cellar workers, and grape pickers need refreshing beer to quench their thirst. In the tiny town of...
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, USA
This sprawling, 165-room mansion may be known as Hearst Castle, but officially, it’s called La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”), former owner William Randolph Hearst’s affectionate name for the property. Designed by legendary California...
47900 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
Described by devotees as the most luxurious, one-of-a-kind lodging experience in all of California, the Post Ranch Inn was purpose-built to blend in with the Santa Lucia Mountains. Opened in 1992, and designed by famed Big Sur architect Mickey...
52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
One of Big Sur’s most iconic images comes from this state park: tree-topped rocks jutting above a golden beach next to crashing surf. If you’re not an avid outdoorsperson, this is possibly the best reward for an easy hike that exists: Visitors can...
71895 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
Before glamping was a phenomenon, there was Treebones Resort, its yurts set on redwood platforms with views of the Pacific Ocean. But the swanky yurts at Treebones aren’t the only reason you should stop here. The Sushi Bar at Treebones...
48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
Ventana is Spanish for “window,” and this hotel in a redwood forest takes advantage of its spectacular coast-meets-mountain setting. Many of the hotel’s 59 rooms, which are outfitted with fireplaces and soaking tubs, look onto the ocean or the...
125 Ocean View Blvd #122, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
Using an e-bike isn’t cheating—it’s far more environmentally friendly than using a car, plus you get some exercise as well. And those climbs along the coast are much easier when you have a 750-watt assist. Big Sur Adventures offers a trio of...
48510 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
A fictional medicine for chasing away sorrow mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey gives this restaurant and shop its name. Perched high above the Pacific and in the shadow of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Nepenthe offers miles-long views of the coast. It’s...
Pfeiffer Beach, California 93920, USA
If you blink, you might miss the turnoff for Pfeiffer Beach. There’s no signage except for a yellow “Narrow Road” warning at the top of otherwise unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road, the only paved, ungated road on the west side of Highway 1 between...
481 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
Brunch lasts nearly all day at Crema in Pacific Grove, and you need that time to explore the array of separate quarters in the restaurant’s converted Victorian mansion. Investigate the historic photos, antique furniture, and artistic decor in the...
8940 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923, USA
In a valley only five miles from the Pacific Ocean, Folktale Winery lives up to its name: The Old World French-style château appears like a castle from childhood fables amid the vineyards and oak trees. On arrival, visitors are greeted with a...
8205 Valley Greens Dr, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923, USA
You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy spending time at Carmel’s Quail Lodge—but if you are, you may never want to leave. The 18-hole championship golf course—designed by Robert Muir Graves in 1964 and later refined by Todd Eckenrode—features...
1518 Cypress Dr, Pebble Beach, CA 93953, USA
With its red roof tiles, bougainvillea vines, and verdant gardens, Casa Palmero feels like a luxurious Mediterranean villa. The new hotel also overlooks the first and second fairways of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links. The 24 rooms all have...
886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, USA
When you stand on the Monterey bluffs and look at the bay, the vast expanse of marine protected areas may inspire you to learn more about conservation of the ocean and its creatures. That’s exactly the mission of the innovative Monterey Bay...
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