Central California Road Trip Itinerary: 4 Days in Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo


July 13, 2021

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Even though I was born and raised in California, there are still so many places left unexplored. In my opinion, the best way to experience all that California has to offer is by road. That’s what Tim and I did when we set out on an 8 day road trip through Central California early June. The first half of our trip was spent in Santa Ynez Valley and the coastal town of San Luis Obispo. Looking to escape the city for a slower pace? Here’s how we spent 4 days in Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo.

4 Days in Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo

Day One – Los Angeles to Santa Barbara & Los Alamos

We left Los Angeles for Central California on a Sunday morning. After a two hour drive, we stopped in Santa Barbara for a quick coffee and breakfast break at Dune Coffee. From Santa Barbara, it was a quick and easy 50 minute drive to Los Alamos. We arrived in Los Alamos around noon, just in time for lunch.


Skyview Los Alamos was our base for three days. Although this boutique motel is small in size, it has plenty to offer. Hotel review coming soon.


  • We had lunch at a very busy Bob’s Well Bread. Even though it gets busy, there is plenty of outdoor seating. We ordered Egg-in-a-Frame #2 and the Meatball Marinara Sandwich. It was love at first bite for the both of us.
  • Bodega was everything I had hoped for. We had a great time drinking and relaxing at this beautiful open air wine and beer garden. The drinks were great and the late afternoon light added the perfect touch. It was moderately busy on a late Sunday afternoon, but there are so many places to hang out that it didn’t feel crowded.
  • For dinner, we had a lovely and unique dining experience at Pico. We enjoyed our food and Lumen Wines amongst a garden of vegetables and herbs that were used in our meals. Tim and I shared the Uni Tostada, Truffle Fries, Clam Chowder, and Manhattan Cut Steak. Reservations are recommended. We made our reservation four weeks in advance.

Travel Tips:

  • To fully enjoy Los Alamos, start your trip on a Thursday or Friday. Most businesses in Los Alamos and Los Olivos are closed on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s.
  • Check hours of operation before planning your trip. Some business hours change according to the season. I found the most updated hours on Instagram.
  • Los Alamos is a tiny town and easily walkable. Skyview is on the other side of the freeway from the town. If you want to stay more central and not worry about driving, check out Alamo Motel.

Day Two – Los Alamos, Los Olivos, & Santa Maria

We spent our Monday eating and drinking our way through Santa Ynez Valley. We explored more of Los Alamos as well as Los Olivos and Santa Maria. Los Olivos is 10 minutes south of Los Alamos, while Santa Maria is 20 minutes north of Los Alamos.


  • We started our day with breakfast at Bob’s Well Bread around 9:30. The breakfast rush started shortly after we ordered. We enjoyed our cappuccinos, Mushroom Toast, and Prosciutto Egg Sandwich.
  • We had an outdoor lunch at Nella in Los Olivos. The Roman Artichokes, Black Truffle Pinsa, and Tagliatelle Bolognese were delicious. Reservations are recommended. We made our reservation 2 weeks in advance.
  • While in Los Olivos, we browsed the General Store, tasted olive oils at Los Olivos Olive Hill Farm, and wine tasted at Coquelicot. We had no problem walking into Coquelicot on a Monday without a reservation. Our $18 tasting fee was waived since we purchased a bottle of wine.
  • Back in Los Alamos, we stopped by Casa Dumetz for some wine on the patio. It was empty around 2:30. We enjoyed their pre-poured tasting flight of 6 wines for $30. The tasting was complimentary since we purchased three bottles of wine. Casa Dumetz shares a patio with Babi’s Beer Emporium and Dim Sama, so you can enjoy all three places if you go on a day they’re all open.
  • Wine tasting at Presqu’ile in Santa Maria was one of the highlights of our trip. The property is stunning, and the food and wine are exquisite. We booked the Food and Wine experience for $60 per person. Reservations are required. We made our reservation four weeks in advance.
  • We ended the night back in Los Alamos at Bell’s for an outdoor candle lit dinner. All the ingredients in our prix fixe dinner were so fresh. Reservations are required. We made our reservation four weeks in advance and the earliest time we could book was 8:15.

Travel Tips:

  • Make restaurant and winery reservations at least 3-4 weeks in advance.

Day Three – Los Alamos, Solvang, & Santa Ynez

Our last full day in Los Alamos was a lot more relaxed than the previous day. We ventured out in the afternoon to Solvang and Santa Ynez. Solvang and Santa Ynez are about 20 minutes south of Los Alamos.


  • Breakfast by the pool is one of my favorite things to do while on vacation. The coffee, Skyview Scramble, and Croissant Sandwich from Norman’s were surprisingly really good. Coffee turned into cocktails after some sun and swim. The Poolside cocktail was my favorite.
  • Later in the day, we headed to Solvang, a charming Danish town. We didn’t do much as we’ve been a few times before. Out of all the towns we visited, Solvang was the busiest.
  • We picked up a cheese plate and Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich from Lucky Hen Larder in Santa Ynez for a picnic.
  • Sunstone Winery was the perfect place to enjoy our picnic and some wine. We had made a reservation in advance, but it ended up being super casual with first-come-first-serve seating.
  • We had our favorite meal at S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez. It was very busy, so we were glad we made a reservation in advance. We ordered the Octopus as an appetizer, Wild Mushroom Pappardelle, weekly special Lamb Shank, and Tiramisu.

Travel Tips:

  • If you find yourself in Los Alamos on a Tuesday or Wednesday while businesses are closed, visit Solvang and Santa Ynez. Most businesses in Solvang and Santa Ynez are open everyday.

Day Four – Los Alamos to San Luis Obispo

Our fourth day was spent in Los Alamos and San Luis Obispo. The drive from Los Alamos to San Luis Obispo was super quick. We decided to stop in San Luis Obispo for one night before heading to Yosemite.


We stayed at San Luis Creek Lodge in San Luis Obispo. It was the perfect spot for us while passing through town.


  • We spent our last morning in Los Alamos by the pool again. We had a light breakfast and a quick dip before we checked out.
  • Once in San Luis Obispo, Tim and I shared a small breakfast at Sally Loo’s. This cafe is worth checking out if you are looking for a healthier spot.
  • While waiting for our check in time, we picked up lunch from High Street Deli around 1:00. I’m not really a sandwich person, but these sandwiches are amazing. We tried to order online, but the wait was an hour long. We ordered inside and waited 30 minutes for our Dutch Punch sandwich. It was worth the wait. The little outdoor patio was extremely packed, so we ate in our car.
  • Coffee at Scout Coffee did not disappoint. Not only is the Garden Street location adorable, but the Vanilla Bean Latte is one of the best vanilla lattes I’ve ever had.
  • We had dinner with friends at Flour House. The food was underwhelming, but we had a nice time catching up with our friends.

The second half of our road trip was spent in Yosemite. Check out how we spent 4 days in Yosemite here.

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