When you don’t know an area, it can be tricky to decide on the best town to stay in. Where’s best for cycling? Where are the bike shops? What is there to do off the bike?

Below you’ll find our views on the best places to stay in Santa Ynez Valley. The good news is that if you choose Solvang, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos or Ballard, they are only a few miles from each other, so  you should be able to do most, if not all, of our rides regardless of which of these towns you stay in.

Our favourite two towns re Santa Ynez and Los Olivos. They’re both small, ooze authentic charm and are well stocked with restaurants, grocers, wine tasting and interiors shops.

Fortunately, the wonderful ranch we stayed on was located between the two towns.  For more information on this and other places to stay, check out our guide.

This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.



Solvang is the tourist centre of the Santa Ynez valley. Founded in 1911 by three Danish men, it’s known as the Danish Capital of America. It receives over a million tourists each year, all keen to experience a slice of Denmark. It is a pretty place, with windmills, Danish styled half-timber buildings and tasty bakeries. But stay too long and the faux ancient frontages, kitschy knick knack stores and novelty attractions may start to grate (did we mention the giant red clog?…) .

From a cyclist’s perspective, Solvang’s saving grace is that it’s home to Dr J’s bike shop. Corey and his friendly team have a fleet of decent road bikes for hire (more on that, here). They also have a bike workshop and sell accessories, including bars, gels and Mount Figueroa jerseys.


Our ultimate guide to cycling Santa Barbara County contains more options.

Dutch inspired buildings and steeple in Solvang
Solvang flag

Santa Ynez

The three block downtown is full of frontier buildings, many original and dating from when the town was founded in 1882. It’s a small town which feels authentic, well cared for and well-heeled. You can shop for antiques, get a coffee or head for a meal – you’ll find some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s best restaurants here.


Our ultimate guide to cycling Santa Barbara County contains more options.

Santa Ynez is a great place to stay in the valley with old buildings and fine restaurants
Old red mail carriage in Santa Ynez

Los Olivos

Los Olivos is smaller than Santa Ynez, but just as charming. The shops and restaurants are predominantly found on Grand Avenue. There are tasting rooms, art galleries, antique shops, fashionable restaurants and cafes and a country goods store. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the flagpole at the intersection of the two main roads through the village.


Our ultimate guide to cycling Santa Barbara County contains more options.

Flagpole on main street, Los Olivos
Horse and carriage sculpture near Los Olivos


With a population of only 467, Ballard is the smallest of the region’s towns. There’s not much there, but it is home to the wonderful Ballard Canyon which is, of course, best explored by bike.


Buellton is significantly less charming than the others. It sits at the crossroads between Lompoc and the Santa Rita Hills to the west and the Santa Ynez valley to the east. It’s a sleepy gas and coffee stop that also has its fair share of wine tasting rooms, beer gardens and restaurants.

Other towns

Lompoc is much larger than the other towns listed here and about 20 miles to the west of Solvang. As such, it’s not as well placed for easy access to the Santa Ynez rides we list.  One point worth noting though – it’s known as the flower-seed capital of the world and is blanketed with vast fields of flowers between May and August.

Los Alamos is a tiny village, sprawled out along one road just of Highway 101. It’s about 11 miles northwest of Los Olivos and feels slightly stuck in a time warp. A new wave of restaurants and cafes may be changing that, including the rather wonderful Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. Ride our Wine country cycling route 2 and route 4 loops and you’ll be able to justify stopping off for a coffee and some form of sugary goodness.

Over to you!

Have you been to the Santa Ynez valley? Where did you stay? We’d love to hear from you – comment below or drop us a line.

Want more? Don’t miss our guides to the best Santa Barbara county cycling routes and other articles on the region, below.

Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here.

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Clare Dewey

Clare Dewey is a cyclist with a passion for travel. She set up epicroadrides.com in 2018 to help make it easy for cyclists to explore the world by bike. Today her mission is still inspiring cyclists to discover new places on two wheels – and doing what she can to make sure they have the best possible time while they’re there. Clare has visited 50+ destinations around the world, many of them by bike.

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2 Responses to “Best places to stay in Santa Ynez Valley (for cyclists)”

  1. Hey Clare
    My husband and I are serious Ross cyclist and coming to the Santa Barbara/Solvang area
    We want a self contained accommodation with kitchen etc to cook most of our meals – but we also want minimal junk town/city riding to get to the riding in proper
    Which town do you suggest is best for riding right out the door, with a few kms of flattish riding for warm up?
    You suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We will be hiring a car and driving from LA airport
    Diane Stibbard

    • Hi Diane, the small towns mentioned in our guide to the area are all wonderful! Perhaps take a look on google maps (and the aerial/street view) to make your pick and check they’re right for what you’re looking for? Have a great trip and best wishes, Clare

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