Santa Nella Travel Guide

Plan your trip to Santa Nella with our comprehensive travel guide including places to visit, hiking and biking trails, best things to do, eating scene, safety and health tips, and transportation options.

Introduction to Santa Nella

Located in Merced County, in San Joaquin Valley, California, Santa Nella is a charming small town that is often overlooked. This hidden gem offers a wide range of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and a vibrant food and drink scene. Whether you are visiting Santa Nella for a weekend getaway or a week-long vacation, you will never run out of things to do and explore.

List of Places to Visit in Santa Nella

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Santa Nella offers many culturally important attractions that are worth visiting during your trip, including:

  • Santa Nella Historical Society Museum: Learn about the rich history of Santa Nella through artifacts, documents, and photographs.
  • San Luis National Wildlife Refuge: Explore the wildlife refuge and learn about the native species of California.
  • Gustine Museum: Discover the history of Gustine, a nearby town, through exhibits and photographs.

Natural Attractions of Santa Nella: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Nature lovers will find plenty of outdoor activities in Santa Nella, such as hiking, biking, and fishing. Some of the natural attractions that you should not miss include:

  • Forebay Golf Course: This beautiful golf course offers stunning views of the nearby hills and valleys.
  • San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge: This wildlife reserve is home to a variety of bird species, including bald eagles and sandhill cranes.
  • Merced River: You can go fishing, kayaking, or simply enjoy a picnic by the river.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Santa Nella

Santa Nella has several hiking and biking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Some of the most popular trails include:

  • Los Banos Creek Reservoir Loop Trail: This 9-mile trail is perfect for hiking and biking and offers beautiful views of the surrounding hills.
  • Merced River Trail: This 7-mile trail follows the banks of the Merced River and is ideal for hiking and birdwatching.
  • Orestimba Wilderness Trail: This challenging 14-mile trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness and is reserved for experienced hikers and bikers.

Best Things to Do in Santa Nella: Activities and Tours

Santa Nella offers a wide range of activities and tours that cater to every interest, including:

  • Wine Tasting: Visit the nearby wineries and taste some of the best wines of California.
  • Skydiving: Experience the thrill of skydiving and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape from above.
  • River Rafting: Go on a river rafting adventure and enjoy the rapids and scenery of the Merced River.

Week-Long Itinerary for Santa Nella

If you are planning to stay in Santa Nella for a week, here’s a sample itinerary that will help you make the most of your trip:

Day Activity
Day 1 Visit San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and Forebay Golf Course
Day 2 Do the Los Banos Creek Reservoir Loop Trail
Day 3 Visit Santa Nella Historical Society Museum and Gustine Museum
Day 4 Do the Merced River Trail and go fishing or kayaking
Day 5 Take a wine tour and visit the nearby wineries
Day 6 Go skydiving or river rafting
Day 7 Relax and enjoy the local cuisine and shops

Food and Drink Scene of Santa Nella

Santa Nella has a vibrant food and drink scene that offers a variety of local and international cuisine. Here are some of the must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Santa Maria-style barbecue: This is a local specialty that features tri-tip steak, cooked over red oak and seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic.
  • Artichoke soup: Made with fresh artichokes and served with a dollop of sour cream, this soup is a popular appetizer in many local restaurants.
  • Walnut pie: This delicious pie is made with locally grown walnuts and is a favorite dessert of many Santa Nella residents.

Local Beverages

  • California wine: Santa Nella is located in the heart of California wine country and offers a variety of local wines to taste and enjoy.
  • Craft beer: Several local breweries offer a variety of craft beers, including IPAs, stouts, and ales.

Where to Stay in Santa Nella: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Santa Nella has a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, hostels, and guesthouses. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Best Western Andersen’s Inn: This hotel offers comfortable rooms and a range of amenities, including a fitness center and a swimming pool.
  • Quality Inn: This budget hotel offers comfortable rooms and a complimentary breakfast.
  • Santa Nella House Bed and Breakfast: This charming B&B offers cozy rooms and delicious breakfast in a historic building.

What to Buy in Santa Nella: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Santa Nella offers a range of souvenirs and local products that you can bring home to remember your trip. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Olive oil: California produces some of the best olive oil in the world, and you can buy different varieties at the local shops.
  • Almonds: Almonds are a major crop in the area, and you can buy fresh almonds and almond-based products, such as butter and brittle.
  • Pottery: Local artisans produce beautiful pottery that you can buy as a souvenir or a gift.

Local Culture and Customs of Santa Nella

Santa Nella has a rich culture and customs that reflect its history and diversity. Some of the cultural events and traditions that you can experience include:

  • Fruit and Nut Festival: This annual festival celebrates the local agricultural heritage and features live music, food booths, and arts and crafts vendors.
  • Mission San Juan Bautista: This historic mission is located in the nearby town of San Juan Bautista and offers a glimpse into the Spanish colonial era of California.

Best Time to Visit Santa Nella

The best time to visit Santa Nella is during the spring or fall, when the weather is mild and pleasant. Summer can be hot and crowded, while winter can be chilly and rainy.

Do’s and Don’ts of Santa Nella


  • Respect the local culture and customs.
  • Pack sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable shoes for outdoor activities.
  • Try the local cuisine and beverages.
  • Book your accommodation and tours in advance.


  • Litter or damage the natural attractions.
  • Wear revealing clothing in public places.
  • Forget to carry your ID, especially if you plan to buy alcohol.

Safety and Health

Safety in Santa Nella

Santa Nella is a safe town, but it is always a good idea to take standard safety precautions, such as:

  • Lock your car and hotel room.
  • Avoid walking alone at night in secluded areas.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings in public places.

Health in Santa Nella

Santa Nella is a relatively healthy town, but it is always a good idea to pack necessary medication and take standard health precautions. The nearest hospital is in Los Banos, about a 20-minute drive from Santa Nella.

Getting to Santa Nella: Transportation Options and Logistics

Santa Nella can be reached by car, bus, or plane. The nearest airports are in San Jose and Sacramento, both about a 2-hour drive from Santa Nella. Some of the transportation options include:

Airports Near Santa Nella

  • San Jose International Airport
  • Sacramento International Airport

Bus Stations Near Santa Nella

  • Greyhound Bus Station, Los Banos

Other Options

  • Uber and Lyft: Transportation apps can be used to get around Santa Nella.
  • Rental Cars: Cars can be rented at the airports and in nearby towns.

How to Get Around in Santa Nella

Santa Nella is a small town that can be easily explored on foot or by car. Biking is also a popular way to get around, especially on the hiking trails.

Where to Go Next from Santa Nella: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

If you have some extra time, there are several nearby destinations that are worth visiting, including:

  • San Luis Obispo: This charming town is located about a 2-hour drive from Santa Nella and offers stunning beaches, hiking trails, and wineries.
  • Monterey: This beautiful coastal town is located about a 2-hour drive from Santa Nella and offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, whale watching, and hiking.
  • Yosemite National Park: This iconic national park is located about a 3-hour drive from Santa Nella and offers breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures.


Santa Nella is a hidden gem that offers a wide range of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and delicious cuisine. Whether you are visiting for a weekend or a week, this comprehensive tour guide will help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in Santa Nella.