There’s a lot of chatter among SoCal travelers seeking “off the grid” destinations that are within driving range. Loosely defined, these are getaways that offer solitude and serenity—hotels and resorts that are far enough away from civilization but close enough to access when the urge to escape suddenly hits. In Southern California, one of these idyllic locations is the tiny town of New Cuyama, known as “The Hidden Valley of Enchantment,” approximately 2.5 hours from Los Angeles.
The first hint of how remote this area truly is, can be detected early into the drive as travelers realize that the road to New Cuyama, regardless of one’s starting point, is no doubt off the beaten path. Highway 33, one of the few course options, leads drivers through a lonesome mountain path. The road, which at some points is green and lush and at other points brown and dry, seems to last hours beyond the GPS’s ETA.
The scenic commute leads to an alluring valley that is set at the junction of Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Kern, and Santa Barbara counties. And at this point, the Cuyama Buckhorn, a charming mid-century gem that is worth every bit of the drive to get here, can be found.
This historic roadside resort in the heart of Santa Barbara County’s high desert, was originally built by the Richfield Oil Company in 1952 when oil was discovered in the area. The property was modelled by George Vernon Russell who designed The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and the University of California Riverside.
It was originally constructed as a rustic motel with a lobby, coffee shop, formal dining room and cocktail lounge with a dance floor. There was an outdoor pool and a game area with ping pong tables and, of course, shuffleboard. Although the property has recently been restored to feature 21 stylish guest rooms, it has preserved its rich history and retained some of the traditional artifacts, including its original sign.
Most of the property’s public spaces are in the tranquil outdoors, offering guests an opportunity to mingle with each other, or remain separate if preferred. The two-acre property boasts a heated pool and jacuzzi, a barrel sauna, a variety of outdoor games, and fire pits throughout. There are relaxing seating arrangements within the meticulously manicured garden on which to lounge and enjoy the balmy sunset or the mesmerizing night sky peppered with a thousand stars.
The garden area is entirely ecological: The landscaping is drought-tolerant and requires low water usage and the beautiful planters are filled with herbs and fresh produce. There are old water troughs that have been repurposed into fountains and old oil pipes have been utilized to build the outdoor furniture.
The guest rooms transport visitors into a midcentury sanctuary and each features custom-built furniture, vintage décor, retro-inspired Bluetooth radios and semi-private patios. Each room contains a mini bar stocked with Spirits and locally sourced treats, which are available for purchase. A complimentary S’mores Kit is offered to guests upon arrival, which can be enjoyed at the outdoor fire pits, and complimentary Verve Coffee and Teapigs Tea to sip in-room or on their cozy patios. Bathrooms are fashionably designed with art deco tiles, elegant fixtures, comfy robes, and feature sustainably produced Further toiletries.
Meals can also be enjoyed on site. The resort has a craft coffee shop with delicious beverage concoctions, yummy freshly baked pastries, and a small market offering local and home-made goods.
The Buckhorn Restaurant & Bar, led by Executive Chef Daniel Horn, offers farm-to-table fare and a tasty seasonal menu. The sprawling restaurant has an outdoor deck, an outdoor BBQ kitchen and a culinary education space. There is a lovely garden greenhouse that offers a private dining space – a perfect location for a special celebration or a magical wedding proposal. In addition to the hotel guests, the restaurant is loved and supported by residents in the native community.
Drinks can be enjoyed at the property’s open-air bar. The beverage menu, supervised by Bar Manager Brandon Gomez, features house made liqueurs, and creative cocktails made fresh from local produce. The Buckhorn intentionally sources from and invests in the local farms and wineries to help maintain a sustainable future for their land and neighboring region.
Guests need never leave the property, however, there is much to explore in this small enclave. There are hiking and biking trails in the Los Padres National Forest for those who want to stay active, and folks who wish to engage is less vigorous recreation can visit Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge, a habitat for the endangered California Condor and a great place for birdwatching. A full moon walk to Cuyama’s airstrip offers guests a magical stroll through town, guided by the sky’s natural light source. Wine-lovers can visit nearby Condor’s Hope Vineyard to sample dry-farmed wines and olive oils. Nearby Carrizo Plain National Monument features salt flats, sprawling grasslands, and historic cave drawings that make great Instagram backdrops.
A short distance from the Buckhorn Cuyama, the Blue Sky Center provides guided tours that teach visitors how philanthropy and social businesses combine to build sustainable rural communities in the region.
This rural territory offers a tranquil getaway, far from the bustle of city life, but is ideal for those who require comfort, service, and panache. With Buckhorn Cuyama’s commitment to sustainability and the environment, travelers can rest assured that they are not only actively recharging their minds and bodies, but they are also doing something positive for the planet.
4923 Primero Street
New Cuyama, CA 93254