Santa Maria is a city near the Southern California coast in Santa Barbara County. It is approximately 65 miles (105 km) northwest of Santa Barbara and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Its estimated 2018 population was 108,470, making it the most populous city in the county and the Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA Metro Area. The city is notable for its wine industry and Santa Maria-style barbecue. Sunset magazine called Santa Maria "The West's Best BBQ Town". The Santa Maria Valley, stretching from the Santa Lucia Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean, was the homeland of the Chumash people for several thousand years. The Native Americans made their homes on the slopes of the surrounding hills among the oaks, on the banks of the Santa Maria River among the sycamores, and along the coast. They had unique plank-built boats, called Tomol, which they used for ocean fishing. In 1769, the Portolá Expedition passed through the Santa Maria Valley during the first Spanish land exploration up the coast of Las Californias Province. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was established just north of the valley in 1772, and Mission La Purísima Concepción was established near present-day Lompoc in 1787.