It’s easy to miss Carpinteria’s charm from the 101, a fact that locals are pretty happy about. Once you head off the freeway and head into town, you’ll see why Carpinteria is the quintessential California beach town.

Just south of Santa Barbara, past Summerland, “Carp” (as the locals call it) has just a few stoplights on its main drag but many mom-and-pop restaurants, retail stores, and of course, surf shops.

Why surf shops? Because even though Carpinteria State Beach has been named the World’s Safest Beach, just further down is one of California’s top surf spots: Rincon. Basically, you can’t call yourself a true surfer if you haven’t caught a wave or two here.

Even though it’s just 15 minutes or less to Santa Barbara, Carpinteria has many merits of its own, not to mention real estate that’s more affordable than it’s neighbors up the road. Great schools are another draw, and everybody loves the annual California Avocado Festival, where the main streets are packed with people listening to live bands playing, eating copious amounts of avocado-based foods, and drinking local beers and wines.

And for those who prefer their outdoor entertainment a little more on the ritzy side, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is on Carpinteria’s eastern border and is known as one of the country’s premier equestrian polo fields.

If you’re a fan of the exquisite variety of flower known as the orchid, you’re in luck. Follow the California Orchid Trail, and visit five out of seven orchid growers who are in the Carpinteria neighborhood. California’s central coast became a home for orchid hobbyists in the early 20th century, mainly because of the climate. Now you can visit these amazing growing facilities and take home some unusual varieties.

Where did Carpinteria get its name? From the true locals—the Chumash. The city was home to a carpentry shop that was the lifeblood to building the tribe’s seafaring canoes.