- 1 Pinnacles National Park - Rising out of the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, east of central California's Salinas Valley, are the spectacular remains of an ancient volcano. Massive monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons and talus passages define millions of years of erosion, faulting and tectonic plate movement. Hiking through the impressive rock formations is the primary recreational opportunity, although bird watchers will enjoy the possibility of seeing the highly endangered California condor.
San Benito County is predominantly rural and mountainous. Just over 55,000 people reside in the county, with about two-thirds of the population living in the county seat of Hollister.
The county was formed in 1874 from portions of Monterey County. The county is named after the San Benito Valley, which was itself named by the Franciscan missionary Father Juan Crespí in honor of San Benedicto, the patron saint of the married. The state gem of California, benitoite, is named after the county. While the mineral exists elsewhere, San Benito County is the only place in the world where it exists in gem quality.
The county's economy is based primarily on agriculture and agritourism. While the oil and gas industry traditionally operated several wells in the county, an effort to ban fracking in 2014 has essentially shut down any further extraction activities.
The main gateway to the county is U.S. 101 which cuts through the northwest corner of the county. The southern portion of the county can be accessed via CA-146 from Soledad.
There are no commercial airports in the county; however, there are nearby airports that can be used to reach the county.
- 1 Santa Cruz County - Located northwest of San Benito County, the second-smallest county in the state is home to the quirky town of Santa Cruz and a rugged coast that is equally popular with surfers and elephant seals. The Santa Cruz mountains are the abode of redwoods and bright yellow banana slugs, both of which can be easily seen on the many hiking trails. Other portions of the county are known for agriculture, with farm stands dotting the roads.
- 2 Santa Clara County - San Benito County's northern neighbor is home to Silicon Valley, headquarters to hundreds of tech companies including giants like Apple, Intel and Hewlett Packard. Visitors will appreciate the massive array of restaurants, museums, and cultural opportunities offered by the huge city of San Jose, while at the other end of the spectrum the tiny town of Gilroy is famous for garlic, with its annual festival attracting over 100,000 garlic lovers.
- 3 Merced County - San Benito County's northeastern neighbor is located entirely within the San Joaquin Valley. Most travelers will likely just take advantage of the county's hotels and other amenities, but there are a few attractions worth considering. The Castle Air Museum in Atwater is home to over 50 planes, while the Merced National Wildlife Refuge hosts thousands of waterfowl during winter months, including huge flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes.
- 4 Fresno County - San Benito County's neighbor to the east, sprawling Fresno County is home to Fresno, California's fifth-largest city, and vast agricultural areas. The eastern side of the county is mountainous, featuring the remote wilderness of Kings Canyon National Park, which attracts visitors to its giant sequoias and unspoiled meadows that lie at the crest of the Sierra Nevada range.
- 5 Monterey County - Located southwest of San Benito County, Monterey County is what many people think of when they think of the Central Coast - the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the beautiful 17-Mile Drive, Cannery Row, Pebble Beach golf course, and the rugged beauty of Big Sur. The northern part of the county contains every manner of amenity for travelers, ranging from chain motels to five star resorts, while the southern portion of the county is remote and accessible mainly by the Pacific Coast Highway or on foot by hikers.