San Juan Bautista

Small Historical Towns California Central Coast

How Spanish and American lifestyles co-existed in early California is exhibited in this quaint town.

The town sits on the El Camino Real and the San Andreas Fault. When the principal north-south stage coach route moved west, San Juan Bautista declined in commercial importance. But the mission and the flower seed business have flourished continuously.

The American Zola, Frank Norris, wrote The Octopus here. The Mission, hotel, and cafe scenes are nearly identical to the way he described them nearly 100 years ago.

This was also one of the homes of Tiburcio Vasquez, the fabled social bandit. Also a couple of revolutions were launched from here. And the Mexico-U.S. War almost got started here. In 1846 famed interloper, Captain John C. Fremont and Kit Carson built a fort here to defy the Mexican government.

Nowadays, there is a prosperous antiques center, a state historical park, good examples of old adobe structures, a museum, a noteworthy rare gem shop, and an interesting collection of ethnic restaurants.

Two sides of the Plaza facing the Mission are lined with historic structures from California’s early days. The Castro-Breen adobe was home to Jose Castro’s family (he was military commander in Monterey), and to the Patrick Breen family, who were Donner Party survivors.

The centerpiece of San Juan Bautista, is really on the side.

The old mission, the largest and longest continually operating mission in California, was built along side the El Camino real and the great fault line.

On the north side of the mission, a portion of the original El Camino Real, in a dirt road, is still there. This was part of the 650 mile road built in the 1700s that connected all California missions.

A seismograph station is in front. And, drops in the immediate elevations, due to the constant quaking, are visible.

The bell tower was scene to the closing moments of Vertigo, the Hitchcock classic with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart. Novak lives near here now. She raises pot bellied pigs and llamas, with her veterinarian husband, and is very unassuming.

Known as the Mission of Music, the church, praised for its acoustics, is host to a summer music festival, and a season of Christmas plays by El Teatro Campesino.


For profoundly symbolic reasons, Luis Valdez, the great American playwright, came to San Juan Bautista. He based his theater, El Teatro Campesino, and, has made his home here.

This artistic genius has proved to be an important economic force in this wildly interesting town. Teatro has a complete run of plays, many originals, each year. They sell all their tickets. And, movies with big name casts have been produced in San Juan Bautista because of Valdez.

Visit nearby Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Comment, or Contact PelicanNetwork

To join our email list:

Yes. I want to be on the PelicanNetwork email list.

(Your name and email address will not be given to anybody. You will receive stories and reports about once a week – for example about natural and cultural history events, group hikes, new books and issues.)

My Name
My Email


Point Lobos

Pelican Getaways

Santa Cruz Redwoods

Big Sur Story

Pacific Grove

Steinbeck Center

Big Basin Creation

Big Sur Eco Guide


Central Coast Guide

C. Coast Activities

Big Sur Lodge

Elkhorn Slough

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Central Coast Events

Big Sur Campgrounds


Calif. Back Country

Central Coast Map

Sandpiper Inn

Monterey Peninsula

San Juan Bautista

Ventana Wilderness

Carmel Hiking

Bygone Towns

Pelican Protectin Alliance

Molera State Park

Pebble Beach


Monarchs in Pacific Grove

Big Sur People & Places

Santa Cruz


Natural Bridges – Butterfly

Big Sur Watercolors

Monterey Bay Volunteer

San Simeon-Piedras Blancas

Big Sur Hiking

Marine Sanctuary

Elephant Seal Notes

Artichoke Store

Big Sur Lodging

Moss Landing


Garden Art

Hwy One – Big Sur Road

Carmel Valley

Mission San Antonio


Big Sur Cabins

Carmel Birding

Hearst Hacienda

Birding Places

Big Sur Coast

Carmel Lodging

Elephant Seals


Point Sur Historical Park

Morro Bay

Montaña de Oro

Nature Guide

Partington Cove & Canyon

Hecker Pass


Member Comments

Nacimiento Road

Pinnacles Monument


PelicanNetwork Links

Old Coast Road – Big Sur

Kayak Central Coast

Salinan Nation

PelicanNetwork Home

Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Bixby Bridge

Rock Art Site Steward

About Pelican Network

Big Sur Diving


Member’s Comments

Pelican Member

Big Sur Birding

Big Sur Sanctuary

Voices of the Wetlands