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San Benito County, California facts for kids

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For the California wine region, see San Benito AVA.
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San Benito County, California
County of San Benito
San Benito County Courthouse 1-May-2015.jpg
Sanjuanbautistamission.jpg New Idria grounds.jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: San Benito County Courthouse, Mission San Juan Bautista, New Idria grounds
Flag of San Benito County, California
Official seal of San Benito County, California
Location in the U.S. state of California
Location in the U.S. state of California
California's location in the United States
California's location in the United States
Country  United States
State  California
Region Central Coast
CSA San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland
Metro San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
Incorporated 1874
County seat Hollister
 • Total 3,600 km2 (1,390 sq mi)
 • Land 3,600 km2 (1,389 sq mi)
 • Water 5 km2 (1.8 sq mi)
Highest elevation
1,599 m (5,245 ft)
 • Total 55,269
 • Estimate 
 • Density 15.35/km2 (39.76/sq mi)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code 831
FIPS code 06-069
GNIS feature ID 277299

San Benito County is a county located in the Coast Range Mountains of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 55,269. The county seat is Hollister.

San Benito County is included in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

El Camino Real passes through the county and includes one mission in San Juan Bautista.


San Benito County was formed from parts of Monterey County in 1874.

The county is named after the San Benito Valley. Father Juan Crespí, in his expedition in 1772, named a small river in honor of San Benedicto (Saint Benedict), the patron saint of the married, and it is from the contraction of this name that the county took its name.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,390 square miles (3,600 km2), of which 1,389 square miles (3,600 km2) is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) (0.1%) is water.

Sharing a border with Santa Clara County, San Benito County lies adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Area and is sometimes considered a part of that region. Frequently, the county is associated with the Monterey Bay Area through governmental organizations such as the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments as well as the Pajaro River, which flows from northern San Benito County into the Monterey Bay. However, the United States Census Bureau includes the county in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA and the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA, which the Census uses as a statistical definition of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The county also borders Merced County and Fresno County in the east, which lead onto California's San Joaquin Valley.

The county is also the location of the Mount Harlan and San Benito American Viticultural Areas. The latter contains the Cienega Valley, Lime Kiln Valley, and Paicines AVAs.

Fauna and flora

There are a number of plant communities that occur in San Benito County including grasslands and chaparral; however, one of the more unusual is the Sargent cypress forest. Benitoite, the official gem of the State of California, was discovered in San Benito County. The county is also home to the San Benito evening primrose (Camissonia benitensis); and Illacme plenipes, a millipede having more legs than any other millipede species, discovered in the county in 1926. The plant genus Benitoa was named for San Benito County.

National protected area



Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 5,584
1890 6,412 14.8%
1900 6,633 3.4%
1910 8,041 21.2%
1920 8,995 11.9%
1930 11,311 25.7%
1940 11,392 0.7%
1950 14,370 26.1%
1960 15,396 7.1%
1970 18,226 18.4%
1980 25,005 37.2%
1990 36,697 46.8%
2000 53,234 45.1%
2010 55,269 3.8%
Est. 2015 58,792 6.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2015

The 2010 United States Census reported that San Benito County had a population of 55,269. The racial makeup of San Benito County was 35,181 (63.7%) White, 483 (0.9%) African American, 895 (1.6%) Native American, 1,443 (2.6%) Asian, 94 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 14,471 (26.2%) from other races, and 2,702 (4.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 31,186 persons (56.4%).


As of the census of 2000, there were 53,234 people, 15,885 households, and 12,898 families residing in the county. The population density was 38 people per square mile (15/km²). There were 16,499 housing units at an average density of 12 per square mile (5/km²). The racial makeup of the county in 2010 was 38.3% non-Hispanic White, 0.6% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. 56.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 7.6% were of German, 6.3% Irish and 5.4% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 62.8% spoke English and 35.3% Spanish as their first language. As of the 2010 United States Census, San Benito County was the only county in the greater San Francisco Bay Area with a Hispanic majority and where a minority race formed the largest race composition.

There were 15,885 households out of which 46.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.7% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.8% were non-families. 14.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.32 and the average family size was 3.64.

In the county, the population was spread out with 32.2% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 102.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.6 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $57,469, and the median income for a family was $60,665. Males had a median income of $44,158 versus $29,524 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,932. About 6.7% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 8.5% of those age 65 or over.


Major highways

Public transportation

San Benito County Express provides fixed route service in the city of Hollister, and intercity service in the northern portion of the county. Service operates as far north as Gilroy, in Santa Clara County.


Hollister Municipal Airport photo D Ramey Logan
Hollister Municipal Airport

Hollister Municipal Airport is a general aviation airport located just north of Hollister.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Ghost town

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of San Benito County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Hollister City 34,928
2 Ridgemark CDP 3,016
3 Aromas (partially in Monterey County) CDP 2,650
4 San Juan Bautista City 1,862
5 Tres Pinos CDP 476
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