Gualala sits at the dramatic convergence of rolling coastal hills, the Pacific Ocean and the Gualala River. The southern coastal gateway to Mendocino County, Gualala is a delightful resort area and a favorite whale-watching spot. Its name comes from the Pomo Indian name for the river, “ah kha wa la lee,” which means “where the water flows down.” People from out of town usually call it gwa-LA-la, but locals pronounce it wa-LA-la. Once a logging town, Gualala’s primary economic activity is now tourism. It also serves as a commercial center for the surrounding area. Gualala is an ideal spot for viewing the elusive “green flash” that can sometimes be seen for a second or two as the sun sinks into the ocean.
South Coast’s “Banana Belt”
Mendocino’s “banana belt” stretches south from Anchor Bay through Gualala and down to Sea Ranch, just across the county line in Sonoma County. Visitors to this area often enjoy warm and sunny weather while the rest of the coast is shrouded in chilly fog. The warmer weather and more frequent sunshine can be attributed to Point Arena: the protrusion of land into the ocean there, less than 20 miles north of Gualala, provides both fog-break and protective shelter for the coastline to the south.