Top Things To Do On A Weekend Trip To Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a small coastal town in Central California thats known for its stunning beaches, sand dunes, and outdoor recreational activities. This lively community is a popular destination for Central Valley locals, especially in the summer as temperatures start to pick up.
While the beach is what attracts most of the visitors, other popular points of interest include the Monarch Butterfly Grove, the iconic Pismo Beach Pier, and fresh, drool-worthy seafood.
In this post, we cover 20 of the top things to do in Pismo Beach and many other helpful tips to make the best of your visit. Lets get started!
If youre looking for a more quiet beach town getaway, be sure to check out our post on 15 Wonderful Things To Do In Morro Bay!
20 Things To Do In Pismo Beach:
Seacrest Hotel & Beach Access
This location provides an access point to a hidden beach next to the beautiful SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel. To reach the beach you can take the scenic Wilmar Stairs that lead down onto the shoreline.
With white cliffs and unique caves, this area looks much different than the rest of the Central Coast. One of the most interesting highlights of this area are the narrow steps built into a cliff.
This gorgeous beach is a great location for couples or family photoshoots. Come at low tide so you can safely explore the shoreline and its caves.
Downtown / Close To The Beach
The following hotels are located close to the beach and within walking distance of the amenities located Downtown.
Edge Water Inn Located meters away from the beach, this hotel offers fully equipped, ample rooms. Amenities include a pool, hot tub, free parking, coffee machine, fridge, microwave, TV, and free WI-Fi. This is a great option for families, and guests with limited mobility. Check out the latest prices and more details here!
Beach House Inn I am not sure if you can get closer to the water. I mean, the Beach House Inn is located directly across the pier. As for amenities, each room includes comfortable queen beds, nautical-themed decorations, a kitchenette with a full-size fridge, flat-screen TV, a small dining area, and free Wi-Fi. Check out the latest prices and more details here!
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Events In Pismo Beach
Attending a local event is a great way to mingle with the locals and get a good grasp of what an area is all about.
If you want to join the fun, I recommend marking these events on your calendar.
- Restaurant Month
- California Western Monarch Day
- Taste of Pismo
- Pismo Beach Clam Festival
- Jubilee by the Sea Jazz Festival
- Pumpkins on the Pier
View The Animals At The Central Coast Aquarium
Explore the animals of the deep at the Central Coast Aquarium. Touch-tanks provide the opportunity to come in contact with sea urchins, starfish, rays, and a host of other animals. Stay and watch the shark and octopus feedings, and listen and learn about the different sea creatures within the park. This is the perfect place to schedule a birthday party or other special event, or you can sign up to help with an annual beach cleanup as a hand up for the environment.
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Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort And Spa
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa is located outside of the city, once again calling San Luis Obispo its home.
Its worth the travel if you need some intensive TLC and relaxation.
It is well-known for its rejuvenating packages and is a part of Avila Beach Resort.
Its even open late enough that you can enjoy your treatment under the stars!
There are 23 baths at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa.
You can opt to wear a bathing suit or go nude according to your comfort.
Each tub offers a good deal of privacy thanks to staggered positions on the hillside.
This means you get stunning views and the ability to take it in undisturbed!
Each bath uses natural water from the titular hot springs and is famously refreshing.
Address: 1215 Avila Beach Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, United States
Looking for more thrill? Why not visit Monterey, Palm Springs, and Sacramento? If you do plan the trip, here are some cool things to do in Monterey, some of the best things to do in Palm Springs, and some top things to do in Sacramento!
Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area : Pismo Beach Atv Fun
Recognized by scientists and conservationists as the finest, most extensive coastal dunes remaining in California, Oceano Dunes are located just south of Pismo Beach. For those seeking to inject some adrenaline into their stay, it is also the location of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. A popular playground for off-roaders, with 5.5 miles of beach open for vehicle use and the surrounding 1,500 acres of dunes dedicated to off-highway vehicle use, it draws visitors from around the U.S.
The Oceano Sand Dunes are open daily from 7 a.m. to one hour past sunset for vehicle day use. Day use passes are sold on a first come first serve basis at the beach entry kiosks at Grand Avenue and Pier Avenue.
Pismo Beach ATV Rentals
There are 5.5 miles open to off-roaders at the Pismo Beach Sand Dune for ATV fun. Youll find gentle slopes for beginners as well as steep inclines for those looking for an adrenaline rush. There are several Pismo Beach ATV rentals available including Pismo Dunes ATV rentals BJs ATV Rentals, Inc and Steves ATV Rentals. A couple of hours on an ATV is one of the most exciting Pismo Beach activities any time of year.
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Go Offroading On The Oceano Dunes
If beach sand off-roading is on your bucket list, Pismo Beach offers you the perfect opportunity! The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is the only spot in California that allows motor vehicles to access the beach.
Its a popular spot for four-wheel drive enthusiasts that zip over the sand dunes on dune buggies, ATVs, and motocross bikes. But its also a cool spot to take some epic photos!
You can read all about exactly how to find the Pismo Dunes in my friend Karas post, here!
Shop Til You Drop At Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
Who doesnt love a great deal? You dont have to be a shopaholic to appreciate the awesome discounts you can get on name-brand goods at the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets.
There are over 30 major stores offering markdowns from the retail price including the Nike Factory Store, COACH, Kate Spade, Levis, Skechers, and more. Whether youre in the shopping mood or not, it doesnt hurt to take a quick browse around to see what kind of bargains you can find!
So whos ready for Pismo Beach? Hopefully, my list of 10 fun things to do got you revved up for a visit to this dreamy Central California beach town.
I know I always have a blast when I go, and Im sure you will too! If you decide to do any of these things be sure to tag me on Insta @wtfab so I can see all the fun you had.
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Enjoy Other Oceanfront Parks
If you enjoy strolling or picnicking by the ocean, here are some other oceanfront parks in Pismo Beach you will enjoy:
Palisades Park is a six-acre water-view park with recreation area and childrens playground. Enjoy picnic tables and barbecue facilities.
Grassy recreation area in Palisades Park
Eldwayen Ocean Park is a smaller park, located in the Shell Beach area. It features a grass-covered recreation area, picnic tables, and benches to enjoy the views.
Take the stairs to go down to the sandy beach and explore the tide pools at low tide!
Spyglass Park is a 4-acre oceanfront park that features a grassy recreation area plus a kids playground. Youll find barbecue areas and picnic tables here, plus benches to relax and take in the views.
The park offers access to a long sandy beach and the opportunity to discover marine life in tidepools.
Hotels In Pismo Beach
Seacrest Oceanfront Hotel overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the sandy beach. The hotel offers a pool and three hot tubs with water views. Rooms are spacious and well appointed. Relax on the rooftop terrace overlooking the ocean or on patios with fire pits. Book a stay here!
Inn at the Cove is a 15-minute walk from the beach. Many rooms have views of the ocean, and the hotel offers a heated pool and hot tub. Guest rooms are well appointed and in-room spa and massage services are available. Parking and wifi are free. Book a stay here!
Vespera Resort on Pismo Beach has an excellent location on the beach. The hotel offers an onsite restaurant and bar, and a shared lounge, terrace, and pool. Rooms feature contemporary furnishings, and some rooms have private patios. Book a stay here!
Shell Beach is stunning!
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Hike Other Avila Beach Trails
Outdoor lovers will find several trails in Avila Beach, other than the Cave Landing Trail, the Lighthouse hike, and the Bob Jones Trail, which weve covered separately here.
Flowers in bloom along Avila Beach hiking trail
The Shell Beach Bluff Trail is easy and relatively short, at 2 miles round trip. The paved trail winds its way over the bluffs for scenic views over the water.
The Ontario Ridge Trail is a moderate 2.8-mile loop that has wooded sections but also offers beautiful views of the ocean. Parts of the trail are quite rugged.
Sycamore Crest Trail is another moderate trail that passes through oak woodlands on its way up the ridge for wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean.
Things To Do In Pismo Beach: Coastal Beauty
This article discusses a lot of the fun things to do in Pismo Beach, California!
For many years, I have stopped at Pismo Beach, a coastal town located in San Luis Obispo Bay. We love to get some great food in town and check the pier.
Yet, my husband and I have never stayed in the area. And, you know me. I am obsessed with checking out every stretch of the California Coast. That is why we decided to add Pismo to our end-of-year vacation.
I am glad we did since our feelings for the area grew. We had a grandiose time and I am ready to share the best things to do in Pismo Beach.
Please note: This article contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link. Of course, this comes at no extra cost to you and helps me to keep offering solid information to readers.
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Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
Zach Behrens / Shutterstock
If youre looking for good vacation spots, you cant go wrong with the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.
The Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is yet another option among free things to do in Pismo Beach.
This stunning spot is the site where thousands of monarch butterflies cluster as they migrate for the winter.
These butterflies travel to Californias coast every winter and this grove is their largest congregation, boasting more than 25,000 of them.
The site of these stunning butterflies is nothing short of mesmerizing.
They huddle in eucalyptus trees, giving off the appearance of bright orange leaves as they hang upside down.
The insects do so in order to protect themselves from the elements and will move once the weather is warmer.
If its a nice afternoon, youll see them flying back and forth, feeding off nectar.
Its a well-earned bit of relaxation after their one thousand miles of travel.
In order to allow you to see them properly, the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove provides conveniently placed telescopes.
This is such a fun way to be privy to a truly unique sight in Pismo Beach, California.
The ideal time to visit with the intention of seeing these majestic insects is from November to January.
You can still see them as early as October and as late as February, though!
Address: 400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
Getting To Pismo Beach California
The SLO County Regional Airport, located near San Luis Obispo, has flight service from several major US cities.
Many visitors to Pismo Beach arrive by road. Pismo Beach makes for a great stop on a California road trip itinerary, or a Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
At just about 4 hours by the highway, Pismo Beach makes for one of the best weekend getaways from San Francisco or LA you can do.
At just under 5 hours, Pismo Beach is very doable if you are looking for weekend getaways from San Diego.
A view fromDinosaur Caves Park
From San Francisco, take US 101 S to Pismo Beach, and from LA or San Diego, take US 101 N.
If time isnt a constraint, drive scenic California Highway 1 instead of taking the freeway! Its one of the most scenic drives in California.
Going south from San Francisco or the SF Bay Area, stop at picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea or marvelous Monterey, enjoy the super scenic 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, or take in must-visit sights in Big Sur along the way.
Coming north from LA or points south, allow for time to spend in stunning Santa Barbara or tour charming Solvang, Santa Ynez, and other towns in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley en route.
Looking for a car rental for your Santa Ynez getaway? Check out Discover Cars! They scour multiple providers to get the best price for you, including brands like Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo, Budget, and Sixt.
A view from Margo Dodd Park
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Indulge In Fresh Seafood
One of the best things about visiting the Central Coast is the fresh, delicious seafood that you can find at the local restaurants!
Did you know that Pismo Beach used to be a major hub for Pismo Clam harvesting? Between the years of 1916 to 1947 around 100,000 pounds of Pismo Clams were harvested in Pismo Beach annually.
Due to unsustainable practices, Pismo Clams slowly disappeared and it is no longer allowed to harvest them. The last legal-size Pismo Clam was documented in 1993 .
Nevertheless, there are plenty of other seafood options that you can indulge in at Pismo Beach. Downtown Pismo has an abundance of seafood restaurants to satisfy any cravings!
A few popular local seafood eateries include the:
In October you can also part-take in the annual Pismo Beach Clam Festival where you can enjoy a parade, music, various activities, and of course, try lots of clam chowder!
Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
William C Bunce / Shutterstock
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is a gorgeous part of Pismo State Beach.
Its such a unique and fun location that it deserves its own spot on this list!
It is the only location in California where motor vehicles are able to freely drive on the beach.
Youll probably want to rent an ATV, motocross bike, or dune buggy if you dont have a four-wheel drive!
Driving on the sand is one of the top activities to enjoy in Pismo Beach.
Its almost akin to a huge natural sandbox thats just waiting for adventure.
It boasts ocean views from white sand hills, providing a sense of peace and relaxation.
As far as places to visit go, you wont find one more one-of-a-kind!
If you like off-roading, you definitely shouldnt miss this and if you dont, you can still enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming, and surfing!
Address: 100 Pier Ave, Oceano, CA 93445, United States
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The Best Things To Do In Pismo Beach California
Pismo Beach, along with Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, and Shell Beach are a series of beachside communities with rugged cliffs and gorgeous Pacific Ocean views, along Californias Five Cities Drive. The area is famous for beautiful wine bars and vineyards and loads of outdoor activities, including lush green parks, great farmers markets, and beautiful sandy beaches.
With some of the best views of the Pacific and waves drawing surfers from all over the country, this beach town is the perfect travel destination for summer or winter. Its a fantastic place for a family vacation or a weekend couples getaway! To help you plan your trip, we have compiled a list of the top things to do in Pismo Beach. Lets get to it!
Things To Do In Pismo Beach
First, let me tell you the city gets its name from the Pismo clam, a mollusk common in the area. So, if you visit, get ready to go on a clam chowder frenzy.
But, there is much more! You will run out of fingers and toes if you try to count all the Pismo Beach attractions!Get ready for sand dunes, bluffs, butterflies, sea caves, and hikes. I am spilling the beans on the things to do in Pismo Beach.
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Kayak The Central Coast
If you are traveling with kids who are at least seven years of age, book a tour with Central Coast Kayaks. The two-hour Morro Bay wildlife tour is flat-water paddling experience thats a fit for novices as well as experienced kayakers. Paddle between kelp forests and rock outcroppings as you glimpse sea otters, seals, and dolphins. Explore the tide pools filled with sea stars, anemone, and urchins. The guided tour includes instruction, all equipment, a wetsuit, snack, water, and souvenir photos.
For those looking for an adrenaline rush, the Dinosaur Cave Excursion is made-to-order. Wind through a series of grottoes, arches, and coves as you paddle in and around the Dinosaur Caves, only accessible from the water. For kids over 12 and their physically fit parents, this guided tour is equal parts strenuous and exhilarating.