Pismo Beach is one of California’s most iconic coastal cities. It is located in the southern part of San Luis Obispo County, between San Francisco and the famous Malibu Beach. It might not be as known as Los Angeles or San Diego, but for sure, the number of things to do in Pismo Beach will keep you entertained for days.
The vintage Pismo Beach exudes a hometown charm with spectacular ocean views. On the beach, you will find one of California’s most famous landmarks, the Pismo Pier. The pier serves as a central gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.
In and around the beach is where you will find many things to do and fun activities in Pismo Beach. In fact, there are enough attractions in Pismo Beach to keep you busy for days. From its white-sand beach to the popular Dino Caves Park and Monarch Butterfly Grove, there is so much to see and do in Pismo Beach.
To help you make the most out of your stay, I have rounded up ten of the best things to do in Pismo Beach. Follow these tips on what to do in Pismo Beach and fun is guaranteed.
Before we jump into the list of the best things to do in Pismo Beach Ca, and all the travel tips, let me give you one important piece of advice. It’s especially important if you plan to go out and about and try outdoor activities.
Remember to buy your travel insurance. It’s a small investment that can save you thousands of dollars if something bad happens. We have been using SafetyWing for years and really like how easy it is to buy it and make a claim when needed.
Top Things to do in Pismo Beach, California
If you’re in California and looking for things to do, Pismo Beach has it all. From its beautiful beaches and outdoor trails to its vibrant, bustling pier, there is never a dull moment.
Listed below are some of the best Pismo Beach attractions and exciting activities for you and the whole family.
1 – Visit Pismo City Beach and Pier
No visit to California is complete without a trip to the magnificent, 17-mile-long Pismo City Beach. While the sandy beach is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing, there are plenty of things to do. Including surfing, watersports, and walking along the pier.
The Pismo Pier is the most popular place in Pismo Beach, and a must-see. It is an iconic landmark and can easily be seen from the city’s many cliff-side hotels and beachfront resorts in Pismo.
The Pismo Beach Pier is a great vantage point and offers incredible views of the ocean and coastline. It’s also the perfect spot to watch the California sunrise or sunset.
With so much to do, one can easily spend a full day here. If you are hungry, head to Pismo Beach Promenade. Here, you’ll find a lovely assortment of trendy restaurants and even the traditional clam chowder.
If you don’t know yet, Pismo Beach is famous for its clams, has the title of Clam Capital and the city hosts an annual event called the Pismo Clam Festival that started in 1946. It is one of the most traditional seasonal events in Pismo Beach and involves live music, food trucks, and a park for children.
It’s definitely one of the fun things to do in Pismo Beach for families.
As we are talking about Pismo Beach Downtown, let me give you some recommendations.
If you are looking for some of the best places to eat in Pismo Beach, check out the streets near the beach and also Price Street. It has a wide range of restaurants, and it has some of the most known Italian restaurants in Pismo Beach.
For shopping, you have two options. One is to check out all the shops in town or go to Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Pismo outlet has a wide selection of shops and brands.
2 – Get outdoorsy at Pismo Preserve
The Pismo Preserve is a beautiful, scenic 900-acre nature reserve located along Highway 101. With 11 miles of trails, scenic overlooks, and a wide array of wildlife, this spot is a must for nature lovers and the outdoors.
You will find hiking trails suited to all levels here. For beginners, I recommend trying out the Pismo Discovery Trail. For more advanced hikers, the Peekaboo Trail and Vamanos Canyon Trail are sure to give you a challenge.
On these trails, explore the natural landscapes of woodlands, open pastures, and coastal ridges. From the preserve’s lookouts, you are rewarded with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a whale or two.
The reserve’s single tracks are open for hikers and cyclists, and it is also a good place if you want to try horseback riding in Pismo Beach.
So if you are an outdoorsy person and want to experience hiking in Pismo Beach, this reserve must be on your itinerary.
If after visiting Pismo you head to Northern California, check out these 11 incredible hikes in NorCal.
3 – Discover the story of Dinosaur Caves Park
This magnificent Pismo park got its name from a large concrete dinosaur structure that used to lead into the sea caves below. Known as Dino Caves Park, this natural space is now a favorite amongst bikers, joggers, and anyone looking for a leisurely afternoon outside.
It’s a popular park among families with children, and it’s also a venue for events and weddings.
While the metal dinosaur structure no longer exists, Dino Caves Park boasts an incredible shoreline. Moreover, the 11-acre park sits atop a rugged bluff, providing some of the best ocean views around.
These stunning ocean views can be easily seen from the paved path which stretches around the park’s perimeter. From there you can see many sea caves below.
You can choose from an abundance of walking trails with panoramic views. Or plan a relaxing afternoon using one of the picnic tables available on the open grassy areas. For the kids, there is a lovely dinosaur park and an animal-themed playground.
4 – Have fun at Oceano Dunes SVRA
Within Pismo State Beach is a giant natural sandbox known as the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Sprawling white sand dunes overlook the ocean and offer a lovely escape away from the bustling city.
Many people visit this unique spot in Pismo Beach in their own four-wheel drive vehicles. It only costs $5 USD to register your vehicle for off-roading, so it is a fairly inexpensive activity.
Other popular ways to explore the dunes are with a bike, dune buggy, or an ATV. The west end of Pier Avenue is the place to go to rent the equipment and go ATV riding in Pismo Beach dunes. You can book your dune buggy here.
Oceano Dunes also offers other fun recreational activities, such as surfing, fishing, swimming, and hiking through the dune trail.
Popular trails for hikers are the Oso Flaco Lake Trail and the more challenging Sand Highway OHV Trail, which is perfect for intermediate hikers.
If you are wondering if camping in Pismo Beach dunes is possible, the answer is yes! You can stay at the Oceano Campground, and enjoy the dunes from sunset to sunrise.
5 – Sleep under the stars at North Beach Campground
For those who love outdoor activities and wish to experience the coast like a local, spend a night or two camping near Pismo Beach. Wake up to the sound of crashing waves and enjoy gazing at the starry sky.
One of this campsite’s biggest draws is its location, as it provides easy access to the beach and its surroundings, and it’s close to the lovely Meadow Creek Trail.
Pismo North Beach Campground features 103 tent camping facilities and a campfire center. There are no hook-up sites, however, there are pay showers and restrooms available. Best of all, leashed pets are more than welcome!
To reserve a spot, visit the Reserve California website.
If you want to stay close to the North Beach Campsite site, but don’t want to ditch the comforts of a hotel, here are two hotels in Pismo Beach, Ca, that might be perfect for you.
SeaVenture Beach Hotel – 3-star hotel nearby North Beach Campground. (click on the hotel name to book it)
Ocean Palms Motel – a well-rated motel in Pismo Beach. (click on the hotel name to book it)
6 – Taste the best Pismo Beach Wineries
The Pismo area is home to plenty of great spots to sample some of California’s finest wines produced in the Edna Valley region.
Some of the state’s oldest grapes are grown here, and they grow rather well due to the mild temperatures in the region. For this reason, the Central Coast is able to produce some of the best wines, including sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc, riesling, and many more.
If you don’t have much time to explore the wine region, try visiting one of the tasting rooms in the downtown area, they are great.
Visit the Monarch Grove Winery Tasting Room near the Pismo Beach Golf Course. Another great option is Tastes of the Valleys Wine Bar. This is a relaxed wine shop and tasting room which offers a broad selection, including many Central Coast reds and whites.
If you have an afternoon to spare, consider a full-day tour of Paso Robles Wine Country, located at the heart of the Central California Coast. On this personalized tour, you’ll visit all the small, out-of-the-way wineries that you might have missed on your own.
7 – Visit Pismo Beach Surf Museum and Shop
If there’s one thing this beach city is known for, it’s surfing. Dive into the history of Pismo by paying a visit to Pismo Beach Museum.
The museum is housed in the oldest surf shop on California’s central coast, which has been around since 1962. Visitors can admire the local lore and sport history showcased throughout the shop.
Today, Pismo Surf Museum and shop are more than just a hub for surfing. The shop now specializes in kayaking, diving, and SUP surfing. It also features a unique garden at its center, located at the southern gateway of Pismo Beach.
So if you are looking for any equipment for water activities you probably will find it at Pismo Beach Surf shop and museum.
8 – Discover the hot springs in Pismo Beach
Oil drillers discovered Avila Hot Springs in 1907 and the Budan family established it as a popular tourist spot in Pismo. The relaxing natural hot springs are located 2 miles from Port San Luis Harbor and Avila Beach.
Whether you’re looking to beat the summer heat or escape the winter cold, Avila Hot Springs is a great place to relax and soak away your worries.
Some features include a heated freshwater outdoor pool with slides, a hot mineral soaking pool, massage therapy like hot stones, and picnic and BBQ facilities.
The hot springs mineral pool is 2 feet deep and the water is around 104 Fº (40ºC).
For some adventure, visit Wally’s Bike Rentals and tackle Bob Jones Trail nearby. Another popular spot nearby is the Avila Valley Barn which is a farm serving classic dishes, barbecue, and local products.
9 – Admire nature beauty at Monarch Butterfly Grove
If your trip dates are between November and February then you have one special thing to do in Pismo. You must visit the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.
This time of year is when the annual monarch butterfly migration takes place. Witness tens of thousands of butterflies as they descend upon Pismo Beach, clustering together amongst the cypress trees and eucalyptus trees.
This beautiful spectacle is a result of the monarch butterflies seeking shelter from the cold northern winters. Gracing the grove with their vibrant orange and black wings, they continue to draw in visitors from near and far.
While these pretty creatures can be seen migrating to several other locations, Pismo Beach draws in one of the largest colonies in the United States. The Monarch Butterfly Grove reportedly sees an average of over 25 000 butterflies in Pismo Beach each year.
This is one of the unique and free things to do in Pismo Beach, as viewing the butterflies is completely free and is a lovely outing for the whole family.
10 – Experience Pismo Beach green spaces by the ocean
Here are three Pismo parks that are small in size but offer picturesque ocean views and they might be less crowded. Actually, some of these oceanfront parks are hidden gems in Pismo Beach.
Margo Dodd Park is near Dinosaur Cave Park, so you can visit both on the same day. It’s a great place to relax and for photography.
Talking about photos, it’s one of the best places in Pismo Beach to observe sea life and bird watching. So bring your zoom lenses or binoculars.
From the park, walk along Ocean Boulevard towards Pier Avenue. There you will find a hidden beach that is part of the Sheel beach Coastal Conservancy Preserve and where you can admire the tide pools and rock caves, and even go snorkeling.
Eldwayen Ocean Park is another green space close to downtown Pismo Beach that offers beautiful views and it’s a great place for a picnic in Pismo. There you can also see the tide pools and different rock formations. It’s also close to a stretch of beach where you can relax.
Going north you will find Spyglass Park, which has a bit more than 4 acres of green area with beach access to a mile and half sandy beach and the famous Spyglass tide pool. Apart from the gorgeous beach views, there you will find barbecue areas, picnic tables, playground structures, and bathrooms. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset in Pismo Beach.
There are many green spaces and parks in Pismo Beach, you will probably run out of time to visit them all. But in case you want to explore afield, take note of these names: Palisades Park, Ebb Tide Park, Memory Park, and Price Historical Park.
If you are a park enthusiast, then read these two articles before planning a trip to California: 10 Stunning West Coast National Parks you must visit and The Most Impressive Mountain Ranges in the US.
Where to Stay in Pismo Beach, Ca
After a fun day of Pismo Beach activities, you will need a comfortable space to come back to and rest. Below are some of the best accommodations near the beach and pier in Pismo.
This 4-star hotel is one of the best hotels in Pismo Beach. Facing the beach, Vesper Resort has amazing rooms, a beautiful pool, a sundeck, and helpful staff. The hotel also offers a fitness center, lounge, and free bikes for guests.
The hotel rating is 8.4 – Very Good, and it’s good to mention that the property is dog friendly. It has the perfect Pismo Beach address, near the city’s pier.
- Mid-Range Accommodation in Pismo with oceanview: SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel
This is a great option for those who want to stay in one of the best beachfront hotels on Pismo Beach for a fair price. The hotel has an average rating of 8.9 – Fabulous, from more than 1,900 previous visitors, so you know you are booking a comfortable room with amazing views.
The location is superb, close to Pismo Beach Downtown and Pismo Preserve.
- Best Budget hotel in Pismo: Cottage Inn by the Sea
This is a good option for those traveling to Pismo Beach on a budget. Comfy rooms, mid-range rates, and friendly staff. The hotel offers a heated pool and the Pismo State Beach is 10 minute’s drive.
What to do In Pismo Beach – Final Thoughts
Pismo Beach is one of the most beautiful spots in California and has plenty to offer.
Our list of 10 places to visit in Pismo Beach is focused on the city area, but there are many other spots nearby that are worth a visit, such as Port San Luis Lighthouse, Pirates Cove Beach, the towns of Grover beach and Arroyo Grande.
Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the white sand beaches, admiring the beautiful views of the coast, or engaging in the many fun activities nearby, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
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