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 Prismo 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, visitors can engage in an array of fun activities. In fact, there are enough attractions 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. To help you make the most out of your stay, I have rounded up nine of the best things to do in Pismo Beach.
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 is to buy it and to make a claim when needed.
Pismo Beach – Things To Do
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 activities for you and the whole family.
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 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 pier is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Pismo Beach. It is an iconic landmark and can easily be seen from the city’s many cliff-side hotels and beachfront resorts. It 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.
The Pismo Preserve is a beautiful, scenic 900-acre nature reserve. With 11 miles of trails, scenic overlooks, and a wide array of wildlife, this spot is a must for lovers of nature 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 experienced 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 incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a whale or two.
Dino 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. This spot is especially popular with families with children.
While the 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 views can be easily seen from the paved path which stretches around the park’s perimeter, revealing the many sea caves below.
In addition to exceptional views and walking trails, there are also plenty of picnic tables and open grassy areas to eat and relax here. For the kids, there is a lovely dinosaur and animal-themed playground.
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 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. There are a number of places where you can rent an ATV along the west end of Pier Avenue.
Oceano Dunes also offers other fun recreational activities, such as surfing, fishing, swimming and hiking. Popular hiking trails include the Oso Flaco Lake Trail, and the more challenging Sand Highway OHV Trail.
North Beach Campground
For those who love the outdoors and wish to experience the coast like a local, spend a night or two camping on the 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 Pismo Beach and its surroundings.
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.
Pismo Beach Wineries
The Pismo Beach area is home to plenty of great spots to sample some of California’s finest wines. 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 are short on time, the tasting rooms in the downtown area are great. Visit the Monarch Grove Winery Tasting Room, located 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 California’s Central Coast. On this personalized tour, you’ll visit all the small, out-of-the-way wineries that you might have missed on your own.
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 Beach 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 is 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.
Avila Hot Springs
Oil drillers discovered Avila Hot Springs in 1907 and the Budan family established it as a popular tourist spot. Just 2 miles from Avila Beach and Port San Luis Harbor, Avila Hot Springs features lovely natural hot springs and stunning architecture.
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 pool with slides, hot mineral soaking pool, massage therapy, and picnic and BBQ facilities. For some adventure, visit Wally’s Bike Rentals and tackle Bob Jones Bike Trail nearby.
Monarch Butterfly Grove
If you’re visiting California between November and February, be sure to stop by the 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 eucalyptus and pine trees.
This beautiful spectacle is a result of the 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 each year. Viewing the butterflies is completely free and is a lovely outing for the whole family.
Where To Stay In Pismo Beach
After a fun day of Pismo Beach activities, you will need a comfortable space to come back to. Below are some of the best accommodations near the beach and pier.
- Best Luxury Accommodation: SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel.
- Best Mid-Range Accommodation: Cottage Inn by the Sea
- Best Budget Accommodation: Motel 6-Pismo Beach, CA
What To Do In Pismo Beach – Final Thoughts
Pismo Beach is one of the most beautiful spots in California and has plenty to offer. Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the white sand beaches or engaging in the many fun activities nearby, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
Spending more time in California? Check out these fun day trips from San Diego.