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A Close Up Of A Hillside Next To A Body Of Water

Must-Do Pismo Beach Activities

A family-favorite vacation destination, Pismo Beach is a classic California beach town nestled along the coastline just outside of sunny San Luis Obispo. Home to long stretches of scenic beaches and sprawling vineyards, hiking trails, and even butterfly groves, this corner of the Central Coast offers a variety of exciting activities and unique experiences to accommodate travelers of all types. Foodies, thrill-seekers, young families, and wine connoisseurs alike are sure to find their personal paradise along this Highway 1 stop.

We could go on and on about our favorite things to do in Pismo Beach, but if you're planning a quick weekend getaway, here are just the top 10 activities to include in your trip itinerary. 

For soaking up those Classic California vibes:

1. Pismo Beach

It may be obvious that the beach is the main attraction for both visitors and locals here in Pismo Beach. But what you might not know is that this stretch of shoreline offers ideal conditions for consistent surf and perfect waves, making Pismo a surfers California dream (without the crowds of bustling So-Cal!) Work on your tan as you lounge on the sand or make a splash with your board of choice—either way, a beach vacation is all about good times and tan lines. Just don't forget the sunblock!

A Sunset Over A Body Of Water With A Mountain In The Background

2. Pismo Pier + Plaza

In 2020, the same year that Pismo Beach celebrated its 75th Anniversary, the iconic 1,200-foot-long Pier reopened with fun new features at the entrance. In the center of the plaza, seven-foot-tall illuminated letters spell out Pismo Beach in changing colors, making for a totally Instagrammable backdrop complete with height markers so you can watch the kids grow each time you return for that annual family vacation. Little ones will love the ocean-themed playground with a humpback whale climbing structure overlooking slides that spit you straight onto the soft sand below, and parents will love the nap that's sure to follow. 

Travel Tip: The family fun doesn't stop when you stay at Pismo Lighthouse Suites! This kid-friendly hotel features a Play Deck with a playground, giant chessboard, badminton, ping pong, putting greens, and more! 

A Sign On The Side Of The Road

3. Downtown Pismo Beach

Quintessentially California, downtown Pismo is a classic West Coast town complete with retro neon signs, mom-and-pop shops, all-American diners, colorful collections of saltwater taffy, and surfers passing by with boards tucked underarm. Just add a Beach Boys song to this scene right out of the 1940s and let the nostalgia make you feel like a kid again as you stroll the streets with ice cream in hand. 

A Group Of People Walking Down The Street

For Exploring the Great Outdoors: 

4. Pismo Preserve

Recently reopened to the public, this protected land extends over 900 acres, featuring 11 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails that weave through oak woodlands along the coastal ridgeline. After the climb, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean range from Port San Luis to the Oceano Dunes and beyond. Before you hit the trails, be sure to check the current hours of operation

Travel Tip: Book your stay at either Shore Cliff Hotel or Pismo Lighthouse Suites located right across the street from the trailhead to avoid the stress of parking. 

A Sunset Over A Grassy Field

5. Monarch Butterfly Grove

Home to one of the largest populations of overwintering western Monarch Butterflies, the Pismo State Beach butterfly grove is an annual migration destination for Monarchs coming from as far north as Canada seeking warmer climates during the winter. From late October to February, as many as 10,000 Monarch Butterflies can be seen sheltering together in orange clusters like leaves in the canopy of the Eucalyptus trees above. This grove is one of only five sites in California, making it a top seasonal attraction on the Central Coast. 

A Large Tree

6. Oceano Dunes SVRA

Recognized as the most extensive sand dunes remaining in CA, the Oceano Dunes are an official State Vehicle Recreation Area, where visitors can camp, ride horses, host bonfires, and drive trucks, ATVs, dirt bikes, dune buggies, and more across the expansive 3,500 acres of sand. In fact, it's the only California State Park where (four or all-wheel drive) vehicles are allowed to drive directly on the shoreline. While off-roading on the dunes can be thrilling, it can also be dangerous for novices. Recreate responsibly by reviewing restrictions and safety guidelines before your visit. 

Travel Tip: If you're staying at Shore Cliff Hotel, ask the Front Desk about the Go-Pro rental program so you can relive your adventure for years to come. 

A Sandy Beach Next To The Ocean

For Taking it SLO:

7. Local Flavors

With a have-it-all location on the abundant CA Central Coast, Pismo Beach is where one of the world's most productive agricultural regions meets the rich bounty of the Pacific Ocean. Here, seasoned chefs and innovative tastemakers blend the best of both these worlds for a Surf & Turf dining experience unique to the San Luis Obispo county restaurant scene. Downtown you should stop by the famous Splash Cafe for a clam chowder bread bowl, get in line early for Old West Cinnamon Rolls or Surfside Donuts, and embrace California-style with a tri-tip, avocado, and curly fry stuffed Pismo Wrap from Hoagies. After all, calories don't count on vacation—right? 

A Plate Of Food

8. Annual Events and Festivals

Travel provides the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the local history, traditions, and lifestyle of your destination. Connect with Pismo's vibrant community through art, live performances, or simply by rubbing elbows with the locals at some of our favorite festivals and events. Check the calendar and plan to visit during the Classic Car Show weekend, Clam Festival (going on 75 years!), surf competitions, the Fourth of July festivities, or the holiday season. 

A Train Crossing A Bridge Over A Body Of Water

9. Wine Tasting

Located on the bountiful Central Coast, Pismo Beach offers the perfect pairing of wine and waves. Right here in the backyard of sunny San Luis Obispo lies the beautiful Edna Valley Wine Region, which is home to more than 27 distinct tasting rooms. With so many local wineries to choose from, there's sure to be a fine Central Coast wine to please any palate. 

Travel Tip: Please indulge responsibly—don't drink and drive. There are plenty of ways to taste and see the best of Wine Country without getting behind the wheel. Book a wine tour so all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. 

A Chair Sitting In Front Of A Window

10. Golf Courses

If you're an experienced golfer or just beginning to work on your swing, there are several world-class golf courses to choose from in the area. Tee up for a guaranteed good time at the 9-hole executive course at Pismo State Park's golf course, or nearby at Cypress Ridge in Arroyo Grande, or the Avila Beach Golf Resort

A Bird That Is Standing In The Grass

When you stay at one of Martin Resorts' oceanfront hotels (Shore Cliff Hotel or Pismo Lighthouse Suites) during your visit to Pismo Beach, all of this and more await just outside your door. Book directly today to save up to 20% on your stay

A Wooden Bench Sitting In The Sand