God, I love Pismo Beach. I know I’ve said that about all the places we’ve covered in the SLO County travel series, but damn I love Pismo. Every time I go, I have a memorable experience. It’s just a good, solid getaway with plenty to do and plenty of places to relax. Don’t get me wrong, each place we’ve visited thus far in the series – Cambria, Avila Beach, and San Luis Obispo – are wonderful locales to visit. But there’s just something about Pismo to me that’s different from all the rest. It’s got a different vibe – a bit livelier than the others in my humble opinion – while still retaining all the laid-back lifestyle qualities that make the Central Coast so damn appealing.
Where to Stay
Everyone has their favorite place to stay in Pismo. Places where their family has stayed since they were little, etc. etc. My favorite place is an inn I found in my thirties and is perfect – Cottage Inn by the Sea. Full disclosure, this is a sister hotel to the Fogcatcher Inn that I suggest in the Cambria travel guide. I enjoy the Pacifica brand of inns – they’re cute, adjacent to the ocean, and offer fireplaces. Cottage Inn by the Sea offers beach access and a nice walking trail right behind the property. It’s in an ideal location for everything Pismo has to offer, while being secluded enough to make you feel as if you’re getting away from it all.
What to See
Oceano Dunes – Ah, this is the best. An oceanside off-road experience if you have a Jeep or other vehicle suitable for off-road driving. Camping is available. Plan a visit and enjoy driving on the beach. Park for a while, read a book, take a nap, and enjoy a meal. The Oceano Dunes are a great way to spend the day.
Dinosaur Cave Park – An 11-acre park that overlooks the Pacific Ocean with a long running/walking trail. The park is adjacent to a cute neighborhood if you’re looking to extend your mileage and complete a loop. It’s a great park for a picnic or just to get a little exercise.
Monarch Butterfly Grove – From November to February, Monarch butterflies seek the warmth of the West Coast during winter. The Grove is a great place to see the beautiful butterflies.
Pismo Beach – Surf or just enjoy the ambiance of Pismo. Make a visit to the Pismo Beach Pier for seaside eats and photo opps galore.
Harmony House Yoga – I found this yoga studio on one Pismo trip and I think about it quite a lot. It’s one of the best yoga studios I’ve been to, and they’re offering virtual classes via Zoom right now because of the pandemic, in case you want to give it a go from your home. But the next time you’re in Pismo, you should check the studio out in person. It’s very warm and inviting and highly recommended!
Where to Eat
Splash Café – The Pismo Beach Splash Café should be on your list. Its beachfront location will make you crave their clam chowder loaded with your choice of toppings.
F. McLintocks Saloon & Dining House – For steaks, ribs, and seafood, this restaurant is the place to go in Pismo.
Where to Shop
Tastes of the Valleys – This is a wine bar on the main drag in Pismo that will provide you a delightful wine-filled experience where you can enjoy a full glass of wine and relax. An onsite wine shop will provide you with plenty of easy-to-access wine to take home.
Pancho’s Surf Shop – A West Coast surf shop with the usual fare, but Pancho’s is a fun store that’s a must-visit when in Pismo. Especially if you’re in need of sun care products or just a cool souvenir.
Moondoggies Beach Club – In case you missed Moondoggies in SLO, there’s another location in Pismo for your hoodie, caps, and other clothing/accessory needs.
Drift Boutique – Cute shop filled with clothing and gifts, I’m betting you’ll find some fun stuff here.
Pismo Beach Premium Outlets – A typical outlet mall but I always score when I visit, particularly at Vans and Converse.
Pismo Beach can be a wonderful vacation unto itself. The town has everything you need for a complete respite or fun-filled adventure – your choice. I do hope you give the Central Coast a go. It’s a wonderful area filled with fun.