Pismo Beach is located in the southern half of San Luis Obispo County, approximately 10 miles south of San Luis Obispo on Highway 101. The cities in the southern half of SLO County enjoy a consistently warm climate compared to the rest of the county, and Pismo Beach is no exception. With highs averaging in the 70s and lows in the 50s year-round this beach town is the perfect place to visit and experience what SLO County has to offer.
Pismo Beach is one of the smaller cities in San Luis Obispo County, but can easily feel like one of largest with the 2+ million tourists that visit this beach town every year. Pismo’s official population is 7,717 as of the 2010 census (or approximately 3% of the total population of SLO County), and is a community that relies heavily on tourism to sustain the local economy. The median age of residents in Pismo is 53 years, and 45% of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Pismo Beach is already a popular travel destination with the incredible surfing, shopping, and outdoor adventures available in the area. Whether you are from California’s Central Valley looking to spend a week at the beach, or a surfer looking to catch the next big wave, Pismo has something for everybody to enjoy. Keep reading to find out about the top attractions that keep bringing people to the central coast year after year!
The number one tourist attraction in Pismo is the beach. The sand is warm and smooth, the waves are big and perfect for surfing, and there is a huge pier where you can relax, fish, or watch the surfers up close. There are also a ton of restaurants and shopping within a block of the water, yoga on the beach, places to rent kayaks, boogie boards, and stand up paddle boards, and all the fun in the sun you could hope for at one of the most perfect beaches on in SLO County.
Monarch Butterfly Grove
Every year thousands of Monarch Butterflies migrate to Pismo and gather in the eucalyptus trees at State Beach from October through February. The Butterfly Grove in Pismo is open during those months for visitors and locals alike to wander in the splendor of the butterflies, and catch a glimpse of them in flight to their next destination.
The Pismo Preserve is a 900-acre nature preserve in Pismo that will open in 2019. With 10 miles of ranch roads and trails to use for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding, the preserve will provide unprecedented views from Pismo Beach to Irish Hills in San Luis Obispo, and all the way south to Point Sal in Santa Barbara County. The original project was delayed due to a major redesign when a sacred Chumash Indian Cemetery was discovered, but according to Mona Olivas Tucker, Chair of yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe of San Luis Obispo County and Region, “The creation of the Pismo Preserve gives us the opportunity to return to this important place and to participate in its protection. In doing so, it is our goal that this area will be respected by all.”
Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
The Pismo Beach Premium Outlets are approximately one mile from the coast, and are home to some of the best shopping in all of SLO County. Here you can find stores like Coach NY, Guess, Converse, Ralph Lauren, and Kate Spade alongside Harry & David, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and the Kitchen Collection. If you need a break from all that fun in the sun you are having at the beach make sure to stop by the outlets and find that perfect gift to bring home.
Hotlix Candy Store
For those that don’t already know, Hotlix is “The Original Insect Candy that Bugs”. Literally. Every piece of candy, snack, or chocolate has some kind of bug in it, and we are lucky enough to have a retail store right here in SLO County. Located just blocks from the beach in Pismo don’t be surprised if you end up bringing a whole bag of bugs back with you from vacation…well, edible ones at least…and some of the most unique souvenirs you might ever find on vacation.
There are hundreds of restaurants in and around Pismo Beach with incredible menus and flavors, and incredible people who run them. If you only have one day in Pismo though there are three iconic restaurants you just can’t miss!
Marisol at the Cliffs
The Brunch at Marisol is one that cannot be missed. There are so many good foods to choose from between the waffle station, a seafood market, main buffet foods, not to mention the Chef’s Carvery Station, mimosas for the adults, and more! This indulgent treat is a perfect way to end a vacation in Pismo and enjoy the good food, great views, and incredible time you had in SLO County.
Ventana Grill is by far one of the most popular restaurants in Pismo Beach. The views from the restaurant are stunning inside and out, the food is always incredibly fresh and flavorful, and the people are dedicated to delivering a fabulous experience with even better food. Whether you decide to swing by for brunch, lunch, or dinner, make sure grab a drink and enjoy some of the best food and views on the central coast.
Splash Cafe opened its doors in Pismo in 1991, and has been making a splash in SLO County ever since with their incredible clam chowder. These days their world-renowned chowder is sold nationally, and the owners, Joanne and Ross Currie, have started a gourmet catering division in addition to the two cafe locations they have in SLO County (Pismo (of course!), and San Luis Obispo). The Pismo location is just blocks from the beach, so make sure to stop by for some of their amazing clam chowder so you can officially enjoy everything Pismo has to offer.
With all the incredible food and beautiful locations in Pismo, it is not surprising that there are events to attend almost every weekend. From small, local events to big festivals and concerts, Pismo finds a way to celebrate everything that makes SLO County so special. There are two major events every year that define Pismo though: the Wine, Waves, & Beyond eight-day festival in Spring, and the 4th of July Fireworks in the summer. Keep reading to find out how you can join us for all the fun!
Wine, Waves, & Beyond: 805 Surf Classic
Every year surfers from around the globe are invited to the 805 Surf Classic held at the Pier in Pismo Beach. Hosted by non-profit Still Frothy, the event features an invitational team competition, an adaptive heat, women’s shortboard, and a local winemakers & brew masters heat. The surf classic is part of the larger Wine, Waves, & Beyond festival, an eight-day long event showcasing the food, wine, and surf culture that defines California and the central coast.
4th of July Fireworks
Fireworks are not allowed in many of the cities in SLO County, so several of the beach towns have made it their annual tradition to host a spectacular fireworks display. Pismo Beach is no different, and hosts one of the largest celebrations on the central coast with approximately 100,000 people in attendance every year. This free event starts bright at early with music and vendors providing entertainment before the fireworks begin. There are also VIP seats on the pier available for purchase that also come with special amenities. If you will be in Pismo for the 4th of July then make sure and make your way to the pier for one of the best fireworks displays you’ll ever get the chance to see.
Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or a fun family vacation, Pismo Beach offers lodging options for everyone at every budget.
On the higher end you can find places like the Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa, which is just the perfect location for a romantic getaway weekend. Here you can enjoy fine dining at their restaurant, Lido; indulge in a treatment from the spa; and relax by the pool or as you walk along the beach, which is accessible from the hotel property.
A wonderful mid-range option is the Cottage Inn by the Sea in Pismo, a quaint hotel inspired by the English countryside. All of the guest rooms are a short walk to the downtown area and Pismo Pier, or you can stay on the property and enjoy the incredible ocean views every room has to offer.
One of our favorite and most reasonably-priced options to stay in Pismo is to go camping! There are several campgrounds available in Pismo where you can pitch a tent or hook up your RV for the weekend, like the Oceano Campground and North Beach Campground that are located at Pismo State Beach. Plus there is no better way to get your ATVs out to the dunes for the weekend so you can enjoy everything Pismo Beach has to offer.