Pismo Beach might not get as much media hype as other Golden State beach towns, but that doesn’t mean you should scratch it off your bucket list. This serene place in Central California has got a lot going for it, including a historic pier, a laid-back surfer vibe, and fascinating flora & fauna. Anyone interested in taking it easy on their next trip to Cali will definitely enjoy a trip to this beautiful beach.
Although it’s relatively secluded, there are plenty of exciting attractions in Pismo Beach that’ll keep you busy. Of course, if you just want to lie out on the beach all day, that’s OK, too! For those who want to go touring around Pismo Beach, here are the 10 things you can’t miss:
- Pismo Pier and Promenade
- Monarch Butterfly Grove
- Dinosaur Caves Park
- Margo Dodd Park
- Price Historical Park
- Eldwayen Ocean Park
- Ebb Tide Park
- Spyglass Park
- Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
- Vista Lago Adventure Park
Let’s take a deeper dive into what makes these destinations special and why you should seriously consider a visit to Pismo Beach.
Why You Should Visit Pismo Beach?
The main selling point for Pismo Beach is its relative seclusion. While it might be a stretch to call Pismo Beach a “hidden gem,” it’s certainly less crowded and more laidback than other CA beaches like Huntington, Santa Monica, and Venice. This makes Pismo an ideal vacation destination for couples looking for those clichéd “long walks on the beach.”
Speaking of “long walks on the beach,” Pismo is distinct from other Golden State beaches due to its hard-packed sand. This makes Pismo Beach great not only for walking but also for outdoor activities like horseback riding and even ATV riding. For those interested in water activities, there are plenty of opportunities for kayaking, surfing, and fishing.
Another nice feature about Pismo Beach is its convenient location right off of Highway 101. When you look at a map, you’ll soon find Pismo Beach is almost as far from Los Angeles to the south as it is from San Francisco to the north. Drive time from LA to Pismo Beach is about 3 hours, whereas a trip from SF to Pismo is roughly a 4-hour drive. So, Pismo Beach isn’t a great idea for a day trip from either of these cities, but it’s a superb stop for anyone going on a road trip through central California.
Temperature-wise, Pismo Beach reaches highs in the 70s Fahrenheit in the summer and rarely dips below 45°F in the winter. Unsurprisingly, peak tourism season for all Central California beaches is between June – August when the weather is warm and dry. People traveling between December and February will still enjoy mild temps, but there is a higher chance for precipitation.
10 Things To Do In Pismo Beach
As you’ll see from the list below, most of Pismo Beach’s attractions are parks that are geared towards helping you better appreciate the region’s natural splendor. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t find high-adrenaline experiences or sensational shopping while in Pismo Beach. Let’s go through some of Pismo Beach’s most iconic attractions to help you better plan your trip.
1. Pismo Pier and Promenade
No visit to Pismo Beach is complete without taking a walk on the city’s historic four-diamond pier & promenade. Completed in the late 1920s, this 1,200-foot pier is the pride and joy of locals and the 18th longest in California. Plus, thanks to a multi-million dollar renovation in the late 2010s, Pismo Pier has never looked better. Obviously, this pier usually gets packed before sunset, so be sure to stake out your territory early if you want a good view. Besides strolling and watching the sunset, another popular activity on Pismo Pier is casting your fishing line. Common fish in the area include cod and red snappers.
You can learn more about Pismo Pier on this website.
2. Monarch Butterfly Grove
Did you know Pismo Beach is one of the best spots in California for seeing migrating monarch butterflies? Actually, Pismo Beach is one of only five official spots in the Golden State where visitors could appreciate these brilliant butterflies. In the Monarch Butterfly Grove, guests could see thousands of butterflies relaxing on the grove’s many Eucalyptus trees. Although butterfly counts vary year by year, it’s not unheard of for over 28,000 of these butterflies to migrate to Pismo Beach annually. Keep in mind this grove is only open between the end of October and February when the monarch season is at its height.
To learn more about the Monarch Butterfly Grove’s operating hours and special events, be sure to check out this website.
3. Dinosaur Caves Park
Dinosaur Caves Park has some of the best photo ops in Pismo Beach. Besides a few fun dino statues, this park has cute statues of seals, an orca, and even a few cracked dinosaur eggs to play in. There are also a few swings in this park sure to keep the little ones happy. But it’s not only local families that adore this grassy 11-acre park. Outdoor enthusiasts love walking along this park’s trail to take in the stunning views of the Pacific and the many flowers that grow in the region. Plus, there’s an amphitheater in Dinosaur Caves Park where live shows are frequently held. Anyone traveling to Pismo Beach with children should definitely add a stop to Dinosaur Caves Park on their visit to the city.
For more info on the Dinosaur Caves Park, check out this webpage.
4. Margo Dodd Park
Margo Dodd Park is most beloved by tourists for one attraction: a gazebo overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Once you stand in this gazebo for yourself, you’ll quickly understand why so many couples exchange vows in this sublime setting. Any time you visit Margo Dodd Park you’re bound to see unique rock formations, but keep your eyes peeled for sea lions that might be basking in the California sun. In addition to its great views of the ocean, there’s bicycle parking available here as well as a grass-covered recreational area.
For more info on how to get to Margo Dodd Park, check out this website.
5. Price Historical Park
Want to take a trip into Pismo Beach’s past? If so, then consider visiting the four-acre Price Historical Park by Pismo Creek. In this protected area, you’ll find two structures built by local luminary John Michael Price. Born in England in 1810, Mr. Price played a key role in founding Pismo Beach before passing away at the ripe age of 91. While this park isn’t really well advertised, it’s well worth the trek for any history buffs in the area. Please note: you can only legally tour these houses as a part of a private tour. To reserve your tour of Price Historical Park, please call (805) 773-4658 and request a referral.
You can find out more about Price Historical Park by visiting this website. By the way, those who are still curious about the legacy of Price could visit his gravesite in Arroyo Grande’s Saint Patrick’s Cemetery.
6. Eldwayen Ocean Park
Those who are in search of a picture-perfect coastline with minimal crowds should consider taking a stroll along Eldwayen Ocean Park. Located about a 15-minute drive away from Pismo Pier, Eldwayen is in a mostly residential area and has a 1.5-mile walking trail alongside the Pacific Ocean. Some tourists have claimed to see whales from Eldwayen during the migration season, so be sure to take advantage of the park’s telescopes on your walk. There are also plenty of grassy areas and benches in Eldwayen if you feel tired or simply want to take it easy by the ocean.
For more info on Eldwayen Ocean Park, please check out this website.
7. Ebb Tide Park
Another lovely park along the Pacific is known as Ebb Tide Park. Much like Eldwayen, Ebb Tide Park is in a quiet residential area perfect for taking a stroll. One of the nice things about Ebb Tide Park is there are lovely Monterrey Cypress trees growing all around. You can get some incredible pics as far as Port San Luis on your walk through this rather grassy park. Although Ebb Tide Park isn’t as built up as other parks on this list, it’s worth a visit if you want a bit of privacy and greenery.
You can learn more about Ebb Tide Park by visiting this webpage.
8. Spyglass Park
Today, Spyglass Park is best known for its revamped playground full of state-of-the-art slides, swings, and spinning things! But that’s not all Spyglass Park has to offer. Measuring about 4.5 acres, Spyglass is one of the largest and most accessible of Pismo’s many parks. Besides the playground, guests enjoy easy access to tide pools and incredible ocean views. There are also complimentary grills, picnic tables, bike racks, and restrooms on-site. By the way, everything at Spyglass Park is 100 percent handicapped-accessible.
For more details on what Spyglass has to offer, check out this website.
9. Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
There’s no better place in town to get your shopping fix than in the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Here you’ll find dozens of name brand stores offering steep discounts on sports apparel, fashion, and shoes. Just a few of the biggest outlet stores on the property include Nike, Vans, Levi’s, and Ralph Lauren. There are also a few novelty stores and jewelry outlets, but Pismo Beach Premium Outlets is focused on clothing or shoes. Please keep in mind there’s no food court in the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets.
To learn more about any deals going on at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets, feel free to visit this official site.
10. Vista Lago Adventure Park
Tourists searching for a thrill in Pismo Beach should schedule a trip to the Vista Lago Adventure Park. Located about 15 miles from Pismo Beach, this adventure park has three main attractions: obstacle courses, zipline excursions, and a free-fall drop.
To start, all of the obstacle courses are constructed with free-standing poles that vary in difficulty from beginner to intense. There’s also an obstacle course just for kids called “Chipmunk Park,” but this park is only opened seasonally. As for the ziplines, there are two major scenic lines that travel approximately 700 feet by lovely Lopez Lake. Lastly, people who visit “The Ledge” will get to experience the heart-pumping excitement of falling some 45 feet and landing safely thanks to a state-of-the-art belay system.
There are many different ticket options depending on what you want out of your adventure. Be sure to look over Vista Largo Adventure Park’s website to find out what times and tickets work best for you.
Free things to do in Pismo Beach
If you are on a budget, there are still plenty of things to do on your visit to Pismo Beach.
Walk on The Beach
The most obvious free thing to do in Pismo Beach is…well, to walk on the beach! As mentioned above, the hard-packed sand on Pismo Beach makes it a very soothing experience for slow walks, jogs, or even bike rides.
Browse the Farmer's Market
For those who are traveling during the week, consider visiting Pismo Beach’s weekly farmer’s market on the pier. Hey, it’s free to look, right? Usually, this market takes place between 2 PM – 5 PM every Wednesday, but check this webpage before your visit. There’s also the popular SLOVeg farmer’s market located in nearby San Luis Obispo that takes place every Thursday night. For more info on SLOVeg, take a peek at this webpage.
You don’t need a fishing permit to cast your line from Pismo Beach Pier. Don’t worry about paying any expensive fees if fishing is your thing. To learn more about fishing in Pismo Beach, you can read through this article put together by the city.
Romantic things to do in Pismo Beach
Quiet and low key, Pismo Beac is a great location for those looking for a romantic getaway.
Understandably, we tend to associate Californian wine exclusively with Napa Valley. While Pismo Beach doesn’t have the notoriety of Napa in the wine business, there are a surprising number of high-quality vineyards all around this beach. One of the most romantic ways to spend your vacation in Pismo Beach is to tour these local wineries and take part in a few taste tests. You could find out more about wineries in the Pismo Beach area by checking out this helpful webpage.
A Romantic Dinner for Two
If you don’t feel like touring wineries, then why not enjoy a glass of local wine at a beachfront restaurant? Pismo Beach is especially well known for its clams, but you’ll find plenty of eclectic cuisine options around the pier with excellent views of the beach. For a supercharged romantic experience, be sure to book your dining reservations before sunset. For an official Pismo Beach dining guide, check out this helpful link.
We hope you found this guide helpful! If you've visited Pismo Beach and have anything to add, please do leave me a comment below!