The charming beach town of Pismo Beach, California is known for its stunning shoreline and friendly atmosphere. It’s a classic California surf town. But there is more to Pismo Beach than surfing! In fact, there are so many things to do in Pismo Beach from wine tasting and butterflies to clam chowder and cinnamon rolls, you’ll never get bored! So, if you’re looking for a beautiful place to spend your next vacation, plan a trip to Pismo Beach, California.
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Top Things to Do in Pismo Beach
Try Award-Winning Clam Chowder
One of the most popular things to do in Pismo Beach is to enjoy a bowl of delicious, award-winning clam chowder at the Splash Café!
Located right by the water, the Splash Café is one of the most popular places to eat in Pismo Beach as evidenced by the line that typically wraps around the building – don’t worry, it moves fast! In addition to serving up some of the best clam chowder in town, they also offer a variety of other seafood dishes and amazing burgers and fries that are sure to please your taste buds.
See Thousands of Butterflies
Pismo Beach is home to the largest overwintering site for monarch butterflies on the West Coast! Every year, from November to February, these beautiful creatures migrate to Pismo Beach in search of warmer temperatures and the best place to see them is at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, where you can take a leisurely stroll through a sea of butterflies. Admission to the grove is free, making it a great activity for those on a budget. You shouldn’t want to miss a moment of this amazing experience!
Take a Stroll Along the Pier
Pismo Beach has a historic pier that was built in 1874. These days, the pier is home to a collection of vintage airstreams that have been converted into mobile businesses including restaurants, shops, and even an art gallery. So if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, be sure to check out the airstreams on the pier.
Enjoy the Beach
Enjoy some fun in the sun and the sand! You don’t have to surf to have fun at the beach in Pismo Beach. Go for a walk, look for sand dollars, build a sandcastle, relax, etc!
If you’re looking for a fun and active activity to do in Pismo Beach, kayaking is the perfect option! Central Coast Kayak offers kayak rentals and tours to explore the coastline at your own pace. They also have a variety of other water sports equipment for rent, so check them out if you’re looking for a fun day on the water!
Take a Surfing Lesson
Pismo Beach is a world-famous surfing destination, offering perfect waves for beginners and experienced surfers alike. There are a variety of surf shops in town where you can rent equipment and many of the local surf camps offer lessons for those who are new to the sport. Try Pismo Beach Surf School or Sandbar Surf if you want to give it a try!
Visit the Pismo Beach Surf Museum
The Pismo Beach Surf Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of surfing. The museum offers a variety of exhibits and its located inside a surf shop where you can rent equipment. This is a great place to learn about the sport of surfing and its rich history. Furthermore, admission to the museum is free, making it a great activity for those on a budget!
Shop at Pancho’s Surf Shop
Pancho’s Surf Shop‘s tagline is “since back in the day” and they’re right. This surf shop has been around since I was a little girl. On my first trip to Pismo Beach with my parents (camping at Oceano), I bought a Pancho’s Surf Shop teeshirt and wore it until it wore out. Most recently, I stopped in for some flip-flops while I was pregnant and baby-mooning in Morro Bay and in need of more comfortable shoes.
Visit the Pismo Beach Dinosaur Caves Park
Dinosaur Caves Park is a family-friendly park with an interesting history! It’s named for the giant headless concrete dinosaur built in the 1940s which would lead visitors into a tunnel to an underground sea cave. Why was the dinosaur headless? Neighbors complained about the attraction and the owner stopped construction midway. A fire destroyed the dinosaur and the sea cave has since collapsed, but the name remains!
Eat a Delicious Cinnamon Roll from Old West Cinnamon Rolls
Old West Cinnamon Rolls is famous for its amazingly delicious handmade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting. They offer eight different cinnamon roll flavors including Original, Frosted, Crumb, Almond, Raisin, Walnut, Pecan, and Raisin Walnut. This is a great place to go for a sweet treat! Pro tip: order the frosting on the side. There’s often a line out the door!
Tidepooling at Shell Beach
Shell Beach is a beautiful beach located just south of Pismo Beach. This beach is known for its dramatic cliffs and beautiful tide pools at low tide. Also, this is a great place to go for a walk, relax in the sun, or take a swim. The beach is also home to various seashells, making it the perfect spot for shell collectors!
See a Show at the Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville Theater
The Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville Theater is a great place to go for an evening of fun and laughter! It’s also home to a museum, making it the perfect place to learn about the history of this type of entertainment. The theater offers a variety of live performances, including musicals, plays, and stand-up comedy, and also offers a variety of classes and workshops. Admission to most shows is just $15, making it a great option for those on a budget.
Attend the Pismo Beach Clam Festival
The Pismo Beach Clam Festival is held every year in October and celebrates the local clam industry. The festival offers a variety of activities, including a parade, a clam cook-off, and a Clam Chowder Cook-Off. Admission to the festival is free. This is an annual event that should not be missed!
Sample the Local Brews at the Pismo Brewing Company
The Pismo Brewing Company is a great place to go for a night out with friends and grab a bite to eat along with a handcrafted beer. The brewery also offers a variety of events, such as live music and trivia nights as well as tours, making it the perfect place to learn about the brewing process and sample some of the local brews! Admission to the brewery is free.
Where to Eat in Pismo Beach, California
With a variety of restaurants in Pismo Beach there is something for everyone! Here is a list of some of the best restaurants in Pismo Beach:
As I already mentioned, one of the most popular things to do in Pismo Beach is to enjoy a bowl of delicious, award-winning clam chowder at the Splash Café! Located right by the pier, the Splash Café is one of the most popular places to eat in Pismo Beach as evidenced by the line that typically wraps around the building – don’t worry, it moves fast!
Old West Cinnamon Rolls
Again, don’t let the line out the door dissuade you. Old West Cinnamon Rolls is famous for its amazingly delicious handmade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting for a reason. Try a plain cinnamon roll or try all of the other cinnamon roll flavors including Original, Frosted, Crumb, Almond, Raisin, Walnut, Pecan, and Raisin Walnut. Pro tip: order the frosting on the side.
The Cracked Crab
The Cracked Crab is known for its fresh seafood. Order the Seafood Bucket where they dump a bucket of steamed shellfish with spicy Cajun sausage, red skin potatoes, and corn cobbettes on your table, give you a mallet and crab crackers, and let you go to town!
Staying the weekend and want a fresh donut on Sunday morning? Stop by Surfside Donuts, known for its delicious donuts. The shop also offers a variety of other pastries, including croissants and muffins. Like other restaurants in Pismo Beach, there may be a line, but it moves fast!
With stunning ocean views and delicious seafood, Ventana Grill is the perfect place for a dinner date!
Cape Cod Eatery and Taphouse
Cape Cod Eatery and Taphouse offers delicious seafood and pour your own beers. Enjoy a lobster roll and a few of their 28 beers and hard ciders on tap.
Pierside Market offers acai bowls, ice cream, coffee, deli sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, burgers, crunchy tacos, and more! Located a few blocks from the pier, grab an acai bowl to go enjoy with the ocean view!
Slim Dilly Dogs
Slim Dilly Dogs is a great place to go for a quick lunch or dinner! With over 25 different hot dogs on the menu, you’re sure to find one you’ll like! There’s also an extensive selection of potato sides including french fries, baked potatoes, tater tots, and sweet potato fries! Perfect place to take the kids!
Scorpion Bay Coffee
If you’re waking up early to go surfing, stop by Scorpion Bay Coffee for a Scorpion Latte made with honey and cayenne pepper! It will wake you up! This local coffee shop is “surfer owned” and proud to support the local surfing community.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Pismo Beach is located near a number of other interesting places, which makes it the perfect place to stay for a while. Here are a few nearby attractions:
The Oceano Dunes are a series of sand dunes located on the coast of California. The dunes are a popular spot for camping, hiking, and picnicking. You can camp at the dunes (my family camped there several times when I was a kid). Several campgrounds are located near the dunes, making it the perfect place to stay for a night or two.
The Oceano Sand Dunes SVRA is a state-run park that allows you to drive dune buggies and ATVs on the sand dunes. This is a great place to go for a fun day of driving!
Avila Hot Springs
Avila Hot Springs is a natural hot spring located near Pismo Beach. The hot springs are open to the public and offer a variety of amenities, such as showers and a picnic area.
Wine Tasting in Edna Valley
The Edna Valley is the wine-growing region located closest to Pismo Beach. There are a number of wineries in the area which offer tastings and tours. If you get sick of the beach, wine tasting is a great alternative way to spend the day in the sun!
- Malene Wines: Malene offers rosé tastings out of their adorable 1969 Airstream trailer!
- Chamisal Vineyards: Sample wines while overlooking their beautiful estate. Or sample by the glass and bring along your own picnic to enjoy!
- Saucelito Canyon Vineyard: Tapas and tastings are available at this beautiful, outdoor tasting room specializing in Zinfandels.
- Biddle Ranch Vineyard offers a tasting in the amazing ambiance of its outdoor garden.
Where to Stay in Pismo Beach, California
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pismo Beach, here are a few of my recommendations:
The Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach is just steps from the Pismo Beach Pier. The oceanfront hotel offers a variety of amenities, including an outdoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center. Enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine and a slice of warm chocolate cake in front of a cozy fire pit at The Deck, the hotel’s beachfront bar and bistro. The rooms are comfortable and offer views of the ocean.
Kon Tiki Inn
The Kon Tiki Inn offers ocean views with every room and stairway access to the beach. I love the tiki theme and it’s been renovated in recent years. Perfect place to stay with kids!
Vespera Resort on Pismo Beach
The Vespera Resort is a beach-house-styled resort located on the beach and offers a variety of amenities, including a pool, spa, and fitness center. The rooms are spacious and offer views of the ocean.
Inn at the Cove
The Inn at the Cove overlooks the Pismo Beach cliffs and the ocean. The hotel offers clean, comfortable rooms, ocean views, and a variety of amenities, including an outdoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
Other Towns Nearby
The central coast has so many small towns and cities in close proximity that you can take a short drive and visit other awesome places and try delicious foods. Below are a few of my recommendations.
Avila Beach is a small community with a big heart. Once you get here, you’ll never want to leave! This place is perfect for those who love spending time outdoors and enjoying the company of friends and family. There are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, sunbathing, strolling the beautiful pier, and exploring the many tide pools.
Morro Bay is a great place to visit if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. This quaint town is located on the Central Coast of California and is known for its beautiful sunsets, amazing restaurants, and lovely small-town charm. There’s also Morro Rock which is a huge draw for visitors who love geology and birding. Oh! And don’t forget the adorable otters!
Cayucos is another small beach town located on the Central Coast of California. The town is known for its surfing, fishing, and beautiful beaches. There are also a number of antique shops and restaurants located in the town, but my favorite is the Brown Butter Cookie Co. Stop in for a sample and leave with two dozen, trust me!
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a city located on the Central Coast of California. The city is home to a number of attractions including Bubblegum Alley, the Cal Poly Architecture Graveyard, and the Madonna Inn!
Paso Robles is a city located in the heart of California’s wine country. The city offers a number of wineries, including Justin Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards, and Treana Winery. The city also has many festivals and events throughout the year, including the Paso Robles Wine Festival and the Paso Robles Mid-State Fair.
Los Alamos is a small town located in the Santa Ynez Valley. The tiny town is now known as a culinary destination. Stop by for some bread from Bob’s Well Bread, pizza from Full of Life Flatbread, or a tasting at one of the several wine and beer tasting rooms in town.
If you’re looking for a fun and exciting place to visit, Pismo Beach is the perfect destination! With plenty of things to do, beautiful beaches, and a charming small-town atmosphere, you’ll be sure to have a great time. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head on over to Pismo Beach!
I’ve always enjoyed my family vacations to Pismo Beach – we would always eat at Splash Cafe! Are you planning a trip to Pismo Beach, CA? What are you most looking forward to doing there? Let me know in a comment!
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Golden State Getaways wants to acknowledge that we live, operate, gather, and benefit everyday on the traditional stolen lands of several Indigenous peoples and nations including the Tongva (Gabrieleno), Kizh (Gabrieleno), Chumash, Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, Awaswas, and Fernandeño Tataviam peoples who have stewarded the lands and waterways throughout their many generations in what is now the state of California.
I wanted to personally acknowledge these Indigenous people and nations and both their commitment and current contributions to the land with a donation to the American Indian College Fund because acknowledgment without action does not begin to address the systemic issues facing Indigenous people. If you feel as though you benefit from the land you’re living on or traveling to and you have the means, I kindly ask that you donate at least $1 to a Native-led organization such as the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund.
Pismo Beach is on Chumash, Obispeño, and ‘Amuwu land. You can learn more about the Indigenous land you’re living on or traveling to by visiting the Native Lands website.