There’s so much to love about San Luis Obispo. Exploring the beaches is at the top of my list, and today we’re getting into the best beaches in San Luis Obispo county!
Whether you want to play, swim, hike, surf, shop, sunbathe or simply sit back and unwind, you’ll find plenty of amazing beach spots with stunning Pacific Ocean view options to choose from.
The only hard part is choosing which one to visit first!
But don’t stress about it. It’s all about relaxing and enjoying a bit of the SLO Cal life, right?
That’s why I’ve put together this list of the best beaches in SLO to help you get started.
Best Beaches in San Luis Obispo
Located in the northern part of Cambria, Moonstone Beach stands out as the perfect beach for those who love long walks on the beach to take in the crisp ocean air.
The landscape of rocky bluffs and crashing waves is soo good for the soul.
You can either walk along the smooth stones in the sand and explore tidepools or—if sandy feet aren’t your thing—you can opt for the one-mile boardwalk and admire the view from above.
Either way, your time will be more than well spent.
Two words: elephant seals!
Besides being one of the most beautiful beaches in the northern part of SLO county, Piedras Blancas features the Elephant Seal Rookery that offers visitors prime elephant seal watching.
The number of elephant seals peaks three times during the year—January, May, and October—but you’re guaranteed to have a sighting at any time of year.
The sand area is inaccessible but there’s a boardwalk and designated viewing area to make it easy to take in all of the amazing natural sights that Piedras Blancas has to offer.
Just north of Morro Bay, you’ll find Morro Strand State Beach. It’s a protected beach that offers fantastic views of the iconic Morro Rock.
The expansive sandy beach makes it the perfect spot to chill out and sunbathe or toss around a frisbee.
There’s also plenty of camping available at Morro Strand Beach with standard camping sites for tents or full hook-up sites for RVs or trailers.
If you’re a camper, this is one of the best beachside places you’ll find in California!
At the Montaña de Oro State Park, one of the area’s most scenic parks located south of Morro Bay, you’ll discover Spooner’s Cove Beach. The beach lies directly across from the park’s campground.
Spooner Cove’s beach is a gorgeous, secluded cove with pebbly sand and lots of low-tide fun—like rock formations for climbing and caves and tide pools for exploring.
If you spot an old ranch across from the beach, it’s actually a remnant of a family-run dairy farm from the late 1800s!
This is a great little spot if you’re into tide pools or picnics—or both!
Eldwayen Ocean Park in Pismo Beach is a peaceful park situated above the coastline with stunning views.
You’ll get plenty of impressive ocean scenery staying up in the grassy area where you can enjoy a private picnic or BBQ.
You can also make your way down to the rocky beach to explore the many tide pools during low tide.
You’ll get a classic, all-around fantastic California beach experience at Pismo State Beach.
With lots of sandy shorelines for leisure or outdoor activities, a long pier and boardwalk for scenic walks and entertainment, great waves for playing and surfing, Pismo Beach has all the bases covered.
Another fun bonus—if you have a 4WD—you can actually drive your car on Grover Beach located in the middle part of Pismo State Beach! That’s a rare find, so take advantage of it here.
Pismo is also dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your beach-loving pup along!
Because it’s one of the largest with such a wide variety of things to do, Pismo State Beach is a cool spot to choose for an extended holiday at one of the many beach vacation rentals.
When not frolicking on the beach, it’s fun to enjoy the area’s farmers markets, San Luis Obispo restaurants and events, one of the tours of the local wineries, or a tasting at the neighborhood breweries.
For a peaceful, non-crowded San Luis Obispo County beach that’s perfect for a day of relaxation, Avila Beach is your spot. It’s safe and dog-friendly, making it ideal for families and kids. Surfing and fishing are also allowed.
If you’re in the mood for grabbing a bite somewhere, there are also restaurants and small shops within walking distance.
The 1,685-foot long Avila Beach pier also makes for a lovely stroll out over the water for some up-close views with the ocean waves.
One of Central California’s main attractions is San Simeon’s Hearst Castle, and if you’re on your way there or planning a visit, be sure to make time to take a breather at William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach.
It’s quiet, uncrowded, and absolutely beautiful!
There are two areas where you can have a picnic or just sit and unwind—a grassy area above or a sandy waterfront beach area further down. There’s also a pier if you want a more intimate ocean experience.
It’s not uncommon to find an elephant seal or two loungings around, so be prepared to have some company!
Situated just two miles north of San Simeon Cove, you’ll find a windsurfing and kiteboarding paradise at Arroyo Laguna Beach.
If you visit on a windy afternoon—when winds can reach up to 40 mph—you’ll be sure to catch a magnificent display of kites of surfers flying through the air!
Arroyo Laguna Beach is one of the 13 beaches that make up Hearst San Simeon State Park.
Pretty much only locals and experienced surfers that are in the know have the inside scoop about this peaceful beach in San Simeon. That’s why San Carpoforo Creek Beach is the ideal place to ditch the crowds and enjoy a relaxing day by the water.
There’s a flowing creek that pools up beside the ocean that breaches the sand at times and connects to the waves. If it’s really flowing, you’ll need to find a shallow enough place to cross over if you want to access the ocean itself.
Exploring the beach is best at low tide when you can also venture off to another nearby hidden spot, Ragged Point Beach.
The small, charming seaside town of Cayucos is one of California’s central coasts’ hidden gems. It’s not as talked about as its larger neighbors like Cambria or Morro Bay, but it has a wonderful beach that stretches six miles to Morro Rock.
Cayucos State Beach is protected so it makes it a less windy spot for beachgoers and makes for calmer waters that are perfect for swimming. There’s a pier and plenty of local surfers catching waves when the conditions are right.
Cayucos also has a playground, clean restrooms, and a chill vibe that make for a perfect family-friendly day at the beach.
If you love the idea of dogs and kids running around free on the beach (and lots of them), then you’ll love Fisherman’s Beach! You’ll find this popular spot on the last stretch of Avila Beach.
One thing to note is that this area is the most popular dog beach, so expect to find a lot of happy dogs playing around without a leash.
If you bring your fur baby to play, make sure it’s friendly and sociable as there will be a lot of children and other pups around.
13. Elmer Ross Beach
As one of the small cove beaches that make up the Shell Beach area in Pismo Beach, Elmer Ross is a quiet little spot where you can just chill and get away from it all.
It can be found below a steep bluff that you can access via stairs or ramps—or make it a lovely spot to rest during a kayaking expedition.
The famous Dinosaur Caves Park is also nearby if you feel like taking a stroll over during low tide for some serious tide pool and cave exploration.
Nestled between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach you’ll find the infamous Pirate’s Cove Beach. Disclaimer: clothing here is optional!
While not everyone chooses this route, you will see nudists on the beach. Overall, this SLO beach is not considered to be a family-friendly option suitable for kids.
Pirate’s Cove is also popular with hikers because of the many hiking trails you can access from this point. One trail also leads to the gorgeous Shell Beach area nearby.
Ok, so narrowing down the best beaches in San Luis Obispo is hard, even for me! There are just so many to explore, each offering their own slice of oceanfront heaven.
But the beauty of exploring the SLO life is that you can take your time to find the beach vibe that suits you best and discover your own treasures along the way. Let me know what you find!
You can always dm me on Insta @wtfab with any questions or recs in SLO.
Looking for more travel content? Get inspired for your next trip here.
Some of the best beaches in San Luis Obispo County are:
– Pismo Beach
– Avila Beach
– Moonstone Beach
– Piedras Blancas
It depends on what you’re looking for! If you’re looking for a boardwalk and more crowds definitely hit up Pismo beach. But if you’re looking for a quieter regular beach spend time at Avila beach.
Yes, Morro Bay is definitely worth visiting! There are so many fun activities to do and sights to see.