When it comes to beautiful, laid-back beach towns in Central California, it doesn’t get much better than Pismo Beach. Any trip to San Luis Obispo County or nearby Paso Robles warrants a visit to this lovely oceanside gem.
Although the beach is the main attraction of this small town, there are lots of other things to see and do in Pismo Beach—both beach and non-beach related. Whether you make it a day trip or an extended stay at a Pismo Beach Hotel, you’re sure to have an amazing time.
So if you’re planning a trip there (which I highly recommend), I’ve put together my list of 10 fun things to do in Pismo Beach to get you going!
10 Fun Things to Do in Pismo Beach
1. Stroll Along the Pismo Beach Pier & Promenade
Really, one of the best things you can do in Pismo Beach is to just relax, people watch and wander along the beach. Whether that means soaking in some rays with your toes in the sand or taking a long walk, beach time is always a great time!
The Pismo Beach Pier is the beach’s biggest draw, offering the most up-close-and-personal encounter with the vast Pacific Ocean that you can get on land.
It’s 13,700 feet long and gives visitors the perfect opportunity to stroll, watch surfers catching waves, take some scenic selfies, and meander along the promenade—definitely check out a beach surf shop for those classic California vibes.
If you time your visit for October, be sure to catch the famous Pismo Beach Clam Festival! It’s the town’s largest annual event with clam digs, live music, surf competitions, parades, and one of the best fall events in the SLO area.
2. Butterfly watching at Monarch Butterfly Grove
Two words: Monarch Butterflies! If you’re in Pismo State Beach between the months of November and February, witnessing the phenomenal effect of the annual Monarch migration is a must!
The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove counts over 10,000 Monarch Butterflies every year—there are only five sites in California that boast these numbers!
Thousands of Monarch Butterflies migrate to the same spot in Pismo State Beach, clustering on the branches of the area’s eucalyptus and pine trees to seek shelter from the cold winters of the north. It’s definitely a sight to behold!
3. Discover Dinosaur Caves Park
This 11-acre family-friendly park is a real treat. With ample grass areas, walking paths, gorgeous ocean views, and picnic tables, Dinosaur Caves Park has it all. The story behind its name is interesting too—a huge concrete dinosaur was built at this location in the 1940s.
It served as a tunnel where visitors could “enter” the dinosaur and descend into a sea cavern down below. Sadly, the cavern collapsed and the dinosaur was no more.
However, the dinosaur spirit remains with a dino-themed playground and dinosaur eggs that kids can crawl into, which is a big hit with the little ones.
While you’re there, be sure to walk over to nearby Margo Dodd Park at low tide to see what marine critters you can spot in the awesome tide pools!
4. Go Offroading on the Oceano Dunes
If beach sand off-roading is on your bucket list, Pismo Beach offers you the perfect opportunity! The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is the only spot in California that allows motor vehicles to access the beach.
It’s a popular spot for four-wheel drive enthusiasts that zip over the sand dunes on dune buggies, ATVs, and motocross bikes. But it’s also a cool spot to take some epic photos!
5. Hike at the Pismo Preserve
With 880 acres of open space, the Pismo Preserve is a coastal paradise for nature lovers.
There are over 11 miles of hiking trails of varying distances that take you through magnificent oak groves and along coastal ridges with spectacular ocean views. The trails can also be used for running, biking, or horseback riding.
6. Go Kayaking
Why not take advantage of that beautiful, massive ocean by hitting the open water? Kayaking is a popular activity because there are so many amazing spots for it in Pismo Beach.
Several shops around town offer kayak and equipment rental. Central Coast Kayaks is a big one and they offer gear rental, guided kayak tours, kayak fishing, and classes.
In California, where there are waves, there are surfers! If you know how to surf, grab a board and ride some waves by the Pismo Beach pier, the most popular spot in the area.
Other hot spots in the SLO area include “The Rock” in Morro Bay, further north at Cayucos Pier, and even farther north still to Pico Creek near Cambria.
Don’t know how to surf? This is the perfect time to have your first lesson! There are plenty of Pismo Beach surf schools and surf shops that would be more than happy to set you up with a private lesson.
8. Sip Some Wine
Pismo Beach is a small town, but they have a thriving bar scene and plenty of good places to eat and drink. Central California is renowned for its excellent vineyards and wineries, so sipping on some wine is almost a must when you’re visiting the area!
Tastes of the Valleys Wine Bar & Shop is a popular local spot, because of their friendly, knowledgeable staff, and their variety of wine tastings. Their wine list includes almost 1,000 wines! Go for a tasting and bring some bottles home as mementos.
9. Pamper Yourself at Avila Hot Springs
Just seven miles north of Pismo Beach you’ll find the luxurious Avila Hot Springs. The facility offers a variety of family-friendly activities, but their unique offering is their 20′ x 20′ therapeutic hot mineral pool where visitors can soak in all the health benefits of the 104-degree F artesian hot spring water.
You can easily spend a whole day here. Avila also features a big freshwater heated swimming pool with two twisty tube slides, massages, facials, and bike rentals if you want to cruise along the neighboring Bob Jones Trail.
If you have some more free time, explore Avila Beach to soak in the gorgeous ocean views post-self-care.
10. Shop Til You Drop at Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
Who doesn’t love a great deal? You don’t have to be a shopaholic to appreciate the awesome discounts you can get on name-brand goods at the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets.
There are over 30 major stores offering markdowns from the retail price including the Nike Factory Store, COACH, Kate Spade, Levi’s, Skechers, and more. Whether you’re in the shopping mood or not, it doesn’t hurt to take a quick browse around to see what kind of bargains you can find!
So who’s ready for Pismo Beach? Hopefully, my list of 10 fun things to do got you revved up for a visit to this dreamy Central California beach town.
I know I always have a blast when I go, and I’m sure you will too! If you decide to do any of these things be sure to tag me on Insta @wtfab so I can see all the fun you had.
Looking for more travel content? Explore more of my travel guides and recs here.
Yes, Pismo Beach is definitely worth visiting! There are so many fun activities to do and explore during your stay.
There are a lot of things to do in Pismo Beach like:
– Stroll Along the Pismo Beach Pier & Promenade
– Butterfly watching at Monarch Butterfly Grove
– Discover Dinosaur Caves Park
Pismo Beach can get busy during peak seasons, however, it’s usually not too crowded.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.