With its cliffs perched over white sand beaches and jaw-dropping ocean views, the scenic town of Pismo Beach is a beautiful gem on California's Central Coast. Historically known as the "Clam Capital of the World," it is an ideal base from which to explore the Five Cities community. The community is a cluster of cities in that area of San Luis Obispo County, along Highway 1 as it winds through the beautiful landscape south of Big Sur. There are quite a few options for hotels, too.
Hit the Beach and Stroll on the Pier
AddressPismo Beach Pier, Pismo Beach, CA, USA
Take a stroll along the quarter-mile Pismo Beach Pier, located at the end of Addie Street, for fabulous views of surfers, seabirds, and maybe even a dolphin or two. It is quite scenic at sunset. Amenities at the beach include restrooms, sand showers, volleyball courts, a children's playground, benches, picnic tables, and drinking fountains.
Picnic in Dinosaur Caves
Perched high on a bluff, the 11-acre oceanfront Dinosaur Caves Park, at the corner of Cliff Street and Shell Beach Road, has all the ingredients of a perfect picnic spot, with its spectacular coastal views, manicured lawn, walking paths, and restrooms. There is a playground for children with sculptures of dinosaur eggs, dolphins, a whale, and a galleon. Be sure to take the long staircase down to the beach to spy on seals and hunt for sea glass.
Explore the Beach on Wheels
You can choose from a wide selection of pedal-powered vehicles to rent from Wheel Fun Rentals on Pismo Beach, including surreys, deuce coupes, choppers, quads, cruisers, tandems, and tag-a-long bikes. Or try the Fun Cycle, a three-wheeler that is custom made for riding on beaches like Pismo.
Take a Surfing Lesson
Just south of the Pismo Beach pier, the Sandbar Surf Company offers lessons on the basics of surfing. Lessons are customized to meet every skill and ability level from the first-time student to intermediate and advanced surfers. Classes are available in a private or group setting.
Scream for Ice Cream
It is well worth a trip to nearby Arroyo Grande or San Luis Obispo to visit Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab for ice cream made the old-fashioned way in the authentic turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor with 64 flavors, including sea salt caramel, merlot raspberry truffle, mint fudge oreo, and Butterfinger blast. Tuesdays are an all-you-can-eat night.
Take a Naturalist Kayak Tour of the Coast
Grab a paddle at Central Coast Kayaks for its naturalist tour, which is perfect for beginners and explores the nearshore environment along our coast. You will paddle between rock outcroppings and kelp forests and may spy otters, seals, and dolphins. You may even stop to explore tide pools which are home to crabs, starfish, sea anemone, and sea urchins.
Drive on the Dunes
Does your family feel a need for speed? Head to Sun Buggy and rent two- or four-seat dune buggies or ATVs and zip across the sand. Mini ATVs are available for kids 10 and up; Single-seat Dune Buggy Jrs are available for kids 12 and up.
Learn Through Play
Designed for kids up to age 10, the nearby San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum is a fun rainy-day place to explore. Dozens of hands-on exhibits let kids role-play, create arts and crafts, and discover through doing. Inquire about the educational workshops scheduled each week.
Visit a Butterfly Grove
From late October to February every year, thousands of monarch butterflies flock to the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove to seek shelter from the cold northern winters. The butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach. Volunteer docents are on hand to answer questions and give daily talks. The Pismo Beach monarch colony includes an average of 25,000 butterflies and is a marvel to behold.