Plan a Vacation in Pismo Beach

The ultimate California beach getaway

Pismo Beach Pier at Sunset
Bill Richards/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Pismo Beach, located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the quintessential California beach town. It's a smaller town, with a short main drag leading to a pier jutting out into the sea. It's the kind of place where you can play beach volleyball or fly a kite, then drop into the local clam chowder joint for a bite to eat.

Seaside town of Pismo Beach on the Pacific Ocean on the west coast of California, USA
nik wheeler / Getty Images

Why Should You Vacation in Pismo Beach?

If you're planning a Pismo Beach vacation, it's perfect for a family getaway or a wild time playing on the sand.

With wide, sandy beaches, Pismo has plenty of places to work on your tan, build a sand castle or dig for Pismo clams. The sand dunes on the west side of town are a fun place to ride an ATV or take a guided tour in a Hummer vehicle with Pacific Adventure Tours or Xtreme Hummer Adventures. Passenger vehicles can also drive onto the beach - and you can camp on it, too.

If you get tired of the beach, the San Luis Obispo wine country is nearby.

Pismo Beach Cove
Moelyn Photos / Getty Images

Best Time to Take a Pismo Beach Vacation

Californians know that summer isn't our best beach season, but in case you're from somewhere else and planning a Pismo Beach vacation, you need to know that the California coast is prone to "June gloom." That happens when the offshore ocean fog layer comes inland and hovers over the shore all day long.​ It can start as early as "May Gray", sometimes lingering into "No Sky July".

That makes it easy to guess that April or August may be better times of year to visit. In fact, the best time for a Pismo Beach vacation, weather-wise is Spring or Fall when the skies are clearer and crowds smaller.

Things to Do on a Pismo Beach Vacation

Riding on the dunes is the most popular activity at Pismo Beach, but there's plenty to do besides that.

You can play on the beach, go on a biplane ride, go visit a scenic lighthouse or take a drive along the coast.

Events for Your Pismo Beach Vacation

  • Monarch butterflies winter at Pismo State Beach from November through February. 
  • The Pismo Beach Classic car show brings lots of cool autos to town the third weekend in June.
  • The Pismo Beach Clam Festival happens in October.
Brad's Restaurant
Courtesy of Brad's Restaurant 

Where to Eat on Your Pismo Beach Vacation

You'll find plenty of places to eat in your Pismo Beach vacation and some nice places for oceanfront dining. You can use your favorite app or website to find a place to eat that will suit your taste best, but you can't beat Splash Cafe at 197 Pomeroy Ave for yummy clam chowder. According to AAA's Via magazine, Splash Cafe was mentioned among the best places to eat clam chowder on the West Coast. All those happy customers can't be wrong, slurping up more than 40,000 gallons of it per year.

Just down the street, Brad's restaurant serves good clams and chips (or fish and chips) and they have a sunny outdoor patio.

SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel
Courtesy of SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel 

Where to Stay on Your Pismo Beach Vacation

You'll find plenty of hotel options for your Pismo Beach vacation. Some of them are situated on the bluffs above the ocean, with fantastic views. You can use Tripadvisor to compare prices and check visitor reviews.

Many people also spend their Pismo Beach vacation in a recreational vehicle. Some of the area campgrounds include companies who will rent you an RV and deliver it to your campsite even if you don't own one.

Sunset Avila Beach
Mimi Ditchie Photography/Getty Images

Side Trips and Nearby Towns

A few miles north of Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo is one of California's oldest towns, with an old Spanish mission to explore and a lively downtown shopping area.

Avila Beach is just north of Pismo, on the north side of the shallow bay. It's a smaller place, with a charming fishing harbor and a few places to eat. Tours to visit the scenic Point San Luis Lighthouse also leave from Avila.