Guide to Planning a Vacation in Pismo Beach, California

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.

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.

If you're wondering what Pismo Beach looks like, take a look at what you can see and do there.

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.

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. The condition can start in May and often extends into 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. Browse a list of everything you can do during a Pismo Beach vacation.

Events for Your Pismo Beach Vacation

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

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 and our list of area campgrounds includes some companies who will rent you an RV and deliver it to your campsite even if you don't own one.

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.