Located on the central coast of California, a visit to Pismo Beach is one of the best things to do in San Luis Obispo, as its picturesque coastline is only a 15-minute drive away. One of the city’s most popular attractions is the Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach, where monarch butterflies take shelter in winter. If you’re searching for the best Pismo Beach restaurants and Pismo Beach hotels, head downtown. This is also where you will find the city’s iconic wooden pier and the oceanfront Pismo Beach boardwalk. As for things to do in nearby Avila Beach, spend a relaxing weekend at Avila Hot Springs. Here are more fun things to add to your personal Pismo Beach activities calendar.
1. Pismo Beach Pier
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks is the Pismo Beach Pier. Located at Pismo State Beach, the wooden pier recently underwent renovations. People often visit the pier to do some free fishing and surfing, as it’s actually one of the best surfing locations on the central coast. Avid surfers also take to the waves at night, thanks to the pier’s expert lighting. While visiting the pier, don’t miss a stroll along the beachfront boardwalk.
2. Monarch Butterfly Grove
The Monarch Butterfly Grove at Pismo State Beach is one of only five sites in California that is visited by over 10,000 monarch butterflies annually. From late October to February, tens of thousands of black and orange monarch butterflies take shelter from the cold northern winters in the grove’s eucalyptus trees. During the season, the Docent Trailer is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily, with talks at 11 am and 2 pm.
3. Dinosaur Caves Park
Dinosaur Caves Park is an 11-acre grassy area sitting atop a rugged oceanfront bluff. It’s popular with walkers and joggers, as it has walking trails that are a part of the California Coastal Trail, which is designed to connect the entire California coastline. Dinosaur Caves Park is also home to an amphitheater that’s available to rent for special events, and a large children’s play area with dinosaur eggs to hide inside and a tire swing. We think that Dinosaur Caves Park is one of the best things to do in Pismo Beach with kids.
4. Margo Dodd Park
Next door to Dinosaur Caves Park is Margo Dodd Park. Sitting atop a coastal bluff as well, this park has a grassed area, a gazebo, and two picnic tables. The island and large sea stacks just off the shoreline are great places to do a spot of birdwatching too. From the park, you can access Margo Dodd Beach. Head there to photograph the rock arches, see tide pools at low tide, and to go snorkeling.
5. Eldwayen Ocean Park
Eldwayen Ocean Park is – naturally – located along the coastline from Margo Dodd Park. Featuring a long narrow grassed area on an oceanfront bluff, take the stairway from the park to a narrow sandy beach. With tide pools as well, it’s a great place to launch a kayak and explore the caves and rock arches underneath the aforementioned parks too. Exploring this coastline is one of the best things to do in Pismo Beach.
6. Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
If you feel the need to shop until you drop while exploring the city, you need to visit the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets. Conveniently located halfway between LA and San Francisco, the shopping outlet is home to 40 designer and name-brand outlet stores, where you can enjoy daily savings of 25% to 65% off the recommended retail price. Popular stores include Kate Spade New York, Nike Factory, Polo Ralph Lauren, Levi’s Outlet, and Guess Factory.
7. Oceano Dunes
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SRVA) is a geologically-unique sand dune complex that’s beloved by off-highway enthusiasts. But tearing over the sand dunes in an ATV or vehicle isn’t the only thing to do at Oceano Dunes. Visitors can also enjoy swimming, surfing, and surf-fishing at Pismo State Beach, as well as camping, birdwatching, and hiking. So if you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Pismo Beach, check out Oceano Dunes SVRA.
8. Pismo Beach Farmer’s Market
If you want to support and shop from local businesses in the city, then head to the weekly Pismo Beach Farmer’s Market. It’s held every Wednesday from 3 pm to 7 pm at the Pismo Beach Pier, which we mentioned above. Visitors can purchase things like fresh produce, snacks, and handmade gifts from the plethora of stalls at the farmer’s market. Thanks to California’s agreeable weather, the open-air farmer’s market takes place year-round as well.
9. Spyglass Park
Along the coastline from Eldwayen Ocean Park is Spyglass Park. The popular 4.5-acre waterfront and blufftop park has access to a 1.5-mile sandy beach, barbecue facilities and picnic tables, a children’s playground, and ample green space. Be wary though that it’s only possible to reach the beach during low tide when tide pools are exposed. So when you’re searching for family-friendly things to do in Pismo Beach this summer, head to Spyglass Park.
10. Price Anniversary House – Price Historical Park
Located away from the coastline is the Price Historical Park. The four-acre park is home to the Price Anniversary House, as well as hiking trails, a class 1 bike trail, an orchard, and gardens. The two-story Price Anniversary House was built in the late-19th century by John Michael Price, the founder of Pismo Beach. Now the city’s oldest building, the historic house was built in the vernacular style with Victorian influences and decorative woodwork.
11. Pismo State Beach
Pismo State Beach stretches for 17 miles through the cities of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano. Popular attractions already mentioned that are located along the beach include the Monarch Butterfly Grove, the Oceano Dunes SVRA, and the Pismo Pier. Besides swimming and surfing, you will also find hiking trails along the beach’s coastline and two campgrounds. Pismo State Beach also wins points as you can legally drive onto the sand (for a small fee).
12. Palisades Park
Palisades Park is a six-acre neighborhood park with barbecue facilities and picnic tables, plenty of grassed areas, and a children’s playground. It’s also home to a set of tennis courts. Located one street back from the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline, for spectacular ocean views you will want to head down the road to either the Florin Ocean Overlook or the Topaz Ocean Overlook. You will also find South Palisades Park nearby, which has beach access.
13. Avila Hot Springs
Avila Hot Springs is a place you need to visit for the weekend, as it has both cabin and dry tent camping facilities. Spend your time soaking in the therapeutic natural mineral hot springs pool, having a massage, relaxing in the large heated outdoor freshwater pool with double slides for children (or big kids at heart), visiting nearby beaches, or riding along the Bob Jones Bike Trail. Get ready to feel rejuvenated at Avila Hot Springs.
14. Pismo Beach Clam Festival
Established in 1946, the Pismo Beach Clam Festival is one of the city’s biggest annual events; attracting more than 15,000 people from across California. The highly-anticipated and free three-day event includes live music, a family-friendly kid zone, a beer and wine garden, food trucks, and even an annual parade. There’s also the beloved clam dig along Pismo State Beach, the Clam Festival Wine Walk, a clam bake, and the best local clam chowder competition.