The town of Pismo Beach lies midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the beautiful Central Coast of California. Among its numerous attractions are miles of soft sand beaches, year-round warm weather, lovely natural areas, and excellent sightseeing opportunities. Activities near many Pismo Beach vacation rentals include swimming, surfing, fishing, kayaking, and whale watching. Here are the top things to do in and around Pismo Beach.

1. Monarch Butterfly Grove

The famous Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is on the south end of town. Every year, between October and February, thousands of flamboyant orange and black monarch butterflies descend upon the eucalyptus trees in the grove and lodge on the tree limbs in thick clusters. Visitors come from far away to observe the phenomenon, and knowledgeable docents provide daily informative talks.

2. Sandbar Surf

Surfing is a popular activity year-round north and south of the Pismo Beach Pier. If you want to try this iconic California sport, Sandbar Surf provides individual or group lessons for children and adults of all ages and abilities. Surfboards and wetsuits are included with the classes.

3. Price Historic Park

Price Historic Park is a seven-acre city park that highlights local history through the ranch and grounds of John Price, the founder of Pismo Beach. The site includes the ranch house, a replica Native American Chumash village, hiking trails, and picnic areas. You can go anytime for a self-guided tour or arrange in advance for an informative docent-led tour.

4. Sun Buggy Fun Rentals

The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, which consists of miles of beach and interior sand dunes open to off-road vehicles, lies just south of Pismo Beach. As the only place in California where visitors can legally drive on the beach, it attracts millions of visitors annually. Sun Buggy Fun Rentals has one-seat or multi-seat dune buggies and other ATVs for your adventurous ride over the sand. The rental price includes equipment, such as goggles and helmet.

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5. Point San Luis Lighthouse

The Point San Luis Lighthouse, a lovely facility with prairie Victorian design, sits on a bluff a few miles northwest of Pismo Beach. A classic trolley takes you from the parking lot to the lighthouse grounds, where guides provide informative tours. You can also join a docent-led hike that takes you along trails to view the breathtakingly beautiful coast.

6. Central Coast Kayaks

The coastline near Pismo Beach is full of cliffs, rocks, caves, and coves that are terrific to explore by kayak. Central Coast Kayaks offers rentals of various types of kayaks as well as paddles, life jackets, and marine electronics. Lessons provide an introduction to basic safety, strokes, launching, and landing. You can paddle off on your own or join a tour that focuses on panoramic scenery, local wildlife, and cave excursions.

7. Wheel Fun Rentals

Cycling in the town of Pismo Beach and along the spectacular coastline is a great way to get around. To help you make the most of the experience, Wheel Fun Rentals provides cruiser bikes, children’s bikes, tandem bikes, chopper tricycles, and surreys. The company also has a map with a route for a self-guided tour that takes you to many unique and fascinating sightseeing places around Pismo Beach.

8. Avila Beach Bird Sanctuary

Avila Beach adjoins Pismo Beach on the northwest, and the bird sanctuary lies just inland from Fossil Point and the Avila Beach Sea Caves. Because Avila Beach is situated on the Pacific Flyway that migrating birds use, this site is a haven for bird watchers. Among the multitude of lovely bird species, the sanctuary hosts are great blue herons, brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, ospreys, and red-tailed hawks.

9. Pacific Dunes Ranch

Pacific Dunes Ranch offers the unforgettable thrill of horseback rides on the sand. The experienced guides give you a quick introductory lesson on how to ride before they take you along a beach trail, over the dunes, and through tall grass and a forested area. It’s a great opportunity to see some incomparable scenery and get some good photos and videos.

10. Central Coast Aquarium

The Central Coast Aquarium is just off the beach and boardwalk in Avila Beach. This family-friendly facility provides interactive hands-on experiences through touch tanks of local marine animals. Other tanks allow you to view fish species in simulations of their natural habitats. The aquarium also has a microscope lab and coloring activities for children.

11. Avila Valley Barn

The unique Avila Valley Barn lies off Highway 101 a few miles northwest of Pismo Beach. Select fresh fruits and vegetables from the stock in the barn, or go out into the fields and orchards to pick your own. Family-friendly attractions include tractor rides and a petting zoo full of farm animals. From the fresh-made items in the country bakery, you can select cobblers, pies, and other delicious delicacies.

12. Central Coast Sailing and Avila Beach Whale Watching

Located just off the Avila Beach Pier, Central Coast Sailing offers you the opportunity to cruise the Pacific Ocean waters aboard a 44-foot sailing vessel. The trip takes you out onto the open sea, where you encounter gray whales, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, and harbor seals. As you sail, the captain shares fascinating information about the ecology and maritime history of the coastal area.

13. Dunes Center

The Dunes Center is just south of Pismo Beach at the edge of the vast Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. The center features an art gallery, exhibits of local animal specimens, and interactive displays for children. Of special interest is an exhibit on the classic movie “The Ten Commandments,” which was filmed in the area. Experienced naturalists take you on guided walks through the dunes.

14. Patriot Sportsfishing

Patriot Sportsfishing, based in Avila Beach, takes you out for a deep ocean fishing adventure to angle for salmon, albacore, rock cod, and ling cod. On some trips, the crew also puts down crab pots before dividing the take. Patriot Sportsfishing is family-friendly and works with anglers of all ages.

15. Banner Airways

There’s nothing like the singular experience of flying over the spectacular California coast in a small biplane. Banner Airways provides the opportunity to see Pismo Beach and its surrounding environs from the open cockpit of a World War II aircraft. To help simulate the original military experience, Banner Airways also supplies leather jackets, goggles, flight helmets, and life jackets.

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