The city of Pismo Beach, known as the “Clam Capital of the World,” lies north of Santa Barbara along the central Californian coast. Its temperate Mediterranean climate and low annual rainfall allow year-round outdoor activities. The city faces miles of beautiful and clean sandy beaches which are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and partaking in water sports. The lovely inland hills are ideal for hiking and horseback riding. Additionally, Pismo Beach hosts a number of popular annual events, such as a car show and the Jubilee-by-the-Sea Dixieland Jazz Festival. Its yearly Clam Festival includes a parade and a clam chowder competition. Book a stay at a Pismo Beach vacation rental today. Check out the most unforgettable destinations in and around Pismo Beach.

1. North Pismo Beach

Kon Tiki Inn - Pismo Beach, California
Source: Flickr/Robin Kanouse

The northern portion of Pismo Beach sits on bluffs overlooking the deep blue Pacific Ocean and the incomparable California coastline. Various overviews and trails allow you to access the panoramic view. South Palisades Park is a mile-long stretch of walkway above the beach with picnic tables, benches, and a grassy recreational area. Spyglass Park has a long trail leading down to the beach, where you can explore the fascinating tide pools. The kids will love Dinosaur Caves Park, which includes a play area with facsimile dolphins, a dinosaur, an orca, a pirate ship, and dinosaur eggs that they can crawl into.

2. South Pismo Beach

Source: Pixabay/skeeze

At the southern end of Pismo Beach is Pismo State Beach, a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, surf fishing, and clam digging. You can hike the dune trails and watch for marine birds as well as bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and other birds of prey. Observe wildlife such as bobcats, coyotes, jackrabbits, and lizards. You might catch glimpses offshore of gray whales, humpback whales, seals, and otters. Adjacent to Pismo State Beach is the Monarch Butterfly Grove. During the winter migration season, hundreds of thousands of beautiful butterflies hang in clusters from the fragrant pine and eucalyptus trees.

3. East Pismo Beach

Pismo Preserve Trails & Wildflowers
Source: Flickr/Rob DeGraff

Vacation rentals in the eastern portion of Pismo Beach have convenient access to the beautiful inland hills. Chumash Park has a pleasant hiking trail through a verdant canyon with a small forest of willows and old oaks. Price Historical Park offers a look at the buildings and grounds of an old California ranch. To explore 10 miles of trails along beautiful scenic coastal ridges, you can go hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding through Pismo Preserve.

4. Avila Beach

Source: Pixabay/fridzema

The town of Avila Beach lies just north of Pismo Beach along a magnificent stretch of coastline full of cliffs, islands, and sea caves. From its harbor you can charter a boat to take you ocean fishing or whale and dolphin watching. At the southeast edge of town, Avila Sea Caves has a trail that takes you down to Pirate’s Cave and the beach beyond. The Central Coast Aquarium offers a look at local marine life as well as touch pools for the kids. The Bob Jones City to Sea Bike Trail takes you for a fun walking or cycling tour along San Luis Obispo Creek. Avila Hot Springs gives you a refreshing soak in a healthy mineral pool after all your sightseeing and recreational activities.

5. Grover Beach

Surfing at Pismo Beach
Source: Flickr/Nicholas Kimball

Grover Beach adjoins Pismo Beach on the south. You can stroll along the beach boardwalk, or relax and enjoy a meal at a beachside restaurant. The beautiful wide sand beach encourages activities such as fishing, clamming, kite surfing, and dune hiking. Grover Beach also hosts the Pismo Beach Golf Course. Located right next to the sand dunes, it allows you to hear crashing ocean waves and observe sea birds while you play.

6. Arroyo Grande

Poppies Blooming on the Pismo Preserve
Source: Flickr/Rob DeGraff

The town of Arroyo Grande is on the east side of Grover Beach and Pismo Beach. Its Historic Village is full of buildings and landmarks from 19th century California. The whole family will love traversing the unique Swinging Bridge over Arroyo Grande Creek. The town hosts a number of museums with emphasis on early California history, including Heritage House, The Barn Museum, Paulding History House, and Ruby’s House. Among the annual events are the Beer Feast Festival and the Strawberry Festival. Nearby is Lopez Lake Recreation Area, which offers hiking, fishing, boating, zip-lining, and horseback riding. Mustang Water Park, a large complex with water slides and kiddy pools, is at Lopez Lake.

7. Oceano

California State Parks
Source: Flickr/California State Parks

The town of Oceano, located just south of Grover Beach, faces a long stretch of beach with large sand dunes. The area is popular for swimming, surfing, fishing, and hiking. The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is the only state park in California in which driving on the beach is legal. The park has millions of annual visitors who ride the sand in off-road vehicles. Sand boarding and bird watching are other popular activities. The dunes are so vast that it’s easy to find a quiet place to hike or ride horses, observe wildlife, and enjoy the view.

8. Guadalupe

Guadalupe, Nipomo Dunes Preserve
Source: Flickr/Allie_Caulfield

The town of Guadalupe is south of Oceano, and it also faces a vast area of rolling sand dunes and wide beaches. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge comprises almost two miles of beach and goes inland for three miles. It’s an undisturbed habitat that protects numerous species of rare plants and animals, including northern elephant seals, golden eagles, California brown pelicans, and peregrine falcons. The Dunes Center is a museum and art gallery that offers interactive displays for children. The Rancho de Guadalupe Historical Society provides an interesting look at local history.

9. San Luis Obispo

Source: Pixabay/jill111

The city of San Luis Obispo lies inland about 12 miles north of Pismo Beach in the midst of central California wine country. Numerous trails throughout the city are great for hiking and cycling. Its attractive streets and farmer’s market are perfect for strolling and shopping. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in the city center offers a fascinating look at early California history. The kids will love the various activities and exhibits at the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum.