Pismo Beach is a small but lovely city, with a humble population of under 10,000.
It is a part of the area known as Five Cities and is famously known as the world’s Clam Capital.
As its name suggests, it’s a coastal settlement, with many of its things to see involving sand, surf, and nature.
It’s a truly beautiful place and there’s no better haven for lovers of the ocean than this.
Great food and wine, stunning parks and beaches, and relaxing water attractions make up much of the local scene.
Pismo Beach sits in San Luis Obispo County.
Due to its size, it’s not unusual for tourists to explore beyond its bounds in the closer parts of the county.
A bit of a road trip can bring a lot more excitement to your vacation!
If you’re not sure what to do in this city, don’t fret; we’ll help you out.
Here are our picks for the 24 best and fun things to do in Pismo Beach, California.
Things To Do In Pismo Beach
1. Dinosaur Caves Park
Dinosaur Caves Park is one of Pismo Beach’s free things to do.
It’s also one of this California city’s top attractions!
The bluff park spans an impressive 11 acres of open space and lush grass, and it attracts people of all sorts.
Whether you want to exercise, fish, or take some cool photographs, it should be on your list of what to see.
Dinosaur Caves Park earned its name from a concrete dinosaur statue that once was its centerpiece.
In the 1940s, that statue had led the way into a beautiful underground sea cavern.
Today, the statue is no longer present, replaced by a one-of-a-kind playground in its honor.
The dinosaur-themed play area features three hollow dinosaur eggs and a gentle dinosaur figure.
There are also marine animals, such as seals, dolphins, and killer whales, to add some variety to the playground environment.
Address: 2701 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
2. Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
If you’re looking for good vacation spots, you can’t go wrong with the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.
The Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is yet another option among free things to do in Pismo Beach.
This stunning spot is the site where thousands of monarch butterflies cluster as they migrate for the winter.
These butterflies travel to California’s coast every winter and this grove is their largest congregation, boasting more than 25,000 of them.
The site of these stunning butterflies is nothing short of mesmerizing.
They huddle in eucalyptus trees, giving off the appearance of bright orange leaves as they hang upside down.
The insects do so in order to protect themselves from the elements and will move once the weather is warmer.
If it’s a nice afternoon, you’ll see them flying back and forth, feeding off nectar.
It’s a well-earned bit of relaxation after their one thousand miles of travel.
In order to allow you to see them properly, the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove provides conveniently placed telescopes.
This is such a fun way to be privy to a truly unique sight in Pismo Beach, California.
The ideal time to visit with the intention of seeing these majestic insects is from November to January.
You can still see them as early as October and as late as February, though!
Address: 400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
3. Eldwayen Ocean Park
Eldwayen Ocean Park is situated on Ocean Boulevard, nestled against Shell Beach’s cliffs.
It spans for a mile, running along the California coastline, and is a beautiful and tranquil spot.
The verdant grass contrasts beautifully with ocean panoramas, and the park is never truly crowded.
You can walk in peace, have a fun picnic, lie back on the grass, or perform other activities as desired.
Eldwayen Ocean Park is yet another close-to-nature and tranquil choice among Pismo Beach attractions.
During low tide, the beach is accessible and its creatures come out to show themselves.
You’ll see sea stars, limpets, sea anemones, urchins, and crabs making their way through the sand and surf.
If you’d like, you can rent an RV at the park!
Address: Ocean Blvd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
4. Pismo Beach Premium Outlets
Looking for a cool place to go shopping?
The most ideal choice among local points of interest is definitely the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets.
A charming center, it features big discounts, great prices, and more than 40 stores so you can shop till you drop.
It also has its fair share of eateries, ample parking space, and a dog park for your pets!
The Pismo Beach Premium Outlets provides a mix of local and flagship brands.
Kate Spade, Levi’s, Aeropostale, IZOD, Nike, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and OshKosh B’gosh are just a few examples.
This is undeniably a fun place to find some of California’s greatest deals, with discounts up to 65%!
Address: 333 5 Cities Dr, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
5. Pismo Bowl
If the weather isn’t quite right for outdoor adventures, have a blast by going bowling at Pismo Bowl!
The all-ages establishment was set up in 1939 and is owned and run by a family.
You can really feel the glory of its experience in its retro atmosphere and design.
With 8 lanes, it provides open public bowling, league bowling for people of many skill levels, and an arcade.
If you want Pismo Bowl to yourself, you can actually reserve all eight lanes for a party or just for a more private experience.
There is also an onsite diner that serves scrumptious pizza.
Adults can also enjoy some good local beer as they play!
Address: 277 Pomeroy Ave, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
6. Pismo State Beach and Pier
You simply can’t go to Pismo Beach without viewing the stunning Pismo State Beach and Pier!
The beach spans 17 miles of beautiful dunes ripe for sunbathing and azure waves perfect for swimming.
It’s one of the best Pismo Beach attractions and offers quintessential stunning California sun and surf with a touch of greenery.
There is a wide range of activities that you can partake in at the Pismo State Beach and Pier.
The ocean here is ideal for surfing and the land provides space to hike and camp.
You’ll also get to go birdwatching!
Aviary enthusiasts will love seeing birds like the brown pelican, great blue heron, ivory gull, and Nuttall’s woodpecker.
Pismo Pier is the “crown” of the glory that is Pismo Beach, spanning 1,370 feet.
It might be the region’s most photographed location, and it’s always teeming with activity.
People jog, fly kites and hang out along the boardwalk.
At night, the pier is all lit up, which makes for a beautiful sight and good safety for nighttime surfers.
Seasonal events are also put on here, such as the Tree Lighting and Pumpkins on the Pier.
There are also other things that the pier has to offer.
The Whale Surfing Playground is a new play area for kids featuring a Clam Slide, a Humpback whale, and surfboards.
The playground is designed to feature the aforementioned whales and tell their story.
You may even see these majestic creatures breach the waters close by!
Check out the three Vintage Airstreams shacks, which use those airstreams as stalls for concessions and fishing goods.
Address: 555 Pier Ave, Oceano, CA 93445, United States
7. Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is a gorgeous part of Pismo State Beach.
It’s such a unique and fun location that it deserves its own spot on this list!
It is the only location in California where motor vehicles are able to freely drive on the beach.
You’ll probably want to rent an ATV, motocross bike, or dune buggy if you don’t have a four-wheel drive!
Driving on the sand is one of the top activities to enjoy in Pismo Beach.
It’s almost akin to a huge natural sandbox that’s just waiting for adventure.
It boasts ocean views from white sand hills, providing a sense of peace and relaxation.
As far as places to visit go, you won’t find one more one-of-a-kind!
If you like off-roading, you definitely shouldn’t miss this – and if you don’t, you can still enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming, and surfing!
Address: 100 Pier Ave, Oceano, CA 93445, United States
8. Palisades Park
Palisades Park is just north of the Pismo Beach downtown area and is one of its most charming tourist attractions and one of the best places to visit in California.
With six acres of land to its name, it offers beautiful ocean views, mile-long paths, and manicured greenery.
It is situated on a bluff close to Shell Beach and is known for its calming atmosphere – perfect for a walk!
If you’re bringing kids with you to Palisades Park, you’ll be able to show them the popular playground there.
For more all-age sorts of endeavors, public tennis and basketball courts are also available.
If you get hungry, stop at a barbecue pit and have a nice picnic!
The sunny California weather only adds to the great atmosphere.
Address: 3990 Shell Beach Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
9. Spyglass Park
Spyglass Park is one of the quieter things to see in the city of Pismo Beach, California.
It is a four-acre neighborhood park in Shell Beach that provides great ocean views and a number of appealing activities.
You can go for a hike, enjoy a picnic or barbecue, and bring your family to the fun and simple playgrounds.
Spyglass Park also has a beach stretch, spanning about a mile, with options to sunbathe, surf, and explore tide pools.
The trail down to it can be a little tricky, but it’s worth it for the tranquility you’ll find.
Much like Palisades Park, Spyglass Park is also perched on an ocean bluff, and it teems with marine life!
Address: Spyglass Dr, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
10. Pismo Beach Clam Festival
The Pismo Beach Clam Festival is one of the best things to do in Pismo Beach.
It’s no wonder that this California city is called the world’s Clam Capital!
Every October, the festival kicks up by celebrating the flavors of clams and the community built around that industry.
With surf competitions, clam digs, parades, clam-eating contests, and live music, it’s a non-stop rush of excitement!
The Pismo Beach Clam Festival runs for three days annually.
It’s the city’s biggest event and welcomes approximately 15,000 annual visitors.
If you’re in town at the right time this weekend, check it out!
It’s a unique event you’re sure to love!
Address: 581 Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
11. Margo Dodd Park
Margo Dodd Park is another park in Shell Beach, quite near to the aforementioned similar places to visit.
Its similarities don’t stop it from being among the top relaxing places in this California city.
As the previous items on this list, it also sits on a bluff and is well-covered with green grass.
Ocean views also surround it!
At Margo Dodd Park, you’ll see all sorts of people indulging in many different forms of entertainment.
A lovely gazebo and a couple of picnic tables give groups spaces to relax.
Benches are well-arranged to look out over the ocean.
Bird watchers and photographers flock to the park to feast their eyes and snorkelers come by during low tide to explore.
It’s truly a haven of recreation!
Address: Ocean Blvd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
12. Central Coast Kayaks
One of the best activities to partake in on the California coastline is kayaking.
So if you’re wondering what to do in Pismo Beach, that great option is exactly what Central Coast Kayaks offers!
Since 1993, the company has provided highly-rated adventures and kayak tours on beautiful local waters.
Central Coast Kayaks offers fishing trips, kayak rentals, paddleboard rentals, classes, and camps alongside typical tours.
You’ll get the chance to get up close and personal with marine life.
Different tours provide varying experiences, so whether you want relaxation or thrill, they have something for you!
Address: 1879 Shell Beach Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
13. Avila Hot Springs
Near Pismo Beach is an absolute must-see location known as Avila Hot Springs, close to Avila Beach.
Oil drillers discovered the springs in 1907 and it soon became a publicly open attraction.
With waters at a delicious 104 degrees, the mineral pool measures 400 square feet and is fun for people of all ages.
The beautiful architecture coupled with lush palm trees creates a relaxing and invigorating environment.
Avila Hot Springs also offers cabin rentals and dry camping grounds for those who want to stay a little longer.
The natural artesian mineral spring provides tons of health benefits and is a prime tourist draw in California.
Plus, the building complex on site provides a range of massages to those who need more TLC.
If you’re looking for places to visit this weekend, you shouldn’t miss out on Avila Hot Springs, one of the most beautiful places in America!
Address: 250 Avila Beach Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, United States
14. Bob Jones Trail
The Bob Jones Trail is one of the top ways to explore this region of California.
It actually starts at the aforementioned Avila Hot Springs, meaning it’s outside of but close to Pismo Beach.
It has earned the nickname of the City to the Sea Trail and is a bicycle path that takes you across San Luis Obispo County.
The Bob Jones Trail spans three miles and is one of the popular local tourist attractions.
Basically, it’s worth traveling for!
The trail will bring you through pedestrian bridges, gorgeous scenery, enchanting nature, and even a golf course.
The end of the trail is at the Avila Pier, which is also worth visiting and traveling a short distance for!
Address: Avila Beach, CA, United States
15. Pismo Preserve
Pismo Preserve spans 900 acres and is a nature preserve funded by Landed Conservancy, a nonprofit group.
It boasts incredible views of nature and a whopping 11 miles of recreational trails.
For nature-lovers and explorers, this is one of the greatest things to do in Pismo Beach, California!
It spans from Point Sal State Beach all the way to Irish Hills Nature Reserve.
At Pismo Preserve, you can have fun doing many different things, ranging from hiking to horseback riding.
Elevated trails bring you slowly up onto slopes where you can look out over the ocean and city.
The natural landscape is teeming with verdant woodlands and ridges at the coast – a true sight for sore eyes!
Pismo Preserve’s trails vary in difficulty.
A popular beginner trail is the aptly named Pismo Discovery Trail.
For more of a challenge, there’s the Peekaboo Trail.
Expert hikers can attempt the challenging Vamanos Canyon Trail.
No matter which trail you take, keep your eyes open for cows grazing in valleys and pastures!
You may also get the chance to fish or watch birds, depending on how far your adventure takes you.
Address: 80 Mattie Rd, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
16. North Beach Campground
One of the best ways for outdoor enthusiasts to experience a new place is by camping!
Pismo Beach has very strict rules about where camping is allowed, which can feel like a bummer at first.
But that’s what North Beach Campground is for!
Experience a California state beach with bonfire permission, close to the main city, and packed with stuff to do.
A clean location equipped with private showers and heated water, North Beach Campground still feels like an authentic experience.
It’s one of the few Pismo Beach attractions that’s dog-friendly, too, so bring your puppy along.
Plus, the sight of the starry sky above is beautiful each night!
With direct beach access and accessibility to the rest of the town, it’s a great place for a homey adventure.
Address: 399 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
17. Pismo Beach Surf Shop
Looking for fun things to do in California?
Pismo Beach Surf Shop isn’t just a place to shop.
It’s a prime spot that offers all sorts of fun and exciting tours, featuring various things you can enjoy.
You can ride a kayak, surf, paddleboard, boogie board, and fish through many things to see along California’s Central Coast.
It’s open every day on Price Street.
Pismo Beach Surf Shop also offers lessons for things like kayaking and surfing.
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, providing expertise and safety all in one.
The shop has been offering these lessons since 1962, so you know you’re in well-learned hands.
A mix of tours of varying difficulties is available for adventurers of any skill level.
Address: 470 Price St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
18. Price Historical Park
Price Historical Park is the site of an old Victorian home and a ranch.
These buildings were built in 1893 by Vaquero Juan Miguel Prais, who bought the land with his wife.
Formerly a Rancho Pismo cattle runner, Paris’ purchase was made just as California achieved statehood.
Paris would eventually adopt the name John Michael Price, and, shortly after, he founded the city of Pismo Beach.
The homestead of Price Historical Park is a part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, it provides a unique step back in time and is a significant landmark, restored by volunteers for public viewing.
While you’re touring it, you can view its windmill, Price’s mansion and his daughter’s home, or the gardens and orchard.
A trip here is one of the greatest things to do in Pismo Beach for history buffs!
Address: 100 Rancho Pismo Dr, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, United States
19. Sample Delicious Wines
You can’t visit any part of California without paying attention to their wines.
That’s probably why so many Pismo Beach attractions offer world-class artisan beverages!
Here are some fun, must-do options you can try around the city.
Taste of the Valleys is definitely the most famous local winery in the city.
It has been considered one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s greatest American wine bars.
With over a thousand different wine types, highly knowledgeable staff, and a romantic atmosphere, it’s a great spot for oenophiles.
Another great location is the Monarch Grove Winery Tasting Room.
Located close to the Pismo Beach Golf Course, it has friendly staff and tons of choices.
You should also check out Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards for outdoor seating views and its pet-friendly policies.
If you want to travel, Edna Valley Vineyard, seven miles from the city, is famous for its wine and tastings!
Of course, you also have the option of booking a wine tour.
There are lots of companies that offer this service.
Breakaway Tours and 101 Wine Tours are both well-reviewed choices.
They both may also have cider and olive oil tours if that tickles your fancy more!
Planning a road trip? Why not check out Berkeley, Big Bear, and Los Angeles? If you do plan the trip, here’s what to do in Berkeley, what to do in Big Bear, and some fun things to do in Los Angeles!
20. Eat Great Food
It’s not a trip to Pismo Beach without sampling the very best food that the city has to offer.
Like many coastal areas of California, the greatest local eateries serve up seafood.
If you’re a foodie, don’t miss these delicious places to visit!
The Cracked Crab is a great seafood location with a homey atmosphere close to the boardwalk.
The environment is really welcoming and clean and the concept is delectable.
Simply put, it specializes in giving you a bucket of cooked shellfish, a mallet, and some crab crackers!
That’s about as fresh as it can get.
Oyster Loft is a pretty fancy location, focusing on fine dining with regional seafood fare.
With high-quality culinary techniques and great service, it provides interior and patio dining.
Great menu options include fresh oysters, oven-roasted seabass, crab cakes, pan-seared scallops, orange-glazed octopus, and wagyu steak and lobster.
Dessert choices are great too, with offerings like creme brulee and berry corn shortcake.
Splash Cafe is the ideal location if you’re craving clam chowder.
They’ve been in operation since 1989 and often have customers lining up around the block for a taste.
Clam chowder is served in yummy sourdough bowls.
There’s a full-service bakery here, too, if you’re interested!
Surfside Donuts is a downtown donut shop that is so popular that, like Splash Cafe, its customers line up for it!
They sell out quickly, so you’ll have to go early.
Flavors include the likes of strawberry clam-shell and salted caramel, among many others.
With gluten-free and vegan options too, it’s a great family-friendly eatery.
Finally, Ventana Grill is a wonderful restaurant on the bluff waterfront of Pismo Beach.
Its menu consists of coastal Latin fusion fare and its experience comes with views of the ocean.
Their most popular offering is their awesome Sunday brunch.
That brunch menu includes beef-based carne asada nachos, Moscow mules, bottomless mimosas, and bloody marys galore.
Reservations are required, but they’re worth making.
21. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is located near Pismo Beach, 15 minutes away in San Luis Obispo.
It is a stunning and historic site, set up in 1772 by Father Junipero Serra.
It is the 5th mission to have been established in California.
It has a fascinating museum that provides an informational but fun look into the mission’s past.
Although it’s among points of interest for tourists, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is still a place of worship.
A mix of public and private services are held here, and you’re welcome to take part in the public ones.
When services are held, the museum and any tours aren’t available, so plan accordingly!
Address: 751 Palm St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, United States
22. Hearst Castle
Looking for what to do this weekend and willing to go on a short road trip away from Pismo Beach?
Hearst Castle is located just an hour away from the city and is a unique and fascinating location.
It was the home of a sensationalist and influential journalist named William Randolph Hearst.
Citizen Kane is inspired by him!
Hearst Castle didn’t start out as a “castle”.
At first, it was just a typical bungalow, bought by Hearst’s father in the 1860s.
But Hearst wanted more out of the mansion.
With the aid of Julia Morgan, an architect, he decided to expand the home into something eccentric.
Inspired by medieval Iberian architecture, the home boasted huge cornices, cherub statues, and vaulted ceilings.
When completed, Hearst Castle boasted 127 acres of grounds decorated with terraces and gardens.
The “castle” itself contained 165 rooms, including libraries, an indoor pool, a banquet hall, and more.
As an art collector, Hearst filled those rooms with all sorts of sculptures and paintings.
Each room was designed to complement the art it showcased.
The outside grounds boasted tennis courts, an airstrip, an exotic zoo, stables for Arabian horse breeding, and a Romanesque outdoor pool.
Technically speaking, there was no official “completion” of Hearst Castle.
Construction only stopped when Hearst’s health forced him to move.
He passed away in 1951.
In 1958, the huge grounds of the castle earned the title of an official California State Park.
More impressively, even till today, not much has changed about Hearst Castle!
It still has a private zoo, a glamorous interior, and more art than you could possibly imagine.
The ornate halls and wider estate are available to the public to tour.
Address: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452, United States
23. Go To A Local Market
A particularly fun option among things to do in Pismo Beach is to check out a local market.
There’s no better way to get an authentic taste of the place you’re visiting than by shopping where the locals shop.
The main spot to head to for this endeavor is the Farmers Market, which sets up on the Pismo Beach Pier.
It’s the ideal location to find locally farmed seasonal produce, delicious food of all kinds, and some crafts here and there.
If you’re hungry, you’ll have a feast with pasta, bread, seafood, jams, and much more!
Don’t forget to check out the great olive oils for sale, too.
Another market to check out is the delightful and lively California Fresh Market.
Local farmers and growers sell treats, produce, and food, just like the Farmers Market.
But this time, they come from more places throughout the state!
Your hunger will also be even more satisfied with smoked ribs, salads, pastries, sushi, enchiladas, hamburgers, and much more.
Don’t forget to check out the drinks, like wine and coffee, too.
24. Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa is located outside of the city, once again calling San Luis Obispo its home.
It’s worth the travel if you need some intensive TLC and relaxation.
It is well-known for its rejuvenating packages and is a part of Avila Beach Resort.
It’s even open late enough that you can enjoy your “treatment” under the stars!
There are 23 baths at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa.
You can opt to wear a bathing suit or go nude according to your comfort.
Each tub offers a good deal of privacy thanks to staggered positions on the hillside.
This means you get stunning views and the ability to take it in undisturbed!
Each bath uses natural water from the titular hot springs and is famously refreshing.
Address: 1215 Avila Beach Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405, United States
Looking for more thrill? Why not visit Monterey, Palm Springs, and Sacramento? If you do plan the trip, here are some cool things to do in Monterey, some of the best things to do in Palm Springs, and some top things to do in Sacramento!
Start Planning Your Trip To Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach, California is beautiful, tranquil, and everything that a small coastal city should be!
It’s ideal for adventurers and explorers who want to get close to nature.
It’s also great for swimmers, surfers, and other water-lovers who can’t get enough of the beach.
Ultimately, though, no matter your preference, you’re sure to find something in the city or close to it that you’ll love!