Pismo Beach Travel Guide

USA  #21 in Best California Beaches
Credit

Courtesy of Nature, food, landscape, travel/ Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Pismo Beach

If you have extra time, Pismo Preserve is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Pismo Beach
    View all Photos
    #1 in Pismo Beach
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the main attractions in Pismo Beach is undoubtedly the pier. This 1,370-foot-long wooden structure stretches into the Pacific and acts as a community gathering point where visitors can fish, attend seasonal events or simply admire the views. Some of the pier's annual events include Pumpkins on the Pier and the Tree Lighting and Celebration, which kids are sure to enjoy.

    Beyond the pier is Pismo State Beach, which stretches along the California coast for about 17 miles. In the beach area near the pier, you'll find many people trying their hands at water sports, including surfing. This area is a surfer's paradise and hosts the annual World Surf League's Pismo Beach Open in January and February. The pier is even lit up at night, so nighttime surfers can navigate the waves. If you'd like to rent surfboards or other equipment, you'll find multiple surf shops near the pier, including the popular Pismo Beach Surf Shop.

  • #3
    View all Photos
    #3 in Pismo Beach
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're in the area between the months of November and February, you must stop at the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, according to previous travelers. This sanctuary attracts a massive population of monarch butterflies that migrate thousands of miles to reach the mild temperatures in Pismo Beach. Not only is the central California weather perfect for the monarchs, but the eucalyptus and Monterey cypress trees in the grove provide them with ample protection.

    The grove is staffed by volunteers who dedicate their time to learning about these creatures, and many past visitors were thrilled with the helpful information they learned from the volunteers. The volunteers can give you tips on how to treat the grove, including watching your step so you don't harm the creatures and leaving the butterfly clusters undisturbed. Photography is welcome in the preserve, and you're sure to catch some of your winged companions on camera.

  • #4
    View all Photos
    #4 in Pismo Beach
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Nature lovers will revel in the 11 miles of trails and scenic overlooks at the Pismo Preserve. This expansive area is full of wildlife and funded by a nonprofit called the Land Conservancy. There are trails for hikers of all levels. Previous visitors recommended the Pismo Discovery Trail for beginners, the Peekaboo Trail for intermediate hikers and the Vamanos Canyon Trail for advanced hikers. As you explore the trails, you'll pass through woodland areas and open pastures that look over the Pacific Ocean. You'll likely see cows grazing on some of these open lands, and you may even come across horses as horseback riding is permitted on some trails. There are two trails – the Vamanos Canyon Trail and the Lover's Point Trail – that are dedicated to hikers only; all other trails allow for mountain bikers.

    The 900-acre Pismo Preserve stretches from Irish Hills Nature Reserve in the north to Point Sal State Beach in the south. Irish Hills is a mountainous area popular among equestrians, while Point Sal is a great place for fishing, hiking, bird-watching or just relaxing on the sand. (However, the waves here can be strong, so swimming isn't recommended.)

  • #5
    View all Photos
    #5 in Pismo Beach
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Oceano Dunes are something like a massive natural sandbox, perfect for adventuring all day. The rolling hills of white sand overlook the ocean and offer a sense of tranquility away from the large urban areas in California. Previous visitors said driving along the dunes in a four-wheeled vehicle makes for an unforgettable experience. You can start off-roading at the Post 2 checkpoint, which is 1 mile south of Pier Avenue. It costs just $5 to register your vehicle for off-roading. While many people opt to simply drive their car onto the beach, another popular way to explore the dunes is on an ATV.

    There are numerous places to rent ATVs at the west end of Pier Avenue. Steve's ATV Rentals and Arnie's ATV Rentals received positive reviews from past visitors, who appreciated the helpful staff members at both establishments. The staff will give you instructions on how to ride the ATV and where to take them; they're also available to help if you get stuck. Rental prices will depend on the type of ATV you select and how long you plan to use it, but prices may start at around $60 for two hours. Recent visitors recommended booking a morning ride as it can get crowded and too hot later in the day.

  • #7
    View all Photos
    #7 in Pismo Beach
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This park got its name from a large metal dinosaur structure that used to lead into the sea caves below. Although the structure is now gone, the surrounding area has turned into a popular park for children, joggers, bikers or anyone looking for a leisurely afternoon outside. The 11-acre park sits atop a bluff and provides visitors with picturesque ocean views. There are an abundance of walking trails as well as picnic tables and open grassy areas for relaxing. The park is family-friendly, and children will enjoy the playground structures, which have a dinosaur and animal theme. You can also bring dogs to the park as long as they stay on their leashes.

    There is an amphitheater in the park where gatherings are occasionally held. The park may play host to yoga classes, arts festivals or other events on any given day, so check out the website to see if anything interests you during your visit. If you want to explore the cove beneath the park, known as Shelter Cove, you should rent a kayak from downtown Pismo Beach and paddle among the arches. Unfortunately, there is no beach access directly from Dinosaur Park, but if you head to nearby Margo Dodd Park, you can put a kayak in the water and then venture to the coves beneath the park. Visitors laud Dinosaur Caves Park for its stunning ocean views and clean grounds.

  • View all Photos
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

Explore More of Pismo Beach

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended