City Editor Alyson here — within the last year, I’ve been trying to adventure to in-state destinations that don’t hurt my wallet, but are still an escape from my normal day-to-day.
This time, I ventured to Pismo Beach — a small coastal town that’s a perfect getaway for enjoying the beach + sand dunes, nearby wineries, and great seafood.
While you’re packing your bags, here’s everything you need to know about the area + my insider recommendations.
- Drive time: ~4 hours
- Est. population: 8,036
- Avg. high in September/October: 70°-73°
🌊 Things to do
Visit the Oceano sand dunes
Whether you want to hike, surf, lay back, ride ATVs, or go horseback riding, the dunes are your destination. A lot of people come here specifically to ride ATVs on the 8-mile stretch of dunes, so there are plenty of ATV rental companies located at the entrance to the dunes. Pro tip: Reserve ahead of time to skip long waits.
Go wine tasting
With just a 15 to 30-minute drive, you’ll find an abundance of wineries in the nearby Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande, and Avila Valley areas. Most of the wineries accept walk-in tastings, but check with each to make sure you don’t need a reservation. For a casual outdoor tasting, we suggest Claiborne & Churchill Winery.
Walk around Pier Plaza
What better way to enjoy this coastal town than walking along the pier? Head to the plaza to see the popular illuminated letters spelling “Pismo Beach.” Then, take a nice walk on the Shell Beach Streetscape, an 18-block walking path that takes you past cute cafes, quirky shops, and beautiful scenery.
🦪 Where to eat
Splash Cafe, 197 Pomeroy Ave.
This restaurant has served its award-winning chowder since 1991 — generating 40,000 gallons of it a year. The loaded clam chowder is a fan favorite and made with mixed seafood, bacon, green onions, and cheese.
Beachin’ Biscuits, 783 Price St.
Get a southern homestyle breakfast at this tiny eatery boasting the best, buttery homemade biscuits in town. While they’re known for their biscuits that come with sausage gravy, their loaded breakfast burritos are nothing to pass up.
Tito’s Red Tacos, 690 Dolliver St.
Breakfast, lunch, late night munchies — this restaurant hits the spot. Their famous red queso tacos comes with consomé + chicharrones — we recommend filling it up with birria. They also serve Mexican fusion ramen, birria fries, and elote cups.
🏡 Places to stay
Beachy keen cottage
This dog-friendly Vrbo stay is a 2 BD, 1 BA cottage is just two blocks away from the beach. It includes a backyard fire pit + a shared game room with a pool table, cornhole, giant Jenga, and more.
Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach
The oceanfront resort is in a central location for all your getaway adventures. While you’re there enjoy The Deck, a beachfront bar and restaurant, or whisk around town with their bike rentals.
Traveling with a larger group? This 2 BD, 2 BA apartment — just a block away from the beach, Pismo Pier shops, and nightlife — sleeps seven and includes an outdoor shower and cooking area.