Swim With The Sea Lions On Pismo Beach

Whether you’re driving from the north from LA or south from San Francisco on U.S. Highway 101, there’s nothing quite like the moment as you reach Pismo Beach. The hills seem to open up to reveal shimmering turquoise waters and long stretches of the San Luis Obispo County coastline. 

Don’t miss the historic 1,200-foot-long Pismo Beach Pier. Built in 1928, the pier is the closest thing to a town square for Pismo Beach.

Take a walk out over the waves to watch the surfers, or maybe try your hand at fishing (no license required) for red snapper, ling cod, or even the occasional thresher shark.

From the pier, stroll along the oceanfront boardwalk, or just hike along the hard-packed sands; the broad, flat expanses make this one of the most walkable beaches in all of California.

An iconic beach town deserves some traditional beach food and in Pismo you’ll find all sorts of timeless favorites.









Spoon up some of the silky, award-winning chowder at Splash Café. Or bite into the black Angus burgers at Wooly’s Beach Bar & Grill, where the deck overlooks the sand.

As the gateway to the nearby Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley wine regions, the culinary scene in Pismo Beach also has a sophisticated side. Discover an outstanding selection of local wines without leaving town at Tastes of the Valleys, which earned honors as one of the top 20 wine bars in America from Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Pair gorgeous ocean views with fresh seafood at Oyster Loft (above Wooly’s) or Latin-inspired entrees at the Ventana Grill, two of the best sunset spots in town.

Speaking of sunsets, stay at one of Pismo Beach’s oceanfront resorts or hotels and you won’t even have to leave your room to watch the sky come aglow over the Pacific. At the pet-friendly SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel, open up the balcony door of your airy, contemporary room and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.

Or spoil yourself at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, where the indulgences include hot-stone massages and the five-course chef’s tasting menu at its Lido restaurant. 






Perhaps surprisingly for animals who spend most of their time in the water, California sea lions are prone to overheating. Sea lions often are seen “jugging” with their flippers out of the water; scientists think they may be trying to cool off.

2. They’re social. California sea lions generally can be found hanging out together, on land or in the water, reports the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. They communicate with barking vocalizations, including underwater. Males are territorial, using barks, roars, head shakes and oblique stares to warn off intruders. Females use unique calls to communicate with their pups.

Male sea lions migrate during the winter to feeding areas off California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, while females and pups remain at breeding colonies on the Channel Islands off California and on islands off both coasts of Baja California.

3. They don’t eat children, but they do eat rocks. Sea lions are carnivorous and feed on anchovies, sardine, whiting, mackerel, rockfish and squid near the ocean surface down to about 80 feet, says the National Marine Mammal Laboratory. But they can dive 500 feet or more and stay down up to 10 minutes.

Stones have been found in the stomachs of dead sea lions found in the wild, ranging from pebbles to fairly sizable rocks. Scientists aren’t sure whether sea lions ingest the rocks by accident while feeding or are eating them on purpose to aid their digestion somehow.

4. They’re on the rebound. Great white sharks and orcas feed on California sea lions, but pesticides, entangling fishing nets and environmental changes also contribute to sea lion mortality. In 2015, climate change reduced food sources for California sea lions, resulting in thousands of stranded and malnourished pups needing rescue. Despite these problems, the population of California sea lions continues to rebound after reaching a low point in the 1970s as a result of hunting.

NOAA Fisheries reports that California sea lion populations are healthy, with a count of 300,000 in 2011. California sea lions are not considered endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

5. California sea lions aren’t normally dangerous to humans, and attacks are uncommon, but they are large and unpredictable wild animals with sharp teeth.

California sea lions aren’t normally dangerous to humans, and attacks are uncommon, but they are large and unpredictable wild animals with sharp teeth. A NOAA Fisheries booklet advises people not to feed, approach, chase or otherwise harass sea lions. Also, don’t try to pet them or swim with them. Harassing sea lions can lead to fines of $100 to $13,000.









1. Bubble-gum Alley

A weird but increasingly popular tourist attraction, this 4.5-meter (15-foot) high and 21-meter (70-foot) long alley has accumulated chewed gum left bypasses by embedded in the walls. Some recognize it as a distasteful other have seen it as art, it has gone on to inspire. Professional artists have gone on to replicate, artist Matthew Hoffman who erected a self-portrait of himself entirely made of bubble-gum titled ‘Project Bubblegum.’ Town historians are at a loss as to do whereas some local shopkeepers say it’s an eyesore. Others are calling it a special landmark that brings in trade! Visit the alley and make your mind up yourself.

Bubblegum Alley has been featured on a number of TV shows and news programs. It has also appeared in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The alley also featured in reality TV series The Girls Next Door. Concrete evidence of how this wall started is not known, but some historians suggest that the tradition of the alley started after WWII as a San Luis Obispo High School graduating class event.

Bubble-gum Alley

Address: 733.5 Higuera St, 93401 San Luis Obispo, CA

Website: Bubble-gum Alley



2. Monarch Butterfly Grove


Every year thousands of vibrant colored butterflies descend to Pismo Beach, seeking shelter from the northern winters. From October to February the butterflies gather within the grove of Eucopitis tree at Pismo Beach. This is one of the largest in the country with over 250,00 butterflies visiting over the last 5 years. When visiting the caves, volunteers are on hand to offer daily talks.They offer information and facts about the yearly spectacle that brings visitors to the beach. The natural history museum in Morro Bay offers up excellent additional information about Monarchs. Daily talks are held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weather permitting.

Monarch Butterfly Grove

Address: 400 S Dolliver St, 93449 Pismo Beach, CA

Website: Monarch butterfly Grove


3. Oceano Pismo Dunes Preserve (from USD 75)

An explosive coastal range of dunes allowing rare on sand activities – horseback riding, camping and even driving on the beach. The only California state park that allows four or all-wheel drive vehicles to do so. A great chance to take part in riding a sand buggy is on offer: a must for thrill seekers. With your own vehicle, you can fly up and down the massive dunes of sand in a Hummer or even your own ATV or Buggy.Besides all the activities on the sand, you can also indulge in water activities. You can try surfing or kiteboarding. You can also go on a three-hour cave excursion and explore some protected coves. If you want to go at your own pace, rent a kayak.

Oceano Pismo Dunes Preserve

Address: 555 Pier Ave, 93445 Oceano, CA

Website: Oceano Pismo Dunes preserve

Pismo Beach Dune Buggy Experience 2-Hour Scenic Coast Ride

Duration 2 hours


4. Dinosaur Caves Park


Getting its unusual name from history was once the mighty T-rex battled a TriceRaptors to the death – the image the artist wanted when conveying a 15-meter (50-foot) long Brontosaurus tail. To adjoin to the cave in a shrouding of a mystery until residents deemed it an eyesore where it was later removed. Today a 4.5-hectare (11-acre) oceanfront top park is great for those who love the outdoors.
A favorite spot for joggers and walkers overlooking the ocean. For the children, a unique Dinosaur theme play park is on hand to entertain containing a gentle dinosaur, two concrete dolphins, three beautiful dinosaur eggs, three playful seals and a tire swing and the USS imagination. A great day for everyone.

Dinosaur Caves Park

Address: 2701 Price St, 93449 Pismo Beach, CA

Website: Dinosaur Caves Park

5. Pismo Pier


A beautiful beach of 24 hectares (60 acres) to explore of pier and promenade. A perfect family day out is to be had with a children’s play area, volleyball courts, and equipment. The park contains drinking water fountains along with plenty of ocean recreations nearby. Visit spyglass pine, a 1.8-hectare (4.5-acre) park with ocean view and access to tide pools.For those who love holiday mementos, you can now buy a piece of the pier to take away with you. The city of Pismo Beach is selling pier planks as well as a limited number from the historic project. Limited edition items include historical sentiments and a golden hammer.

Pismo Pier

Address: 760 Mattie Road, 93449 Pismo Beach, CA

Website: Pismo Pier

6. The Dorn Pyramid


The pyramid stands alone in an isolated location just out of Pismo Beach. Because of the weight of the pyramid the location was the only one solid to support the massive structure. Constructed in 1905 by a wealthy lawyer after he lost his wife and son during childbirth in their honor the mysterious tomb was built.
The entrance of the pyramid also reads ‘Disturb not the sleep of death.’ Two stones on the pyramid remains unsealed till date. It is said that the lawyer, Fred Adolphus Dorn, wanted to be buried in the same place and then the last two stones were to be sealed. He moved over to San Francisco and remarried, and died in 1940 and he was thenburied at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma.

The Dorn Pyramid

Address: Higuera Street and Elks Lane,Oddfellows Cemetery, 93401 San Luis Obispo, California

Website: The Dorn Pyramid


7. Margo Dodd Park


A gorgeous park overlooks Pismo Beach to see the ocean views. There are fantastic opportunities to spot wildlife along the pier. This park has been hailed as one of the best places to watch a sunset in Pismo.Bird life and marine animals are frequent visitors. At the end of the pier is a tide pool allows snorkeling for exploration adventures. It is great for budding photographers with plentiful photo opportunities. Dinosaur coves and the dunes can be seen. Join in the art in the park every Sunday of every month.

Margo Dodd Park

Address: 93449 Shell Beach, California

Website: Margo Dodd Park


8. Surf with Pismo beach surf shop (from USD 80)





Looking to reel in a big catch? Search no further. Both freshwater and ocean fishing are options in SLO CAL.

For freshwater fishing, head to Lopez Lake, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Arroyo Grande. Cast your line into the nearly 1,000 acres (4 square kilometers) of lake surface, and in the warmer months, find crappie, redear sunfish and largemouth and smallmouth bass. In the cooler months, you’ll catch regular rainbow trout plants. At dusk and dawn throughout the year, anglers frequently reel in catfish that weigh more than 25 pounds (11 kilograms).   


Discover more freshwater fishing at Santa Margarita Lake. Fish from shore, or cast a line from a boat or canoe. Largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, redear, catfish and trout are common catches. The cooler months also bring trout.

Eager to try your hand at ocean fishing? Gather your supplies, journey to Highway 1, and cast a line directly into the surf at one of SLO CAL’s beaches (fishing license required), or fish from one of SLO CAL’s piers, no license needed. Pismo Beach Pier and the Harford Pier in Avila Beach are favorite fishing spots. To make the most of your pier fishing expedition, take note of the tides that day—the types of fish caught will vary not only on the time of year and where on the pier you fish, but on the tide as well. No matter how many fish you catch, fishing off SLO CAL’s piers is a memorable experience, one that invites you to slow down and enjoy the incredible coastal scenery as you master the art of fishing.  

For deep sea fishing, check out one of the many boat tour companies in SLO CAL. Skilled fishermen will take you out to where the fish are during half-day or full-day excursions and provide as much guidance as needed. All levels of angling experience are welcome on fishing tours.















We hope you get a chance to visit, it is truly a wonderful location loaded with history!

Enjoy, Chris

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