Pismo Beach–quintessential beach town California

Spring weather along the central California coast is one of the best times of the year to visit the beach towns.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 171

Harbor seal pups on the beach at Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, CA (4-19-12)

April and May are the months for seeing seal pups. These little pups are survivors and start feeding on their own after just a few months.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 054

Highway 1 Big Sur is the leisurely driving route

On my way to Los Angeles.

I seriously considered driving the Big Sur coast along Highway 1 from Monterey to Morro Bay yesterday since the weather was gorgeous, but the Big Sur coast road adds at least an extra hour to the 135 mile drive to San Luis Obispo.

Big Sur1-9-09 048

Highway 1 Big Sur

The fog building in the center of Monterey Bay as I left home in early afternoon meant the fog along the Big Sur coast might roll in and obscure any ocean views. And there always seems to be some part of Highway 1 that has fallen into the sea requiring a one-lane traffic stoppage adding a bit more idle time to the coast drive.

Monterey was baking in 65 degree hot sun and then the temperature rose to the upper 80s just five miles inland from the sea and low 90s once I hit the agricultural fields of the Salinas Valley 20 miles inland.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 179

Highway 101 is the inland central coast road people generally take when driving between Pismo Beach and Monterey when you want to travel fast. Pismo Beach is about 175 miles north of Los Angeles and 245 miles south of San Francisco. For me, Pismo Beach is the halfway point, about 150 miles, when driving from Monterey to LA.

Pismo Beach offers the first Pacific Ocean views visible from Highway 101 once I leave my home in Monterey driving to southern California. I consider this town to be the dividing line between southern California and northern California. I think Pismo Beach might be the most northerly town where there is an official State of California sign calling Highway 1 “Pacific Coast Highway” or “PCH”.

I live by Highway 1 in Monterey and it is named Cabrillo Highway in Monterey County and Santa Cruz County, although everyone just says Highway 1. PCH is a southern California term.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 195

Pismo Beach, California

Best Western Shore Cliff Lodge, Pismo Beach, California

Pismo Beach is a quintessential California beach town with surf, surfers, sand and loads of hotels, motels and vacation rentals. Most of the hotels are independent non-brands, but there are a couple of notable Best Western hotels right on the Pacific’s edge.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 210

Best Western Plus Shore Cliff Lodge

The Best Western Plus Shore Cliff Lodge is literally hugging the cliff over the Pacific. The rooms here on the ocean view side of the hotel have unobstructed views of the ocean.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 192

There must have been a substantial investment to inhibit the cliff erosion around the Best Western hotel and for numerous other buildings along the Pismo Beach cliffs. Pismo Beach is an old beach town where development happened years before the California Coastal Commission regulated development along the coastline since the 1970s.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 180

View looking north from Pismo Beach.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 197

View from hotel balconies of the 2-story Best Western Shore Cliff Lodge.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 198

A gazebo perched on the cliff edge at Best Western Shore Cliff Lodge.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 190

View looking south from Best Western Shore Cliff Lodge, Pismo Beach.

The hotel lobby is nicely decorated with a TV and computer terminals.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 202

The hotel received TripAdvisor 2011 Certificate of Excellence recognition for positive guest reviews.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 201

The pool area of the hotel is between building wings and offers ocean views.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 204

When people ask me where there is a good Best Western hotel to redeem a free night, Pismo Beach comes to mind. Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express are within a few miles, but these other brand name hotels do not offer ocean views.

Best Western Shore Cliff Lodge and nearby Best Western Shelter Cove Lodge are two oceanfront hotels in Pismo Beach.

MBAQ-Simi Valley 213

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »


  1. I’ve stayed there. Nice place. My two favorite things about Pismo Beach are (1) the way the ocean just appears out of nowhere as you come through the hills out of San Luis Obispo on 101 and (2) the warning signs on the beach about the nearby nuclear power plant. Something along the lines of “Evacuate if you hear the siren for more than 20 minutes.” So you have to wait around for 20 minutes to determine if it’s a false alarm or if you should really evacuate!

  2. I live about 1/2 a mile from the featured hotels and it is a beautiful town. One word of warning to visitors though – during summer, school breaks, and long weekends be prepared to be surrounded by “valley folk”. Our population just about doubles, especially on holiday weekends and the increased population is not always the most savory type. I would estimate about 75% of those visiting are from Bakersfield (known jokingly as the arm-pit of California). Not that all people from the valley are un-savory (I am an ex-valley boy myself…though not of Bakersfield caliber), but you will notice a difference. Lots of raised trucks and tattoos.

    Other than that, PB is a beautiful place to live and visit. We do get some foggy mornings, but it usually blows off to look just like the pictures by about noon.

  3. Before moving downunder we had several family vacas to PB. Great fun – Always stayed at same place adjacent to the beach Sea Venture – (the cliff scared me a bit). Had the best Hummer Dune Ride ever while staying at PB!

  4. I grew up nearby. It is pretty close to paradise, if you like the sleepy SLO life.

    There has indeed been work on building better seawalls to contain erosion and the effect of the waves. I remember surfers paddling out to protest the construction of seawalls, as they robbed them of one or two great breaks.

    Pismo Beach itself (known by people I’ve met for its mention in the movie Clueless) claims it has famous clam chowder. It hosts an annual festival and competition among local restaurants. It was a citywide scandal when a blind taste-test made a winner out of Denny’s.

    I’d most recommend going in May to early June. The Chandler strawberries that grow locally – there are Strawberry Festivals in nearby Santa Maria and Arroyo Grande – are sweeter and larger than any other you could imagine. They’re best in late spring.

    I’d be remiss not to mention local wine. There are two large concentrations of vineyards in the county, in the southern Edna Valley and the northern Paso Robles area. The latter is bigger and more well-known. The area trails only Napa and Sonoma in wine production in California. Plenty of tasting rooms, but please be careful on our roads.

  5. If any of the good people from the Shore Cliff are reading this – Please bring back your “Pismo Therapy” package! ($75 restaurant credit, OV suite, wine, for a midweek rate of $99 – 2 night minimum). That was in 1999, however!

  6. Love seeing my area featured! Fun! I’ve lived hear my whole life and haven’t found a better place I’d rather live. Got to say though….so many people come to Pismo but don’t know about the more hidden gem of true beauty without any crowds……LOS OSOS. If you come to the central coast….trust me…go to Montana De Oro State Park. I grew up here so I’m a bit partial but you’ll never regret it. Many people never see it featured….if Rick Steve’s wrote on domestic locations he would definitely feature it in his book. Beautiful beach that you can walk on that go for miles….with little to no people unlike Pismo or Morro Bay which is always packed with tourists. And if come to the little town of Los Osos, be sure to find your way to Baywood Park.

  7. What a lovely destination. After seeing the photos, visiting this place would be one of those extra ordinary experiences that remain with you forever. One would wonder though, if you would ever get tired of living there.

Comments are closed.