How to “Rock” Your Visit to South SLO County

South SLO County is a beautiful place to live, as well as to visit.  The weather almost never changes – it’s either warm/cool with no rain or hot/warm with no rain.  It is also home to some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the country…until, that is, after the tourists leave and it often resembles Hiroshima – you get the picture.

There are two beaches located in South SLO County – well, five, but the other three aren’t really worth mentioning.  Let me rephrase, “There are two beaches you should visit during your stay in our charming neck of the woods – Pismo State Beach and Avila Beach”.  Both of these beaches are close together, and they are thriving tourist destinations.

Our area of the Central Coast is home to the famous “Five Cities”, which include: Grover Beach, Oceano, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Avila Beach.  You may want to keep in mind that the city of Santa Maria is often lumped into our area and used as a directional landmark.  Unfortunately, this area has some gang violence and drug use problems, and may not be a place you want to visit.  Don’t worry, though, Santa Maria is located south of us, is inland, and you’ll probably just drive right by on your way to your real destination.  It is, however, home to one of the largest malls in the area, and some really beautiful old architecture.

Once you have arrived in the Five Cities, be sure to ignore the fact that we haven’t had real rain in about a millennium, and if you spend too much time outside and not near a water source, you will completely dry up into a shriveled mess – okay, maybe it’s not that bad, we do have some humidity to keep you comfortable.  My point is, your best bet is to stick close to the ocean because it’s “rainbows and butterflies”, literally – we have a Monarch Butterfly refuge just off of Highway 1.

The locals in our area are generally friendly, except for the odd liberal who believes that they run the city and your life.  If you happen to bump into one of these people, just smile, nod, keep walking and avoid asking them about ideas for what you should do on your trip.  They tend to want you to avoid anything that may damage the valuable ecosystem (that includes many areas of the beaches, dunes, etc.), and if you mention anything about ATV’s or driving on the beach, they may look at you as though you’ve killed all of the kittens in the world with a hacksaw…three times.

As with any tourist destination, there are a few things that you should keep in mind when you are visiting our beautiful area, including our beaches, towns and sand dunes.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Pier Surfer at Sunset

Pismo Beach is the poster child for the majority of the “outdoorsy” types who enjoy loud engines and fast things…why?  Three words:  They. Allow. Motocross.  Only roughly half of the beach is open to vehicles.  If you have left your brain back at the hotel and decide to walk down toward all of the noise, don’t call for help if you get run over by a three-year-old on a 1500 Honda dirt bike.

Now, the other half of the beach is magical.  There is warm sun, hot sand and cool ocean breezes.  The tourist hot-spot is definitely the pier; walk up and down this ancient, wooden wonder and enjoy the magnificent scenery… just watch your step as you traverse the gaps in the aged wood and avoid the fishermen, who take their sport quite seriously.  Whoa to any who steps up to the railing near one of them to feel the majestic ice cold breeze, you may get an earful or a cold stare that is icier than that breeze you were looking to find.

If you happen to wander out into the frigid water, keep tabs on how far out you go.  This is a surfer’s haven, and “Bro, they aren’t looking for you, man”.  Just watch your step, respect the surfers, and enjoy the blissful serenity of one of our most beautiful landmarks.

Avila Beach

Looking Toward Avila Beach in South SLO County by Mirror’s Edge Photography

Avila Beach is where the younger families tend to visit…with their really old parents.  The atmosphere of the town located feet from the beach is wonderful.  With amazing restaurants and shops nearby, once you’re done roasting the life out of your skin, you won’t have to go far in order to boost the local economy.  You will not be disappointed with the variety of shops and restaurants at your fingertips.  Though, sadly, most of the merchandise is priced beyond what Paris Hilton could afford, what you get – should you have the cash – is quality.

The water and the waves in Avila are a little bit calmer than in Pismo Beach, but remember the movie “Jaws”?  Well, Avila bears a striking resemblance to Amity Island.  The City Council is even talking about piping in the theme song from the movies…I jest, but it would be appropriate.  We have only had a few shark sightings, so generally there isn’t anything to worry about, but you may want to keep your eye on the shore just to be safe.

Our Coast

Horses on the Beach (1 of 1) (1024x683)
Riding Along Pismo State Beach by Mirror’s Edge Photography

If you don’t happen to be into the whole “beach scene”, or just want a little break from it, there are a host of other great things you can do in and around South SLO County.  Hiking trails are spread out across the entire area and can take you both into the mountains and along the rocky shoreline.  There is also Sky Diving available out of the Oceano airport, which is an absolute blast.  And then there is the mountain biking, which can get pretty crazy, and is perfect for those who enjoy taking their lives into their own hands.

Let’s take a moment to talk about one of the best features of South SLO County…the horse community!  That’s right, whether you bring your own horse to our beautiful area, or you decide to rent one, there is little better way to explore what we have to offer than atop a trusty steed.

Shopping, Food and More

Downtown Pismo Beach by Mirror’s Edge Photography

Besides outdoor activities, there is an abundance of shopping, shopping and more shopping in our area.  South SLO County hosts a wide variety of upscale boutiques, as well as sketchy little diamonds in the rough, where you can find everything from designer clothing, exotic shoes, Starbucks and the like.  There should be enough stores for you to spend half of the day wondering which ones you should visit.

Once you’ve parted with your time and money on stuff that you probably didn’t need, there are restaurants to suit just about every taste, from Japanese, Chinese, Thai, American, Italian, Mexican, French, Americalien, Frai-apan-exicanese…you get the picture.  You will end your day with a stomach that is fully satisfied.

Well that ends our tour of South SLO County.  It’s an absolutely beautiful place to visit and to live, and despite my tongue in cheek tour there really isn’t a better place to be in California.  That’s why there are so many people who want to move here…but if you’re one of those people, good luck, because moving here is harder than finding parking at the beach in the middle of summer.

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