16 BEST Things to Do in Pismo Beach with Kids in 2024: Ultimate Guide

Looking for the best things to do in Pismo Beach with kids? I was just there and I want to let you know all about what to do plus where to stay.

I’ve been dying to check out Pismo Beach for years. Even though I’ve lived in both SoCal and NorCal for a while, I never really explored the Central Coast.

I decided that this year would be the year I finally did. I’d heard that Pismo Beach is super family friendly and I knew we had to make it our first stop on our exploration of the Central Coast. And I am so glad we did!

One of the best things about Pismo Beach is it’s size. It has so many amazing features and activities, but it’s still compact so you don’t have to venture too far out to enjoy everything. 

The Central Coast is seriously underrated. It’s gorgeous, with the prettiest landscapes you can imagine. And there’s so much to do for families. Whether you’re into chilling on the beach or going on wild adventures, this place has got you covered.

So if you’re thinking of taking the kids to Pismo Beach, keep reading for all the best stuff to do! 

Key Takeaways

  • Pismo Beach is a great place to take young kids. It has a combination of beach activities, kids museums, playgrounds,  and amazing nature like a butterfly grove and san dunes.
  • Next door to Pismo Beach is Avila Beach, where there are even more activities like a beach, a small farm, hot springs, a small aquarium, and a zoo.  
  • The best place to stay in Pismo Beach with kids is the Pier Beach Boardwalk area. Sandcastle on the Beach, SeaVenture Beach Hotel, and Vespara Resort are the all amazing options.

Table of Contents

 Need a place to stay in Pismo Beach? 

We stayed at the Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach and we loved it!
It’s in a perfect location, there’s an on-site coffee shop, and a wraparound patio with fire pits and s’mores kits! 
Rooms are standard but spacious.

➡️Check prices and book your stay at Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach here!

Things to Do in Pismo Beach with Kids

1. The Beach

The beach should be your first stop! It’s one of the biggest claims to fame of the area and it’s such a great time. There are a few beaches in the area, but most are small, blufftop beaches and not really a spot for a family beach day. Your best bet is Pier Beach.

 

a day at pier beach is one of the best things to do in pismo beach with kids!

Pier Beach

Also called Downtown Beach, this is the more popular beach right next to the Pismo Beach Pier. It’s in a buzzy area with shops, restaurants, a play area, picnic tables, and beach side hotels. You could easily spend all day in this area!

The beach is wide with plenty of room to spread out. There are multiple restrooms and showers at the beach entrance too. It’s a very family friendly beach so you’ll see lots of kids running around. There’s even a giant slide that leads to the beach! 

2. Get on the water

While you’re at the beach, get on that water! There are so many types of water activities that you can try.

Sea kayaking and paddleboarding are two popular activities. There are rental shops near the beach that offer kayaks, boards, and wet suits. They also have boogie boards! Or you can spring for a kayak tour.

3. Pier Plaza

pier plaza has a whale playground for kids.

Surfing is also very popular, and you can rent your gear or sign up for a lesson. Lessons around about 1.5 hours and are right at Downtown Beach for ages 12+. 

➡️Check prices and book this 5-star surfing lesson here! 

Located right at the base of Pismo Beach Pier is the newly revamped Pier Plaza. It’s such a fun spot with a great atmosphere. It’s not too big too, so you can easily stroll around and check everything out. You can start or end (or both!) your day at the beach there.

There’s a huge selection of restaurants, dessert and candy shops, and boutique shopping. Plus, there’s a gigantic 7-foot-tall, illuminated Pismo Beach sign (you can’t miss it) that you MUST take pictures at.

And for the kids, there’s Whale Surfing Playground, a giant slide to the beach, and public restrooms. Plus, during the summer, there are many types of events hosted here like concerts, festivals, or movie nights.

Most highly recommended spots to eat at in the Plaza:

  • Surfside Donuts and Old West Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast.
  • Cracked Crab, Splash Cafe, and Guiseppe’s for lunch or dinner.

These might have a line though because they’re so popular. If they do, just stroll around to another spot. There’s many to choose from.

You’ll also be able to check out the 1,200 feet long pier. There are a couple of vintage airstream trailers on the pier to visit as well. The first one is The Visitor Information Center. The second one is a food cart serving up gourmet street food.

 

4. Dinosaur Caves Park

dinosaur caves park in pismo beach is a great place to take kids.

Dinosaur Caves Park is an 11-acre park situated on an oceanfront bluff, and it’s a hit for everyone!

There’s a huge grassy lawn, a dinosaur and ocean themed playground, walking trails, and stunning views of the ocean. The park has all the amenities families will need to like a big parking lot, benches and tables, public restrooms, and a water fountain.

You can head down the trails along the coast and stop at several outlooks. You’ll get spectacular views of the ocean and some pretty huge rock formations. 

A big bonus is that if you walk down to Shell Beach, there are tidepools you can explore! 

This park was just beautiful and it’s a great place to unwind and relax. It was our first stop in Pismo Beach and just the views and atmosphere instantly attracted me to not just the area, but the Central Coast as a whole.

5. Lighthouse Suites Playdeck

If you want to get the kids to burn off some energy, this is the spot. The Playdeck at Lighthouse Suites is an outdoor play area and it’s full of fun activities for all ages. And best part is that it’s free!

There’s a pirate ship play structure, a giant chessboard, badminton, ping pong, cornhole, hopscotch, Giant Connect 4, and plenty of areas to hang out.

The boys woke up early and nothing was open yet, so we headed to the Playdeck and they loved it! There wasn’t anyone else there yet either, so they got the whole place to themselves. I can imagine it getting very busy! Read more about it here

visiting the playdeck is one of the best things to do in pismo beach with kids!

6. San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum

the san luis obispo childrens museum is a lot of fun for kids!

Technically not IN Pismo Beach, but it’s a short drive over. And this one is a MUST see. It’s three floors of interactive exhibits—and it’s impressive!

Kids can play in a rocket simulator, a farmer’s market –there’s even chicken coops nearby that they can grab the eggs out of and put out to sell, a construction site with foam pieces they can build with, they can get on a real motorcycle, get hands on with science experiments, make music, or play in the art center. Plus so, so much more.

The boys were VERY bummed when we had to leave. I’d say it’s one of the best children’s museums we’ve been to. So, put it on your list of things to do while you’re in Pismo Beach! Read more about it here.

 

slo childrens museum is a lot of fun for kids!

7. Exploration Discovery Center

edc is one of the funnest things to do in pismo beach!

Also technically not in Pismo Beach, BUT right next door in Grover Beach. The EDC’s mission is to inspire children’s learning through play. There’s a huge variety of indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits for all ages.

Kids can enjoy the water play area, an art studio, ride around in toy cars and trucks, play with mini bulldozers and cranes, cook in a play kitchen and pizza shop, play real instruments like drums and guitars, aquaponic gardening, and a discovery area filled with interactive exhibits.

The EDC has a little bit of a different feel than other children’s museums. This one is more low-key, like you are going over to a friend’s house to play.

It’s not just a bunch of fancy exhibits, there’s a lot of homemade learning too, plus the employees were all very warm and helpful. It’s definitely worth a spot on your list of things to do when in Pismo Beach! Read more about it here.

8. Monarch Butterfly Grove

If you’re looking for things to do in Pismo Beach during the months of October through February, then you must come to the Butterfly Grove!

It’s a small grove of eucalyptus trees that is home to thousands of monarch butterflies during the winter months. You can take an easy stroll through the many trees and see butterflies up close! There’s also a small interpretive center that provides information about the monarch butterlifes and their migration.

It’s free and easy to get to, right on Highway 1. This is a great place for a change of pace and to just enjoy nature! 

9. Oceano Sand Dunes

The Oceano Sand Dunes are a series of large sand dunes a part of Pismo State Beach. it’s popular for off-road vehicles, hiking, camping, and surfing.

Until March of 2024, you can rent ATV, UTV, or dune buggies and off road on the beach! The rental companies are right on the beach, and you can choose from 1-, 2-, 4-, or 6-rider vehicles.

You can also sand sled on some of the higher dunes (the highest is 500 feet high!), hike one of the many hiking trails that wind through the dunes, or even camp at the beach.

Visiting the dunes is one of the more unique things to do in Pismo Beach! 

10. More playgrounds

Sometimes you just need to go the old-fashioned route and hit a playground to get the energy out. And what kid doesn’t love a good playground?

Here are a couple of other playgrounds in gorgeous parks in Pismo Beach:

  • Palisades Park: a blufftop park with a playground and amazing ocean views. There are also picnic tables and a horseshoe pit.
  • Spyglass Park: waterfront park with a playground, beach access, a big grassy area, and picnic tables with BBQ grills. 

11. Pismo Bowl

If you’re into bowling, or need to do an indoor activity, head over to Pismo Bowl. It is one of the oldest running bowling splits in the state! It has an old timey, funky vibe to it.

There’s bumpers for the littles, plus food if you’re feeling hungry. 

It’s also simple to find, it’s right in the heart of downtown Pismo! 

Things to Do Near Pismo Beach with Kids

If you get through all of the things to do in Pismo Beach and still are wanting more, there’s plenty more to do in the area.

12. Avila Beach Boardwalk

the playground at avila beach is a great place to bring kids.

Neighboring Avila Beach is a small coastal town with a great beach and boardwalk area. It’s small enough for a fun daytrip.

At the beach near the pier, there’s a cute boardwalk of restaurants and shops, and a pirate themed kids play area too.

13. Avila Valley Barn

avila valley barn is a great place to visit with kids.

This is such an adorable family farm! There’s a petting zoo (with lettuce you can buy to feed the animals too), hayrides around the farm, pony rides, a farm stand that sells fresh produce, flowers, and baked goods, and a smokehouse.

I loved the size of this farm. Most are huge with so much to do, but this one was a great size for the little ones to get to do everything that was offered.

 

14. Avila Hot Springs

The Avila Hot Springs offers a hot mineral soaking pool and a heated freshwater pool with double slides.

The huge freshwater pool is heated naturally from heat exchanged from the artesian hot spring, then it’s covered at night to keep it warm. So, you can visit any time of the year!

If you’d prefer a soak, the hot mineral soaking pool is 104 degrees and 2 feet deep. Children must be 8 or above to get into it. 

15. Central Coast Aquarium

This quaint aquarium in Avila Beach offers up a variety of marine animals to view like fish, sharks, rays, jellyfish, and sea turtles.

There are also educational exhibits like touch tanks and a live animal exhibit. Scheduled feedings that can be watched with interesting facts about the animal.

It’s small, so most people won’t need a lot of time to spend in there. But it’s near the beach, boardwalk, and pirate playground, so it can make for a very fun filled afternoon. 

16. Charles Paddock Zoo

This small, 5-acre zoo in Atascadero is the only zoo in the Central Coast!

It’s home to over 100 animals and has a variety of educational exhibits like a walk-through aviary, petting zoo, and children’s discovery area. There’s also a male Malayan tiger there that is very popular.

It’s a good size for littles so you can get through it slowly and not miss anything. 

Where to Stay in Pismo Beach

Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach

This is where we stayed and we loved it! It has a cozy, welcoming feeling to it. It’s in a perfect location, right on the beach and a short walk to the Pier Plaza. There’s an on-site coffee shop and a huge, beautiful patio with fire pits overlooking the ocean- and smores kits you can buy at the front desk! Rooms are standard but spacious with a balcony.

➡️Check prices and book the Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach here!

sandcastle hotel is a great place to stay with kids.

SeaVenture Beach Hotel

Literally ON the beach and a short walk to the Pier Plaza. The beach-chic rooms all feature a seating area and a fireplace— and some rooms have private terraces with hot tubs. Plus, there’s an on-site restaurant with a seasonal menu.

➡️Check prices and book the SeaVenture Beach Hotel here!

Vespara Resort on Pismo Beach

Luxury on the beach. The amenities range from a pool (that faces the beach), a huge lounge and terrace, on-site restaurant, and in-house bar. It’s steps from the Pier Plaza. There are a variety of rooms that range from a classic king to one-bedroom suites with beachfront balconies and kitchens.

➡️Check prices and book the Vespara Resort on Pismo Beach here! 

Getting to Pismo Beach

Getting to Central California isn’t as easy as getting to the north or side sides. There is one small, domestic airport within 30 minutes, but most of the visitors come from driving in. Pismo Beach is a perfect stop on a California road trip!

By plane: The closest airport to Pismo Beach is (SBP)—San Luis Obispo County Airport. It’s 12 miles and about a 15-minute drive to Pismo Beach. There are several airlines that offer flights to SBP, including American Airlines, Delta, and United offering 8 routes connected to hundreds of cities.

By car: Pismo Beach is located on Highway 101, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The drive from Los Angeles to Pismo Beach takes about 4 hours. 

FAQs: Things to Do in Pismo Beach

Is Pismo Beach worth visiting?

If you love a calm, laid back beach trip then Pismo Beach is absolutely worth visiting with your family.

Pismo Beach has all kinds of amazing activities for families. Between the beaches, the pier, multiple parks, children’s museums, delicious dining, and nature activities, you won’t be at a loss for what to do. 

Is Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach better?

Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach are both beautiful beach towns in California, but totally different vibes. Santa Barbara is larger and more upscale, while Pismo Beach is a smaller town with a more relaxed vibe. Ultimately, the best town for you will depend on your personal preferences

Pismo Beach has fun beaches, a relaxed atmosphere, and lots of fun activities for everyone in the family. It is a small town though, and not close to major cities or airports.

Santa Barbara has beautiful beaches with upscale restaurants and shops. But it can get crowded and expensive. 

How many days do you need in Pismo Beach?

If you’re just looking to relax on the beach and enjoy the sunset, you can easily get away with a day trip. However, if you want to explore all that Pismo Beach has to offer, such as its beaches, museums, parks, and restaurants, you’ll need at least two days.

Wrapping Up: Things to Do in Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is a great place to take your kids for a beach vacation. There are many activities and attractions to choose from that will make everyone happy.

Whether you want to lounge at the beach, explore Pier Plaza, or visit one of the many kids museums and playgrounds, Pismo Beach has something for everyone.

pier plaza is a great place to take kids when visiting pismo beach

MEET BESA

Your Go-To Girl for Beach Travel

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple little boys in tow – and I want to help other parents like you do the same!

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, beach hacks, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation beach spots.

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Why Trust Beaches and Babies?

Besa has been a frequent traveler for almost 20 years, and the last five years of her travels have included her two toddler boys, 19 months apart.
Years of flying and beach bumming with her kids has given her plenty of hard-earned experience in the travel world.

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FLIGHTS
Kayak searches hundreds of travel sites for the lowest prices plus the flexible calendar tells you which days are the cheapest to fly.

LODGING
booking.com is easy to use and gives options for all types of lodging. When I know I want a big rental house, I use VRBO.

RENTAL CARS
rentalcars.com scans multiple agencies at your destination to give you the best price.

ACTIVITIES
Viator lets you search for a specific activity at your destination or scroll all available.

Read over my full list of the best sites to book with on my Resources page.