Pismo Beach has that classic California beach-town vibe down – without the SoCal crowds. Kick back by the sands in this Central Coast city, known for its vintage Americana vibes, or head inland to San Luis Obispo, for our selection of stylish places to stay.
A long wooden pier lined by vintage airstreams, palm trees swaying in the breeze and perfectly peeling waves await at Pismo Peach. This Central Coast city has cliff-lined soft-sand beaches, a balmy Mediterranean climate and an embarrassing amount of beautiful beachfront hotels. But there are also inland options nearby in the restaurant-packed town of San Luis Obispo, affectionately called “SLO” by locals for its laid-back feel. Whichever you choose, here are the best hotels in and around Pismo Beach.
The Dolphin Bay Resort and Spa, located on a bluff above the ocean, has suites (many with balconies and fireplaces) with views over the pool or the ocean on the upper levels. The elegant Lido Restaurant & Lounge at the hotel serves pan-seared sea bass and pesto-crusted salmon, the wine cellar boasts 800 local California and international wines, and the spa spoils with nourishing facials and hot-stone massages.
The dramatic setting of this hotel on the cliffs above Shell Beach is just one of the many perks of staying here. The Cliffs Hotel and Spa has fire-lit treatment rooms at the spa, where traditional Hawaiian massages leave you rested and restored, plus sea-inspired guest rooms with Italian-marble bathrooms and frequent live music in the evenings. Head down to the beach below to dip your toes in the surf or to go for a stroll.
This family-friendly oceanfront property has a kidney-shaped swimming pool and two hot tubs. We also love the free grab-and-go continental breakfast of pastries, oatmeal and coffee. With some rooms equipped with dog beds and bowls, a 5-acre (2ha) lawn and direct access to the beach, this is one of the most pet-friendly places to stay in Pismo Beach. Better still, both Pismo State Beach and Olde Port Beach in Avila permit dogs all day, every day.
Vespera on Ocean masters the upscale beach-house vibe. Rooms have white-paneled walls, blue pillows and throws, sand-colored carpets and abstract art. The communal spaces also offer a taste of sophisticated beach living, with a serene swimming pool with a nested hot tub and the Somerset Grill, a French-style bistro with an ocean-facing terrace and a menu of coastal cuisine.
Inn at the Cove’s superpower is its desirable location. It’s on a secluded cove, yet also just a few minutes from downtown Pismo Beach. The 52 beachy guest rooms have white shutters, hardwood floors and balconies or terraces. The hotel can arrange wine-tasting trips, hot-air balloon rides and golfing in Avila Beach for guests. But it also offers its own events and happenings, such as oceanside yoga on Sundays, massages on the shore and Thursday soirees, where local wineries, breweries and distilleries pour free drinks to the sounds of a local musician.
With a cliff-top gazebo on a rocky promontory and a fringe of towering palm trees, the Shore Cliff Hotel embodies classic California. It’s less than a mile (1.6km) from the Pismo Pier and 10mi (16km) from Oceano Dunes – the largest remaining coastal dunes area in Californoa, where you can go horseback and ATV riding. Good old-fashioned beach bonfires are also allowed (designated fire rings are not required at the dunes). Shore Cliff’s 100 contemporary bluff-top rooms have balconies or patios with views of the coastline, mini-fridges, microwaves and binoculars for sea-life spotting. The hotel also lays claim to the largest heated oceanfront pool and hot tub in Pismo Beach.
Initially built in 1922 next to a Vaudeville theater, the Granada Hotel was a brothel and popular stopover for touring artists and actors. The brick building’s current owners pay homage to the past with plenty of bohemian touches. Seventeen guest rooms have exposed-brick walls, steel windows, Persian rugs and hardwood floors. Common areas include a lobby with a sleek modern fireplace and a pretty courtyard, while walls showcase an eclectic mix of photography and original art from local and international artists.
The environmentally friendly Hotel Cerro shows luxury and sustainability can coexist. Guests receive gratis water bottles at check in and can find filtered-water refill stations throughout the hotel. Sumptuous guest rooms feel like sleek city apartments, with dark paneled furnishings, hardwood floors with geometric rugs, and fast fiber-optic internet. There’s also a rooftop pool with views of SLO’s volcanic peaks, a French-bistro-meets-coastal-California-restaurant and a garden.
Hotel San Luis Obispo, a 10-minute drive from Pismo’s coast, is a wellness getaway and dynamic city hotel all in one. The hotel’s Sol Spa has a salt sauna, a light-filled indoor-outdoor relaxation area and intuitive treatments, like cupping and reflexology. Guests can also sip cocktails on a rooftop terrace at High Bar and make reservations for dinner at the modern steakhouse Ox + Anchor. Bright guest rooms manage to be rustic and beachy all at once, with custom built-ins, white oak floors, hand-made Nani Marquina rugs, and original artwork capturing the most iconic architecture in SLO.