The Central Coast of California, as a wine region, is remarkably large. It spans from Santa Barbara to Monterey, covering over 250 miles of rugged coastline. Despite commonalities like the overarching maritime influence, there are so many microclimates packed into every area of the Central Coast that the wines are just as varied. It’s entirely possible to experience a 30-degree temperature change in just as many miles. It’s therefore infinitely explorable.
Beyond wine, there’s plenty to do! From shopping along Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo to surfing along the coast, there’s no lack of activity. Here, we dig into the southern section of San Luis Obispo County and highlight the best things to do in wine, food, hotels and experiences.
- How to Get to San Luis Obispo County
- Top Wineries in San Luis Obispo & Where to Taste Wine
- Where to Eat in San Luis Obispo
- Great Hotels in San Luis Obispo
- More Things To Do in San Luis Obispo
- How to Spend a Day in SLO
- Frequently Asked Questions about Things to Do in San Luis Obispo
How to Get to San Luis Obispo County
San Luis Obispo County is easily accessible via Highways 1 or 101 running north and south. From the east, Routes 58 or 41 will drop you just north of San Luis Obispo itself, where you can take the 1 or the 101 south. Amtrak also has a San Luis Obispo stop, providing a leisurely trip up or down the coast. This region of California is perfect for renting a car while you navigate the Central Coast.
Top Wineries in San Luis Obispo & Where to Taste Wine
Laetitia Vineyard & Winery
Laetitia produces everything from Orange Muscat to port, but its Pinots are really their standouts. Taste through a flight to find your favorite expression of Central Coast Pinot Noir. Or, make the occasion even more special by grabbing one of their tasty bottles of bubbly.
453 Laetitia Vineyard Drive, Arroyo Grande
805 481 1772
Edna Valley Vineyard
Edna Valley Vineyard wines are readily available in many grocery stores and bigger-name stores and there’s a good reason for that: everything they produce is delicious. Treat yourself to their Winemaker Series, which is only available out of the tasting room.
2585 Biddle Ranch Road, San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo Food & Wine Walking Tour
There’s no need to leave downtown SLO if you’re looking to taste local wine and sample delicious cuisine. Consider taking one of the most highly-rated and laid-back food walking tours in San Luis Obispo. Eat like the locals, explore hidden gems and try wine made just a few miles from downtown.
Center of Effort
Take your time with a guided tasting and paired charcuterie board at Center of Effort’s beautiful property nestled in Edna Valley. Sustainable practices only enhance the quality of the wine, which is top-notch. Be sure to secure a bottle or two of Pinot.
2195 Corbett Canyon Road, Arroyo Grande
The Tolosa property benefits from cool maritime air that sweeps through the Valley to produce lovely and nuanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. If you’re more of a Rhone fan, no problem – Syrah sourced from Bien Nacido in Santa Barbara County will certainly do the trick!
4910 Edna Road, San Luis Obispo
Hop-On Hop-Off Wine Tour from San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach
Get out of the city for a bit and explore the nearby wine country of Paso Robles with this unique guided service. You’ll be picked up from your hotel in SLO or Pismo Beach and then pick any of as many 60 wineries to hop on and hop off at, at your own pace. With this semi-private and guided experience, design your own wine tasting itinerary, and your driver will walk out with you to introduce you to the staff at the wineries you stop at. They’ll then leave you to enjoy wine tasting in peace for 45 minutes and come get you at the tasting room to bring you to your next stop. Or, you can decide to stay longer. How cool is that?
After learning with winemaking legends Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist, owner Joshua Klapper launched his own label that is now Timbre. Drawing from musical inspiration, Josh achieves balance and harmony across varieties. Pop into Timbre’s laidback tasting room to experience his love and expertise in person.
225 East Branch Street, Arroyo Grande
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Where to Eat in San Luis Obispo
The Spoon Trade
A personal favorite! The Spoon Trade offers inventive twists on classics, like tri-tip tartare and heirloom tomato Panzanella. The wine list is just as creative with everything from crémant de Limoux to central coast counoise.
295 West Grand Avenue, Grover Beach
Although not exclusively a pizza house, the wood fire pies are a large part of the reason that Ember is a perennial favorite among locals and visitors alike. Try the shishito pepper and summer corn pizza for an example of just what a difference fresh produce can make.
1200 East Grand Avenue, Unit 101, Arroyo Grande
Blue Moon Over Avila
A classic French bistro with a global wine list, Blue Moon provides the perfect lowkey but a special night out. Try the bubbling brie with a glass of Mâcon-Davayé to start the evening on a high note.
460 Front Street, Avila Beach
Though, if you’re along the coast, you’ll probably want fresh seafood and that’s where Oyster Loft comes in. The carefully curated menu offers a delicious range of options without being overwhelming. Be sure to try the scallop carpaccio!
101 Pomeroy Avenue, Pismo Beach
Peruvian cuisine is finally getting the respect it deserves and Mistura certainly helps highlight why: the multicultural influences are celebrated and beautifully combined in the dishes. Cebiche, Japanese-influenced Peruvian rolls called nikkei maki, and Peruvian sashimi called tiradito are just a few examples of how incredible Peruvian food can be.
570 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo
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Great Hotels in San Luis Obispo
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
Staying at Sycamore Mineral Springs is a vacation in itself. Guests can indulge in massages, yoga classes, hot tubs, and wellness retreats. While there’s plenty to explore in the surrounding areas, there’s no shame at all in wanting to unwind in one place and this is the place to do so.
1215 Avila Beach Drive, San Luis Obispo
Sandcastle Hotel on the Beach
This beach-front hotel is the perfect combination of modern and classic. The Sandcastle Hotel hearkens to days of family vacations back east at Atlantic City or Cape May but with all of the current-day amenities, guests could possibly want. Be sure to grab a glass of wine on the waterfront restaurant The Deck at sunset!
100 Stimson Avenue, Pismo Beach
Avila Village Inn
The Avila Village Inn feels almost like a cozy ski lodge if the sky lodge was instead on a beautiful beach. Take advantage of golf weekend packages, or complimentary wine tasting passes available at the front desk.
6655 Laurel Place, Avila Beach
Granada Hotel & Bistro
We’ll be honest: We didn’t know where to place this one because everything about it is fantastic. This small boutique hotel is aesthetically gorgeous, and the bistro is just as good. So, we’ve placed it under where to stay to give you more time to enjoy it! Grab a Fresh Start cocktail for a brightening start to your evening out.
1126 Morro Street, San Luis Obispo
More Things To Do in San Luis Obispo
Avila Hot Springs
Ok. So. You’ve tasted (well, maybe drank). You’ve nibbled. You’re ready to just call it a day and relax. Avila Hot Springs to the rescue! Take a deep soak in the mineral pool and rejuvenating with a long swim. It’s the perfect place to mineral-out any toxins that might have worked their way into your system.
250 Avila Beach Drive, San Luis Obispo
Take a Private Surfing Lesson
In Morro Bay, schedule a surfing experience (for kids and/or adults) with an instructor who will tailor your session to your needs and experience level. Using top-of-the-line equipment (wetsuit included), you’ll get hands-on experience from the pros who also just happen to be some of the nicest instructors we’ve met! There’s a good chance you’ll be hooked on surfing after this.
Avila Valley Barn
As much as we like to think children can entertain themselves while we taste wine, it’s only fair to include some activities that the kids can enjoy as well. Keep an eye on the U-Pick calendar for pumpkins, berries, and more at Avila Valley Barn.
560 Avila Beach Drive, San Luis Obispo
Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
All hail, the mighty Monarch! Monarch butterfly season along the Central Coast is roughly October through February, and what could be more awe-inspiring than flocks of gorgeous butterflies converging together? It’s certainly worth a stop at the Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach.
400 South Dolliver Street, Pismo Beach
Art in the Park at Dinosaur Caves
This open-air art fair takes place five weekends throughout the year and it’s worth planning around it. Even if nothing artistic grabs your fancy, it’s along beautiful Shell Beach. Live music and food vendors can turn this into a fun afternoon for everyone.
2701 Price Street, Pismo Beach
How to Spend a Day in SLO
If you’re not sure where to start with any of the above activities mentioned throughout SLO, our team put together a brief itinerary that will allow you to explore SLO and have a fulfilling experience without needing to do all of the planning yourself.
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at a local cafe or bakery, such as Sally Loo’s Wholesome Cafe or BlackHorse Espresso & Bakery. Afterward, take a stroll through the historic downtown area and explore the boutique shops, art galleries, and the iconic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Visit the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art to appreciate local and regional artists’ work. Alternatively, you can explore the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum for a glimpse into the area’s transportation history.
Grab lunch at one of the downtown restaurants, such as Novo Restaurant & Lounge or Firestone Grill, known for its delicious tri-tip sandwiches.
Take a scenic drive to the nearby Edna Valley, where you can enjoy wine tasting at some of the region’s renowned wineries. Alternatively, head out for a hike or a leisurely walk at one of the local trails, such as the Reservoir Canyon Trail, Bishop Peak, or Cerro San Luis.
Visit the world-famous Madonna Inn, a quirky and unique landmark, to enjoy a beverage or a sweet treat at the Copper Café.
For dinner, dine at one of San Luis Obispo’s highly-rated restaurants, like Ciopinot Seafood Grille or Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana. Following your meal, catch a movie at the historic Fremont Theatre or enjoy a live performance at the San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre.
Frequently Asked Questions about Things to Do in San Luis Obispo
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