They say SLO County, slow life: envision long, white, abandoned sea shores, sheer rough bluffs, ocean otters and whales; consolidate it with a delightful open country, incredible wine celebrations, pleasant towns with an older style feel… and not a single travelers to be seen.
A fantasy, isn’t that so?
San Luis Obispo County, on the Central Coast, is California’s trick of the trade. What’s more there are a lot of objections to find here assuming that you’re driving from LA to San Francisco.
Found somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco, SLO district is typically only an intersection point for travelers who drive by en route to the huge city, are on an excursion from San Fran to L.A., or make a trip for a Starbucks break prior to making a beeline for Monterey, the VIP and more known objective on the focal coast.
This is the motivation behind why San Luis Obispo (SLO) district has held its appeal, and it’s an unlikely treasure.
10 reasons to love the California Central Coast
Every Thursday night the streets in downtown San Luis Obispo host the Farmers’ Market that draws people from all over the county: downtown fills with local fresh products, a giant bbq, and live music exhibitions.
Paso Robles in the north county every spring hosts the Paso Robles Wine Festival, a tribute to the fertile region, while in the summer the California Mid State Fair literally invades town.
The Fair boasts concerts of artists of the caliber of Stevie Wonder, Beyonce and Aerosmith who have performed here in the past, a cattle drive, cowpokes and buckaroos.
The hiking and the back roads
SLO county offers great opportunities for outdoor lovers: Montana de Oro State Park is a paradise for hikers and mountain bikers, while Bishop peak is the tallest of nine volcanic ‘morros’ and a hike up there will be compensated by the view.
In Oceano, near Pismo Beach, 8 miles of sand dunes are the perfect set for camping trips and adventurous quad rides.
If you’re feeling lazy, just take your car and meander around the 1200 miles of backroads for stunning sceneries from coasts to mountains.
San Luis Obispo
If you want to shop and party, SLO is where to go. Most of the population here is made of young, university students of Cal Poly, so the town is the liveliest in the area. Head to the Firestone Grill for a tri-tip sandwich with fries, this place is a favorite between college students!
You won’t find snotty people here: the atmosphere is relaxed, quite country-like, people are laid-back and very friendly, and it’s very easy to approach someone and ask advice on where to go and what to do.
The locals are very proud of their little slice of paradise and will be eager to recommend you the places you cannot miss.
The cute little towns
Cambria is one of my favorite little towns EVER. The salty air, the ‘oh so relaxed’ feeling, the family owned tiny little shops, the boardwalk for a sunset stroll along the ocean…it’s not hard to understand why this place is so famous for senior citizens as a retreat place. Just so charming.
If you’re looking for something a bit more rural, check out Harmony, population 18.
It is tiny, but manages to host an art gallery, a glassblowing studio, a winery, a music studio, a cafe…curious?
The unspoiled region is home to a wide array of wildlife: sea otters, pelican, deers, Monarch butterflies live in the county.
One of my favorite places is Piedras Blancas elephant seals rookery, just north of San Simeon, where it’s possible to spot literally hundreds of these mammals which come here to breed. They’re so funny while they play, fight and clumsily move on the shore!
William Randolph Castle, one of the world’s richest men, in 1919 decided San Simeon was going to be the perfect spot for his dream castle, and I honestly cannot blame him.
Hearst Castle feels like an optical illusion in the desert: overlooking the ocean in an exquisite way, it’s huge, white, contains 58 (!) bedrooms and on the grounds around the castle wild animals such as zebras and tigers roam free.
Take one of the guided tours… and dream.
Do you like white and soft sand? They’ve got it!
You prefer deserted, rocky coves? Check!
The 84 miles of coast mean that San Luis Obispo county’s beaches are really for anyone.
In the north you have Cayucos and Cambria, with wild landscapes that are as good as the more famous Big Sur; driving south you encounter Morro Bay, with Morro Rock sitting in the ocean. Keep driving south and you’ll find the laid-back coastal towns of Avila beach, Shell beach and Pismo beach.
Walk on the pier, surf, kayak, or simply get tanned on the beach.
And for your lunch break, don’t forget to have some of the mouth-watering clam chowder Pismo beach is famous for:believe me, it’s the best I’ve ever tried.
Surf, California’s national sport, is widely practiced: keep in mind that the water here is cold (well… FREEZING!), so make sure you pack a good full-length wetsuit, or rent one while here, if you plan on surfing.
Pismo Beach, with smaller waves, is the best place to try if you are a beginner, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the sun afterwards.
On the other hand, Cambria, San Simeon and Morro Bay are rocky and a great place to surf if you know what you’re doing.
Paso Robles, located in the northern part of the county, has recently become a very popular destination between wine lovers: home to more than 200 wineries, most of them offering tasting tours, it’s not difficult to understand why.
But even if you are not so much into wine, you will love the striking landscape made of green and golden hills, the boundless spaces, the western feeling and the gourmet local cuisine.