Fun, Sun, and Sand at Pismo Beach and the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel
One of the great things about living in California is that you don't have to go far for an amazing family getaway. Whether it's up to the mountains or down to the seashore, you can get where you want to go in just a few hours at most. We love to visit new places along California's coast, and for our most recent family trip we decided to head south to the Central Coast town of Pismo Beach.
Located about four hours south of the San Francisco Bay Area on Highway One, Pismo Beach is one of those classic California beach towns that encourages you to just unwind and take things a little slower. I've driven through it many times on the way down to Southern California, and never really stopped there other than to admire the amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. I'm glad we decided to stop and stay awhile—we had a fantastic time!
Being a tourist town means there's no shortage of places to stay in Pismo Beach. From high-end luxury resorts to budget-friendly motels, there's something for every taste and price range. We did some research and decided to stay at the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel, which looked like a great spot for families. We had a wonderful time at this relaxed and friendly beachside hotel. When you walk through the lobby and onto the hotel's grounds, you feel like you're in Hawaii or another tropical paradise. Everyone at the SeaCrest was friendly and helpful and made sure we had an amazing stay.
We stayed in one of the SeaCrest's family suites, which consisted of a large room with a king bed and sitting area and a smaller room with two twin beds for the kids. The kids loved having their own HDTV and Wii games in their room, and we loved the spaciousness of the suite, which also had a mini-fridge, microwave, and a Keurig coffee maker. The hotel also provided complimentary microwave popcorn and bottled water, which was restocked each day.
Access to a deck was through a slider in the main room. Like most of the rooms at the SeaCrest, ours had a stunning ocean view. The room itself was decorated in a cool midcentury-modern beachside look, and appeared to have been recently refurbished so everything was clean and new. The SeaCrest is one of the few hotels in the area that is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friend along on the trip.
As much as we liked our room, our favorite part of the SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel had to be the grounds and common areas. The hotel's spacious outdoor area included acres of lawn, majestic palm trees, three spas, and a swimming pool, as well as plenty of places to hang out, relax, and enjoy the view and ocean breezes. Gas firepits dotted the grounds, which hotel staff lit as the sun went down.
We found an added bonus in the gas BBQ grills near the swimming pool. These are available to hotel guests on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can borrow BBQ tools from the front desk. We picked up some food at the Trader Joe's in nearby San Luis Obispo and grilled our dinner outside while the kids swam in the pool, and we ate al fresco at one of the outdoor tables. After dinner, we waited until the sun went down and then toasted marshmallows at a firepit for s'mores.
If you don't want to cook for yourself, don't worry, plenty of restaurants can be found nearby. We love Zorro's Cafe and Cantina located just north of the SeaCrest in Shell Beach, at 927 Shell Beach Road. Zorro's serves up fantastic Mexican food and hearty breakfasts and is a favorite with visitors and locals alike.
Access to Pismo Beach itself is via a staircase that winds down the bluffs. You can walk for miles along this beautiful sandy beach, down to past the historic Pismo Beach Pier. Look for shells, fly a kite, build a sandcastle, and watch the surfers ride the waves.
Things to Do
While you could just hang out and relax at the hotel all day and not actually feel like you had to do anything, families will find plenty of activities in the Pismo Beach area. You can explore the miles of beach that are accessible right from the hotel grounds, and even rent beach cruiser bikes at the SeaCrest and pedal into Pismo Beach or nearby Shell Beach.
Close by is Dinosaur Caves Park, a neat little local park with amazing ocean views, walking paths, a cool dinosaur- and sea life-themed playground, and even an amphiteater that hosts an annual family-friendly concert series in the spring and summer. You'll also find a nature center and Monarch butterfly sanctuary at Pismo State Beach. More adventurous types can kayak in the waters offshore and ride an ATV or dune buggy at the Oceano Dunes offroad area south of town.
About 10 minutes up Highway 101 is the college town of San Luis Obispo, where you'll find fun in the form of a real-live drive-in movie theater (when is the last time you've been to one of those?), the famous Bubble Gum Alley, a narrow alley downtown where generations of visitors have stuck their used chewing gum to the walls, plenty of shopping, and the historic 1772 Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
Hearst Castle, media magnate William Randolph Hearst's opulent hillside estate, is in nearby San Simeon. It's about an hour's drive from Pismo Beach, but it's well worth the trip. We made a stop there while we were in the area and will highlight our visit there soon.
If you still don't know what to do, the staff at the SeaCrest can offer plenty of recommendations. If you forgot anything like sand toys, frisbees, and kites—no problem. You can buy them in the lobby. You can learn more about activities and events in Pismo beach at www.pismobeach.org.
If You Go
Pismo Beach is about a four-hour drive south of the San Francisco Bay Area. To get there from Marin, head south on Highway 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco to I-280. Take 280 to San Jose, where you'll head south on 101 again. Follow 101 as it goes through the Salinas Valley all the way to Pismo Beach.
The SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel is located at 2241 Price Street, Pismo Beach 93449. To get there, take the Price Street/Shell Beach exit off 101 at the north end of Pismo Beach. Turn left at the stop sign onto Price Street and follow it a brief distance; the SeaCrest will be on your right overlooking the ocean.
The SeaCrest is pet friendly and offers a limited number of rooms that accomodate dogs. Breakfast, consisting of pastries, toast, cereal, bagels, oatmeal, yogurt, juice, waffles, and fruit, is included with the price of your room. The hotel offers complimentary coffee, tea, and hot chocolate in the lobby at all times, and fresh baked cookies in the afternoon. For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.seacrestpismo.com or call (800) 782-8400.
Disclosure: The SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel hosted us for one night of our stay.
June 12, 2020
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