San Luis Obispo
In the heart of California’s Central Coast region, there’s a gorgeous little city called San Luis Obispo. While it may not be on many tourists’ radar, it’s a dream destination. Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo has it all. Beaches, nightlife, shopping, and incredible natural beauty. Ready to explore this one-of-a-kind place? Here’s my ultimate guide to San Luis Obispo.
What to Expect in San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a small city with a lot going for it. There is buzzing energy to the place and it’s anything but a sleepy little coastal town. In fact, SLO earned the title “Happiest City in America.”
With cool art projects like Bubblegum Alley, a thriving farmers’ market, and hopping nightlife, downtown San Luis Obispo is definitely the place to be.
While the city isn’t on the coast, the best beaches of San Luis Obispo County are less than a 15-minute drive away. Check out the sandy shores of Pismo Beach or the nature lover’s paradise, Piedras Blancas.
Weather: The weather is consistently nice here. Typically, you’ll have sunny days between 65-75 degrees F. In the winter, there are more gray days and the temps can fall to 40 degrees F. The summer is perfect, though, with days reaching the upper 70s.
Getting Around in San Luis Obispo
Rent a Car: To explore the best of San Luis Obispo County, you’ll want a car. Public transportation is limited, and the best beaches, vineyards, and hiking areas are out of town.
Uber: If you’d rather not drive yourself, Uber is an option too!
Walk: Downtown SLO is very walkable! Once you’ve made it to town, you can walk the streets for hours.
Old SLO Trolley: If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can take a ride on the trolley that makes loops around downtown every 15-20 minutes. The schedule changes depending on the time of year so be sure to check it before you go!
Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo
Downtown San Luis Obispo offers a lot of accommodation options and it is very easy to walk around all of the shops, cafes, and more. You can find hotels for all budgets—my favorite is definitely the Madonna Inn, which is well-known for its themed rooms and over-the-top decor.
Here are the best hotels in San Luis Obispo!
Love this pink paradise! I’ve stayed at the Madonna Inn multiple times and every time I love booking a different one of their themed guest rooms. It’s the ultimate girls’ trip hotel! Read about my experience here.
With a handy downtown location, the Granda Hotel is a pretty little boutique hotel with a cozy rooftop terrace.
If you’re traveling with a group or just want to have an authentic, local experience, you’ll find tons of great vacation rental options on VRBO.
The Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa is the perfect spot to unwind and treat yourself. It’s closer to Avila Beach than downtown SLO but it’s a beautiful sanctuary with a ton of amenities!
This charming little bed and breakfast is just a quick walk to downtown SLO.
Where to Eat in San Luis Obispo
SLO offers a great mix of global cuisines and American comfort foods—there’s also a great coffee and craft beer scene, so be sure to visit a few local coffee shops and breweries if you’re into that sort of thing.
Here are the top restaurants in San Luis Obispo!
This is the place to get breakfast. Come hungry for ultra-fresh and local California fare.
Frank’s Famous Hot DogsFast Food
This hole-in-the-wall spot has breakfast burritos and of course, hot dogs, that you’ll never forget.
For gourmet burgers and cold beer, look no further than Eureka! They have a great selection of local craft brews, and cocktails too
Taco TempleMexican, Fast Food
Come worship the amazing concoction that is the taco. The ultimate in Cali-Mex food, go for the seafood here. I loved the king salmon tacos and scallops off the specials menu.
This place is a local institution. Everybody in the know comes here for the famous tri-tip sandwiches and BBQ dishes. It’s always busy, but worth the wait.
Swing by here for an amazing brunch experience! They’ve also got amazing smoothies, acai bowls, toasts, flatbreads, and more—all Californian-inspired cuisine.
Luna RedTapas, Spanish, Global
I love this spot for authentic Spanish tapas, wine, and delicious cocktails! It’s also where the locals go for after-dinner drinks—they have live music weekly.
Oyster Loft in PismoSeafood
Ready for a fancy dinner out? Come here for ultra fresh seafood (try the sushi!) and a beautiful view of the beach.
Come here for an elevated Italian meal, and a lovely little garden area to sit in. They have great vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.
Build-your-own mac ‘n’ cheese? Sign me up! This pub has a sunny patio and a fun vibe.
Granada Hotel BarFrench
Another ideal spot for a sunny day is the Granada Hotel outdoor bar and bistro. It has a delicious French menu, and it is a great place to try the first-rate local wines.
What to Do in San Luis Obispo
With San Luis Obispo, you get the best of both worlds! From downtown SLO, you can travel to the coast or the country, full of wine estates, in the same amount of time. There are a lot of nature hikes, as well as shopping and foodie experiences to be had. Check out the top activities in San Luis Obispo!
And if you’re road-tripping, be sure to check out my 10-day itinerary to the California coast and The Ultimate Two-Week California National Park Road Trip Itinerary.
Past Schooner’s Cove Beach, you’ll find a trail that’ll take you past all of the best of SLO county. Plan on a gorgeous two-mile walk along the bluffs.
Another lovely place for a walk is at the beach along Morro Bay. Be sure to check out Morro Rock, a volcanic plug at the entrance to the bay. There’s a boardwalk with great seafood cafes, and their local specialty, saltwater taffy!
Plan an afternoon exploring this three-mile stretch of trail. And come prepared! It’s not too challenging of a hike, but there are some steep parts so you’ll definitely want proper shoes for a hike.
Between the rugged mountains and the picturesque Pacific Ocean coast, you’ll find another dozen first class wineries.
Support local farmers and nab some fresh produce. This is an especially fun visit during autumn when there are pumpkin patches and live music at Halloween.
There are places right at the beach to rent a kayak. Just park at the San Luis Port pier and you’re set to go.
“Pop” over to bubblegum alley. Equally gross and fascinating, this is a popular photo spot in downtown!
There are so many fab little boutiques downtown! Plan ample time for retail therapy here.
Shop My Travel Essentials
I got to spend The Blonde Abroad Blog's 4th Birthday at the Madonna Inn! Talk about the ultimate girls' getaway- this 1950's inn is a girly heaven.Read More >