The best thing about a getaway in San Luis Obispo County, California is that it truly offers something for everyone. Whether you’re into leisurely outings (such as wine tasting, dining out, and boutique shopping) or enjoy recreational activities (like camping, hiking, and beach activities), SLO County has it all.
Exploring San Luis Obispo County
From discovering the Secret Garden at the iconic Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo to thrilling ATV off-road adventures on the sand dunes in Pismo Beach with SunBuggy, our fun-filled travel guide shares some of the best places to explore in San Luis Obispo County.
Where to eat in San Luis Obispo County
When it comes to eating out, there is no shortage of good restaurants in San Luis Obispo County. Whether you’re looking for casual al fresco dining in a trendy restaurant or homestyle cooking at the heart of California wine country, here are a few of our favorite places to visit.
For a morning coffee accompanied by a freshly-baked muffin, swing by Red Bee Coffee in Grover Beach. This lively coffee shop is a popular destination for friendly locals who want coffee or breakfast.
Plus, their coveted pastries often sell-out quickly, making it a desirable place for folks who have a sweet tooth. With a 5-star Yelp rating, it’s no wonder Red Bee Coffee is always buzzing.
Ideal for breakfast or lunch, one of the best places to dine in SLO County is on the outside patio at the Apple Farm Inn & Restaurant. With gorgeous views of the garden and hillside just beyond, this warm and inviting farmhouse-inspired property exudes country charm and rustic elegance thanks to vintage Americana decorations. Since 1988, the Apple Farm Inn & Restaurant has been a landmark in San Luis Obispo, serving both locals and tourists.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, this iconic property has been attracting thousands of tourists yearly ever since it opened its doors. After trying one of their flavorful made-from-scratch meals, head over to the two-story Gift Shop to shop for unique gifts and treasures, including home decor, food, and novelty items.
When it’s time for a midday pick-me-up, swing by Kreuzberg Coffee Shop in downtown SLO. This hipster-chic spot offers a variety of freshly-brewed coffees, in addition to a healthy lunch menu (complete with fresh salads). Kreuzberg was started in 2010 by two Cal Poly grads who had a dream to bring European cafe culture to San Luis Obispo County. Their goal was to create a relaxed, inviting atmosphere that encouraged patrons to order a cappuccino (with coffee beans roasted on-site) and hang out for a while.
As stated on their website, the Kreuzberg crew “are passionate about creating a welcoming, fun, and creative environment where customers can come to eat, drink, meet, study, play, listen to live music, drink a beer, or just hang with friends.”
With oversized leather chairs, shabby chic furnishings, and eye-catching graphic wall art, Kreuzberg has accomplished its mission to become a cool hangout spot for locals and visitors.
When you’re ready to head out for dinner, swing by Luna Red, a trendy indoor/outdoor restaurant, bar, and lounge that boasts tasty tapas, a lively atmosphere, and a colorful setting that makes you feel like you’re on vacation.
Located next to the landmark Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in downtown SLO, Luna Red offers a tantalizing menu based on small plates that use locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. The popular restaurant supports “local farmers, artists, and musicians in an effort to raise SLO’s service industry standards of community-based sustainability”. One of our favorite bites for sharing is the Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos.
An ideal time to come to Luna Red is on a Friday evening during Summer, as you’ll be able to hear live music from the outdoor patio. Every Friday evening (from 5-8 pm from June through September), the community gathers at the Mission in downtown SLO for the Concerts in the Plaza live music series.
As DowntownSLO.com shares, “Concerts in the Plaza features musical genres across the spectrum from electronic to gypsy rock, jazz to bluegrass, sun-drenched pop, and more. Thousands attend each summer to dance, enjoy the music and the venue with family and friends, wind down after work or just have a great time during the 14-week season.”
When you’re ready for dessert, head over to the unique Madonna Inn Bakery in San Luis Obispo for the elaborate Pink Champagne Cake, which is one of the most popular desserts on the menu. Take a tour of the interesting property, and be sure to bring your camera, because this inspiring place is decorated beyond belief.
Plus, if you want to commemorate a special occasion (such as a birthday, engagement, or anniversary), stroll over to the Secret Garden to capture a beautiful memory. Overflowing with cheery blooms surrounding a tranquil pond, this peaceful garden setting is a lovely backdrop for a photo opp.
What to do in San Luis Obispo County
Aside from dining out, SLO County is known for inspiring coastal living with a variety of charming boutiques, unique gift shops, and outlet stores. To discover quintessential coastal decor, garden accessories and specialty gifts, head into the award-winning Shell Beach Floral Design shop (located next door to Red Bee Coffee) in Grover Beach.
To learn the rich California history of San Luis Obispo County, take a tour of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
“Founded in 1772 and built on its current foundation in 1792, the still active Mission church lies at the center of modern-day downtown San Luis Obispo on a traffic-free block on Palm Street between Chorro Street and Broad Streets. Just outside the Mission lies the open community park and San Luis Creek, an area called Mission Plaza, which faces the bustling shopping and dining district of downtown.” [Source: VisitSanLuisObispoCounty.com]
For outdoor adventures by the sea, head over to Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. To explore the expansive sand dunes, take an exciting ride on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) with SunBuggy Fun Rentals, a premier off-road recreational tour group in San Luis Obispo County.
Located within walking distance to the nearby Pismo State Beach Oceano Campgrounds, the Oceano Dunes is one of the most impressive places to go for a wild ride on a sand-buggy in the USA. With sweeping ocean views and miles of rugged terrain to explore by ATV, this is the ultimate place to get dirty and have fun in San Luis Obispo County.
With over 10-years experience in the sand-buggy rental business, SunBuggy is one of the best places to rent an off-road vehicle from in SLO County. Their friendly, knowledgeable team educate first-timers while providing a wide selection of rentable ATVs, Polaris RZRs, 3/4 Scale Desert Racers, and of course Dune Buggies that seat 1, 2, 4, or even 6 people.
Plus, guests are required to watch an informative video prior to operating an off-road vehicle, to ensure each guest knows the rules and potential risks (because using an ATV can be dangerous).
Put on your athletic apparel and closed-toed shoes, hop in, and buckle up! Going on an off-road adventure in the sand dunes is an exhilarating experience whether it’s your first-time in an ATV or have been sand-buggying before.
If you’d like to get out on the ocean, head over to Pismo Beach to go surfing, paddleboarding, or kayaking. This highly-recreational beach is ideal for those who enjoy staying in-motion while doing fun activities.
If you’d prefer to take the leisurely route while in Pismo, grab a beach blanket and catch some rays while you watch passersby on the nearby pier.
As you can see, when you visit San Luis Obispo County, there’s never a dull moment exploring California wine country. For more fun-filled travel tips and activity guides, check out the Travel section on Inspirations & Celebrations.
[Complimentary ATV Ride provided by SunBuggy. Special thanks to Visit San Luis Obispo County.]