Central California Beach Cities

Beach city of Morro Bay

Central California Beach Cities

Each of the Central California beach cities have their own special flavor and feeling.

From relaxed and laid-back to elegant, seriously “arty” or just plain fun, you’re sure to find what you want in one of these dozen California beach towns.

No matter the kind of vacation or getaway that you have in mind there is bound to be one of the California beach towns that perfectly suits your mood and budget.

Morro Bay overview

View of Morro Bay

Shopping is always fun in beach towns with a great variety of unique “one-of” shops with interesting items you won’t find anywhere else.

Great dining, great places to stay, the wonderful tangy salt air – all these things and more are common to a California beach city stay.

Below I’ll list the Central California beach cities with a few lines that will assist you in your choice for a beach destination.

If one of them seems suitable you can click on its link to find more information about that beach town and the activities and attractions nearby.

There is another very good site which give an in-depth and easy to understand month by month analysis of what is happening out there in the ocean near all these beach cities.

Downtown Cayucos

California Beach Cities summaries from South to North:

San Luis Obispo County Beach Towns –


Lots of RV parks; The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville; The Rock and Roll Diner; Plane rides over Pismo Beach and the Dunes; Informal and laid-back beach town.

Grover Beach:

More RV parks, Amtrak station, Entrance to Oceano Dunes, close to the Pismo Beach Monarch butterfly grove. Informal beach town.

Pismo Beach:

Bills itself as a “classic” California beach town and that is certainly truth in advertising; Lovely pier; pismo clams; kayaking; beach biking; Monarch butterfly grove; fine restaurants and diners; Classic car shows.

Avila Beach:

Brand new in a sense; Reconstructed recently; Its beach is warmer than other area beaches; two public piers; The Port San Luis lighthouse; Spa; Golf and apple farms nearby.

Morro Bay:

The Morro Rock; Fresh seafood right off the boats; Monarch butterflies; Museum of Natural History; Fishing; Whale-watching; Kayaking; Hiking; Birding; Camping; Golf; Fun shopping; Great restaurants and a great list of events year around.


Very relaxed “cowboy” sort of beach town; newly renovated pier; Nice beach; Good restaurants; comfortable atmosphere; One of our favorites.


A bit more “up-market” than other San Luis Obispo county beach cities, but not snobby; Art galleries; History museum; Interesting shops; Great restaurants; Moonstone Beach with nice beachside inns and a wonderful boardwalk. Good hiking at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve; horseback riding. Near Hearst Castle and elephant seal rookery to the north

Monterey County Beach Cities –


Long an artist colony; Self-described as “A village in a forest overlooking a white sand beach”; Very dog-friendly; Carmel Mission; Bach Festival and theater productions; Interesting boutique shopping; Up-scale hotels; Fine restaurants.

Pebble Beach:

Not really a “beach city” in the ordinary sense, but rather a high-end residential area with world-class golf courses. Several hotels with restaurants, but no other services. Famous for the 17 mile drive and the Lone Cypress.

Pacific Grove:

More Victorian style homes per capita than anywhere else. Now most are B&B’s, nice places to stay; The city is quaint in a way and comfortable; Another Monarch butterfly grove here (the butterflies are here from October through February); Romantic rocky shoreline with great beauty; Point Pinos lighthouse and nice golf courses.


One of the oldest cities in California. Long the capitol of Alta California under both Spain and Mexico; The justifiably famous Monterey Bay Aquarium; Cannery Row and other sites made popular by John Steinbeck; The San Carlos Cathedral, the oldest stone building in California; Fishing; Whale-watching; Sailing, Biking; Hiking; History; Great food and wine.


Formerly home to Fort Ord, now decommissioned and presently the campus of California State University, Monterey Bay and the Monterey College of Law; Bayonet and Black Horse golf courses (formerly Army courses), site of PGA Tour events.


Lots of trails and undeveloped wildlands on the former Fort Ord property; Biking; Hiking; Surf fishing; Marina Air Faire in October features vintage and experimental planes; Festival of the Winds, on Mother’s Day weekend features kites and hang-gliding.

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