The central coast of California is unspoiled California; where the simple pleasures are the best kinds, where vineyards and olive oil farms sprinkle the roads, and every road you take is the road less traveled. While it’s smackdab in the middle of San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo and the surrounding areas are the quintessential charming coastal California you always imagined without the crowds. We’ve driven past SLO CAL on our way up Highway 1, we’ve visited towns around it, but this was our FIRST time visiting San Luis Obispo. We’re the first ones to sing the glory of the typical Highway 1 road trip, but we think it’s missing a serious piece – San Luis Obispo! If you’re going to visit, visit soon, because something tells us that this California secret won’t last long.


Aptly nicknamed, “SLO CAL,” this is the California less traveled – the effortlessly exuded California cool where life is about the little things and the days run at an easier pace. It’s a region that focuses on farm to table cuisine, an area that supports small businesses, and that insists on epic adventures with a Cabernet sundowner. There’s a million things to do in SLO CAL, but absolutely no requirements or stress to complete them all. As travelers with severe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out – it’s real), SLO CAL was the perfect place for us to slow down, stop hurrying, get out into nature, and just BE.


How to Explore SLO CAL

When it comes to exploring the area, we recommend exploring SLO CAL on the highway 1 California road trip. Because there is so much to see in the area, taking it all in on a road trip is a great way to enjoy the leisurely pace of the region. Remember – the carefully curated itinerary doesn’t yield the biggest happiness return so have an open mind when it comes to your road trip itinerary. In fact, unplanned experiences and an open mind often reap the biggest reward and pay dividends for the rest of your life. When you have an open mind and surrender to the flow of travel, the world seems to open up in such beautiful ways.

Where to Stay

Hotel San Luis Obispo: The Hotel San Luis Obispo, or Hotel SLO, this newly built hotel is located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. Its modern design, beautiful bar, wonderful restaurant, and mountain view rooms are the premier place to stay during your visit to the region.

Madonna Inn: The Madonna Inn has been an institution in San Luis Obispo since 1958. This pretty in pink hotel has 110 guest rooms, each with their own unique style.


Mornings at the Hotel SLO

SLO CAL Beaches

  • Avila Beach: It’s rare to find a beach in California that hasn’t been overtaken by crowds. We hiked down to the tranquil beaches along the shores of the small central coast town of Avila & it was soothing to the soul. There are at least half a dozen sea caves scattered around the coast, beautiful hiking trails, and there’s even a Nude beach! 
  • Pismo Beach: Pismo Beach is classic California. With its long stretch of white sand beaches, stunning sand dunes, stellar surfing, and a gorgeous boardwalk, Pismo Beach was made for the adventurer. 
  • Morro Bay: Morro Bay is one of the most awe-inspiring areas of Central California. With its monolithic rock jutting out of the sea, this iconic surf break and sunset spot is a must-see on any trip to California. 

Sunsets at Morro Bay

Wineries, Breweries, and Distilleries – Oh my!


WINE: The SLO CAL region includes the town of Paso Robles, a wine region of California that has snuck under the radar for years, but is now making a big impact on the entire region. Paso Robles has a beautiful landscape, delicious wines (that rival the more popular California regions of Napa & Sonoma), but with none of the crowds. Paso Robles is known for its wines, its olive oil, its thermal springs, and its almond orchards. It reminded us SO much of Italy…but only 3.5 hours from Los Angeles (and no jet lag!). 

The most widely planted varietals in the region are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Chardonnay. For a visit to Paso Robles, we recommend heading to Niner Wine Estates, a stunning solar-powered vineyard with delicious wines. Enjoy the day exploring the grounds of the winery and treating yourself to a delightful tasting in the tasting room. 

BEER: When it comes to breweries, SLO CAL has no shortage of craft breweries. The most notable brewery and one of our favorite breweries is Firestone Walker Brewing Company. A visit to Firestone should include a tour of the facility and a visit to The Taproom restaurant. 


Morning wine at Niner Wine Estate? Yes please!


SPIRITS: SLO CAL might be filled with craft breweries and hundreds of vineyards, but the delicious distilleries are quickly on the rise. One of our favorite stops during our entire trip through SLO CAL was Re:Find Distillery. Hand crafted by a husband and wife team, this distillery distills most of their spirits from grapes! The family is extremely passionate about the craft spirits that they produce and you can taste the love and passion in every sip. We loved the spirits so much that we took home 5 bottles! (Heyooooo – party at our place!)

SLO CAL Restaurants

Blue Moon Over Avila: The only thing that tops this whimsical waterfront location is its divine dining. Specializing in farm-to-table foods with a European flair, we highly recommend the escargot, brussel sprouts, and a glass of wine.

Luna Red: Located in downtown San Luis Obispo, Luna Red specializes in locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that support the local farmers and community. We highly recommend the rockfish ceviche (from nearby beaches) and a spicy margarita! If weather permits (which it does 99% of the time in SLO CAL), grab a blanket and enjoy your meal outside.

Red Scooter Deli: The Red Scooter Deli is located in downtown Paso Robles and it’s the perfect place to fill your belly before heading out for a day of wine tastings around the region.

Mason Bar & Kitchen: This Arroyo Grande neighborhood gastropub is cozy, inviting, and serves up farm-fresh fare. We highly recommend the Mason Carbonara.