What Makes San Luis Obispo a Great Destination for a Road Trip?

June 17, 2021

Nestled between the California beaches and the Santa Lucia foothills, San Luis Obispo (SLO) is a must-see stopover on a Pacific Coast road trip. The small, friendly town is just minutes away from the scenic State Route 1 near beaches, hiking trails, and historical and cultural landmarks. Simply strolling the streets among the Spanish-style buildings is relaxing, and you’ll find unique restaurants, shops, and cafés lining the downtown historic district. The town has a visitors center to guide you to attractions. If you’re planning a road trip this summer, here’s why you should stop by San Luis Obispo.

Historic Downtown

Higuera Street is the heart of the downtown SLO area. The restaurants on the north side of the street have rear patios overlooking the pleasant San Luis Obispo Creek. After dining, stop by Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab, where visitors are invited to taste inventive ice cream flavors and even help with making them.

Bubblegum Alley off Higuera Street is an amusing offbeat attraction. The 70-foot-long alleyway is plastered with colorful already-chewed bubblegum.

See the remains of an old Chinatown along Palm Street, including a Chinese chop suey restaurant and a store built in 1874 for the Chinese immigrant community.


Several great beaches are only a short drive from SLO, and each has its own personality. Pismo Beach has a Southern California vibe not usually found in Central California. This classic beach destination has 23 miles of sandy shoreline dotted with hotels, shops, and cafés.

Avila Beach, with a playground and picnic area, has a quieter atmosphere that families will appreciate. It’s popular for fishing, kayaking, and sailing.

Nature lovers are drawn to the secluded shoreline of Shell Beach. It’s a good place to go beachcombing through the tide pools and spot wildlife such as dolphins, sea lions, and migrating whales. After a day of fun in the sun and fresh air, you’ll be ready to kick back with a favorite beverage and relax by the pool at your hotel near San Luis Obispo.

Avila Hot Springs

Not far from Avila Beach, the Avila Valley is a rural area that boasts natural mineral hot springs thought to have therapeutic benefits. The historic Avila Hot Springs features a thermal soaking pool for relaxation and rejuvenation before or after visiting the beach. Other amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, a picnic area, campgrounds, and cabins.

San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

Located on the western end of Mission Plaza, the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art displays original contemporary works by California artists. The exhibitions are updated frequently and represent various artistic styles. The museum also hosts educational lectures, film nights, and other cultural events.

Bishop Peak Hikes

At 1,500 feet, Bishop Peak is SLO’s most prominent mountain. It features several hiking trails, ranging from moderate to challenging. It takes about two hours to make the two-mile trek to the top, and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city and coastline.

For an easier hike, take the Felsman Loop. The round-trip hike is 2.7 miles long, and the elevation gain is less challenging. 

If you’re looking for the perfect destination for your next road trip, you’re certain to find plenty of fun things to see and do in San Luis Obispo. Bring the whole family (including the four-legged furry members) and explore “The Happiest City in America” while staying with us at Sands Inn & Suites. We’re a premier San Luis Obispo hotel that offers all the amenities you’ll need for a relaxing getaway, including an outdoor heated pool and spa, an on-site gym, free WiFi, and flat-screen TVs with digital cable. Call us at (800) 441-4657 today to reserve your room or suite. 

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