San Luis Obispo, once dubbed the “Happiest Town in America” by Oprah, truly is a little slice of heaven on the West Coast. This California town boasts rolling green hills, a breathtaking coastline, and a charming downtown. Plus, it’s a college town, so there is no shortage of delicious (and affordable) eats, as well as fun nightlife options. I’ve heard so many great things about San Luis Obispo over the years, but I hadn’t been able to make the quick trip up the California coast to this popular town until recently.
When I looked at my calendar and realized that I finally had a weekend free, I decided to take advantage of my clear schedule and planned a last-minute getaway to San Luis Obispo, or SLO, as the locals call it. My friend and I hopped in the car and started driving up the coast, and on the way we used HotelTonight to book our last-minute hotel in San Luis Obispo. Within minutes, we had a great hotel room booked, so we were ready to make the most of our short time on the Central Coast.
Before visiting San Luis Obispo, I already had some basic knowledge about the area, so I knew that locals love taking advantage of their gorgeous natural surroundings by going on hikes and bike rides. We decided to start our weekend in SLO with a nice, long hike at Montaña de Oro – we had been sitting in the car for hours and needed to stretch our legs, after all. This 8,000-acre state park is absolutely beautiful, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, remote and rugged beaches, and picturesque wildflower meadows. We made the trek up the 1,300-foot Valencia Peak and took in the jaw-dropping views, and right then we understood why SLO is considered the country’s happiest town.
After exploring the natural beauty of Montaña de Oro, we headed north to the famed town of Morro Bay. You may recognize Morro Bay’s giant, 576-foot rock jutting out of the middle of the ocean. The rock has been dubbed the “Gibraltar of the Pacific,” and it sits in a bay that’s popular for surfing, kayaking, and seal watching. There are a number of cute restaurants and shops that line the bay, so we sat down at an outdoor café and enjoyed the beautiful bay views on that sunny California afternoon.
After a long day of exploring San Luis Obispo’s surroundings, we decided to head back to our hotel, which was located in the heart of SLO’s charming downtown. The streets of downtown San Luis Obispo are picture-perfect, and this area features some of the city’s best dining and shopping options, which is why it was the perfect spot for dinner. We spent the evening wandering the streets of downtown SLO, where you can find small, casual eateries as well as upscale restaurants. Later at night, the downtown streets swarm with college students heading out to the many bars in the area, so any visitors should be aware that downtown can get a bit wild on the weekends.
The next morning, we decided to make the most of the beautiful Sunday by heading out into wine country. The Central Coast of California produces some of the best wines in the country, and we knew we couldn’t leave the area without tasting some local wines. We made our way to Edna Valley, which is a bit closer to San Luis Obispo than the well-known wine country of Paso Robles, and we spent the morning hopping from one winery to the next. This area is definitely a must-visit for any wine lovers on the West Coast.
After a fun-filled morning of wine tasting, we decided to end our San Luis Obispo trip at the beach. Pismo Beach is the area’s best-known beach, and it attracts both tourists and locals. Pismo’s long swatch of sand and wooden pier make it the quintessential California beach town, and it was the perfect place to wrap up our impromptu Central Coast getaway. After enjoying the afternoon at Pismo Beach, we hopped back in the car and hit the road. Even though we were in San Luis Obispo for less than 48 hours, I knew I had finally discovered one of my very favorite towns in California.
San Luis Obispo is a laidback, low-key college town, but it’s also a great destination for a weekend getaway. Located smack-dab in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, SLO is an easy drive away from California’s two largest cities, but it feels like a world away. I’m glad I was finally able to experience the beauty and the feel-good vibes of San Luis Obispo for myself, and this spontaneous trip was possible thanks to HotelTonight, which made it easy for us to book a great last-minute hotel in San Luis Obispo at a moment’s notice.