Local Wanderer: San Luis Obispo

Daydreamer and San Luis Obispo, California native, Karen Grubb knows just how to bring adventure to our small screens with her amazing photography. From epic mountain scenes to dreamy deep forests, we’d follow her to any adventure. She is being featured as part of Alaska’s Local Wanderer series. Follow Alaska Airlines on Instagram as Karen gives you a glimpse of San Luis Obispo through her lens.

Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and only minutes from some of California’s most beautiful beaches, San Luis Obispo (SLO) County offers something for every type of vacationer. Whether you are looking for a relaxing time enjoying the sun and sand, or a healthy dose of outdoor activities from hiking, biking, kayaking, and surfing, to exploring the countryside and tasting some of California’s best wines, brews, or farm-to-table eateries, SLO County has it all.

With an average of 280+ days of sunshine per year, an abundance of coastline and open spaces to explore, and plenty of year-round music, culinary, and wine events to enjoy, it is not hard to understand why San Luis Obispo was named the “Happiest City in America” by Oprah. Despite living in SLO for most of my life, I still find myself regularly reflecting on how fortunate I am to call this place home.

There is no shortage of adventures to experience in SLO, which makes it difficult to narrow down a few recommendations for what to see and do in the area, but here is a start to help you get a dose of the “SLO Life” that locals love.

Photo of kayaker in Dinosaur Caves in Shell Beach.

SLO boasts some of California’s most beautiful beaches, and there’s no shortage of places to play on water. Dinosaur Caves in Shell Beach has plenty of beautiful caves to explore by kayak.

Beaches

Montaña de Oro – Chill in the sand at Spooner’s Cove or enjoy a leisurely walk along the scenic bluff trail. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, take the Valencia Peak trail for a stunning view of the shoreline.

Shell Beach Dinosaur Caves – Rent a kayak, or take a tour with Central Coast Kayaks, and explore the beautiful caves and coastline along Shell Beach.

A photo of two hikers on top of Terrace Hill watching the sunset in SLO.,

Terrace Hill, one of the best spots to catch sunset in SLO.

Mountains

Bowden Ranch Trail (aka High School Hill) – Lace up your hiking boots and head up this steep but rewarding hike that provides panoramic views from the Oceano Dunes up to Morro Rock. This peak overlooks several of the Nine Sisters, also known as the Morros, a chain of ancient volcanic mountains that run from San Luis Obispo up to Morro Bay.

Terrace Hill Open Space – Take a short walk up a hill in the middle of SLO that provides a beautiful 360° view of the town and surrounding peaks. If you are short on time, or don’t care much for strenuous hikes, this hill is for you. Bring a picnic and enjoy sunset from this local favorite lookout.

Country roads

Prefumo Canyon to Avila Beach – Drive up Prefumo Canyon Road for one of the best views of SLO from the top of the ridge. Follow the road through to See Canyon, stopping at Gopher Glenn for some delicious apple and cider tasting. Continue on to Avila Beach for a seaside meal at Mersea’s Restaurant on the Harford Pier. Along the way, be sure not to miss Avila Valley Barn. Stocked full of delicious produce and baked goods, this local favorite barn stand offers “u-pick fruits,” hayrides, a petting zoo, a delicious deli and an ice cream shop serving local SLO Maid ice cream.

This is a picture of a winery.

A popular pastime in SLO…wine tasting! More than 23 varietals are grown here including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, and more.

Eats and activities

SLO Wine Country – Spend a day tasting some of the best wines California has to offer in the scenic Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley. More than 23 varietals are grown here including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, and more. While you are here, stock up on local wines and take advantage of Alaska’s Wine Flies Free program, which allows Mileage Plan members to check a case of SLO wine at no charge.

Tap It Brewing Co. – If your taste buds favor something frothier than wine, visit Tap It Brewing Co. to enjoy local craft beer on their spacious patio, complete with cornhole boards and a life size Jenga game.

SLODoCo – This 24/7 donut shop is the Central Coast’s equivalent to Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut, offering an abundance of creatively quirky donut varietals.

Scout Coffee – With plenty of wonderful coffee shops to choose from in SLO, it is hard to recommend a favorite. Popular with locals, Scout Coffee offers locally roasted coffee and delicious home baked pastries in two beautifully styled locations.

Sidecar – SLO County boasts an abundance of excellent options for delicious, locally sourced farm-to-table meals. A personal favorite for brunch or a creatively fancy cocktail is Sidecar in downtown SLO.

 Farmers’ Market – Every Thursday night, downtown SLO comes alive for the weekly Farmers’ Market. Five blocks are closed off in the heart of downtown SLO to make room for plenty of fresh produce stands, food vendors, and live music and entertainment.

Concerts in the Plaza – During the summer months, SLO hosts a series of free concerts every Friday night in front of the historic Mission de Tolosa. This family friendly concert series is a favorite among locals.

This is a photo of a mini Alaska Airlines model plane next to baked goods and coffee at a coffeehouse in SLO.

Love sharing a local’s view of the area, starting with my favorite place to fuel up, Scout Coffee, recently named one of California’s Best Small Businesses.

5 Comments on “Local Wanderer: San Luis Obispo

  1. There’s also Morro Bay and Los Osos Oaks. Morro Bay has beaches, Morro Rock with peregrine falcons that nest on the cliffs, the sand spit for walking adventures, state park with visitor’s center and campground, and the Embarcadero with restaurants and quaint shops (Don’t miss the Whale’s Tail, if it’s still there).

    Los Osos Oaks are a tangle of very old and picturesque live oaks. Lots of great pictures to be taken!

    • Unfortunately, the Whale’s Tail is closed. 😦 Tognazzini’s Dockside is worth a visit. Great outdoor eating right on the water, just a little further north from where Whale’s Tail was located.

      • Oh, no, that was my favorite place to eat! That’s what I get for not visiting for this long. ;(

  2. Thanks for sharing your beautiful home, photos & ideas for things to do. We’ve wanted to visit the area for years after taking an Amtrak trip down the coast; great motivation!

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