California’s Central Coast: more than just a day at the beach.
Most people associate the Central Coast with its incredible beaches—but there is SO much more!
Whether you’re a once-in-a-while-athlete or a full-out adrenaline junkie, California’s Central Coast has the perfect outlet for any activity level.
Check out these examples of Central Coast’s outdoor recreation.
And here’s more!
Hiking. Camping. Golfing.
Enjoy the rolling hills, fresh air, and rewarding 360-degree views in San Luis Obispo. Access over 40 miles of trails within ten minutes from its downtown offering varying degrees of difficulty, length, style and vantage point – there is a trail for any age and level hiker.
Just a few minutes west of Gilroy, Mt. Madonna County Park features majestic redwood trees, a herd of rare white deer, and scenic vistas looking east to the valley and west to the Pacific Ocean. Try the challenging-but-rewarding 4+ mile Sprig Lake Loop.
Near Atascadero, Cerro Alto Campground is a favorite camping spot and a hiker’s and mountain biker’s paradise. Enjoy a four-mile trail, which leads to a peak and rewards you with a 360-degree view of the Central California coast and inland valleys. Just a 30-minute drive from the city of Lompoc is Jalama Beach County Park. Along the scenic drive you’ll see working ranches and vineyards and vistas around every bend. Jalama Beach is great for surfing, kite surfing, bird watching, nature-photography, fishing, and camping. Many protected California native plants like sand verbena, saltbush, and sea rocket grow within park boundaries.
Golfing (Classic golf and Disc golf)
In Santa Cruz County, DeLaveaga Golf Course is one of the top ranked public courses in California, and Golfweek recently ranked Pasatiempo Golf Course second for “Courses you can play” in California. The DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course is one of the oldest and most highly rated disc golf courses in the world. Pinto Lake Disc Golf Course is home to the Professional Disc Golf Association 2011 World Championships.
La Purisima Golf Course is a superior 18-hole Championship design is a Central Coast gem. It has attracted pro tournaments from the PGA, LPGA and Senior PGA circuits, yet players of all skill levels come to Lompoc to enjoy its natural beauty and to test their game.
Lake Activities. Waterpark. Kayak. Channel Islands.
Beat the heat near Paso Robles at Lake Nacimiento where there is boating, water sports, and fishing. If you’re near Atascadero, enjoy Atascadero Lake—not only is it perfect for barbecues, strolls, or a game of volleyball, but you can rent paddle boards and boats here, too! An afternoon on the lake is a great way to spend a warm summer day.
Ventura Harbor Village is a sure bet for year-round water sports. Ventura Boat Rentals can get you on the water with ease, from kayaks and SUP boards to pedal or powerboats. You can also partake in their harbor and dinner cruises. And in the summer months, enjoy their daily 40-minute Public Harbor Boat Tour.
Paddle Sports Center in Santa Barbara gets you in the water fast with options for kayaking, SUP paddleboarding, and surfing. Explore the harbor and beaches on your own, or join an outstanding tour like the History and Wildlife Tour, their Full Moon Paddle, or a trip to Gaviota.
Whether it’s seeing wildlife up close or seeing Cannery Row from the water, kayaking is a great way to create memories that will last a lifetime. Both Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough are calm and sheltered, making them perfect spots for a first kayak excursion. You can also kayak off the shores of Moonstone Beach in Cambria in the incredible Monterey Bay Marine Preserve. With each guided tour, you’ll be provided with a kayak, wetsuit, backrest, paddles, and a personal floatation device—all you need to bring is your sense of adventure.
Channel Islands National Park
The Channel Islands National Park, referred to as “The American Galapagos,” encompasses five remarkable and remote islands right off the Ventura coast. The Channel Islands and encircling waters are home to over 2,000 plants and animals, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world including the Island Fox. Each island is a fascinating world unto itself. World class diving, hiking, kayaking, sea cave exploration, photography, snorkeling, camping, wildlife and wildflower viewing, the Channel Islands offers uninterrupted time with family and friends while relaxing to the soothing sounds of the natural world. Look for dolphins and whales in the National Marine Sanctuary, with its multiple fish, waving kelp forests and crystalline waters.
Island Packers Cruises is the authorized concessionaire servicing the Channel Islands National Park and has been family-owned and operated since 1968. It offers daily trips to the Channel Islands.
See the Santa Ynez Valley countryside with an invigorating horseback ride through a historic 714-acre ranch and vineyard on a private excursion. KAP Land & Cattle offers fully customizable for all levels, you’ll experience Los Olivos like never before. Finish with a gourmet picnic lunch on the lawn of beautiful Fess Parker Winery. Vino Vaqueros offers daily horseback rides out of the beautiful Estelle Vineyards in Santa Ynez. Experience the valley’s richness and end your ride with a glass of wine.
Cambria is the only place on earth where you can experience the majestic Clydesdale horses grazing on nearly 2,000 acres of rolling pastures speckled with Monterey Pines and an exquisite view of the Pacific Ocean. The owner of Covell Clydesdale Ranch will take you on a guided trail ride.
Central Coast Trail Rides in Atascadero offers horse rides on some of the most scenic areas of San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles, Creston, Templeton, Morro Bay, Cayucos, Cambria, Santa Margarita, and more. You can also explore San Luis Obispo from a unique perspective with Madonna Inn Trail Rides as you meander through Madonna Ranch and over 1,000 acres of trails. Admire the sweeping views of the rolling hills, bustling city, and even the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.
Not for riding but still an incredible experience – come see dozens of wild horses that look as though they’ve stepped from the pages of a history book. Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation hosts summer tours, photo safaris, workshops, and youth-and family days at its 300-acre American Wild Horse Sanctuary near Lompoc, and 2,000-acre satellite near San Luis Obispo.
Skate. Bike. Segway. Drive. Train.
Not your run-of-the-mill skate park, SLO Skate Park in San Luis Obispo is a 15,000 square-foot park featuring ramps, stairs, rails, and three bowls of different depths to accommodate all experience levels. It also features four 30-foot concrete and steel trees that serve as skatable public art and functional shade structures.
In Santa Cruz, Jim Keefe Skate Park is 8,500 square feet, with street and bowl elements and beginner’s area. Ken Wormhoudt Skate Park has a pipe, bowls, and street course. Depot BMX Park has jumps and trick elements.
Bikers enjoy the coastal shores of Oxnard while taking in the ocean breezes. Bike rentals are available at Marine Emporium Landing in Channel Islands Harbor. The Ojai Valley Trail has long been well known to bikers. It leads to downtown Ojai and the Pacific coastline, just 15 minutes away and the Los Padres National Forest is nearby. Local companies offer jeep rides, guides hikes, and biking adventures. Iguana Inns of Ojai offers onsite bike rentals, packages, and area maps. Create your own historic bike tour in downtown San Luis Obispo by beginning at the Visitor Center. Admire historic sites such as Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Kundert Medical Building (Frank Lloyd Wright design), the Ramona Depot, and the historic Dallidet Adobe. And check out the brightly colored, elaborately trimmed Victorian houses in the heart of the historic district on Garden Street. For advanced mountain bikers who appreciate well-maintained trails and panoramic views, Cerro San Luis Obispo is an excellent choice. The trailhead is located just off the Marsh Street onramp to Highway 101, and offers several routes suited to all levels of riders.
With miles upon miles of bike lanes, waterfront trails and off-road tracks, you can go exactly where you want to go in Monterey County. Hop on the popular Recreation Trail, stretching 18 miles from Castroville to Pacific Grove, or tackle mountain bike trails at Fort Ord National Monument and Toro Park.
Electric bikes make tackling the moderately hilly streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea easy and ecofriendly. Get an up-close view of the famous Comstock and Frank Lloyd Wright houses as well as a myriad of gardens and groves. Bike rentals are available at some hotels and outfitters.
Experience Halter Ranch in Paso Robles on a two-hour excursion in a restored 1984 Land Rover Defender 110. See their pond, wildlife corridors and 281 acres of vineyards. Each stop features wine tasting within breathtaking scenery.
See California’s towering redwood trees from two historic railroads with Roaring Camp Railroad. Travel on authentic 19th century steam trains through the Big Trees to the summit of Bear Mountain, or ride early 1900s Pullman cars and open-air excursion cars along a scenic river gorge through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to the beach of Santa Cruz.
IN THE AIR:
Hot Air Balloon. Rock Climb. Zipline. Skydive. Paraglide.
Hot Air Balloon
Seeking a rendezvous between a rock and a hard place? Check out some of the courses at Pinnacles National Park, a top locale for rock climbing on 23 million-year old formations. Home to the California condor release program and a crazy collection of crimson conical spires, the Pinnacles’ multitude of options is suited to both beginner and advanced climbers. Key areas are rigged with permanent anchors allowing for safe instruction and ascension.
Adventure Out in Santa Cruz is a premiere outdoor school for surfing, rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, and wilderness survival.
San Luis Obispo County is known for its scenic foothills, the most notable of which are the Seven Sisters—a chain of ancient volcanic plugs that lead from Downtown San Luis Obispo to Morro Rock in Morro Bay. These peaks and other surrounding hills and rocks provide great areas for outdoor rock climbing excursions.
Between San Luis Obispo and Atascadero is Margarita Adventure, a family-owned company providing a unique way to explore the historic Santa Margarita Ranch. You can zip line, kayak, or take a wildlife hummer tour, which can be paired with wine tasting at Ancient Peaks Winery.
Take in unforgettable views of Santa Barbara’s beaches, hillsides, and vineyards, and feel the adrenaline rush of this once-in-a-lifetime experience with Skydive Santa Barbara. And Skydive Surfcity Inc. skydives right over the beautiful Monterey Bay, giving you the most amazing coastal views.
Another way to soar over Santa Barbara’s coastline is with Eagle Paragliding. This is one of the best places in the world to learn how to paraglide, with pristine slopes, skilled trainers and stunning views. Long-running trainers are some of the nation’s top-ranked cross-country pilots. The South Coast’s mild climate and unusual south-facing mountains provide ideal flying conditions.
Download or request a Central Coast Visitor Map here.
To further assist you in planning your Central Coast Road Trip, check out this helpful Itinerary here.
Discover all of California’s Central Coast here.