Go three miles south of Pismo Beach to find Oceano Dunes Preserve, one of the most expansive coastal dunes left in California. The Preserve offers rare opportunities for on-the-sand activities—you can camp on the beach and in the open dune area, go horseback riding, and drive right on the beach. In fact, it’s the only California State Park that allows vehicles to do so (four- or all-wheel drive recommended).
Thrill-seekers: Don’t miss the opportunity to fly up and down the massive mounds of sand in your own ATV or SunBuggy. There are several businesses that rent such vehicles, including BJ’s ATV Rentals, Steve’s ATV Rentals, and SunBuggy Fun Rentals. Just be sure to pay attention to your surroundings as you fly up and down the maze-like array of dunes—it’s easy to lose your orientation.
If you’d rather experience that thrill while letting someone else worry about driving, Pacific Adventure Tours or Xtreme Hummer Adventures will take you on a heart-pumping Hummer ride that promises to have you racing over the tops of dunes, climbing sideways, and even flying backwards in a real USMC Humvee.
Sand is a signature element of the Pismo Beach area, but there are plenty of water activities too. For an adrenaline rush, try kiteboarding or surfing; for a more mellow activity, go on Central Coast Kayak’s three-hour Cave Excursion to explore the protected coves, caves, and rock gardens of the area that are only accessible from the water, or rent a kayak to sightsee at your own pace.