San Luis Obispo County may be blessed with a dreamy location—halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco—but as any SLOcal local can tell you, if you find yourself in this lovely area, there’s little reason to leave. With a stunning shoreline, restaurants where farm-to-fork is a given, and light-jacket weather that makes living easy, you’ll want to stay awhile.
Make the most of your time in SLO County by diving deeper than the go-to spots. After you’ve visited the jaw-dropping castle, the quirky pink inn, the must-see rock, and the elephant seals, shake things up by exploring these 13 under-the-radar gems.
The Hive, Arroyo Grande
Boutique owner Tracy Sonny hand-picks every item at The Hive to ensure it has a story to tell. Browse among small wonders like chili-infused honey, hand-woven beach blankets, herb-scented candles, and potted succulents—all crafted by local SLO County artisans.
Ephraim Pottery West Coast Gallery, Cambria
You’ll find all sorts of one-of-a-kind treasures—pottery, tableware, art tiles, and even wood items—at this delightful outpost in Cambria’s artsy West Village. This shop is perfect for the nature lover in your life, evidenced by pieces like the Call of the Bat Ceramic Pottery Vase or the Petite Poppies Ceramic Pottery Tile.
Lopez Canyon Trail, Nipomo
With countless acres of rolling farmland, this region’s wildly rugged forests are often overlooked. Don’t make that mistake: Hike the Santa Lucia Wilderness through the 6.6-mile Lopez Canyon Trail, complete with stone-step river crossings that add an element of adventure and massive oak trees that provide plenty of shade.
Eleven Twenty-Two, Paso Robles
With 280-plus local wineries in SLO County, there’s always another bottle to try—but if you’re in the mood for a more potent potable, head to downtown Paso Robles for what Venue Report named one of the best speakeasies in the world. At Eleven Twenty-Two, walk through a secret entrance to enjoy drinks finished table-side with mixologists offering flourishes in the form of fire and smoke.
Hotel Cerro, San Luis Obispo
New for 2020, Hotel Cerro strikes the perfect balance between laid-back and luxurious. Relax on the patio under the shade of a mission fig tree as you sip an herb-based cocktail from the hotel’s garden and spirits from the house distillery. The rooftop pool with 360-degree views of the surrounding hills offers one of the best vantage points in San Luis Obispo.
Town of Harmony
The population of the miniature town of Harmony is a mere 18 residents. Despite the fact that this is a one-block, 2.5-acre tiny town, there’s a whole lot to explore. Try a cone of small-batch ice cream at Harmony Valley Creamery, take a glassblowing class at Harmony Glassworks, or find your new favorite vase at Harmony Pottery Studio & Gallery.
Coon Creek Beach, Los Osos
This hike-in only beach rewards the on-foot effort with long stretches of sand all to yourself, sea caves big enough to walk through at low tide, and even a blowhole if you know where to look. Start at Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos and take the Point Buchon or Bluff Trail. Keep going until you reach the shore.
Secret Garden Organic Herb Shop, San Luis Obispo
The only way to enter this secluded little shop in SLO is through a shaded garden, home to hummingbirds, frogs, and butterflies, wedged right between two buildings off the main drag. Once inside, you’ll find dozens of loose-leaf teas, including custom-made blends, plus big jars of bulk spices and digestive herbs.
The Shell Shop, Morro Bay
Montana de Oro State Beach is an ideal spot for tidepooling and beachcombing but if you’re looking for a souvenir to take home, head to The Shell Shop in nearby Morro Bay. This family-owned shop truly excels in shells. It opened in 1955 and boasts the largest collection on the Central Coast—including decorative shells and corals, jewelry, handcraft, and just about everything else you could imagine.
The Carrisa, San Luis Obispo
A new addition to the SLO dining scene, The Carrisa has deep historical roots. Housed in the building once home to the Carrisa Cattle Company and later SLO Brewing, The Carrisa serves Mexican-inspired cuisine, local beers, and craft cocktails. Relax in the airy dining room, curl up on a rattan chair around a fire pit, or play a round of pool in the super chic upstairs game room.
Kynsi Winery, Arroyo Grande
Built on a 1940s-era dairy farm, this off-the-beaten-path winery speaks to the SLO-paced tradition of working in harmony with the land. Kynsi is the Finnish word for “talon,” a nod to the barn owls who prevent gophers from eating the vines. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the flavors of Edna Valley. Don’t miss the popular red blend, Hutash.
Negranti Creamery, Paso Robles
Tin City in Paso has a reputation as a sterling wine-tasting destination—but it’s also home to a very unusual creamery. Family-owned Negranti Creamery is the only purveyor in the United States specializing in 100-percent sheep’s milk ice cream. Try the four-scoop sampler to taste unique flavors like blueberry-lavender and apricot crisp, paired with a signature waffle chip.
Leaning Pine Arboretum, San Luis Obispo
In a hidden spot on the Cal-Poly campus, Leaning Pine Arboretum packs a number of trees, succulents, and palms from all over the world into one tranquil space. Head to the Poly Plant Shop and you’ll find a path leading to a little sanctuary, complete with wooden gazebo, tropical greenhouse, dwarf garden, and more.