San Luis Obispo is a city and county perched right off of California’s Central Coast. What started as a Spanish missionary town in 1772 has blossomed into one of California’s oldest European-founded communities.

The area (named after 13-century Saint Louis de Toulouse) is quite large, so figuring out where to stay in San Luis Obispo can be tricky. It’s made up of numerous neighborhoods, each offering something slightly different. Some are also a lot more traveler-friendly than others.

To help you out, we’ve created this guide on the best places to stay in San Luis Obispo. We’ve included something for every travel style and budget, so you can find somewhere to make the most of your travels.

Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo

Best Hotel in San Luis Obispo: Garden Street Inn Downtown San Luis Obispo, A Kirkwood Collection

Garden Street Inn Downtown San Luis Obispo

This elegant boutique hotel lies at the heart of San Luis Obispo, close to all the top shops and restaurants in the city. The hotel features French-inspired country decor to transport you away in grandeur right from the center of your sitting room.

Best Hotel in San Luis Obispo: SeaVenture Beach Hotel

Seaventure Beach Hotel San Luis Obispo

If you’re looking to relax by the ocean, then look no further than this beachfront resort. The hotel also houses a spa, as well as a restaurant serving up some of the freshest, locally sourced seafood in the area.

Best Suites in San Luis Obispo: Avila Lighthouse Suites

Avila Lighthouse Suites San Luis Obispo

For lovers of eloquent interior design, there’s no better choice of accommodation than this hotel and its massive suites. Each room boasts a fireplace, spa bath, and a sitting area to relax in splendor. Just make sure to thank the 24-hour concierge for your complimentary welcome basket.

San Luis Obispo Neighborhood Guide

FIRST TIME IN SAN LUIS OBISPO
Downtown San Luis Obispo
FIRST TIME IN SAN LUIS OBISPO

Downtown San Luis Obispo

If this is your first time in San Luis Obispo, you’ll certainly want to stay in the city center. Although it might not be coast-adjacent, there are several beach towns in the area that make for perfect day trips. Furthermore, by staying downtown, you’ll have direct access to the best hotels and restaurants in the region.

ON A BUDGET
Pismo Beach
ON A BUDGET

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is the best spot to be in San Luis Obispo County if you want to spend your days at the beach without having to pay an arm and a leg. Moreover, with Downtown San Luis Obispo less than a fifteen-drive away, you’ll never be too far from the charm of the city center.

FOR FAMILIES
Avila Beach
FOR FAMILIES

Avila Beach

As they say, the more, the merrier so if you’re traveling with all your kin in tow, Avila Beach is an excellent place to stay. There are several high-end hotels in the area yet also plenty of reasonably-priced options with enough space for everyone.

FOR COUPLES
Morro Bay
FOR COUPLES

Morro Bay

For couples looking to make a romantic getaway in the San Luis Obispo area, there’s no better pick than Morro Bay. This secluded beach town has all the amenities of its rival in the area yet only half the tourists, making for a much less crowded holiday. Accommodation in this area ranges from luxurious golf resorts to traditional B&Bs so no matter your tastes, there’s something for you.

FOR LARGE GROUP
Cayucos
FOR LARGE GROUP

Cayucos

Whether you’re headed to San Luis Obispo County for a surf trip with the buddies or a beach holiday with the gals, Cayucos is your best bet for larger groups. In comparison with other areas in the regions, there are several condos, townhouses, and apartments that you can have all to yourself.

Whether you prefer cultural holidays, exploring sleepy beach towns, or hiking in the forest, San Luis Obispo has a lot to offer its travelers. Anyone travelling through California should absolutely take some time to explore this popular seaside destination.

Downtown is the best place to stay to truly get a feel for the city. It’s close to the beach and is home to the best boutiques and restaurants, so you can explore the best of what the area has to offer.

Budget backpackers will do well staying in Pismo Beach. It’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown SLO, but the prices are a lot easier on the wallet.

Avila Beach is popular for families and surfers alike and is one of the quieter areas of San Luis Obispo. Avila Beach also boasts an aquarium and several museums, so there’s bound to be something to do for the whole family.

On the other hand, traveling couples craving some privacy would do well to stay closer to Morro Bay since it’s much less touristy than any of the other locations. The beachfront area is still easily commutable to everywhere else by car so you’ll never be too far from the action when you want it.

In the case that you’re arriving with a large party of fellow travelers, Cayusco is undoubtedly the place to be. Beachfront accommodation is much more spacious in this area and it’s much easier to rent an entire condo or house for you and yours.

Whether you’re coming to San Luis Obispo for its culture or its coast, there’s sure to be the ideal accommodation for your needs.

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San Luis Obispo’s Top 5 Areas to Stay In

Now, let’s take a look at the five best areas in San Luis Obispo in more detail. We’ve included our top activity and accommodation picks in each, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

1. Downtown – Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo for your First Visit 

Downtown San Luis Obispo

If this is your first time in San Luis Obispo, you’ll certainly want to stay in the city center. Although it might not be coast-adjacent, there are several beach towns in the area that make for perfect day trips. Furthermore, by staying downtown, you’ll have direct access to the best hotels and restaurants in the region.

For both early birds and night owls, San Luis Obispo also hosts a swatch of entertainment venues to make sure you never get bored. From cultural museums to high-class bars, there’s no shortage of activities you can do in Downtown San Luis Obispo.

Best Hotel in Downtown San Luis Obispo: Granada Hotel & Bistro 

Granada Hotel and Bistro San Luis Obispo

If it’s your first time in SLO, there’s no grander place to stay than this boutique hotel. Marvel at the grandeur of its lush interior decor with an industrial twist. Reserve a room featuring a private balcony and then hit up the rooftop terrace, complete with a cozy fireplace. The free bike rental is perfect for exploring the city.

Most Charming Hotel in Downtown San Luis Obispo: Garden Street Inn Downtown

Garden Street Inn Downtown San Luis Obispo

Nestled in the center of San Luis Obispo is this stunning boutique hotel with French country-inspired decor in every suite. Each room features a seating area as well as an en-suite bathroom with a clawfoot bathtub in which to soak your troubles away. Try the full breakfast offered daily, complete with eggs and homemade pastries, to make the most of your stay in this enchanting hotel.

Best Inn in Downtown San Luis Obispo: Apple Farm Inn

Apple Farm Inn San Luis Obispo

Situated only a short walk away from California Polytechnic State University, this charming inn is as scenic as its rooms are spacious. Revel in the classic decor of your accommodation as you dine in the on-site restaurant or kick back by the outdoor pool to wind down at the end of the day. Either way, you’ll be pleased.

Things to See and Do in Downtown San Luis Obispo:

Things to Do in Downtown San Luis Obispo
source: Sundry Photography (shutterstock)
  • Walk around San Luis Obispo’s historic center.
  • Take a tour of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
  • Plan a day trip to Pismo Beach.
  • Visit the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum.
  • Check out the San Luis Obispo’s Children’s Museum.
  • Make your way up to San Luis Drive Trailhead.
  • Book a wine tour at Baileyana Winery.
  • Hit up the waves at Morro Bay Beach.
  • Go for a wine tasting at Edna Valley Vineyard.
  • Try the wine at Talley Vineyards.
  • Walk around the campus of California Polytechnic University.
  • Have a picnic at Meadow Park.
  • Hike around Charles A and Mary R Maino Open Space.
  • Stroll around Laguna Lake Park Open Space.
  • Play a round of golf at Laguna Lake Municipal Golf Course.
  • Hit the trail at Trailhead Bog Thistle & Mariposa Trails.
  • Sunbathe at Stoneridge Park.
  • Trek up High Scool Hill Trailhead.

2. Pismo Beach – Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo on a Budget 

Pismo Beach
This destination is both beautiful and easy on the wallet

If you want to spend your days at the beach without having to pay an arm and a leg, staying in Pismo Beach is your best option. Moreover, with Downtown San Luis Obispo less than a fifteen-drive away, you’ll never be too far from the charm of the city center.

Pismo Beach also has a thriving city center, complete with all the beach shops, beach bars, and lively restaurants you could ever want. Downtown Pismo Beach is easy enough to get around on foot and most accommodations are located within walking distance of Pismo State Beach to ensure every day is a beach day. Who could pass that up?

Best Suites in Pismo Beach: Hilton Garden Inn 

Hilton Garden Inn San Luis Obispo

At less than a ten-minute drive to Pismo Beach, this hotel is the place to be in Pismo to make the most of your beach holiday. The gorgeous hotel features huge suites equipped with seating areas along with microwaves, coffee makers, and refrigerators. Their long list of amenities also includes an on-site restaurant, a gym, a library, a business center, and a heated outdoor pool for all your vacation needs.

Best Inn in Pismo Beach: Inn at the Pier 

Inn at the Pier San Luis Obispo

This ultra-chic inn boasts a plethora of amenities, not to mention lavish suites and a 24-hour reception desk. Try the cuisine at the on-site restaurant, work out in the fitness center, go for a dip in the outdoor swimming pool, or chill out in the hot tub. Alternatively, you can also order a drink at the hotel’s bar in Pismo Beach for an excellent start to your beach day.

Best Beachfront Hotel in Pismo Beach: Seaventure Beach Hotel 

Seaventure Beach Hotel San Luis Obispo

Less than a ten-minute walk to Downtown Pismo Beach lies this quaint beach hotel, this beachfront hotel offers guests the best of both location and amenities. Each suite comes with a fireplace, but you can also upgrade to a room with a private terrace and a hot tub. To truly take advantage of the hotel’s facilities, why not order food at the on-site restaurant or book a package at the spa? You won’t be disappointed.

Things to See and Do in Pismo Beach: 

Things to Do Pismo Beach
  • Spend a day at Pismo State Beach.
  • Plan a hike to Pismo Lake Ecological Reserve.
  • Shop until you drop at Pismo Coast Shopping Plaza.
  • Book a tour at Pismo Beach Winery.
  • Play a round of golf at Pismo Beach State Golf Course.
  • Go bargain hunting at Pismo Premium Outlets.
  • Get some grub at the Pismo’s Pavilion Pantry Market.
  • Organize a beach trip to Shelter Cove Beach.
  • Go hiking at Pismo Dunes State Park.
  • Explore the caves at Dinosaur Caves Park.
  • See some butterflies at Monarch Butterfly Grove.
  • Ride a quad-bike around some sand dunes at Oceano Dunes SRVA.
  • Stroll around Ramona Garden Park.
  • Have a picnic at Ira Lease Park.
  • Take some pictures at Price Historical Park.
  • Respect nature at Shell Beach Coastal Conservatory Preserve.
  • See the cliffs at Memory Park.
  • Arrange a picnic at Margo Dodd Park.

3. Avila Beach – Best Area in San Luis Obispo for Families

Avila Beach
source: Tim Mossholder (unsplash)

Avila Beach is an excellent place to stay if you’re spending a family vacation in San Luis Obispo. There are several high-end hotels in the area yet also plenty of reasonably-priced options with enough space for everyone.

To boot, expect suites in this area to be large and lavish with amazing views of Avila State Beach. The area also has many entertainment venues in the area that are suitable for young children, such as the Avila Aquarium as well as several museums. If you’re in search of a beach holiday with the rugrats but still want something more to do in the immediate area, Avila Beach is your perfect combo.

Best Luxury Hotel in Avila Beach: Avila La Fonda Hotel

Avila La Fonda Hotel San Luis Obispo

Situated less than a five-minute walk from Avila State Beach, this glamorous hotel is the place to be for those who crave to live in the lap of luxury. Enjoy the welcome basket included in every suite in the fully-equipped kitchen or cozy up to the ensuite fireplace.

Best Beach Resort in Avila Beach: Avila Lighthouse Suites

Avila Lighthouse Suites San Luis Obispo

If you’re a fan of scenic oceanfront views, there’s no better place to stay than this captivating beachside hotel. Soak up some bubbles in the hot tub or take a dip in the gorgeous outdoor pool, both just feet away from Avila State Beach. Why not upgrade to a room with a panoramic view of the water and a private balcony? To begin any great beach day, make sure to sample the complimentary breakfast served daily on the hotel’s sun-drenched terrace.

Best Suites in Avila Beach: San Luis Bay Inn by Diamond Resorts 

San Luis Bay Inn by Diamond Resorts San Luis Obispo

This captivating inn offers the best suites in the area for families. Each suite comes with a large living area and private balcony as well as 24-hour concierge service. If arriving by car, the hotel also provides free parking along with a lounge to unwind at the end of the day.

Things to See and Do in Avila Beach:

Things to Do in Avila Beach
source: Alex Samuels (unsplash)
  • Go for a swim at Pirates Cove Beach.
  • Spend a day on the farm at Avila Vallet Barn.
  • Go hiking at Pismo Dunes State Park.
  • Visit the Avila Beach Sea Life Center.
  • Go biking up Bob Jones Hiking & Biking Trail.
  • See the caves at Dinosaur Caves Park.
  • Watch the sunset from the cliffs of Memory Park.
  • Hit the golf course at Avila Beach Golf Resort.
  • Snap some pics of Point San Luis Lighthouse.
  • See the sunrise from Port San Luis Pier.
  • Hike up Ontario Ridge Trail Access.
  • Put on your hiking boots and go for a trek up Bob Jones Trail Head.
  • Have a picnic at Eldwayen Ocean Park.
  • Support local conservation efforts at Shell Beach Coastal Conservatory Preserve.

4. Morro Bay – Best Area in San Luis Obispo for Couples 

Morro Bay
Get away to one of the most romantic destinations in California

For couples looking to make a romantic getaway in the San Luis Obispo area, there’s no better pick than Morro Bay. This secluded beach town has all the amenities of its rival in the area yet only half the tourists, making for a much less crowded holiday. Accommodation in this area ranges from luxurious golf resorts to traditional B&Bs so no matter your tastes, there’s something for you.

Stay in Morro Bay if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of larger beach towns. Morro Bay also has plenty of restaurants and bars in the area to keep you entertained, and Downtown San Luis Obispo is less than a 20-minute drive away. 

Best Resort in Morro Bay: Sea Pines Golf Resort, Los Osos 

Sea Pines Golf Resort Los Osos San Luis Obispo

If you’re an avid golfer, there’s no better choice than staying at this luxury resort. Boasting a nine-hole golf course, two putting greens, and a driving range, this hotel has all you get your fill in abject beauty. Make most of the on-site restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner before checking out the outdoor spa. How’s that for a California holiday?

Best Suites in Morro Bay: Inn at Morro Bay 

Inn at Morro Bay San Luis Obispo

Set right inside Morro Bay State Park, this enchanting inn rests on 4000 acres of nearly untouched natural beauty. Every elegantly decorated yet massive suite lends to views of either Morro Bay, Morro Rock, the outdoor swimming pool, or the sweeping gardens. The hotel also offers the use of a hot tub year-round to fight off the chill in the winter months.

Best Bed & Breakfast in Morro Bay: Baywood Inn Bed & Breakfast

Baywood Inn Bed Breakfast San Luis Obispo

This charming B&B sits by the bay and features a wide sun terrace with views of the water. Each room is quaintly decorated and features an ensuite bathroom. Try the full continental breakfast offered by the hotel or book a wine tasting at the reception desk. You can’t go wrong either way!

Things to See and Do in Morro Bay:

Things to Do in Morro Bay
  • Get a tan at Morro Strand State Beach.
  • Go canoeing or kayaking in Morro Bay.
  • Check out the Museum of Natural History.
  • Hike around Morro Bay State Park.
  • See the butterflies at Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Preserve.
  • Spend the day at Sandpit Beach.
  • Book a boat tour of the harbor.
  • Reserve a wine tasting tour.
  • Snap some photos of Black Hill.
  • Get your eighteen holes in at Morro Bay Golf Course.
  • Swing some clubs at Los Osos Sea Pine Golf Resort.
  • Take a trip to Hearst Castle.
  • Take a day trip to Cambria.
  • Go hiking in Montana de Oro State Park.
  • Arrange a beach day trip to Pismo State Beach.
  • Hire a boat from Morro Bay Landing.
  • Have a picnic by the sore at Coleman Park.
  • Spot some bears at Los Osos Oaks State Reserve.

5. Cayucos – Best Area in San Luis Obispo for Large Groups 

Cayucos
source: ddg57 (shutterstock)

Whether you’re headed to San Luis Obispo County on a surf holiday or a California road trip with the buddies, Cayucos is your best bet for larger groups. In comparison with other areas in the regions, there are several condos, townhouses, and apartments that you can have all to yourself.

Book an entire home for you and your friends so you won’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors with your shenanigans like you would in a hotel. With a wide selection of beaches in the area and Downtown San Luis Obispo only a twenty-minute drive away, what’s not to like?

 Best Homestay in Cayucos: Coastal Coziness

Coastal Coziness San Luis Obispo

This lovely three-bedroom apartment is located only a few feet from the bay and comes with everything your travel party could ever need. Featuring a living area with plenty of seating space and a functional fireplace plus a dining area and a fully-equipped kitchen including laundry facilities, what more could you ask for? The sun-soaked private verandah might just be the best part.

Most Elegant Home in Cayucos: Blue Door Retreat

Blue Door Retreat San Luis Obispo

This fetching four-bedroom house is loveling-decorated with aquatic accents while offering all the space you could ever need for a large group. The living area seats nine people, the dining area eight, and the condo additionally boasts a fully-equipped kitchen in which to cook up a family feast. When you’re done, just head out to the beach a few feet away.

Best Modern Home in Cayucos: Oceanfront Dream 

Oceanfront Dream San Luis Obispo

This picturesque three-bedroom house is not to be passed up if staying in the area. From its beautifully coordinated interior design to the eye-popping oceanviews, there’s sure to be space for everyone in your travel group. Besides a fully-equipped kitchen, the accommodation also hosts washing facilities and a wraparound porch to sunbathe practically anywhere you want.

Things to See and Do in Cayucos: 

Things to Do in Cayucos
Nothing beats a beach holiday with your mates!
  • Take a trip to Morro Strand State Beach.
  • Snap a pic from Cabrillo Highway Coast.
  • See the cliffs at Estero Bluffs.
  • Try the tacos at Tacos El Viejon.
  • Walk around San Geronimo Pullout.
  • Plan a day trip to Cambria.
  • Watch the sunset from Sand Dollars Beach.
  • Get up close to Elephant Rock.
  • See the beauty of the North Point Natural Area.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo

So there you go – the five coolest places to stay in San Luis Obispo. An opportunity to visit this stunning Californian destination definitely shouldn’t be passed up!

For couples who prefer to stay away from the crowds, Morro Bay is a great option while budget travelers would do well to stay around Pismo Beach. For large groups or families, both Avila Beach and Cayucos are fantastic options since their accommodations tend to be larger.

Regardless of where you decide to stay in San Luis Obispo, you can rest assured that there will be plenty for you to do in the area. From the endless hiking trails throughout the area to the several miles of coastline just waiting to be explored, you’re sure to fall in love.

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Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple—just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!

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