SeaVenture Blog

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes: A Perfect Day Trip South of Pismo

Have you been to Pismo? We have lots of guests who have stayed with us over and over again, and many of them still don’t know about the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes complex (aka, the Dunes).

They are missing something special. The Dunes complex is an area of almost 22,000 acres that is mostly in a land conservation program but with good accessible trails and paths for visitors. If you are willing to do a little moderately strenuous hiking you can experience a variety of habitats that are home for birds and other wildlife plus a wide variety of coastal vegetation. And there’s the amazing dunes themselves, huge waves of sand created by the wind off the ocean.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes interpretive center.The place to start your day trip to the Dunes is at the interpretive center in Guadalupe, just a short drive south of Pismo Beach on Highway 1. The Dunes Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offers maps and information about what to do in the Dunes. And you can spend a little time looking at the art gallery that features creative items inspired by the dunes.

The Dunes Center is the HQ for the collaborative that manages all of the complicated parts of the dunes Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunescomplex. It includes the Dunes Center, CA State Parks, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, the wildlife refuge, the County of Santa Barbara, and the California Coastal Conservancy. All of these organizations contribute resources to the project and help to ensure that there is access to the dunes as well as preservation of its fragile ecosystems.

You might be surprised by some of the things hidden in the dunes – and we will be writing more about some of them in future posts. But here’s a teaser to help you start planning your day trip:

  • Oso Flaco Lake is a fresh water lake separated from the ocean by a small set of dunes. You can cross it on foot, using a wheelchair-accessible walking path, literally sharing space with sea birds and waterfowl, and sometimes other critters as well (an easy walk).
  • The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is accessible only from the beach. This is the place to go if you are looking for the most undisturbed (wild) areas in the dunes complex.
  • If driving offroad is your thing, you have probably already heard about the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (the length of that name is why you always see it ‘Oceano SVRA’).
  • Would you believe there are ancient ruins buried in the dunes? OK, it’s make believe, but it’s still true. You have to visit to see what we mean.

If yoOceano Dunes SVRAu like Pismo Beach well enough to stay put, you can get sand between your toes out our front door, which is right on the beach. But you can also explore almost 1,000 acres of state park with trails, golf and Monarch butterflies almost next door to the SeaVenture, just south of us, and all part of the extensive Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes complex.

Pick your adventure.



Lauren is a lover of events, the great outdoors, wine, food, friends, and family. With 12 years of wedding experience, she offers helpful insights and pointers for weddings and special events. As a San Luis Obispo local, her tips come from first-hand experience of the beautiful Central Coast.

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