Skip to content

Friends who visit the Central California Coast might tell you about their trip to Shell Beach, but when you look for it on a map, it might be hard to find. That’s because it’s a neighborhood in the city of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County. Having a generic coastal name like “Shell Beach” doesn’t help your Google search either. In California there is a Shell Beach in La Jolla, Jenner, Inverness, and Sea Ranch too. This Shell Beach between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, however, tops them all.

IMG_3534 elmer ross beach (Custom)Elmer Ross Beach

There are nine separate beaches tucked below the cliffs of Shell Beach. They are in scenic coves below steep bluffs. Some have clean grass parks on the bluff tops and most have tide pools that are exposed at low tides. Unfortunately, many of the Shell Beach beaches are quite small at high tide. During those times, head over to the Pismo Beach Pier to take advantage of the larger size of Pismo City Beach.

Kayaking is a perfect way to see the unique caves and rock arches on the points that separate the beaches of Shell Beach. Inquire with Central Coast Kayaks if you are interested.

While there are several excellent hotels and resorts in Shell Beach, this is mostly a residential neighborhood. Vacation rentals can be found if you plan to stay for a while. There is a wide selection of restaurants to choose from and even a small corner grocery in Shell Beach. Downtown Pismo Beach has much more to choose from for dining and lodging.

IMG_3200 Pirates Cove Avila Beach (Custom)Pirate’s Cove between Shell Beach and Avila Beach

Below is a list of the beaches in the Shell Beach area of Pismo Beach. This includes the adjacent housing community known as Sunset Palisades. We also included the clothing optional beach Pirate’s Cove (which is technically in Avila Beach) as it is accessible from a trail that begins in the Shell Beach area.