Pismo Beach is a classic California beach town; home to beautiful oceanfront accommodations, admired restaurants, miles of rolling sand dunes, local wineries and tons of outdoor activities. A small town with just over 8,000 residents, Pismo Beach is part of the Five Cities Area, a cluster of cities including Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Oceano and Shell Beach.
The name Pismo comes from the Chumash language word for tar, Pismu', which was gathered from tar springs in Price Canyon near Pismo Beach. The tar was a valuable product which the Chumash Indians used to caulk their seagoing canoes, called tomol, which traveled along the coast and out to the Channel Islands.
In 1882, the first wharf at Pismo was built, only to be followed by a full-length pier built in 1924. After it suffered considerable storm damage, the pier was renovated again in 1985 & visited by thousands every year. However, not only do tourist visit Pismo Beach – so do Monarch Butterflies. The southern end of Pismo Beach runs alongside sand dunes, which are followed by eucalyptus trees which attract thousands of migrating monarch butterflies every November through February.
The Pismo clam was named for the long, wide beach where so many were once found, once in such abundance that they were harvested with plows. Clamming once drew thousands of clammers to Pismo during low tides, and is still legal; however, due to over-harvesting by humans and the protected sea otter (which feasts on clams), few clams are to be found. Pismo Beach adopted the name "Clam Capital of the World" in the 1950s, though this motto is no longer used. The city still holds the Clam Festival every October, complete with clam chowder competitions and a clam-themed parade.