Oceano Dunes is around 3 hours drive north of Los Angeles, CA - right next to Pismo Beach. The beautiful scenery along the way will make those 3 hours pass quickly.
Oceano Dunes is my favorite off-road adventure place. It has everything going for it. The weather is always perfect (or at least acceptable), it has lots of dunes, it is right on the beach, and it is right next to a gorgeous beach city: Pismo Beach – with restaurants, shops, beaches, and hotels.
You can also rent a vehicle at one of the rental shops right outside the park on Pier ave. See the list of shops below.
Once you set up your rental, you can pick it up inside the SVRA area.
You can camp right in the park, but for people who would like to avoid roughing it, you can rent an Airbnb, motel, or hotel room in several cities around Oceano Dunes.
You can also make it a day trip from Anaheim. Because the highway to Oceano Dunes passes through major population areas, you are never far away from a restaurant, rest stop or lodging.
If you plan to camp then make reservations ahead of time. The available spots disappear quickly. Call 1-800-444-7275 or visit the California parks reservations website www.reserveamerica.com.
Tip: Although weather is almost always great for off-road fun, you still need to plan ahead. Under some rain and wind conditions, crossing the Arroyo Grande Creek into the SVRA might become treacherous, especially for RVs.
The dunes area available for off-road activity is around 1,500 acres. It used to be 3,500 but 2000 acres were set aside for preservation and restoration. The park is threatened with closure due to pressure from environmentalists. So please tread carefully around protected areas, read and obey the park rules.
Tip: The dunes are always changing. When you first take your ATV on the sand, go slow and get familiar with the crests, dips and doughnuts.
The best way to enjoy the dunes is to start at the beginning of the sand highway between markers 4 and 5. The first time through, take the highway all the way to the border of the SVRA. This will give you an idea about the expanse of this park. On the way back, you can start making excursions into other dunes and valleys.
The park has many diverse formations. You can find an immense dune with a pointy ridge – jumping the ridge is somewhat dangerous, but trying to balance along the rim is thrilling enough for me. You can find little dunes – with little jumps. You can find a huge depression shaped like a bowl, in which you can ride your ATV around the rim. If you lose speed while you are trying to run the rim of this bowl, you will tumble all the way down – and laugh about it.
Tip: There is a reason for every safety rule at the park. Please follow the rules. Most importantly, make sure that your flag pole is standing straight and high enough to be noticed by other vehicles coming from behind a dune. And please wear a helmet!
A great interactive map of the park is available at http://www.ccwheelers.com/intermap.html - with photos of each landmark.
Tip: Rental places tell you to park on the street on Pier Ave, but be aware that parking is extremely difficult so consider taking an Uber or Lyft.
I recently rented two ATVs from Steve's for one hour and had a blast with my daughter. We were fortunate to find parking on the street, and we hitched a ride with their shuttle to their location near post # 2.
We watched a short safety video, received our helmets and goggles, received some instructions on the ATV operation, and then took off.
We picked the automatic ATV, and it was straightforward to operate. All we had to worry about was the throttle and the brakes, although I never touched the brakes. My duaghter's ATV stalled at one point, and she had to push the start button.
We booked one hour only, and it was more than enough to explore the dunes. By the end of the hour, my palms were red and my thumbs were hurting, but it was worth it.
This wasn't my first experience at Oceano Dunes and it wouldn't be the last.North Park Entrance End of Grand Avenue Grover Beach CA South Park Entrance End of Pier Avenue Oceano CA
ATV Rentals at Oceano Dunes
BJ's ATV Rentals
197 Grand Avenue
Grover Beach, CA 93433
332 Pier Ave.
Oceano, CA 93445
Arnie's ATV Rentals
311 Pier Ave
Oceano, CA 93445