San Luis Obispo County is my favorite place

San Luis Obispo County is my favorite place and I don’t have to go far to experience it– it’s in my backyard. It’s exactly why I decided to move here 15 years ago. Of course, the best things about the area are the rural feel, proximity to the coast and the warm weather. Although I don’t want people flocking to the area and spoiling the best of what there is here, I can’t stop sharing how wonderful San Luis Obispo County is.

Photo of 2 plam trees on a cliff in Pismo Beach, California

My top 5 favorite things to do in San Luis Obispo County

  1. Wine tasting at Pianetta Winery in downtown Paso Robles
    Wine tasting at Pianetta Winery in downtown Paso Robles.

    Wine tasting. There are hundreds upon hundreds (that’s not an exaggeration—check out PasoWine.com and SLOWine.com to see what I mean—do note that listings on both of these are dependent on being members, so not all the wineries in the area are listed). Wine tasting in SLO County is less expensive than other more well-known wine regions. The unofficial stance of the local wine country is that wine tasting is for everyone and the best wine is the wine you like. Wine comes with corks, screw tops and in boxes—what matters is not what it comes in but the quality of the wine that goes in.

    Pismo Beach on a Sunday in April
    Pismo Beach on a Sunday in April
  2. Beach day. I love making a day (or at least an afternoon) of visiting the beach, whether it’s by myself, with friends or with my daughter. My favorite beach (shhh…don’t tell anyone) is Cayucos State Beach.  The children like to spend as much time on the playground on the south side of the peir as they do in the water. If I don’t go to Cayucos, Avila Beach is number 2. Although there are many other fabulous beaches.

    A sampling of beers at Dead Oak Brewery in Atascadero
    A sampling of beers at Dead Oak Brewery in Atascadero.
  3. Sampling of sour beers at Libertine in downtown San Luis Obispo
    Sampling of sour beers at Libertine in downtown San Luis Obispo.

    Craft beer tasting. Since becoming gluten-free, I drink more wine than beer, but my dad and brother in particular LOVE beer. My dad’s goal is to visit all the craft breweries in SLO County. There aren’t as many breweries as there are wineries—nowhere close—but it’s still proving to be difficult as there are always more craft breweries popping up. One of my favorites is Libertine Brewing in SLO because of the sour beers. If you haven’t had a sour before, I recommend going to Libertine and trying one—or four by getting a flight.

    On the way to the top of Stadium Park in Atascadero
    On the way to the top of Stadium Park in Atascadero.
  4. Top of Stadium Park in Atascadero early in the morning
    Top of Stadium Park in Atascadero early in the morning.

    Hiking. One thing those of us living in SLO County often take advantage of — besides living so close to the ocean — is the many hiking trails. There are short hikes that don’t have much elevation change and there are more than a few hiking trails that go up a mountain. There’s one I see every time I head north on the 101 just as the ocean is about to disappear from view at Shell Beach (Shell Beach Bluffs Trail). The ones I hike most often are in Atascadero: Stadium Park and Jim Green, as well as trails at Montana de Oro.

    Short rib tacos from Fish Gaucho in downtown Paso Robles
    Short rib tacos from Fish Gaucho in downtown Paso Robles.
  5. Flourlesss chocolate cake from Bistro Laurante in downtown Paso Robles Robles with a birthday candle on it
    Flourlesss chocolate cake from Bistro Laurante in downtown Paso Robles Robles for my birthday.

    Gourmet food. With the multiple wine, craft beer and spirits offerings, it’s no surprise that talented chefs have been drawn to the area. Not only can get get a fantastic meal in any of the cities/towns in the county, but you can also venture out into the country and find a delicious meal at one of many wineries. One of my favorites  that I love to hit up for Happy Hour is Fish Gaucho in downtown Paso Robles. In downtown San Luis Obispo, my newest obsession is the Vegetable Butcher. Don’t let the name mislead you into thinking that it’s a vegetarian or vegan, restaurant. While it can make most dishes vegetarian or vegan and most are already gluten-free, there is an assortment of offerings for all tastes.

This is only a sampling of what SLO County has to offer, but part of why I make my home here, not to mention the mild weather year-round.

Mexico, oh how I love thee

Center of Mexico City–the only part of the city where I felt uncomfortable, even in the middle of the day.

Though I live in California, only six hours north of the Mexico-U.S. border, I’ve never been to Mexico. Until recently. I always wanted to go, however, at the same time, it wasn’t at the top of my list–so many other places to go… What I didn’t take into consideration was that because it’s so close, it’s cheaper to travel to and that everything costs so much less in Mexico.

Two carnitas tacos I got from a vendor at a fiesta near my Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta. I paid less than a $1 for both.

As I went to Mexico for a conference, the majority of my airfare was paid for. Therefore, my expenses were fairly low as compared to other places. Compared to where I live in California, I found everything exceptionally cheap.

My Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta.
Churos for 10 pesos (50 cents!!!)

Costs:

  • Airfare from San Luis Obispo Airport (a small county airport) to Puerto Vallarta and from Mexico City to San Luis Obispo Airport $644
  • Airfare from Puerto Vallarta to Mexico City $52
  • Four nights in an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta (Fiesta Americana) FREE
  • Three nights in an Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta $66
  • Five nights in an Airbnb in Mexico City $86
  • I got these at a family restaurant inside a mall in Mexico City. I paid less than $5 for the whole meal and I got a drink and chips with my enchiladas.

    Taxi from resort to downtown Puerto Vallarta 65-70 pesos/$3.25-3.50

  • Taxi from Airbnb to airport in Puerto Vallarta 120 pesos/ $6
  • One-way bus in Puerto Vallarta 7.50 pesos/40 cents
  • One-way subway in Mexico City 5 pesos/25 cents
  • One-way bus in Mexico City 4 pesos/20 cents
  • Glass of wine at pizza restaurant 50 pesos/$2.50
  • Glass of wine at fancy restaurant 85-144 pesos/$4.25-7.25
  • Meal at a family restaurant 80 pesos/$4
  • Meal at fancy, trendy restaurant (included mocojete with mixed meats, two glasses of wine, dessert and coffee) 600 pesos/$30
  • One-way taxi from Airbnb to airport 200 pesos/$10 (I was overcharged for sure, but didn’t argue since I wanted to spend the last of my pesos anyway)
The WHOLE plate of bone marrow and tortillas was $4! This, plus queso and 3 glasses of wine in a wine/cheese bar was $16.

Something I’ve learned over the years of traveling is that it is cheaper to get local currency from the ATM or to pay with a credit card. I only used my debit card to get money out of the ATM (I was charged to use the ATM and a foreign transaction fee). The rest of the time I used my credit card, which did not charge me any transaction fees.

I consoled myself for not getting into Frido Kahlo’s house by stopping by a local pizza restaurant and got this pizza and two glasses of wine for $12 including tip. It was a hip place I would have frequented if I lived there.

I loved Mexico for its rich history and culture, especially Mexico City, but also the great exchange rates and how cheap everything was. Every time someone would tell me the cost of something and I’d repeat it incredulously, the person would either lower the price or ask me if it was expensive. It became a challenge of mine to see how fancy of a place and how much I could order. My most expensive meal was $30 including tax and tip for an appetizer, entree, 2 glasses of wine, dessert and a cup of coffee. At home, I once ordered off the starter menu and got one glass of wine for $30 not including tip at a comparable restaurant.

Part of my most expensive meal in Mexico City.