Travel Feature Story

Picturesque Pismo Beach

Published: Wednesday, September 6, 2017 | 11:15 AM

An easy three hour drive up the 101, sits the picturesque town of Pismo Beach. With sand dunes and rugged cliffs, Pismo Beach is a perfect place for a short weekend or a leisurely stay. Surrounded by Central Coast wineries, it’s also a convenient home-base for a wine tasting vacation.

The Cliffs Resort was our home-away-from home during our Pismo Beach getaway. Situated on its own bluff overlooking the wide Pacific, The Cliffs Resort is a dog-friendly hotel with a spa (Dia Feliz) and a full-service restaurant (Marisol). We stayed in the Pier View Suite, an oceanfront suite with a wrap-around balcony and unobstructed views of the ocean and dramatic sunsets.

Our lavish room was chock-full of amenities, from the whirlpool soaking tub to the pillow top bed, there was nothing we were lacking. A few of the highlights included: two 42” Hi-def TVs, rain shower, Keurig coffee maker with real cream for your morning cuppa, refrigerator, and big fluffy bath towels. The internet was relatively fast and free and there was ample parking.

That spa soaking tub was extremely attractive to me, so it was the first thing I headed for. I was surprised when I found that the tub filled from water pouring out of the ceiling. The hotel provided a rubber ducky and bath salts to make my soaking a delightful one.

We wanted to stay close to home on the first evening of our visit so we booked an ocean view table at Marisol, the onsite restaurant. Serving what the restaurant calls “California fan fare,” Marisol takes advantage of their location on the Central Coast serving fresh produce and fish and naturally raised meats and poultry.

We started our meal with Fried Calamari. Lightly batter and gently fried, the calamari was served with a sweet Tomato Chutney and a light and creamy Pesto Aioli. Both sauces were so good I kept switching between the two.

Marisol offers both complete dinner choices and something they call “Simply Grilled,” allowing the diner to choose their protein and sides. What’s really appealing is that you can choose your own sauce for your protein and it’s served on the side!

I decided on the grilled prawns and lemon buerre blanc with tempura battered cauliflower served with a Siracha dipping sauce. I loved dipping the smoky prawns into the rich sauce. The cauliflower was a combination of purple, yellow and green, tender-crisp and golden and the Siracha sauce had just the right amount of heat.

My companion had the Rib Eye with truffle sauce and a side of creamy mashed potatoes. I had to have a taste of the medium-rare steak and the complex sauce. The mashed potatoes were rich and lavish with cream and butter.

We called it a night after that wonderful dinner. Our room was just too tempting to ignore, so we opened the windows to let in the sound of the surf and the smell of the salt and let that lull us to sleep (the pillow-top bed didn’t hurt either).

The next morning after bracing myself with a couple of cups of coffee with (did I mention) real cream, I got ready to head to my hour massage at the Dia Feliz Spa. I checked in at the gift shop in the hotel lobby, and was given a keycard to the spa. After getting my locker and heading to the lounge, my masseuse, Sarah was ready for me. Now I’ve had a few massages in my life, some good, some so-so. Usually after an hour I am more than ready to be finished, but not this time. Sarah used a combination of acupressure and massage. She worked on my problem spots gently, but firmly hitting all the knots and sore spots. I was really disappointed when the hour was over. A lot of the time I feel battered and bruised after a massage, this time I just felt really good and refreshed.

Guests of The Cliffs are given access to Dia Feliz’ Resort Pool and Jacuzzi, plus the spa and the fitness center. They offer a full roster of massages, facials, body treatments, waxing, manicures and pedicures.

After all that relaxing I was ready to visit one of the local wineries for a bit of wine and a bite of cheese. We drove 15 minutes to the Edna Valley for a wine tasting at Kysni Winery. The Winery is located in a beautiful spot on a historic ranch with a courtyard that overlooked the vineyards of the Edna Valley.

With a plate of cheeses specially selected by Fromagerie Sophie for the wine tastings we had that day, we pulled up a chair and enjoyed the cool breezes of the day. Starting with a light Chardonnay and a bit of Jeune Autize cheese we experienced the smooth wine that is only partially oaked for a more fruit-forward taste.

Our next tastes were of Pinot Noir, one from grapes from the Santa Maria Valley and one from Edna Valley vineyards. The Santa Maria Valley Pinot was light in color and taste, whereas the Pinot from the Edna Valley had more spice and a deeper taste. The wines were paired with Pepato and Tome de Rabelais, respectively.

A 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Grenache grapes created Nocturnum, a full-bodied red with the taste of berries and spice. A pungent Wrangeback cheese was paired with this wine.

Finally we sipped some Syrah, grown in the Edna Valley with a big bold taste without being chewy. Caveman Blue cheese paired beautifully with the taste of the Syrah.

We wanted to make the sunset so we grabbed a sandwich from a local store and headed to our room. As we sat in the lounge chairs the sun made its slow dip into the ocean. What a beautiful sight!

Before we left I wanted to stroll along the walkway that follows the cliffs just outside the resort. Go one way and you’ll get to see other hotels and the dunes of Pismo Beach in the distance, the other way leads to a small beach that when the tide is out has some great tide pools. Luckily I was there when the tide was out so I got to observe some of the creatures of the sea.

Pismo Beach is a wonderful place to take a break and if you visit between now and early December you can visit the apple orchards of the See Canyon Apple Trail and the Avila Valley for everything apple.

The 411:

The Cliffs Resort, 2757 Shell Beach Road, Pismo Beach
(805) 773-5000,

Marisol Restaurant, located next door to the Cliffs Resort
(805) 773-2511,

Dia Feliz Spa, located in the Cliffs Resort
(805) 773-4157,

Kynsi Winery, 2212 Corbett Canyon Road, Arroyo Grande
(805) 544-8461,

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