As someone brought up in a country where two weeks of sunshine during the whole season of summer is considered “balmy”, I adore exploring California. One of my favorite road trips ever was driving a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) along the California coast. I’ll admit, I planned this trip badly, spending a day of traveling nursing sunburn earned in Boulder Creek – a travel planner and some SPF 75 would have been handy-dandy.
So, on the third day, in a Starbucks-fueled haze, greased up with aloe, and foot to the floor of my rented Honda Civic, I stopped for more caffeine at Morro Bay on the way from Santa Cruz to LAX for a flight I couldn’t afford to miss. Turns out I could afford to miss it – because I didn’t want to miss a day in Morro Bay.
Named for the giant rock jutting out of the sea off the coast, Morro Bay is one of the most beautiful, laidback, and welcoming communities on California’s central coast. This small city in San Luis Obispo County is home to simply gorgeous views, complemented by the state’s stellar weather.
This neck of California is stunning, and Morro Bay and the sublime communities surrounding it represent an idyllic section of the state’s famous 840-mile coastline. This city is one of the best places to grab some R&R along a PCH road trip or enjoy a low-key seaside holiday.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Morro Bay, there are a ton of great rental options and hotels in Morro Bay. Looking for an oceanfront hotel with complimentary breakfast? It’s here.
Searching for a boutique hotel with stylish rooms? They’ve got you. Hunting for a beachside rental with spacious rooms and a seaside landing? Look no further.
Interested yet? Join me as I take a closer look at some of the most beautiful places to stay in Morro Bay, and learn more about this lovely little town’s tranquil Pacific Ocean neighborhoods.
Join a guided tour of Morro Bay, California on an electric bike. This tour is tailored to your interests whether you want to learn a bit of history or you simply want the best scenic views in the area. The tour includes all necessary equipment and instruction.
Surf Lesson in Morro Bay is a fun, accessible, and affordable way to try out surfing. Upon arrival at the beach your instructor will meet you, outfit you in wetsuits and surfboards, then introduce you to the basics of this iconic California activity.
This tour is designed for off-road enthusiasts and naturalists. You will explore the hidden canyons of the Santa Lucia range in a vintage open-top Hummer. Along the way, your guide will provide information about the native plants, wildlife and history of the region.
TL;DR: Best Places to Stay in Morro Bay
- Best Luxury Hotel in Morro Bay – Sea Air Inn & Suites
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Morro Bay – Estero Inn
- Best Budget Hotel in Morro Bay – Rodeway Inn at Morro Bay
- Best Vacation Rental in Morro Bay – Verdon Oasis
- Best Campsite in Morro Bay – Morro Strand State Beach Campground
- Best Resort in the Morro Bay area – Sea Pines Golf Resort
- Best Family-Friendly Hotel in Morro Bay– 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites
- Best Pet-Friendly Hotel in Morro Bay – Bayfront Inn
Areas to choose from in Morro Bay
- Best area for first-timers/tourists – Downtown
- Best area for budget travelers – Little Morro Creek
- Best area for luxury travelers – Embarcadero
- Best area for safety – East Side Morro Bay
- Best area for families – North Morro Bay
- Best area for photographs – South Morro Bay
- Best area for couples – Baywood-Los Osos
Where to Stay in Morro Bay, CA
1. Downtown Morro Bay
Morro Bay isn’t a particularly big town, but if you’re on the PCH, you can’t miss it for the enormous Morro Rock. If this is your first time in town, arguably the best area to stay in Morro Bay is Downtown, which is home to loads of cafes and restaurants, and easy access to Morro Rock Beach.
No visit to California’s Central Coast is complete without strolling along a beautiful beach, so put a visit to this local landmark at the top of your list, and if you’re looking for the best hotels in Morro Bay, see if you can find one in close proximity.
Downtown is cute as all heck and has an excellent selection of cozy gift shops, coffee shops, and eateries. After taking loads of pictures at the beach, try some lunch at Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant, which is an ideal place to try some fresh seafood.
Downtown is where you’ll find most of the gift shops and little tourist shacks in Morro Bay, and you may want to indulge in some retail therapy at this point. Here you’ll find used bookstores, thrift stores, new-age gift shops, and coffee shops within walking distance of several of the best hotels in Morro Bay.
Speaking of which, in this neighborhood, you’ll easily find rentals and some of the best hotels in Morro Bay that cater to all needs, tastes, and budgets.
See Related: Northern California vs Southern California: What’s the Difference?
Things to do in Downtown
- Morro Rock Beach
- Tognazzini’s Dockside Restaurant
- Spa by the Bay
- Retail therapy and souvenir hunting
- Morro Bay Art Association Gallery
Where to stay in Downtown
- Best Budget Hotel in Downtown – Harbor House Inn
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Downtown – La Serena Inn
- Best Luxury Hotel in Downtown – Sea Air Inn & Suites
See Related: Where to Stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea: Best Places
2. Little Morro Creek
If your idea of a wonderful weekend means heading out to enjoy parks and having lunch at unassuming local eateries, Little Morro Creek is an excellent place to consider.
You’re just a short walk away from The Embarcadero and the slightly busier Downtown neighborhoods but without the higher price tags usually associated with the Morro Bay hotels found right next to the ocean.
Additionally, this part of town is probably the best places to look for hotels in Morro Bay for budget travelers. It’s conveniently located near some of the area’s top attractions as well as affordable restaurants, and cheap hotels, without sacrificing the views.
One area along the coast you may want to visit is the North Point Nature Area, where you can search for crabs and other sea life in small tide pools. The nature area isn’t particularly large, but it’s a great spot to let your dog off its leash for some sandy fun.
Little Morro Creek is near a handful of fun eateries like Wee Shack, a small restaurant with named burgers like the “John Wayne” and the “Shroom Burger.” I had the latter – and I still don’t know (nor do I want to know) what John Wayne tastes like.
Strolling in and out of antique stores is one of my favorite ways to spend some downtime on vacation. You too can enjoy antiquing at local businesses like Morro Bay Antiques, Main Street Antiques, and the Highway 41 Antique Emporium.
One attraction I found surprisingly enjoyable was Judy’s Sewing & Craft Museum. This unassuming little museum showcases a significant number of artifacts related to the history of sewing and was genuinely fascinating. Go figure.
Things to do in Little Morro Creek
- Lila Keiser Park
- Wee Shack for lunch
- North Point Nature Area
- Judy’s Sewing & Craft Museum
- Go antiquing!
Places to stay in Little Morro Creek
- Best Budget Hotel in Downtown Little Morro Creek – Motel 6
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Little Morro Creek – Best Western Tradewinds
- Best Luxury Vacation Home in Little Morro Creek – This Bay Retreat Condo
Once home to the infamous Morro Bay Aquarium (now closed, thank goodness) the Embarcadero neighborhood is where you’ll find the best Morro Bay hotels that feature views of the ocean and Morro Rock from private balconies overlooking the water.
This part of town is home to some of the best seafood restaurants and bars in Morro Bay, so if you’re looking for some fine eats and drinks overlooking the ocean, look no further. Seriously, the street is absolutely stuffed with eateries and watering holes, so much so, it’s practically begging for its own article.
One of the best seafood restaurants in town is The Galley Restaurant on Embarcadero. The restaurant overlooks the water, and you’ll find a great selection of fine wines to pair with your dinner. Consider visiting the restaurant around sunset for a great view.
You might want to get up and stretch your legs with a walk along T Pier (so-called because of its shape) and the Morro Bay waterfront area after enjoying some seafood from one of the local restaurants – you might catch some otters gambling along.
Speaking of great views, Coleman Park is a small park north of the waterfront Embarcadero, and it affords excellent views of the iconic landmark. You’ll often see seals, sea lions, sea otters, and other wildlife while at the park.
If you’re interested in more of the area’s wildlife one of the best things you can do is go whale-watching in Morro Bay. Book a tour with Sub Sea Tours, which offers whale-watching along the coast, as well as rentals for watercraft like kayaks and canoes.
If your nautical interests end at the coast (because seasickness is the literal worst) you can find a small dose of nautical history at the Morro Bay Maritime Museum. The museum isn’t particularly large, but it’s free!
Perhaps the most whimsical attraction in town can also be found in this neck of the woods. Have you ever dreamed of shrinking down like Alice in Wonderland? Morro Bay’s giant chessboard gives you that chance.
The chessboard is a large paved area painted in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern. You’ll also find opportunities to play regular-sized chess at nearby tables.
Things to do on Embarcadero
- Coleman Park
- Watch otters at the Morro Bay T Pier
- Play big and small chess at the giant chessboard
- The Galley Restaurant
- Morro Bay Maritime Museum
Places to stay on Embarcadero
- Best Budget Hotel on Embarcadero – Bayfront Inn
- Best Mid-Range Hotel on Embarcadero – Estero Inn
- Best Luxury Hotel on Embarcadero – Anderson Inn
- Best Family Friendly Hotel on Embarcadero – 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites
See Related: Where To Stay In Napa Valley: Best Areas & Places
4. East Side of Morro Bay
If you’d like to stay in the mot relaxed part of the community, the best area to stay in Morro Bay is along the east side of the community, where you’ll find quiet neighborhood streets. This is one of the best parts of town for a quiet getaway.
Being slightly further removed from the coast, you won’t see quite as many hotels in Morro Bay on the East Side, but I have found a number of cute rentals, and there is also a campsite at Morro Bay State Park.
If you’re interested in more great views of the ocean, head to Cerro Cabrillo Trail in the state park. The hike is about 2.5 miles, and requires clambering over some rocks and moderately difficult terrain. If hiking isn’t your jam, you can also enjoy the state park while playing a round of golf at the Morro Bay Golf Course.
Quite a few hiking trails wind their way through the eastern side of Morro Bay and run to the end of Black Hill Trail. The peak of Black Hill is the best way to get an amazing view of the ocean and Morro Rock from an elevated position.
After completing your hike or your round of golf, head north and take a look at the restaurants that dot the east end of Morro Bay Boulevard. You’ll find everything from Chinese at Bamboo Bamboo Restaurant to a cup of coffee at Morro Bay Coffee Co.
If you’re still looking to scratch that nature itch, travel a few miles to the east along Route 1 (PCH), and you’ll reach El Chorro Regional Park and the SLO Botanical Garden. Make sure you plan time to explore the garden, and don’t miss the children’s garden if you’re visiting with kids.
Things to do in the East Side of Morro Bay
- Hiking the Cerro Cabrillo Trail system
- Morro Bay Golf Course
- Find sustenance on Morro Bay Boulevard
- El Chorro Regional Park and San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden
- Hike the Black Hill Trail
Places to stay in East Side Morro Bay
- Best Budget Vacation Home in the East Side – This Surfer Dream Spot vacation home
- Best Mid-Range Vacation Home in the East Side – The Ocean’s Breeze vacation home
- Best Luxury Vacation Home in the East Side – This Morro Bay Paradise vacation home
- Best Campsite in the East Side – Morro Bay State Park Campground
5. North Morro Bay
For the best beach activities, North Morro Bay is the place to be. It’s also pretty quiet and an excellent place to stay when you have kids.
It’s near the Morro Strand Beach Campground, as well as a handful of restaurants, motels, and inns. Most of the family-friendly hotels in Morro Bay along the north are right along Main Street.
Searching for the perfect sunset? Park at the lot at the western end of Azure Street, and enjoy some late afternoon play at Morro Strand State Beach before settling down for a snack at sunset.
If you’re feeling hungry, you’ll find delicious slices at Surfside Pizza. This dine-in or takeout pizza joint is on Main Street, just south of where you might watch the sunset at the beach.
Travel even further north, and you’ll find yourself in the lovely town of Cayucos for a day trip. This little, old-school beach town is the place to be if you’re searching for more great views. Visit the Cayucos Pier before heading to The Hidden Kitchen on North Ocean Ave for the best breakfast tacos on the Central Coast!
Things to do in North Morro Bay
- Morro Strand State Beach
- Morro Strand State Beach Campground
- Morro Bay Dog Beach (because not all California beaches are dog-friendly!)
- Surfside Pizza
- A day trip to neighboring Cayucos
Places to stay in North Morro Bay
- Best Budget Hotel in North Morro Bay – Rodeway Inn at Morro Bay
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in North Morro Bay – Holland Inn & Suites
- Best Luxury Vacation Home in North Morro Bay – Verdon Oasis
- Best Campsite in North Morro Bay – Morro Strand State Beach Campground
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit
6. South Morro Bay
The entire Central Coast region of California is a photographer’s dream. You’ll find it difficult to travel very far before you see yet another amazingly beautiful vista that requires a stop. Morro Bay is no exception.
The southern end of Morro Bay is where you’ll find some of the best views of the area’s natural beauty. Sandwiched between Downtown to the north and the Baywood-Los Osos community to the south, it’s easy to take advantage of everything the community has to offer in the way of gorgeous natural features, hiking, photography, and other outdoor activities.
The Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History has a great view of Morro Rock and is on the southern end of Morro Bay State Park. There are exhibits for kids and adults, and it’s the best way to learn about the special and beautiful ecology of the area.
Make sure to take a stroll along the Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk for incredible views of the countryside. Don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to remember these views for ages.
Another opportunity to commune with nature and hone your photography skills is at the Morro Bay Estuary, on the southern edge of the town. Time your visit when the tide is high, and you can spend the afternoon in a kayak in the marsh.
You’ll find some great mountain bike trails around Park Ridge Rock, which is in the center of several trails within the Cerro Cabrillo Trail system.
Things to do in South Morro Bay
- The Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History
- Park Ridge Rock
- Biking along the South Bay Boulevard Mountain Bike Trails
- Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk
- Morro Bay Estuary
Places to stay in South Morro Bay
- Best Budget Vacation Home in South Morro Bay – This Oceanview Cottage vacation home
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in South Morro Bay – The Inn at Morro Bay
- Best Luxury Vacation Home in South Morro Bay – This Morro Bay Heights vacation home
7. Baywood-Los Osos
Baywood-Los Osos is an unincorporated community that sits along the southern border of Morro Bay, and it’s a place to consider when you want to stay close to one of the region’s top golf resorts. It’s also great if you’re searching for a quiet couples getaway along the California coast.
Baywood-Los Osos is a very walkable community, so stroll over to the Morro Coast Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, a small but beautiful nature area. Most of the trails are quite short, but you’ll find stunning views throughout.
Much of Baywood-Los Osos is filled with established neighborhoods with cozy homes built in the first half of the 20th Century, so you’ll find a decent number of vacation homes ideal for a quiet weekend away.
If you’ve come here for golf, you may want to stay at the Sea Pines Golf Resort since it’s one of the best hotels in Baywood-Los Osos for a resort experience. The course here is ideal for casual golfers, as the course is beautiful but not ferociously challenging.
Looking for a spot of magic? Enjoy a visit to the Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Reserve and stroll down the beach with the waves and wind at your back. The best time to see the butterflies is March through October, but the area is excellent for a peaceful walk all year round.
If that wasn’t magical enough consider Elfin Forest, home to prehistoric sand dunes, rare plants, and protected wildlife. Elfin Forest feels quite secluded in many areas with its rare trees and unusual ecology. The forest is slightly elevated from the water, so you’ll get some great opportunities for photographs on clear days.
If you’re feeling peckish, grab some grub at Beerwood, an open-air restaurant with great views, excellent beer, and a delicious menu. The location used to house a little hole-in-the-wall bar, but the new owner transformed the eatery into a local favorite. Try the sliders with grilled onions!
Things to do in Baywood-Los Osos
- The Morro Coast Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve
- Sea Pines Golf Resort
- Coastal Access Monarch Butterfly Reserve
- Exploring Elfin Forest
- Lunch at Beerwood
Places to stay in Baywood-Los Osos
- Best Budget Vacation Home in Los Osos – This Pet-Friendly Cottage
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in Los Osos – Sea Pines Golf Resort
- Best Luxury Vacation Home in Los Osos – This Cabin by the Sea
Is it better to stay in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo?
You almost don’t need to choose between SLO and Morro Bay because they’re so close to one another. It takes just 20 minutes to drive from one town to the other, so you can easily explore either, even if you’re not staying there.
The best hotels in Morro Bay are as good as the accommodations in SLO. Morro Bay is better for a romantic getaway, while SLO is best for those seeking a vacation with good nightlife.
Does Morro Bay have a downtown?
Morro Bay has a charming downtown with gift shops and other fun nooks. It’s one of the best places to stay in Morro Bay for first-timers, and it’s perfect for a scenic getaway. The prime location offers access to all the neighborhoods and is home to some of the most popular hotels.
Can you walk all the way around Morro Rock?
Morro Rock isn’t separated from the shore, so you can walk right up to it. There’s a conveniently located parking lot that you can use when you want to visit.
You can get an excellent view of the rock from Embarcadero Drive, which runs along the coastline. More than one waterfront hotel in the town offers a view of Morro Rock, but walking to the rock is always recommended during a visit.
How many days do you need in Morro Bay?
If you’re on a road trip along the California coast, try to spend at least two nights in Morro Bay, so you can enjoy at least one full day exploring the area’s activities. Morro Bay is also an excellent place for a cozy weekend if you live in one of California’s larger, busier cities to the north or south.
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