Morro Bay Guide


Getting There:

By Air
If money is no object, and time is short, you can fly from LA to SLO. There are 4 direct flights per day, but all are afternoon/evening. Take the train instead.

By Car
Usually takes me under 6 hours from Encinitas if I time the trip to avoid rush hours. There are some alternate routes that take a little longer but allow you to see the Los Padres National Forest up close.

From San Diego/Orange County
About 325 miles from downtown San Diego
Route: I-5 to I-405 to 101, continue as below

From Los Angeles area
About 200 miles from downtown LA.
North of Santa Barbara, some stretches of 101 are not freeway, and speed limits are enforced. Speed limit is aggressively enforced on Highway 1 between SLO and Morro Bay.
Route: 101 to San Luis Obispo, exit to Highway 1, to Morro Bay Blvd.

From Santa Barbara
It is about 110 miles from Santa Barbara to Morro Bay.

From the North
I am not as familiar with the driving options in Northen California.

By Train and Bus (or rental car)

From the South
The train is a great option, more relaxed and comfortable than driving, and the scenery on some stretches is wonderful. From San Diego to Dana Point, the tracks follow the coast with frequent ocean and beach views. From Dana Point through the LA basin, the scenery is not so great, take something to read or take along some work. WIFI is available, but not always good on the Pacific Surfliner. There is no WIFI in coach on the Coast Starlight. Once you pass Ventura, the scenery improves all the way to SLO. You get ocean views, channel island views, a good look at the Gaviota Coast, and you get to see many miles of the coast on Vandenburg Air Force Base, which is mostly not accessible any other way, and is relatively unspoiled.
The train cost is somewhat variable depending on which trains you ride and what discounts you can get. The highest cost option is the Coast Starlight both ways between San Diego and SLO. That is $75 each way, $150 round trip. Less distance, less cost, and if you are 62 or over, the senior discount is substantial. San Diego/SLO round trip on Coast Starlight is $127.50 instead of $150. The LA/SLO round trip senior fare is $68.

Use the Amtrak web site to find the fare from your choice of location. You can buy tickets online there, and have them emailed to you. You can load the emailed ticket to your phone and display it onscreen for the conductor.

From San Diego and Orange County
A. There is one train a day that goes all the way from San Diego to San Luis Obispo (SLO) with stops along the way – Train 777 leaves San Diego at noon and arrives in SLO at 8:35 pm. That is too late to pick up a car or get a bus to Morro Bay, but you could stay overnight in SLO and go up in the morning.
B. There are two trips per day by train and bus that would get you to SLO earlier. Trains 763 and 769 go to Santa Barbara and connect with Amtrak bus service to SLO. The 763 leaves SD at 6:00 am, getting you to SLO by 2:25 pm, and the 769 leaves SD at 9:25 am and gets you to SLO at 5:30 pm.
C. But I saved the best option for last. You can take Train 763 to Los Angeles and change to the Coast Starlight, one of the great train rides in the country. The 763 leaves SD at 6:00 and gets to LA at 8:46. Even when it runs late, you have plenty of time to catch the Coast Starlight at 10:10 am. That gets you to SLO at 3:22 pm, with time to get a car or bus, get to Morro Bay, check in, and relax before dinner.

Check ahead of time about overnight parking, it is OK at some stations, but not all. It is OK in the long term lot at the Solana Beach train station, that is where I leave my car when I go on Amtrak. There is usually plenty of space early in the morning.

From the North
A very similar situation to the Southern approach. The Coast Starlight leaves Oakland at 8:50 am and San Jose at 9:24, arriving in SLO at 3:20 pm. No ocean views on this route, it mostly parallels 101 up the Salinas Valley.

The Coast Starlight is reserved seating. When you get to Union Station in LA, (or your station of choice) look for the check-in window. (Look first for the San Diego/Orange County contingent, we will be waiting for the window to open for SLO.) It has been moving around due to renovation work on the terminal. You check in and get a seat assignment for the trip to SLO. Northbound, ask for “Upper Left”. That gets you on the upper level, looking at the ocean views. During the trip, you can leave your seat and go to the observation car, but the seats there may all be full. There is also a cafe car with snacks, sandwiches, coffee, wine, and beer. Before lunchtime, the conductor will come through and ask if you want a reservation in the dining car for lunch. The food is not bad, better than airplane food. There will be a separate check to see if you would like to have a lunch served at your seat. I have not tried that option. You can also bring your own food, but are NOT allowed to bring your own alcohol, Amtrak has the booze monopoly. I have seen someone put off the train for bringing their own booze.

From San Diego and Orange County
See more information and timetables at:

From LA Union Station to San Luis Obispo
See more information and timetables at:

From San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay
Rental Cars
I use Enterprise, they have several locations in SLO and will pick you up at the train station.

Regional Transit Authority
Route 12 to/from Morro Bay
Runs hourly from 6:33 am to 8:33 pm, takes about 20 minutes SLO to Morro Bay.  It stops at the turnoff for Rancho El Chorro, but it is a long walk back to the camp.
The route 12 bus between SLO and Morro Bay is $2.50 per ride.

Getting around in Morro Bay
see the transit brochures
Morro Bay Fixed Route (PDF) – Year-round general public fixed route transit service within City limits. Runs an hourly loop. Print a copy of the pdf to take with you for times at various locations in town.
The local bus in Morro Bay is $1.50 per ride or $4.00 for an all-day pass, half price for seniors(65+) and disabled persons. Take ones and quarters, it is exact change only.

Morro Bay Call-A-Ride (PDF) – Year-round advanced scheduled curb to curb service within 3/4 of a mile of the fixed route
Under Quick Links
Morro Bay Transit Brochure (PDF) Fixed Route and SLO Connection


Where to stay, dine, and drink.
The Morro Bay Tourism Bureau has lots of information
places to stay
wine tasting and bars

Download the Morro Bay Visitor Guide

I usually stay at the Motel 6 in Morro Bay when I go up twice a year for Sierra Club meetings. I have tried a few of the other low-cost options, and I think Motel 6 is the best value. If you can spend more, there are some very nice places in town. Motel 6 is across from the Morro Bay High School and Teen Center shown on the map. Most other motels are in the central area.

My two favorite restaurants are The Galley and Windows on the Water. Both are upscale and expensive. There are many other options in all price ranges.

Getting Home Again

If driving, you can of course leave at any time, but the railroaders are schedule-constrained. There are several options going south:
A. The southbound Coast Starlight, leaving SLO at 3:20 pm and arriving Los Angeles at 9:00. From there, train 796 leaves at 10:10 pm and gets to San Diego at 1:00 am.
B. Leaving earlier, there is a Pacific Surfliner that runs all the way from SLO to San Diego. It leaves at 1:35 pm, and gets to San Diego at 10:25 pm, stopping in LA at 7:10 pm.  NOTE: the train schedules are changing, check Amtrak online for the latest.

Going back North, the Coast Starlight leaves SLO at 3:35 pm and gets to Oakland at 9:24

While you are in the area…
Make this a mini-vacation. Since you are traveling for two days, why not take a little more time and explore the central coast?

Surfline thinks there is not much reason to take along a board.

These sites take a different view:

Taste Wine
Look for this guide to Paso Robles.

And this one to San Luis Obispo.