Every winter, tens of thousands of monarch butterflies stop in Pismo Beach during their mass migration to a warmer climate. The bright-orange-and-black monarchs cluster together among the branches in a protected eucalyptus grove, creating a stunning natural display that attracts visitors from up and down the California coast.
Wander slowly through the eucalyptus and pine trees to see masses of monarchs hanging from branches, their wings draped over one another for a protective shingle effect. If you need help spotting the butterflies, volunteer docents are available for several hours each day to point them out and offer information on the monarch migration and life cycle.
You’re also near the beach, so you can easily pair a visit to the butterflies with some time on the sand or in the waves.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Look for telescopes set up by docents, or pack a pair of binoculars to admire the monarchs in detail.
- If you’re planning to photograph the butterflies, take a long zoom lens for the best close-up shots.
- Walk carefully while in the grove to avoid stepping on any butterflies that have landed on the ground. Don’t attempt to touch the monarchs.
- Use caution when crossing Highway 1 to reach the grove, as there’s no crosswalk.
How to Get There
The Monarch Butterfly Grove is located about a half mile (0.8 kilometers) south of Pismo Beach along Highway 1, just past the North Beach Campground. Park for free along the highway, and walk to the grove.
When to Get There
The monarchs winter at the grove from late October through February. To see them at their most active, go in the early afternoon, the warmest part of the day. And if you’re there in early February, check out the festivities for the annual California Western Monarch Day.
California’s Monarch Butterfly Groves
Pismo Beach is one of several sites along the California coast where monarchs roost during the winter months after migrating from their northern summer habitats in Canada, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the Great Lakes. For more butterflies, head to the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, Morro Bay State Park, the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary, or Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, to name just a few havens.