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San Luis Obispo County
County of San Luis Obispo
Cerro San Luis.JPG
Justin vineyard.jpg
Hearst Castle pool.jpg
Morro Rock 1.jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: Cerro San Luis (Mountain) in San Luis Obispo, a vineyard in Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Mission San Miguel Arcángel, Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, Morro Rock
Official seal of San Luis Obispo County
"Not For Ourselves Alone"
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Country United States
State California
Region California Central Coast
Incorporated February 18, 1850
Named for Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse
County seat San Luis Obispo
Largest city (Population) San Luis Obispo
Largest city (Area) Atascadero
 • Body San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors
 • Total 3,616 sq mi (9,370 km2)
 • Land 3,299 sq mi (8,540 km2)
 • Water 317 sq mi (820 km2)
Highest elevation
5,109 ft (1,557 m)
 • Total 282,424
 • Density 86/sq mi (33/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code(s) 805
The entrance lobby and belfry of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. A statue of Fray Junípero Serra stands outside the church.
Jack House - Front of House
Robert Jack House, built c. 1882

San Luis Obispo County, officially the County of San Luis Obispo, is a county on the Central Coast of California. As of the 2020 census, the population was 282,424. The county seat is San Luis Obispo.

Junípero Serra founded the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772, and San Luis Obispo grew around it. The small size of the county's communities, scattered along the beaches, coastal hills, and mountains of the Santa Lucia range, provides a wide variety of coastal and inland hill ecologies to support fishing, agriculture, and tourist activities.

California Polytechnic State University has almost 20,000 students. Tourism, especially for the wineries, is popular. Grapes and other agriculture products are an important part of the economy. San Luis Obispo County is the third largest producer of wine in California, surpassed only by Sonoma and Napa counties. Strawberries are the largest agricultural crop in the county.

The town of San Simeon is located at the foot of the ridge where newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst built Hearst Castle. Other coastal towns (listed from north to south) include Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos -Baywood Park. These cities and villages are located northwest of the city of San Luis Obispo. To the south are Avila Beach and the Five Cities region. The Five Cities originally were: Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach (then known as Grover City), Oceano, Fair Oaks and Halcyon. Today, the Five Cities region consists of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Oceano and Halcyon (basically the area from Pismo Beach to Oceano). Just south of the Five Cities, San Luis Obispo County borders northern Santa Barbara County. Inland, the cities of Paso Robles, Templeton, and Atascadero lie along the Salinas River, near the Paso Robles wine region. San Luis Obispo lies south of Atascadero and north of the Five Cities region.


The prehistory of San Luis Obispo County is strongly influenced by the Chumash people who had significant settlement here at least as early as the Millingstone Horizon thousands of years before the present age. Important settlements existed, for example, in many coastal areas such as Morro Bay and Los Osos.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded on September 1, 1772 in the area that is now the city of San Luis Obispo. The namesake of the mission, city and county is Saint Louis of Toulouse, the young bishop of Toulouse (Obispo and Tolosa in Spanish) in 1297.

San Luis Obispo County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood.

The Salinas River Valley, a region that figures strongly in several Steinbeck novels, stretches north from San Luis Obispo County. The remote California Valley near Soda Lake is the region most untouched by modernity. Travels through this area and the hills east of highway 101 during wildflower season are very beautiful and can be incorporated with wine tasting at local vineyards.


San Luis Obispo
Sand dunes - Oceano CA
Sand dunes - Oceano CA
Morro Bay Docks
Morro Bay Docks

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,616 square miles (9,370 km2), of which 3,299 square miles (8,540 km2) is land and 317 square miles (820 km2) (8.8%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Counties and bodies of water adjacent to San Luis Obispo County, California

National protected areas

Marine Protected Areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 336
1860 1,782 430.4%
1870 4,772 167.8%
1880 9,142 91.6%
1890 16,072 75.8%
1900 16,637 3.5%
1910 19,383 16.5%
1920 21,893 12.9%
1930 29,613 35.3%
1940 33,246 12.3%
1950 51,417 54.7%
1960 81,044 57.6%
1970 105,690 30.4%
1980 155,435 47.1%
1990 217,162 39.7%
2000 246,681 13.6%
2010 269,637 9.3%
2020 282,424 4.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010 2020

2020 census

San Luis Obispo County, California - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 191,696 183,468 71.09% 64.96%
Black or African American alone (NH) 5,128 4,330 1.90% 1.53%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 1,367 1,136 0.51% 0.40%
Asian alone (NH) 8,106 10,001 3.01% 3.54%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 346 340 0.13% 0.12%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 784 1,614 0.29% 0.57%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 6,237 13,614 2.31% 4.82%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 55,973 67,921 20.76% 24.05%
Total 269,637 282,424 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.


Places by population, race, and income


The 2010 United States Census reported that San Luis Obispo County had a population of 269,637. The racial makeup of San Luis Obispo County was 222,756 (82.6%) White, 5,550 (2.1%) African American, 2,536 (0.9%) Native American, 8,507 (3.2%) Asian (1.0% Filipino, 0.6% Chinese, 0.4% Japanese, 0.3% Indian, 0.3% Korean, 0.2% Vietnamese), 389 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 19,786 (7.3%) from other races, and 10,113 (3.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 55,973 persons (20.8%); 17.7% of San Luis Obispo County is Mexican, 0.3% Puerto Rican, and 0.2% Salvadoran.


Major highways

  • US 101 (1961 cutout).svg U.S. Route 101
  • California 1.svg State Route 1
  • California 33.svg State Route 33
  • California 41.svg State Route 41
  • California 46.svg State Route 46
  • California 58.svg State Route 58
  • California 166.svg State Route 166
  • California 227.svg State Route 227
  • California 229.svg State Route 229

Public transportation

San Luis Obispo County is served by Amtrak trains and Greyhound Lines buses. The San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority provides countywide service along US 101 as well as service to Morro Bay, Los Osos, Cambria and San Simeon.

The cities of San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles operate their own local bus services; all of these connect with SLORTA routes.

Oceano County Airport 2013
Oceano County Airport in 2013

Intercity service is provided by Amtrak trains, Greyhound and Orange Belt Stages buses.


  • San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP) is located just south of the City of San Luis Obispo. Commercial flights are available.
  • Paso Robles Municipal Airport (PRB) is located north-east of the City of Paso Robles and is home to California Highway Patrol, CAL-FIRE and the Estrella Warbirds Museum.
  • Oceano County Airport (L52) is located on the coast in the 5 Cities area.


In the future, SR 46 may be considered for a possible westward expansion of Interstate 40 via SR 58 from Barstow to Bakersfield, from Bakersfield to I-5 via Westside Parkway, and then following SR 46 to Paso Robles. SR 46 is slowly being upgraded to Interstate standards, minus overpasses between Interstate 5 and US Route 101.



The "Five Cities" are: Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, Pismo Beach and Shell Beach. Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach are the only incorporated cities. Oceano is a Community Service District, and Shell Beach is part of Pismo Beach.

Census-designated places

Pair of Asterina miniatas Bat stars
Pair of Bat stars near Los Osos

Unincorporated communities

Population ranking

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of San Luis Obispo County.

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 San Luis Obispo City 45,119
2 Paso Robles (El Paso de Robles) City 29,793
3 Atascadero City 28,310
4 Arroyo Grande City 17,252
5 Nipomo CDP 16,714
6 Los Osos CDP 14,276
7 Grover Beach City 13,156
8 Morro Bay City 10,234
9 Templeton CDP 7,674
10 Pismo Beach City 7,655
11 Oceano CDP 7,286
12 Cambria CDP 6,032
13 Cayucos CDP 2,592
14 Lake Nacimiento CDP 2,411
15 San Miguel CDP 2,336
16 Avila Beach CDP 1,627
17 Los Ranchos CDP 1,477
18 Shandon CDP 1,295
19 Callender CDP 1,262
20 Santa Margarita CDP 1,259
21 Blacklake CDP 930
22 Los Berros CDP 641
23 Woodlands CDP 576
24 San Simeon CDP 462
25 Garden Farms CDP 386
26 Oak Shores CDP 337
27 Whitley Gardens CDP 285
28 Edna CDP 193
29 Creston CDP 94


Club-haired Calochortus (Calochortus clavatus)
Clubhair mariposa lily near SLO city, 2014

The mainstays of the economy are California Polytechnic State University with its almost 20,000 students, tourism, and agriculture.

San Luis Obispo County's economy is primarily a service economy. Service jobs account for 38% of the County's jobs, government jobs accounts for 20.7%, and manufacturing jobs represent 6% of the County's jobs.

San Luis Obispo County is the third largest producer of wine in California, surpassed only by Sonoma and Napa counties. Wine grapes are the second largest agricultural crop in the county (after strawberries), and the wine production they support creates a direct economic impact and a growing wine country vacation industry.

The county led the state in hemp cultivation in 2018 as hundreds of acres of the crop were grown in research partnerships. In 2019, nine agricultural research permits were still active. Sixteen commercial permits were issued before a temporary ban on new applications running through June 2020 was passed by the Board of Supervisors.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de San Luis Obispo para niños

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