If you’re looking for an idyllic beach town, Avila Beach is it! Located just off Highway 1 on California’s Central Coast, next to Pismo Beach and just 15 minutes away from San Luis Obispo, is this beautiful gem. From San Francisco it takes just a little over 3 and a half hours on scenic Highway 1 making it the perfect weekend getaway from the Bay Area! Or alternatively, a great stop on the coast while on a road trip along the coast.
Avila Beach is a charming town that offers visitors a taste of the classic California beach towns that our beautiful coast is known for. It’s a clean, refined beach town that offers excellent dining right across Avila beach and pier; lush hiking trails that take you from forested areas to coastal bluffs; unbelievable ocean views nearly any where you go; and so much more to be discovered! The locals are super welcoming and it’s a very dog and family friendly town.
Though this small town is home to less than 1,000 people, the fact that it’s next to Pismo Beach and nearby San Luis Obispo is a big draw. Pismo Beach offers four wheel ATVs on epic sand dunes; extensive wine tasting; monarch butterfly migration; Hearst Castle and more.
Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo offers miles of pristine beaches on the coast; plenty of wine tasting; boutique shopping; and more. Not to mention it’s home to countless farms which cater to year-round daily farmer’s markets selling the freshest produce, meats and more to local chefs and their restaurants.
Check out my complete guide to road tripping through Central California (which includes Monterey, Carmel, Cambria, Solvang and more) HERE.
Check out my Forbes piece on San Luis Obispo food HERE.
I spent a long weekend in Avila Beach and absolutely loved it! Here’s my guide to the best of Avila Beach and make sure to check out the full itinerary at the end of this post!
What to see, eat and do in Avila Beach, California
Pirates Cove / Mallagh Landing Trail
No matter what trail you choose, you’re guaranteed stunning views when you embark on a hike in Avila Beach. To get to the parking lot to explore Pirates Cove Mallagh Landing Trail and the surrounding areas, take the Avila Beach Drive exit and head west toward Avila Beach from Highway 101.
From this lot you’re able to see unparalleled views of the ocean, coves and as far down the coast as the eye can see. The Pirates Cove – Mallagh Landing trail is about half a mile and there’s number of other trails that you can venture on outside of it.
If you choose to hike down to Pirates Cove and to the Sea Cove, remember, it’s a clothing optional beach. That said it’s very cool to check out the sea cave and view of the ocean through it.
Bob Jones Trail
This is a five mile round trip trail that’s great for all ages, easy to walk and beautiful. The paved path hugs a sycamore forest and is easily accessible minutes from downtown Avila Beach.
Downtown Avila Beach
Located on Front St. is downtown Avila Beach which offers kitschy, fun beach boutique shops; places to dine and drink; sweet shops and more, all right across from the pier and pristine beach. Be sure to make a stop at Reimer’s Candies Gifts & Ice Cream for the best ice cream (I’m obsessed with the raspberry cheesecake); homemade chocolates; candy and more.
For breakfast get your coffee fix at Kraken Coffee and grab an epic breakfast burrito from Avila Market. I ordered the enormous Beach Burrito with avocado and bacon one morning before heading over to the pier and it was delicious. For lunch or dinner, check out Blue Moon Over Avila, Ocean Grill, Custom House or nearby Mersea, located at Port San Luis.
Avila Beach and Pier
Avila Beach is a stunning beach that offers clean, white sand, surf, plenty of space and a pier. And it has fun beach swings with a gorgeous view of the water.
Bring a book, games and sunscreen and plan to spend an afternoon relaxing at this area’s biggest draw – the beach! Plus if you get hungry or want a drink everything is right across Front St.
Avila Valley Barn
Visiting Avila Valley Barn was one of the highlight of this town and certainly a place I’ll be recommending everyone visit when here! Avila Valley Barn is a farm, bakery, ice cream and candy shop, produce market and more! I loved everything about this destination! I felt like a little kid again feeding the animals lettuce. They had everything from fancy chickens, pigs and ponies to alpacas, goats and emus!
Avila Valley Barn has an incredible marketplace that features the freshest fruits and vegetables; a number of pickled items (be sure to buy a jar of the famous Frog Balls!!!); jams and preserves; and kitchen goods. Within the marketplace is a bakery section with the best pies, loaves, crisps and more. From marrionberry to peach, everything is freshly baked and is worth every penny.
They also have a candy and ice cream shop that serves creamy, delicious ice cream and features a huge selection of taffy candy. Also on property is the Chicken Shack & Smoke House that serves huge fried chicken; pulled pork; pastrami and tri-tip sandwiches, and other hearty lunch items with a chop salad with sides like mac and cheese, bacon and bean and coleslaw.
Avila Hot Springs
The Avila Hot Springs is thee place to take a load off off and relax your muscles. Avila Hot Springs offers a thermal soaking pool; heated swimming pool with waterslides; a restaurant and an arcade. Year round the pool stays heated to 85 degrees, while the hot springs remain a balmy 104 degrees, as a result of the natural artesian well underneath.
Where to Stay
I chose to stay at SeaCrest Ocean Front Hotel which happened to be celebrating it’s 60th anniversary while I was there. This ocean front property is beautiful, less than 10 minutes from downtown Avila and offers 158 guest rooms, deluxe rooms and suites.
On property is a pool with three surrounding hot tubs, two terraces, BBQs, plus an on-site restaurant and bar. And it has direct, walk-down access to the beach. Plus had freshly baked cookies for guests every afternoon.
Three Day Itinerary of Avila Beach
Wake up and get breakfast burritos at Avila Market & coffee at Kraken Coffee
Walk the beach & pier
Hike Pirates Cove / Mallagh Landing Trail
Lunch on Front. St in Downtown Avila Beach
Enjoy the afternoon at the beach (get ice cream at Reimer’s!)
Pre-dinner cocktails at Blue Moon Over Avila
Dinner at Ocean Grill
Overnight at SeaCrest Ocean Front Hotel
Wake up and take a seat at Custom House for breakfast
Morning walk on the beach & pier
Head to Avila Valley Barn (eat lunch if hungry)
Hike Bob Jones trail
Relax at hotel
Dinner at nearby Mersea or grab a pizza at Mission Pizza (take it to the beach + sunset!)
Overnight at SeaCrest Ocean Front Hotel
Check out of SeaCrest Ocean Front Hotel
Breakfast on Front. St
Avila Hot Springs
Light lunch at Woodstone Marketplace
Get pies to go at Avila Valley Barn