09 Oct Avila Beach 5-Day California Beach Vacations Itinerary
For a somewhat sleepy little town on California’s Central Coast, Avila Beach is surprisingly teeming with things to keep you busy on your California beach vacations whether you’re staying a long weekend or a long month.
Do bear in mind that some activities and events are specific to a day of the week, so depending on where in the week your vacay falls you may need to adjust accordingly. We are assuming, for purposes of when most people travel, that Day 1 is a Friday (either arriving Thursday night or sometime during the day on Friday).
The first day at Avila Beach is best spent relaxing, enjoying the sand and sun, and getting your bearings for this cozy little town. The best part about this small community is that everything is walking distance; even Port San Luis is only about a mile away with a perfectly walkable trail along the road.
You’ve come to Avila Beach for, well, the beach! Grab a towel and a picnic and mosey your way on down to the beach front. Come early during high season to find the best beach spot! The greater Avila Beach area has three public beaches: Avila Beach (in front of Front Street), Old Porte Beach (aka “dog beach” because it’s dog-friendly, and just past the Cal Poly Pier) and Fisherman’s Beach, in Port San Luis.
All of Avila Beach’s beaches have trash cans. Please use them accordingly. If they are full, be sure to pack out everything you take in. Clean beaches aren’t just more enjoyable for us, they help protect our unique ecosystem.
Getting there: Walk towards the ocean, stop at the shoreline. Dog Beach and Fisherman’s Beach are just up Avila Beach Drive.
Best time of Day: during daylight hours
Stroll Front Street and Landing Passage
Once you’re done playing in the sand, take a walk along Front Street to scope out the numerous shops and eateries. For a quick, light bite head to Avila Market or Krava Bowl.
Getting there: From anywhere in Avila Beach, head towards the beach and stop at Front Street. The shops are bookended by the park and Aquarium (to the north) and after about Ocean Grill (to the south) it’s mostly condos and inns.
Best time of Day: Window shopping is any time; the shops and restaurants (with the exception of Kraken Coffee opening early) open their doors around 10 am.
Avila Beach Farmer’s Market
Every Friday night from April to October, enjoy fresh produce and eats at the Avila Beach Farmer’s Market. Pick up some produce to cook at your Avila Beach vacation rental and find a bite to eat. The Farmer’s Market also features live music.
Cost: Free to attend
Getting there: Simply walk out to Front Street!
Best time of day: The market opens around 4 and the party continues into the night.
Hike and soak!
9 am – 1 pm Hike the Pecho Coast Trail, a short and moderately strenuous trail with stunning views that leads to the lighthouse. The trail is on private property, so you must sign up for a docent-led tour, taking place Wednesdays and Saturdays. The hike itself is free; the lighthouse tour is $5. If you don’t want to hike back, there is also a trolley that comes by and can pick you up ($10). Reservations are recommended, but if you failed to make reservations simply show up a few minutes early and ask the trail stewards if there’s room for one more!
Cost: Free hike, $5 tour
Getting There: Meet at Fisherman’s Memorial, just across from Fisherman’s Beach in Port San Luis. You will see a group gathering.
Best Time of Day: Hike begins at 9 am
After working up an appetite on your hike, grab lunch right in Port San Luis at Fat Cats, a friendly greasy spoon.
There’s nothing like a good soak to ease your sore muscles. After cleaning up from your hike, head to Sycamore Springs for an hour-long soak in their mineral springs. We recommend calling ahead to book a reservation. Have a crowd? Reserve their oasis waterfall, for groups of up to 20!
Cost: M-Th $15/pp, F-Su $20/pp
Getting there: Head out of town on Avila Beach Drive. Go past the turn for San Luis Bay Drive and the resort will be on your right.
Best Time of Day: Reservations are open 8 am – 10:30 pm. We recommended booking a spot during sunset.
Finish up with dinner at the resort’s lovely garden restaurant (or if your reservation is later, have dinner beforehand).
Paddle and See Canyon
Paddleboard or kayak along the coast. Avila Beach Paddlesports is the only outfit in town renting kayaks and paddleboards. We recommend showing up early during high season (due to crowds) and in the spring (due to winds that tend to pick up later in the day). Ask the owners (Vince and Emily) for a recommended paddle route given your abilities, age, physical prowess, and weather and sea conditions.
Getting There: Avila Beach Paddlesports is just to the right of Fisherman’s Beach in Port San Luis. Parking is limited during high season. If you already have parking in Avila Beach, we suggest walking or finding a ride.
Best Time of Day: Reservations run from 9 am to 3:30 pm, with rental return by 5. During the spring, morning is best due to afternoon winds.
Once you’ve finished paddling, get dried off and cleaned up and head to See Canyon Road. Stop along the way at Kelsey See Canyon Winery for some wine tasting in a lovely garden. Additionally, during the month of harvest, many of the area’s apple growers will open their doors to the public to sell the season’s bounty.
Continue along See Canyon Road for stunning views of Morro Bay and Los Osos Valley.
Cost: Free to drive
Getting There: From Avila Beach, head out of town on Avila Beach Drive and take a left at San Luis Bay Drive. Take another left at See Canyon Road. Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards will be on the right.
Best Time of Day: During daylight hours
Hike (or bike) the Bob Jones Trail
The Bob Jones Trail is about a 5 mile out and back between downtown Avila Beach and right around the 101. About half-way on the trail is the Woodstone Marketplace, a great little deli that makes for a perfect stop. Depending on how long you want to spend on the trail can you walk to the deli and back for a shorter hike or bike. Bikes can be rented at Wally’s Bike Shop in Landing Passage during the summer months.
Cost: Free; bike rental pricing varies
Getting there: The trailhead in Avila Beach is right across the street from the Aquarium
Best Time of Day: Mid-morning, so you can stop at the Woodstone just in time for lunch
Dinner on Harford Pier
With the CalPoly pier restricted from public access and the Avila Beach Pier closed indefinitely for repairs, the Harford Pier in Port San Luis is the only pier completely open to the public in Avila Beach. It’s about a mile walk from Avila Beach’s downtown area, or there is a large parking lot if you prefer to drive. Check out the fish shop (if you have a hankering to cook your own fish, this is a great option), admire the seals and other marine life, and then grab dinner while overlooking the harbor on the patio at Mersea’s or at The Olde Port Inn.
Whale and wine
Why not spend your last day in Avila Beach doing something epic? One of the biggest draws to Avila Beach is the community of whales that are never too far from shore. Book a whale watching tour with Captain Mark. (Book your tour ahead of time; the tours fill up, particularly during summer.)
Cost: $35-$85/pp depending on the tour
Getting there: Mark will meet you about half-way up Harford Pier at your tour time.
Best time of Day: This depends on the experience you want, however, book an early tour in the springtime as high winds can affect whether an afternoon tour happens.
Yes, it’s the Central Coast, so it seems like every town has a winery. However, Avila Beach has quite a few tasting rooms, and a few standouts to boot. Here are a few great tasting rooms to check out during your stay:
Please taste responsibly.
Cost: Tastings usually run $10-15 and are often waived after a one or two bottle purchase.
Getting There: Most of Avila Beach’s tasting rooms are in Landing Passage or a block behind the main strip on First Street.
Best time of day: Do check business hours, however, most area tasting rooms open at 10:30 am with no judgment for early birds.