avila beach things to do

Point San Luis Lighthouse is a Key Point of Interest in Avila Beach

avila beach things to doI don’t care who you are, everybody loves a lighthouse. While beautiful and epic lighthouses are more synonymous with the Northeast coast, California has its fair share as well. It is, after all, a vibrant and very operational coastline steeped in history. Cut to Avila Beach’s resident lighthouse: the Point San Luis Lighthouse.

The History

The lighthouse was built in 1890 and designed by Paul J. Pelz, a relatively esteemed lighthouse architect of the time. It’s the West Coast’s last standing lighthouse designed in Prairie Victorian style. The lighthouse continued operation until 1974 when the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned it and shut it down. It sat alone until the Port San Luis district obtained the site from the Federal Government in 1992. They coordinated the Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, a non-profit organization, to oversee the restoration of the structure and the grounds.


Today, the structure has been completely restored and even houses some of the original furniture from the early 20th-century lighthouse keeper and his family. It also has on display the original Fresnel lens. Tours are open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 12, 1 and 2 p.m. Check for extra tour hours during high season. The lighthouse is also available to book for weddings!avila beach things to do

Getting there

The Lighthouse is completely surrounded by PG&E property (housing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant). So you can’t just drive up to it. Tours cost anywhere from $5-$22, depending on your mode of arrival.

The Trolley: Park and pick up the Trolley at Wild Cherry Canyon on Avila Beach Drive between Avila Beach and Port San Luis. (You’ll see signs. You can’t miss it.) Trolley and tour tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for children. Be sure to book your tickets ahead of time and check in with the gate attendant.

The Pecho Coast Trail: There is a lovely trail leading to the lighthouse. Hikes start at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and are docent-led through PG&E’s private property. The trail stewards are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the area and its local flora and fauna. Lighthouse tours are $5. If you decide that you would prefer not to hike back, you can hop on the trolley back to Port San Luis for $10. Make your reservations for the hike ahead of time. Meet the trail stewards at about 9 a.m. at the Fisherman’s Memorial in Port San Luis.

Kayaking: You can also get to the lighthouse via Kayak! Kayak rentals are available through Avila Beach Paddlesports in Port San Luis. Simply launch from Fisherman’s beach, kayak around Harford Pier and past Smith island. You’ll see a short beach just before the Whaler’s Island outcropping where you can park your kayak and take the steps up to a short road leading to the lighthouse.

Visiting the Point San Luis Lighthouse definitely tops the list as one of the best things to do in Avila Beach. No matter how you get there, enjoy the scenery and local history!

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