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A little known treasure on California's central coast

Updated on August 6, 2013

A rolling musician on Venice beach

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California is not just about Malibu

I've lived in California my whole life......let's just say it's been 50+ years and leave it at that! Although I live in northern California, I've lived in or visited most of this diverse, beautiful state and find that I go back to the same coastal spot over and over at vacation time. It's a little known treasure along California's central coast called Cayucos. You most likely haven't heard of it, and that is why it's such a treasure!

It really depends on the type of trip you are looking for when deciding on a California beach experience. Your first thought when thinking about California beaches is, most likely, the southern California beaches such as Malibu, Laguna, Venice, Newport etc. They have beautiful beaches, good weather most of the year and they draw people from all over the world. There is Venice beach where oddity is the norm to Malibu, where the stars mansions and expensive stores are plentiful. For first timers to this state this maybe an enticing draw.

However, when I think of a beach vacation my idea is to relax. Cayucos is a small hamlet, (a mere 2,592 population according to the latest 2010 census), situated along highway one, between Cambria to the north and Morro Bay to the south. The closest airport is thirty minutes away in San Luis Obispo.

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There is plenty of beach space for everyone

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So what makes Cayucos so special

This is where you take the family to relax or find romance on a peaceful beach at sunset. It has a unique "small town" atmosphere where you aren't ignored when you pass a stranger. Everyone walking by greets with a "Hello" or "Good morning" and looks you in the eye with a smile. It is a place where you can just wander up and down the streets and feel perfectly safe, browsing the shops or admiring the quaint homes on a leisure stroll with an ice cream cone you bought at the candy store.

The pier (Cass' Wharf) takes you past the breakers where dolphins and sea lions bob up and down and pelican's will perch right on the pier post like a statue for close-up picture opportunities.


The beach has been left natural, as the community is very ecologically minded and does not choose to alter the natural Eco-system which flourishes there. What that means is there is a wide array of sea life to explore. The rocks that border along the incoming waves are brimming with small hermit crabs, starfish, mussel beds and anemones. As children, my sisters and I spent hours combing the rocks to see what was in them and catching a crab or two (it was always a catch and release of course).

There are twelve eateries in Cayucos, from fine dining to a quick stop for a bowl of clam chowder. A local market is down the main street with larger supermarkets available 15 minutes south in Morro Bay.

There are sixteen hotels/motels here as well as several good vacation rental companies if you'd rather rent a house instead.

A castle on 127 acres overlooking the pacific ocean

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A crystal clear oasis with a fantastic history

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The massive kitchen prepared gourmet meals for the rich and famous

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A towering rock sailors use to guide by

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Things to do when not on the beach

Although there is always plenty of fun and relaxation on the beach there are times you may want to check out surrounding areas which have a lot to offer.

Hearst Castle

A must see while in the area. Hearst Castle is less then 1/2 hr north on highway one. Built by William Randolph Hearst in 1947, the Casa Del Mar overlooks the pacific shoreline (on a clear day) and is truly a marvel to behold. You'll explore both the Neptune and Roman pools and feast your eyes on the most exotic gardens , Mr. Hearst amassed a fortune in rare and "one of a kind" art, even using ornate cathedral doors and pews for unusual purposes. There is so much to see you won't know which of the four tours to pick, but for first time visitors the Grand Rooms Tour would be best for an overall understanding of the castle and the man behind it. You can always take another tour while you are there if you can't get enough! I've taken each tour several times over the years and still do when I visit Cayucos. It's tradition now, and I always see something I missed from visits before. Prices vary but, for most day tours the price is $25.00 adult and $12.00 for children 12 and under. One thing to note: There are no elevators in the castle of 165 rooms so depending on which tour you take, you will be required to climb up and down anywhere from 106 to 309 stairs.

Morro Bay

Just fifteen minutes south is Morro Bay.

A larger town of 10,234 (2010 census), Morro Bay has a unique wharf area where you can charter a fishing excursion or site-seeing cruise. They have the Morro Bay Aquarium, and a large Shell shop as well as a wide variety of gift/souvenir shops and dining on the bay. They also have the unique "Morro Rock" which is actually a 158 foot volcanic plug that towers along the shoreline of this town. It's fascinating to see up close but you aren't allowed too close as it is considered a State Preserve.


Allowing time to appreciate and rejuvenate

You work hard each year and when it's time to choose a vacation you have to decide what you really want to do. You can choose the hustle and bustle of amusement parks, heavily populated beaches to the south or the calm beauty that the little hamlet of Cayucos offers. A little known California treasure for sure!

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      Lonesome 2 years ago

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