Recommendation: Cayucos, CA

A year ago, one of my best friends and I took a short vacation to a small town on the California coast called Cayucos, which is about 20 minutes northwest of San Luis Obispo.  The town itself is about 3.5 square miles (~9 square kilometers) and has a population of roughly 2500.

cayucos

Compared to where I’m from, Cayucos is tiny.  The size of my hometown is about 170 times larger and population 800 times greater.  A family friend has a summer home in Cayucos, which is how we heard about such a small, hidden place.

The quickest route from the east takes you down Old Creek Road, a narrow ten-mile path through a beautiful wooded area.  It was a little stressful to drive the first time because it had sharp curves and occasional drops-off beside the asphalt.  I would have loved to take a walk through there, but there wasn’t even a shoulder, much less a sidewalk or bike lane.  It feels as though you’re driving through a portal to a different world.

About halfway down the road, it suddenly opens up to Whale Rock Reservoir.  The view is beautiful, and when we were leaving, the fog on the lake was incredible.

whale rock reservoir

We spent four days in Cayucos.  We experienced the restaurants, desserts, shops, and beaches, and we absolutely loved it.

We stayed in an AirBnB on St. Mary Avenue, just two streets (less than a quarter mile/one-third kilometer) from the beach.  The next road was Ocean Avenue, where most of the stores and restaurants were.  The street just before the beach was Pacific Avenue.

cayucos last day

There was one gas station just before the road that heads toward the freeway up to San Francisco, and the single supermarket was more like a convenience store.  They did have a standalone liquor store, though, and between these two stores, you could find everything you need.

There were quite a few different restaurants.  We went to the following:

Schooners

We ate at Schooners twice, once for lunch and once for dinner.  We ate on the deck overlooking the ocean during the day and inside at night.  It is one of the nicer restaurants in Cayucos, which is why I laughed a bit when we found that it looked like the inside of a pirate ship inside.

I do not like seafood, but I tried their salmon Caesar salad, and it was delectable.  We both loved it, and it has changed my mind about fish.

Skippers

Skippers reminds me of the small, mid-century-esque diners that you find on piers in movies.  It has an area inside to eat, but you can also order at a window outside and sit at the outdoor tables, which is what we did.  We actually ate breakfast food there, which was delicious.

skippers fog

Chapala Market

We had Mexican food, and it was delicious!  I’m pretty sure we just happened upon this restaurant and chose to eat there because we were hungry.

Sea Shanty

This was the very first place we ate, where we had dinner just after we arrived.  The food was very good, and the restaurant was partially open to the outside.  It was full of old signs, tons of caps, and other cool memorabilia.  None of the staff had name tags, which we joked about, and they knew almost every customer (except us, obviously).  They gave us Tootsie Pops after we finished our food, too!

sea shanty

Candy Counter

After we ate dinner at Chapala Market, we walked to the Candy Counter at the entrance of the pier just before they closed.  We were impressed by the selection of candy from our childhood, and we each got an ice cream cone, which was delicious.  This was the only place (we knew of) that had actual ice cream that was not prepackaged.

ice cream

We had Mexican food and ice cream the day before we left (day 3), and we decided to take our ice cream and candy to the pier.  The last two days were very foggy, compared to the clear skies of the first two, and it was pretty creepy.  We went to the end of the pier and literally could not see land.  We could barely see the midpoint of the pier.

We also went to a couple antique stores and shopped around for a bit on the second day.  One of our favorites was full of furniture and had metal bins, pallets, and old tools, and it was in what I would describe as a barn (maybe?).  The shops were expensive but full of extremely interesting stuff.

antique shop

The beaches were beautiful and clean, and they weren’t too hard and rocky.  There were groups of friends playing volleyball and families having barbecues, and we even swam really close to an otter, which was crazy!  It just popped up about ten feet from us.  The energy on the shore was great.  But I ended up with a striped sunburn due to applying sunscreen in strong wind.

I loved Cayucos, and I would absolutely go again.  The people were friendly and welcoming, and it was very different from the hustle and bustle of the big city.  It felt like we had escaped to a secret world, and it was everything I could have wanted.

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