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Cayucos

This town along the Central Coast embodies beach bliss

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“Last of the California beach towns” is the slogan for Cayucos, a laid-back slice of San Luis Obispo County sandwiched between Highway 1 and the Pacific. And while Cayucos is obviously not the state’s only remaining beach town, it’s been able to maintain an easy-going vibe thanks to its small population (roughly 3,000), miles of white sand beach, and iconic public fishing pier.

That 982-foot-long structure first opened in the 19th century, when Captain James Cass sailed here from New England, saw the area’s potential as a shipping port, and built the pier. Stroll here today—it’s especially dramatic at sunset—and you’re more likely to see birds and surfers than shipping vessels. Or walk along the beach, where at low tide you may spot creatures like crabs and sea anemones. Then head up to Ocean Avenue for a novel perspective on the 1800s; some of the town’s original buildings from that era still survive. Keep an eye out for the gorgeous murals that now adorn them.

Experience the past in a unique way by staying in the former home of James Cass, which has been restored and converted into a luxurious small B&B called (appropriately) Cass House. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast from its bakery before exploring the beach, right across the street. Or check in at the value-driven Cayucos Beach Inn, where rooms have fridges and microwaves, and an ocean-view suite is available. For an optimal view of the pier and the Pacific, book a second-floor room at Cayucos Sunset Inn. There, you can choose among such luxurious and romantically inspired offerings as canopy beds, fireplaces, Jacuzzis, and outdoor patios.

When it comes time to eat, start your day with a shrimp omelet or the crab hash at Sea Shanty. Craving fish tacos? Ruddell’s Smokehouse offers tortillas with smoked ahi, albacore, salmon, or shrimp. For the perfect snack, pick up a dozen or so goodies from local favorite Brown Butter Cookie Company. And in the evening, head to the waterfront for a seat in the garden at Hoppe’s Bistro, where you can dig into a selection of everything from wild game meats to vegetarian dishes. Ingredients are sourced locally when possible, even the lobster and shellfish, making for a fresh finish to a magical day on the California coast.

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