Summer is winding down, but there’s still time to squeeze in an extra ounce of fun. Now is a great time to take a trip to Avila Beach, which is located about two-and-a-half hours away from Fresno. Not just a place to sit on the sand and swim in the sea, there’s lots of reasons to make your last summer fling a beach one.
Here are six reasons to head to Avila now:
1. See whales along the Central Coast
According to Central Coast Charters, from July to September, you can see all kinds of wildlife from dolphins to otters to seals to sea lions along the coast. Charter a whale watching trip with them and sail along the coast looking for humpback whales. Seating is limited to six passengers, so click here to reserve a spot.
2. Spy on sea life from a kayak or paddle board
If you want to get an even closer look at sea life, try a kayak or paddle board. You can get a good view of sea lions and seaweed, and you might even see an adorable otter.
There are kayak tours you can book to visit places you can’t find easily along the shoreline. For example, Fossil Point and the Point San Luis Lighthouse are available tour destinations from Avila Beach Paddlesports. Avila Beach has much smoother waters than other beaches along the coast, so it’s a great place to take the entire family for a kayak or paddle board tour. No need to RSVP—Avila Beach Paddlesports rents on a first come, first served basis.
3. Take the Point San Luis Lighthouse tour
If you’re in the area on a Saturday or Wednesday, be sure to take a lighthouse tour. The lighthouse was founded in 1890 and the Coast Guard maintains a light there to this day. You can reach it by kayaking to Whalers Beach or by taking a trolley to the top. For hikers, there’s even a docent-lead hiking tour.
For the trolley tour, arrive at Wild Cherry Canyon (right between Avila and Port San Luis) 15 minutes before the tours start. You can make reservations and find out which tour is best for you by clicking here.
4. Walk the Harford Pier in Port San Luis
Built in 1873, Harford Pier still holds its historic roots. You can actually drive onto this pier with your car.
Here is where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, and even try your hand at sport fishing. There’s also a fish market where you can purchase fresh red snapper (and other gifts of the sea) for a delicious dinner.
I like to walk the pier in the evening. The crowds thin and the sound of sea lions filing complaints fills the air. If you really want to channel your inner sailor, grab a bite at Olde Port Inn. Located at the end of the pier, it looks like something that fell out of a Herman Melville novel. There are oil lamps on the tables, for Pete’s sake. It’s definitely a place with a boatload of ambiance.
5. Check out Ocean Grill and eat clam chowder
The atmosphere is markedly different here, with great views of the ocean and modern décor. There’s a 500-bottle wine wall and fabulous bar area. Any plans to have a light dinner will be foiled by portion sizes, though. The chowder and caesar salad I ordered when I was there were both the size of my head, so I’d suggest sharing them with a friend if you’re not ravenous. It’s definitely a great spot to recharge after a busy day at sea.
6. Stay in a quaint hotel
Even though it’s a small town, Avila has its fair share of unique hotels. For example, the Avila la Fonda hotel has a complimentary pie service… and so does the Inn at Avila Beach! Hotels that hand out pie at 8 p.m. are seriously awesome (unless you’re my editor who claims to hate pie), and that’s not all these places offer. Board games, movies, and welcome snacks are also bundled up for your borrowing pleasure.
I stayed at the Inn at Avila beach recently and it was definitely not your chain hotel. There are actual keys for the doors, and a very nice rooftop deck where I managed to see a whale without getting on a boat. Additionally, there were free cookies, popsicles, and popcorn throughout the day as well as an afternoon salsa bar and free breakfast. If you add the free pie, I basically ate my way through my vacation, and I wasn’t sad about it. You can also borrow complimentary bicycles and boogie boards, but I didn’t get around to that because I was busy eating.
A kid-friendly option is the Lighthouse Suites, which offers ping pong, a swimming pool, and very spacious rooms. Finally, another fan favorite is the Avila Beach Resort at Sycamore Springs, which offers private mineral spring hot tubs with your room (read Natali Carrera’s article about Sycamore Springs here).
So there’s your list of reasons to head to Avila Beach before summer ends. If you need a bonus reason, how about the wineries along the route? Or just, you know, sweater weather in August?
What’s your favorite part of a Central Coast trip?
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