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12 Best Things to do in Avila Beach, CA [2024]

Wondering about the best things to do in Avila Beach, California? This Central Coast little gem is a charming hamlet with tons of opportunities for everyone. Check out this guide and enjoy!

Avila Beach is a small, relaxed coastal town tucked in San Obispo Bay. Considered by some to be one of California Central Coast’s best-kept secrets, it enjoys a sunny and pleasant microclimate all year round, and it has a reputation for being the warmest beach on the Central Coast.

It also features a privileged protected location on the San Luis Obispo Bay, and mostly calm waters. This makes it one of the safest beaches in California, perfect for children and boogie boarders. 

An image of a pastel-green colored restaurant, with wide stairs leading to the beach, inserted in a post about things to do in Avila Beach California

But not everything revolves around the beach. For such a small town, there’s a great variety of things to do in Avila Beach, California: these include wine tasting, relaxing in hot springs, hiking trails, and a lot more.

There’s really more to do here than what you can fit in a single day! So, if you’re looking for a great day trip or a peaceful weekend getaway, Avila Beach and its surroundings will certainly deliver.


Relax at Avila Main Beach

Image of a beach with a pier, white sun chairs, and a lifeguard tower. Chilling in the beach is one of the best things to do in Avila Beach, California, where this picture was taken

Even though there are plenty of activities to do in Avila Beach, the best one is probably just to chill. It’s a perfect spot to wind down and shake the week’s tensions away from the hustle and bustle.

Safe, clean, and quiet, Avila beach is a favorite among families with small children and anyone who’s looking for a serene escapade.

Go Whale Watching in Avila Beach

That’s right, it’s possible to spot whales in Avila Beach. The San Luis Obispo Bay provides shelter for many different species of marine mammals, including these stunning giants. You can spot grey whales from December to April, and humpback whales year-round!

They come to the area to feed off the krill and abundant other fish. Dolphins, and occasionally orcas can be seen near the coast too. The Avila Beach pier is one of the best places to spot them.

Visit Port San Luis Lighthouse

A very unique thing to do near Avila Beach is to pay a visit to the Port San Luis Lighthouse. This lighthouse was founded way back in 1890 and it has saved many lives since then. It is now a historic site run by a preservation organization and it’s open to the public.

A trip to the lighthouse can be a fun adventure and combines history with nature. The lighthouse can be reached by hiking over the rugged oceanside cliffs or even kayaking around the coast from Avila Beach. A great family activity!

Stroll Around Front Street & Downtown Avila Beach

Image by Hannator via DepositPhotos

The Avila Beach promenade is the heart of Avila Beach downtown, cut in the middle by the pier. It is a closed-off section of Front Street full of restaurants, shops, patios, and benches. It’s perfect for a stroll to enjoy a relaxing and sunny afternoon.

It’s also where most of the activities and events in town take place. These include the farmer’s market and Art on the Beach, an event in which local artists come out to share and sell their work on the weekends.

Enjoy the View from the Avila Beach Pier

This one is simple but probably one of the top Avila Beach attractions. The Avila Beach Pier is one of three piers on the bay and it’s a landmark of the town. It starts roughly halfway through the promenade and extends long into the water. Over the years, the pier has been damaged by the water and the storms and has been repaired several times.

At the time of writing, part of it is still closed due to repair work. But don’t get discouraged, you can still walk on it and get beautiful views of the bay and the town, especially at sunset. It’s also a good place to see marine animals!

Go Wine Tasting in Avila Beach

Even though it’s on the coast, Avila Beach is in the middle of Wine Country, so get your taste buds ready and visit one or some of the vineyards in the surrounding area.

The closest vineyard for wine tasting near Avila Beach is a mere 3 miles away: Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards, a quaint, charming family-run vineyard with a variety of tasting menus and events.

If you’re a full-blown oenophile, though, consider taking a day trip to Paso Robles, the real heart of Wine Country, with more than 200 wineries nestled among the gentle hills of Central California.

Relax at the Avila Hot Springs

If you came here for relaxation, then this will make you happy. There are many natural hot springs in the area, which were discovered by those seeking oil over a century ago, and they continue to provide travelers with a source of restoration and relaxation.

You can soak your stress away in one of the many pools, have fun on the waterslides, or get pampered at the Avila Beach spa, but one thing is for sure: you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated.

Hike to Pirate’s Cove Beach

Pirate’s Cove, near Avila Beach, is a popular spot for locals to hang out and a good option to get moving after lying on the beach all day.

Starting off at the Avila Beach Pier, you can hike to this secluded little beach in no time. It’s a short, fairly easy hike along the coastline, also accessible from the nearby parking lot (be careful, it’s not very well maintained!)

The name is related to Avila Beach’s history: the beach is accessed through a cove that was used to smuggle liquor into the area way back when. Be aware that Pirate’s Cove Beach is clothing-optional.

Play Golf at Avila Beach Golf Resort

If you’re a golf addict or even just a beginner trying to keep up your practice every chance you get, then you’re in luck! One of the best-known Golf Resorts on the Central Coast is right across the estuary from Avila Beach.

Nestled among gentle hills covered in oak trees and on the edge of the bay, Avila Beach Golf Resort is an incredibly scenic course with multi-level greens to keep you entertained for a while. There’s also a bar in the facilities that serves snacks and drinks for when you’re done.

Spend Half a Day in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is an undeniably appealing mix of natural feel and small-town charm. Only a 15-minute drive from Avila Beach, it’s a popular stop for those traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and it seems to have the best of all worlds.

A stone’s throw from the ocean, surrounded by vineyards and soft green hills, with a historic center, farm-to-table restaurants, splendid wine, and a welcoming, low-key vibe, it makes for a more than pleasant spot to spend a few hours and bash on everything this special town has to offer.

Walk or Cycle the Bob Jones City to Sea Trail

This is a great option for the whole family! You can take the Bob Jones trail from Avila Beach and walk or cycle (there are several bike rentals in Avila Beach). The trail’s 3 miles all the way to the Ontario Road parking lot right off Highway 101, or just go until the end and come back.

This is a paved, mostly flat trail framed by trees, with benches here and there for a joyful rest. It’s great for all levels, and dog-friendly too!

Head to Nearby Pismo Beach

Wine and waves! Ok, now that I have your attention, let’s talk about Pismo Beach. This seaside city is probably better known than its quieter neighbor, with a very walkable beach, a flat expanse in a gorgeous setting.

There’s a great amount and variety of things to do in Pismo Beach: surfing the California waves, exploring the nearby caves and coves, relaxing at the hot springs, riding ATVs on the sand dunes, or visiting one of the many vineyards in the area. It’s also great for flying kites! 


Food in Central California Coast is good – mouth-watering good. And Avila Beach is no exception. Besides the fantastic attractions it features to keep you entertained, there are quite a few great restaurants in Avila Beach you should try.

Custom House – Custom House is set right by the beach, with a relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous views from the outdoor patio. It has an extensive and varied menu of mains, appetizers, and pizzas. They serve very fresh fish and veggies, and there’s a cocktail bar for an evening drink. The cutest detail, though? They are pet-friendly and even have a doggie menu!

Mersea’s– Mersea’s is located at the end of the Port San Luis pier, which gives it unbeatable views over the bay. It has consistently great reviews for its unpretentious but fantastic fresh food and quick service. The highlight? Sit outside on the deck and watch a marine life spectacle while you eat your dinner. You may spot seals, otters, sea lions, pelicans, or even whales if you’re lucky!

Hula Hut & Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream – Ice Creams, Cakes, and Gifts. That’s the jam at Hula Hut. Great place to stop for coffee and cake either for breakfast or after lunch. You can also get a little souvenir for your family back home, or taste their famous ice creams! You’re allowed to sample different flavors until you pick your favorite. Done deal. They’re right across from the beach on Front Street.


LUXURY: Avila Lighthouse Suites – This is the best choice in Avila Beach if you want to relax and get pampered with a view. With a simple, chic, marine-oriented design, they have big and comfortable rooms and an onsite spa. The highlights, however, are the pool and hot tub with unbeatable views of the ocean.

MID-RANGE: Avila Village Inn – This beautiful Inn has a warm and homey atmosphere, and rooms with a chimney and private deck. They’re located right next to the Bob Jones Trail and will lend you bikes to cycle along the trail or to the beach. There are 2 pools, tennis courts, a spa, and a fitness center.

As you can see, there’s no need to worry about what to do in Avila Beach. This seemingly sleepy town exudes charm and has a bit for everyone, from wine nerds to hiking enthusiasts, and it offers fun all year round.

I don’t know how they’ve managed, but Avila Beach hasn’t yet been discovered by the crowds, who get sidetracked to bigger, shinier spots around the area. And that’s a good thing! So grab your beach attire and hiking shoes, and head there before it becomes more popular!

Things to do in Avila Beach FAQ

Is Avila Beach worth visiting?

Totally. The great variety of things to do guarantees you’ll enjoy it one way or another. It’s especially alluring for those looking for a quieter, more easy-going vibe than that of nearby beaches, like Pismo.

Is Avila Beach busy?

While Avila Beach is smaller and more tranquil than the surrounding towns and beaches, it does get crowded in the summer, but even then it will be quieter than more popular beaches around the area, so it’s still a good option if you’re looking for a peaceful beach.

Which is better: Avila Beach or Pismo Beach?

This depends on what you’re looking for. Pismo Beach has a more lively atmosphere, and it’s more popular and better-known (hence more crowded) than Avila Beach. Things to do at Pismo also vary slightly. For example, if you want to surf, ride on sand dunes, or go shopping, head to Pismo, while if you’re looking for relaxation and a slower pace, Avila Beach is a better option.

Can you surf in Avila Beach?

Avila Beach is surfing perfection for beginners and kids. Its protected position on the coastline and almost zero undertow offer near-perfect conditions for newbies and children. It’s also great for boogie-boarding. However, if you’re a more experienced surfer looking for thrills, head to nearby Pismo Beach instead.

What are the best Avila Beach hikes?

A popular one is hiking to nearby Pirate’s Cove Beach, which is only 20 minutes away. You can also hike along the coastline and over the cliffs to Port San Luis Lighthouse. If you want an easy hike (more like a stroll, really) check out the Bob Jones City to Sea Trail. For a more demanding hike, there’s the Ontario Ridge to Shell Beach Bluff Trail Loop, of moderate difficulty and fantastic views!

Can you go kayaking in Avila Beach?

You certainly can! Avila Beach’s calm waters make it a great place to kayak. Avila Beach Paddlesports, near the Harford pier, offers kayak rental. A nice trip is to kayak all the way to Port San Luis Lighthouse. Or you can just paddle around and enjoy being near the marine life, which is abundant in this area.