When the Mamas & the Papas sang about “California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day,” there’s a good chance they were thinking about Cayucos. This tiny town, located about 100 miles north of Santa Barbara, is the epitome of the California beach town complete with a mellow vibe, great waves, and a beautiful, curving beach. It was even named “America’s Coolest Small Town” by Budget Travel Magazine in 2009.
Check out these eight things to do in Cayucos to make your next trip to California’s Central Coast a dream come true.
Cayucos occupies a mere three and a half square miles; its quiet streets are lined with palm trees and picturesque beach shops. Get to know the town with this delightful walking tour, which leads you past nine colorful murals all painted by local artists.
Be sure to check out the historic pier and quaint antique shops along your way, and pick up a cup of coffee from the local Top Dog Coffee Bar. By the time you’re done, you’ll know the town like the back of your hand.
Cayucos may be a sleepy town on land—but it’s anything but out on the water. Adventures of all types await on the ocean, like hidden coves, playful otters, and spectacular views of the coastal range.
Explore by sea kayak or grab a surfboard and tackle California’s famous waves. The local surf shop Good Clean Fun has rentals of all kinds and even offers surf lessons and kayak tours.
Of course, you don’t need to be the adventurous type to enjoy Cayucos’s 300 days of sun. Exhibit A: Schooners Wharf, a local watering hole just steps from the water that boasts an incredible open-air deck. Cool off with a refreshing pint and watch the birds circle above the pier or the surfers catching waves offshore.
Every summer, the waters off Cayucos fill with herds of migrating gray whales. These magnificent animals can be up to 46 feet long and weigh almost 40 tons—roughly the size and weight of a full-size school bus. Occasionally, the whales come so close to shore you can spot them from the beach or the shoreline along Estero Bluffs State Park.
But we recommend taking a whale watching tour, which puts you right out in the middle of the herd, sometimes close enough to touch! Seeing these beautiful creatures up close and personal is an experience you won’t ever forget.
Perched on the edge of the shimmering Pacific, it might seem obvious that Cayucos is a hub for phenomenal seafood. Still, the town manages to impress with the sheer variety it has to offer.
Care for some smoked fish tacos? How about a five-star ocean-to-table dining experience? Or maybe you’d prefer a bowl of chowder or a plate of pan-seared scallops. No matter what your taste, you’ll find it here, and fresher than almost anywhere.
It might seem like a knock against Cayucos to say that the Brown Butter Cookie Company is possibly the best thing about the town—but wait until you try these cookies.
Formed by lightly browning the butter and rolling the dough out by hand, these delectable treats are baked fresh every day and topped off with a sprinkle of sea salt—but don’t take our word for it. The cookies have been featured everywhere from the New York Times to Gourmet magazine, and include flavors like espresso, cocoa mint, and coconut lime. Bet you can’t have just one!
Everyone knows that California is famous for its grapes, and there are arguably none better than the ones grown along the Central Coast. Whether you’re a wine snob or can’t tell a chardonnay from a cabernet sauvignon, no trip to Cayucos is complete without a stop at one of its wineries.
Visit the family-owned Cayucos Cellars or enjoy ocean views at Full Moon Tasting Room. If you’re here in January, you won’t want to miss the annual Cayucos Wine Festival, which features live music, local art, and samples from more than a dozen wineries. Get your tickets in advance!
What better way to finish the day than with a California sunset? For a truly spectacular view, pay a visit to Estero Bluffs State Park. The 353-acre park hugs the shoreline just north of town and is filled with easy walking trails, tide pools, and rocky coves to explore.
But best of all is the breathtaking panorama of the ocean, which provides a superb vantage point to watch the sun sink into the Pacific. This beautiful park remains a hidden gem—so pull your loved one close and enjoy a peaceful, romantic moment alone as the day comes to an end.
Featured image courtesy of Dana Cristea