Welcome to Cayucos, Highway 1’s Quintessential Beach Town
No place does effortlessly cool coastal beach towns better than California. And of them all, there’s not a one more effortless or cool than Cayucos. Settled in the 1860s by a ship’s captain, the town remains more or less untouched by large-scale development, leaving its beach, pier, and historic vibe totally intact. The beaches here are prime for surfing, tide pooling, fishing, wildlife spotting, taking in the 6 miles of sandy beachfront, and kayaking. After a long day by the water, you can head into town and find a plethora of family-owned dining, shopping, drinking, and hotel and beachfront vacation rental options. Whether you’re looking for a nice dinner, a fun event or festival, or want to mingle with the locals, there’s something cool for everyone.
Cayucos is the hidden treasure among a sea of beach towns along the California coast. From food to outdoor fun, this guide will take you through all of the favorites – but you’re sure to discover even more along your journey! Perfect for families, romantic getaways, or some peaceful alone time, this town offers it all.
Just a short walk from the beach, Sea Shanty is the place to be for anything food-related, from tasty fish and chips to famous desserts! The ceiling is amusingly covered in hanging trucker hats, and the overall ambiance speaks to the down-home, nautical, inviting feel to the place. You just can’t beat the good prices and a menu that welcomes you for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! Sit inside for a cozy morning breakfast, or out on the pet-friendly patio for a couple of drinks and a great meal, but no matter when you visit, don’t pass up dessert! The ice cream creations, strawberry shortcake, and swamp pie are just a few of the many favorites necessary for your fun-filled trip to the beach.
Since 2013, the Cayucos History Museum has graced the town visitor center with its wealth of information. Cayucos has a rich history including the earliest Native Americans, Spanish exploration, the Gold Rush, and the dairy industry, so this stop is a must for everyone from the average inquisitive tourist to the traveling history buff! The Cayucos Historical Society takes pride in preserving this incredible history, and aims to educate the masses on this unique little beach town and all that it has had to offer through the ages! Rotating exhibits offer something different each time you visit, and a quick stop in the visitor center will help prepare you for your time in Cayucos.
After soaking up all of that information at the history museum, feel like a part of history yourself by fishing on the popular and historic fishing pier built by Captain James Cass in 1875. This public fishing spot does not require a fishing license day or night, and additionally offers killer views of not just the water, but the town of Cayucos, with those stunning hills in the distance. If you’re looking for a unique, high-energy activity, you can try your hand at kite surfing, which is popular here. For a more laid-back adventure, explore the tidepools and hunt for beautiful sea glass on the beach. Whether you’re surfing, swimming, walking the beach (if you’re looking for a nice hike, you can walk all the way to Morro Rock on the white sand beach) or just checking out the pier, Cayucos State Beach welcomes everyone.
Being that it was a cowboy bar built back in 1906, The Old Cayucos Tavern still radiates a Western vibe that attracts tourists and locals alike. With pool tables, shuffleboard, and live music and poker on the weekends, this bar has everything! Stop in for a drink before or after a stroll around town, or stay awhile and take in that authentic cowboy ambiance. This cozy little dive bar is a great place to take a load off and grab a break from shopping and beach activity. Keep in mind, The Old Cayucos Tavern is cash only, so come prepared!
Not only is the Historic Cass House one of the prettiest buildings in town, it’s also one of the most historic. Once the home of British-born miner and merchant Captain Cass, who basically founded the town, the building dates back to 1875. The building houses The Grill at Cass House, which whips up inventive dishes with locally-sourced ingredients.
Owned by the same incredible team as The Grill, Brown Butter Cookie Company prides itself on the same quality and care you get from the Cass House, only this time it’s with cookies that are to die for! New, exciting flavors are constantly being introduced, and with two stores in California as well as online ordering, customers cannot get enough. The Brown Butter offers a unique twist on the average cookie, and tops some offerings with a sprinkle of sea salt for that sweet and salty kick. You truly can feel the love put in each individual cookie, making Brown Butter yet another treasure in this beautiful beach town, open daily!
On the north end of Estero Bay, Cayucos Pier is the perfect place to watch sea life, gawk at an amazing sunset, or do some fishing. As you advance further out on the pier, a different variety of fish can be caught. Surfperch are said to be plentiful at the start of the pier; walleye and boccacio towards the center; and shinerperch, Pacific and jack mackerel, and baraccuda dominate the end. Almost 1,000 feet out into the water, the pier is also a great place to catch birds diving down for food or to watch otters, seals, and even groups of dolphins!
For those wanting to truly get an experience out of the pier, keep an eye out for the Whale Trail interpretative sign. The Whale Trail follows species of whales along the California coast, and Cayucos falls right on the path! Gray whales are most often seen in March and April, and during this period you can see lots of mothers with their calves, an opportunity too cute to pass up!
Once Native American soil that fell under Spanish control, the land that makes up Estero Bluffs State Park was sold to a dairyman before the Cayucos Land Conservancy took over. This park offers no restrooms or drinking water, so come prepared! Here you can see plenty of sea birds, the threatened California red-legged frog, deer, rabbits, seals, and otters, among other abundant wildlife. If you visit during the winter months, you won’t want to miss standing on the designated bluffs to watch the migrating whales swim past! The simplicity of nature and solitude here, along with the unforgettable views, is sure to wow– a reminder of California’s true natural beauty away from all of the hustle and bustle!
Between Cayucos and Cambria, Harmony Headlands is yet another State Park whose beauty you need to experience. 784 acres of land offer plenty of hiking and some gorgeous views of nature along the coast. Just under two miles of walking from the dirt parking lot provides you with a full panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. For those waiting for the perfect Instagram moment in Cayucos, this is definitely it. The short hike to the killer views is definitely worth it! Stay and hike around for a while, or kick back and relax on one of the benches throughout the trails.
From the food to the tranquil coastal scenery, the small town of Cayucos has everything on the checklist for a relaxing beach vacation that’s more secluded than most. The many treasures and local favorites make for a unique experience that stands out, and doesn’t make you feel as if you’re in a typical tourist-run vacation spot! Roam around the area and discover the fun for yourself. Trust me you won’t be disappointed!