6 Best Things to Do in Avila Beach

Updated: November 27, 2021 | Has affiliate links

The mountains around San Luis Obispo Bay area hide Avila Beach very well. But if you’re willing to get off the beaten path and get off the freeway you will be rewarded greatly with stunning views of the ocean and a relaxed atmosphere in one of the little known California beach towns. Avila Beach, California is the perfect beach town. It’s small, clean and simply beautiful!


Avila Beach is the quintessential California small beach town. Small, quaint, quiet and simply gorgeous. So put on some comfortable walking shoes and have your bathing suit handy and let’s go exploring the best things to do in Avila Beach.

My Favorite Things to Do in Avila Beach California

What are the top attractions to visit in Avila Beach? Let me give you a short list of my favorite things to do in Avila Beach.

  • Avila Beach is a true beach town, so enjoy the beach and the water on a sunny day.
  • Walk on Front Street and enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants.
  • Walk on the Avila Beach pier and enjoy the view of San Luis Obispo Bay.
  • Especially if you have children, visit the Central Coast Aquarium located right off Front Street next to the children’s park. They have lots of large fish tanks and very friendly staff.
  • Take a short drive to Port San Luis, just a mile down the street. You can actually drive on the pier and enjoy amazing views of the area and get very close to the many sea lions in the area. Children especially love this place!
  • Drive up to Cave Landing to enjoy stunning views of the San Luis Obispo Bay.

Map of favorite things to do in Avila Beach
Map of favorite things to do in Avila Beach


Staying a few days at Avila Beach
is very relaxing.  While small, Avila Beach is not cheap when looking for places to stay.  However, for a more affordable option, you can stay at the cozy and rustic Inn At Avila Beach. For a more refined beach front experience find a room at Avila Lighthouse Suites. We stayed at the cozy Sandcastle Hotel right on the beach at nearby Pismo Beach. We loved being on the beach in the mornings. You can look for a budget hotel in Avila Beach especially if you can travel during the week.

1. Go to the Beach

The beach and pier are among the most popular things to do in Avila Beach
The beach and pier at Avila Beach.
See my photos from Avila Beach

What do you do in a small California beach town? Well, you go to the beach. The sand at Avila Beach is very fine and it’s very pleasant to walk on. If you get a sunny day, just sit on the sand and enjoy the sun and the water and take in the natural beauty of San Luis Obispo Bay. It’s just stunning! The beach area tops my list of best things to do in Avila Beach.

Our children enjoyed very much the children’s park that’s right on the beach next to the pier. It has swings and slides and other “toys” for active kids. In addition, just off Front Street, there is an additional park for children that has more stuff for kids to do and bounce on. These will certainly wear down your children and hopefully fall asleep in the car for the ride back home.

2. Front Street

Avila Beach, California - Street cafes and palm trees line up Front Street at Avila Beach.
Street cafes and palm trees line up Front Street at Avila Beach.

Avila Beach is a small town, really small! If you’re at the beach then you have pretty much seen everything there is to see in Avila Beach. However, if can also relax and have lunch or dinner at one of the few restaurants that line up Front Street. You will enjoy good food and beautiful scenery.

The restaurants on Front Street are obviously more expensive than the ones you find on the few side streets. So, the choice is yours, depending on your budget.  Sitting at a local restaurant, overlooking the pier is one of our favorite things to do in Avila Beach.

3. Walk the Avila Beach Pier

Walking on the pier is one of the best things to do in Avila Beach
Avila Beach pier seen from the nearby hill.

Piers are beautiful places because they give you amazing views all the way around.  When you’re at the end of the Avila Beach Pier you can turn around and take in the beautiful view of the canyon and surrounding hills: it’s postcard perfect!  Since it’s a small place, you will find very few people walking on the pier and maybe a few fishermen enjoying fishing and the views. Walking on the long pier is definitely one of the best things to do in Avila Beach.

4. Visit Central Coast Aquarium

The small Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach
Also known as the Sea Life Center, the small Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach is a great attraction for children

Located at the end of Main Street, a few steps away from the beach, the small Central Coast Aquarium is a great place to visit, especially if you have small children. They have lots of hands on displays where children can touch baby sharks and other fish. When our children were small, they had a great time at this tiny museum. Staffed with friendly people ready to help children experience a few sea animals, turned our visit to Avila Beach Central Coast Aquarium into a delightful few hours. Our children especially will tell you that visiting the small aquarium is definitely one of the best things to do in Avila Beach.

5. Visit Port San Luis Harbor

Beautiful view of fishing boats seen from the end of the Pier at beautiful Port San Luis Harbor
Beautiful view of fishing boats seen from the end of the Pier at beautiful Port San Luis Harbor
See my photos from Port San Luis

Just a few minutes’ drive down the hill from Avila Beach you will find the fishing pier from Port San Luis Harbor. It is rare to see small fishing boats still fishing around these parts of California. However, Port San Luis Harbor has a thriving fish market right on the pier. You can actually drive all the way up to the pier, park your car and take in the amazing views all the way around.

Sea lions basking in the sun at Port San Luis Pier
Sea lions basking in the sun at Port San Luis Pier

Under the pier you will find lots of noisy sea lions basking in the sun and making lots of commotion. Children will especially enjoy them and will think it’s one of their favorite things to do in Avila Beach. Walking the Port San Luis pier can be one of the few romantic things to do in avila beach, Ca.

6. Cave Landing

Avila Beach, California - Amazing view of the San Luis Obisbo Bay from Cave Landing near Avila Beach.
Amazing view of the San Luis Obisbo Bay from Cave Landing near Avila Beach.
See my photos from Avila Beach

Just a few minutes’ drive up the hill from Avila Beach, you can get to the gorgeous bluffs surrounding this area. Either on the way to Avila Beach, or when you leave Avila Beach, you will notice a steep road off Avila Beach Drive with a sign pointing to Cave Landing.

Take the narrow and winding road up the mountain until you reach the mountain top where you can park your car. You can then walk close to the edge of the cliff and just take in the amazing views of San Luis Obispo Bay. Cave Landing definitely makes our list of best things to do in Avila Beach.

Plan Your Trip to Avila Beach

Staying a few days at Avila Beach is very relaxing.  While small, Avila Beach is not cheap when looking for places to stay.  However, for a more affordable option, you can stay at the cozy and rustic Inn At Avila Beach. For a more refined beach front experience find a room at Avila Lighthouse Suites. We stayed at the cozy Sandcastle Hotel right on the beach at nearby Pismo Beach. We loved being on the beach in the mornings. You can look for a budget hotel in Avila Beach especially if you can travel during the week.

Avila Beach is one of those places that if you don’t know about it you will pass right by it. It is a stunningly beautiful place but it’s well hidden from the freeway which runs just ten minutes to the East.

The easiest way to get to Avila Beach is on the 101 Freeway. As you pass Pismo Beach, look for the exit indicating Avila Beach Drive. Then follow the road all the way as it winds its way down through the mountains to the ocean. This is one very scenic drive and you should drive slowly in order to enjoy it.

If you are in the Pismo Beach area already, just follow the road through Shell Beach leading to Avila Beach Drive. This road is also beautiful, with many vista points on the edge of the ocean where you can enjoy amazing views of the ocean and marine life.

Is Avila Beach Worth Visiting?

Avila Beach is a great day trip from Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo. The views and the small town feel really relaxes you. If you happen to arrive in Avila Beach on a sunny summer day (which is pretty much every day), then you’re in for a treat for all your senses. Avila Beach is also a great place for children because of the great children’s parks and the interesting Sea Center which provide enough activities for children. All in all, Avila Beach is one of our favorite beach towns in California.

Read More:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.