Cayucos is a small coastal town off Highway 101 in California, known for its laid-back vibes, long stretches of beaches, surfing, and small-town feels.
Cayucos is also the most dog-friendly town I’ve ever been to. Owners bring their pets to the restaurants and beaches; it’s pretty cool.
With its long stretch of gorgeous coastline and picturesque town, there’s no shortage of things to do in Cayucos (and nearby).
To help you plan your trip to Cayucos, here is a list of 18 (and a bonus) amazing things to do in Cayucos, California.
18 Spectacular Things to do in Cayucos
1. Relax at the Cayucos State Beach
Cayucos State Beach is right on Ocean Ave. It offers free beach access and is perfect for swimming, surfing, or tanning on the sand.
Families can often be found enjoying the sun at Cayucos State Beach because it has a fun playground right on the beach.
When you get hungry, you can just walk across the street to find a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants lining the beachfront.
- Cayucos State Beach | Address: 99 5th St, Cayucos, CA 93430
2. Hang Out with Your Dog at Morro Strand State Beach
Bring your favorite 4-legged animal to the long stretches of Morro Strand State Beach for some fun in the sand.
This beach is very dog-friendly, so don’t forget to pack things like food and water bowls, bags for cleanup, and a ball or Frisbee to toss around with your pup.
There are houses that lead down into the sandy beach, but you can park on the street side of these houses and use the public access to get to the water.
- Morro Strand State Beach | Address: Enter the name into your GPS system, CA 93442
3. Go Surfing
Surfing is a culture in Cayucos. On good days, the waves in Cayucos are perfect for catching waves out in the Pacific.
Make sure to bring your wet suit as the water is freezing! There is parking right next to Cayucos State Beach, but you can also go surfing at Morro Strand State Beach too!
4. Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Cayucos Murals
There are a total of 9 Cayucos murals, which were established in 1992, on various walls provided by citizens of Cayucos. The artists are local and the city emphasizes public art through these murals.
The best way to get to all the murals is by car, but a few of them are located in the city center of Cayucos which is perfect for walking too.
You can grab a snack in the Candy Counter on your way to view the public art. Follow this map to find all of the cool murals!
5. Enjoy the Whale Trail on the Cayucos Pier
As whales travel back and forth from the coast of California to Alaska, you can view these majestic creatures at the Whale Trail* on the Cayucos Pier in the months of March and April.
However, this picturesque pier is so beautiful that you can walk on it any season to see the sunset.
The pier is also a perfect spot for fishing as you can just drop your line over the rails. While here towards the end of the day, the sunset views from the pier are incredible.
- Cayucos Pier | Address: Pacific Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
6. Enjoy the sunset at Estero Bluffs
Estero Bluffs is a state park dedicated to preserving the grasslands and marine life of the California coast.
At the bluffs, you can swim and surf (shocker there!), and walk the trails through the grasslands to explore the long stretch of coastline.
At the golden hour, that time right before the sun sets, the warm glow beautifully lights up the bluffs and makes the ocean turn a rich shade of blue. If you start heading back towards the city center of Cayucos, you may even find an abandoned ship!
Finding the bluffs can be a little tricky as there are many pull-off areas before you actually get to the trailhead. We parked at the last pull-off; however, all of them will be part of Estero Bluffs.
7. Explore the Tidepools
One of the best ways to see nature up close is by visiting a tidepool. The Estero Bluffs in Cayucos offers gorgeous golden light for photographers and adventurers alike!
To reach the tidepools, you’ll need to park in the last pull-off or you can enter coordinates 35.4608-120.965 into Google maps.
When you get to the trailhead, you will want to take the right trail and walk toward the ocean. As you follow the trail, you’ll see turn-offs to walk down to the water.
You will be able to find the tidepools in various areas here, but if you get to the beach area, you will have gone too far.
8. Hunt for Treasure at the Antique Shops
The small town of Cayucos has 3 antique shops to visit: Remember When, Remember When Too, and Main Street Antiques.
Remember When has 3 levels of various items from jewelry to household items. There is also vintage clothing, cards, and coins sold here as well. Remember When Too is just down the street for even more antique shopping.
The Main Street Antiques is on the other side of Remember When (the first one) and has many outdoor items, including succulents, beachy items, and outdoor furniture. Shopping in antique shops is one of my favorite things to do when visiting small towns!
Apart from the antique shops, there are also other Cayucos shops lining the Main street area so you can grab any type of souvenir you’d like!
- Main Street Antiques | Address: 178 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
- Remember When | Address: 152 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
- Remember When Too | Address: 36 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
9. Snap a photo with the Elephant Rock
Elephant rock deserves its own little section as elephants are one of my favorite animals. Located on Morro Strand State Beach is a ginormous rock that is shaped like an elephant.
Looking at one side will reveal the elephant much better than the other. As you are hanging out at the beach, walk along the sand to see if you can find this eccentrically shaped rock and snap a photo of it!
10. Visit the Sea Otters and Morro Rock at Morro Bay T Pier
Head into the small town Morro Bay right next to Cayucos and walk along the Morro Bay T Pier to see Morro Rock, also known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” The rock is actually the last peak of the Nine Sisters which extends into San Luis Obispo.
At the Morro Bay T Pier, you can also find adorable sea otters swimming and playing in the water–they’re so close it’s almost like you can touch them!
- Morro Bay T Pier | Address: 1185 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442
Places to Eat in Cayucos
11. Chill with the Pirates at Schooners
One of the best places to eat in Cayucos is Schooners, which is located right on the oceanfront where you can walk right to the beach. If you’d like to chill with some pirates, Schooners is the place to go.
Statues of pirates line the front of the restaurant and there is cool lighting in the evening to set the mood too.
Ask for a seat outdoors to get a high view of the ocean and grab a bite of Halibut and Chips–so delicious here!
- Schooners Cayucos | Address: 171 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
12. Eat Organic and Gluten-Free at the Hidden Kitchen
The Hidden Kitchen located right next to Schooners with indoor seating and a patio outdoors also tops places to eat.
The Hidden Kitchen is best for brunch as they serve primarily waffles and tacos, a strange mix I know, but super tasty. The waffles and tacos are made of blue corn flour, which gives them a darker color but makes them gluten-free.
We tried the apple pie waffle (I suspect it’s a fall thing), the reef rancheros tacos, and the Plaskett pork tacos. I highly recommend going all out for the Plaskett pork. The San Luis Sunrise and Morro Melt are also great options for a savory waffle dish.
The day we went, they had their umbrellas closed so we were sweating hot as we waited for our food. All that to say, ask for umbrellas if they’re closed! If it gets too hot, you can also enjoy a cool smoothie as you wait for your food.
- Hidden Kitchen Cayucos | Address: 113 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
13. Enjoy Fresh Seafood at Duckies
Before choosing Schooners for dinner, we went back and forth a lot with Duckies Chowder House. We finally ordered food for take-out on our last night and it was amazing!
Duckies in Cayucos has quick service (within 15 minutes), it’s fresh fish, and did I say delicious? We ordered the Duckies Bowl with blackened fish. It comes with rice pilaf and steamed vegetables–just a very wholesome meal.
The clam chowder in a bread bowl is also very good! Add Duckies to your list of places to eat in Cayucos.
- Duckies Cayucos Chowder House | Address: 55 Cayucos Dr, Cayucos, CA 93430
14. Savor the Brown Butter Cookies
Now they have several locations and they even ship cookies directly to your house!
You’ll see the ladies making the cookies from scratch–made up of flour, butter, brown sugar, and salt–that’s all a cookie really needs! These cookies literally melt in your mouth; they’re SO GOOD!
The cookie company offers more traditional cookies as well including chocolate chunk, snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, and more. The flagship cookie store is located in Cayucos, so make a stop before leaving town!
- Brown Butter Cookies | Address: 98 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430
15. Grab a Pastry at Bijou Bakery
Right next to Cass House, you’ll find Bijou Bakery and you can’t go wrong with anything you order here. It literally looks like someone bought a house and turned it into a yellow machine dishing out some of the tastiest croissants, quiches, and muffins in Cayucos!
We tried the almond croissant (delicious), the quiche (super buttery and good), and the chocolate muffin (yes!). We can confidently say this Cayucos bakery is a must-stop place to eat!
- Bijou Bakery | Address: 149 Cayucos Dr, Cayucos, CA 93430
Bonus: Other Places to Eat in Cayucos
Listed below are other great eateries in Cayucos, so we hear, as we didn’t have enough meals to try out the foods here. But I have it on good word that these are THE place to go for what they offer!
- Ruddell’s Smokehouse: One of the places to eat offering delicious smoked fish right on the beach. I really wanted to try the smoked abalone and salmon – hopefully next time we’re in Cayucos, we’ll make a stop here. If fish isn’t your thing, they also have smoked pork and chicken too! Update – Ruddell’s Smokehouse has recently closed down.
- Cayucos Gas Mini Mart: Known as the best place to get Mexican tacos. Go on a Tuesday and have a meal for under $5. This is definitely on my list for next time!
Day Trips from Cayucos
16. Hang Out in San Luis Obispo (also known as SLO to the locals)
- Shop at the Cute Boutique Shops in Downtown SLO
The downtown area of San Luis Obispo (SLO) is small-town Hallmark cute: unique boutiques, local candy shops, and restaurants, and its very own theater.
Take a stroll on Higuera Street to start off, and then towards the Mission at Chorro Street to view the SLO historic area.
The SLO Museum of Art is also in the same area as the Mission, so you can get all your arts and history in one go!
- Buy Candy (and Gum) at Rocket Fizz
Rocket Fizz is an amazing candy store, speaking as a recovering candy addict. There is saltwater taffy, old-time candy (think Sugar Babies), Asian candy, Pop Rocks… you name it!
The candy store also has a huge variety of glass soda lining the shelves on the wall. I even found a bottle of Lychee flavored juice(?), not really sure what to call it since it’s not carbonated, but I only find this drink in the Asian stores.
You can also purchase Bazooka bubble gum, the super sugary one that comes with a comic strip, and walk down to visit Bubble Gum Alley!
Rocket Fizz | Address: 699 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
- Visit Bubble Gum Alley
This leads me to snap an Instagram-worthy photo with 2 walls of dried-out bubble gum where hundreds of people visit daily to add their wadded-up gum.
There is an aspect of disgust as you are standing among tons of germs and previously chewed gum, but it’s also kinda cool to leave a part of yourself on the wall, weird as that sounds.
Bubble Gum Alley | Address: 733 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
- Enjoy Ice Cream at Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab (SLO)
As always, I try to find an ice cream place to try out in every city I visit. I really enjoyed Doc Burnstein’s ice cream.
There are so many flavors and this has been one of the creamiest ice creams I’ve had. I tried the black raspberry cheesecake and the pistachio flavors–let me just say pistachio is where it’s at!
There are several locations, but while you’re in downtown SLO, stop by for a snack!
Doc Burnstein’s | Address: 860 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
17. Wander in the Great Sand Dunes in Pismo
Pismo Beach is known for camping and ATVing around the sand, but just beyond Pismo beach is the great Oceano Dunes… and this area is majestic!
It’s different than the State Vehicular Reservation Area (aka SVRA) because there are no vehicles on the sand.
Here, everywhere you look is just hills and hills of sand. The strangest part is that the sand is very fine and cool to the touch, sometimes even wet! To find the best parking spot and entrance, follow the directions given by Kara at Whimsy Soul–that’s how we got there!
18. Visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove
It’s crazy to think that thousands of monarch butterflies migrate from the Rocky Mountains and even up from Canada to the tiny area of Pismo Beach in California for its warm winter season.
The best time to see the monarch butterflies at Pismo Beach is between October and February when they have migrated to California.
If there are strong winds or a particularly bad storm, monarch butterflies are known to cluster all together on a tree branch in the grove. It’s quite an amazing sight!
- Butterfly Grove | Address: 400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Map of Things to do in Cayucos
Where to Stay in Cayucos
N and I stayed in Cayucos with our family so we all decided to rent a beachside house.
We were right on the Morro Strand State Beach and the house had a wall of windows overlooking the ocean–that was our view every. single. morning! We also brought our friendly pups and they loved running on the long stretch of beach.
Another option to stay in Cayucos is the Shoreline Inn on the Beach and you’ll also have instant access to Cayucos State Beach as well as all the goodies on Ocean Avenue.
How to Get to Cayucos
By plane, you can fly straight into San Luis Obispo Regional Airport, or have a layover in San Francisco or Los Angeles.
From SLO airport, you’ll get on the Cabrillo Highway and drive 30 minutes north towards Cayucos.
From the San Francisco Airport, you’ll need to drive 3.5 hours south starting on 101 Highway, then merge to CA-46 and head towards Cayucos.
From the Los Angeles Airport, you’ll also stay on 101 Highway, but you’ll be heading north for 3.5 hours.
You can also direct your GPS to drive on Old Creek Road to get into Cayucos for a more scenic drive. The road is pretty windy and narrow, but you’ll see beautiful fields, as well as overgrown trees making it feel like you’re driving through a jungle at times.
The Best Time to Visit Cayucos
The best time to visit Cayucos is in the fall, specifically October-November. The temperatures are nice with a low of 40°F and highs of 75°F.
You’ll see the beautiful glow of the golden hour as the sun goes down in the evenings, and wake up to sunny days. Sightseeing is no problem at all as the temperatures are very comfortable.
In the high season, March-September, the weather can range from 39°F-91°F. You can still go sightseeing and do all the things with awesome weather, but keep in mind you might see more visitors during this time than any other.
From December-February, average temperatures are 52°F-66°F. It is a little cooler so you may need to pack a little warmer. However, winter is the best season to make a trip to Cayucos to see the whales in the ocean with their calves.
How to Pack for Cayucos
When visiting in the fall, trust the weather app and pack summery clothes — I’m talking shorts, tank tops… light clothing. When you’re sitting or walking in the sunshine you’ll be glad for it.
Pack a swimsuit, but just be prepared for FREEZING waters if you’re not visiting in the summer months.
In the wintertime, make sure to layer up as the weather does cool down. You don’t necessarily need a heavy winter coat, but a jacket and long pants or jeans will keep you warm.
For more tips on packing, visit my Packing Travel Essentials to see recommendations for hiking boots, backpacks, and more!
A Little History of Cayucos
The Chumash Indians were the original inhabitants of most of what is now known as San Luis Obispo. They are credited with creating an important canoe, called a tomol or cayuco which gave this town its name – Cayucos means “canoe” in their language.
The small fishing boats were used by both Aleuts and other coastal peoples for hunting sea otters along California’s coastlines during colonial times.
Cayucos started developing in the late 1800s when Captain James Cass built the original wharf, store, and warehouse to bring in commerce.
The Cayucos Pier is now a popular landmark in this area. The original warehouse that was once there now serves as the community center for all of its residents and is home to the Cayucos Art Society Gallery.
Ending Your List of 18 Spectacular Things to do in Cayucos
Hopefully, this list has given you some ideas to excite and inspire your next visit to the Central Coast of California. With the slower living in Cayucos and so many things to explore, you’ll definitely want to add this easy-going small town to your list.
Which of these activities sound like a must for you? Have any of them been on your bucket list before now? Comment below.
More Things to do in Coastal California:
- 17 Charming Things to do in Cambria, California
- 2-Day Itinerary: Monterey and Big Sur
- 17 Fun Things to do in Santa Rosa, California
- 20 Incredible Things to do in Petaluma, California
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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources
Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.
- Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
- Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
- Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
- Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
- Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
- Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
- What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.