Avila Beach Beckons this Fall
By Kathy Chin Leong
Indian summer at Avila Beach is at its best with a cornucopia of sights, activities, and fantastic weather that will make that four to five hour drive from the Bay Area worth the mileage. This revamped beach community along the Central Coast is always a treat. You can enjoy these G-rated highlights that are sure to be so memorable you’ll return year after year.
This tiny beach town is an absolute charmer thanks to a $10 million renovation that came straight from UNOCAL due to oil pipe leakage in 1990. The town was completely restored in 2000, and today, what I enjoy are the little shops and eateries along Front Street full of delightful treasures. The sidewalk is extra wide for lots of walking and lots of enjoyment of public art and mosaics. No cars are allowed here, so it is especially safe for toddlers and little kids who can run about freely -- a huge relief for parents.
I stayed at the Avila Lighthouse Suites, a great place for families on a budget. Take note: this place is relatively new and reasonable in price. Many of the rooms come with small terraces and nicely appointed furnishings that echo an ocean theme. In the morning you get a nice do-it-yourself continental breakfast which is quite generous. For kids, there is the quintessential swimming pool for burning off energy. You cannot beat the location which is right in the center of town on Front Street. Word has it that the place recently opened a spa. Hotel rates run $200 and up.
Another interesting place is the Inn at Avila Beach which has a contemporary color scheme filled with vibrant hues and shiny Mexican tiles that decorate the lobby. It is casual, and on the day I came, families were pouring out of the rooms. Rooms are afforable at $100 and up. It’s kind of a party pad with a new rooftop patio filled with three TVs, DVD player, bbq grills, hammocks, and all the sun and ocean views you can injest.
The best thing about this area is the variety of things you can do for free. First,
there’s Avila Beach itself. On a sunny fall day, you can enjoy a romp in the sand. Bring the kids to swing on the swingset or nearby beach park. On any given day, you’ll see families picnicking and celebrating birthdays.
Do be aware that there are the periodic shark advisories, so don’t bet on swimming when you come. Go jogging on the beach and refresh yourself with a smoothie or ice cream afterwards at Gelato Americano.
Another great freebie is the town trolley. It stops along a specific route along centrally located streets, and if you aren’t in a hurry, this colorful trolley is great for a day excursion.
Avila Beach also has three piers, but one in particular is a wonderful 1,685 foot-long pier, so you can stroll the wooden walkway and try your hand at fishing. This is an active fishing community, so be sure to stop at a local restaurant for fresh fish and seafood.
Bring your binoculars and a bird book, for there are over 200 species here terrific for the novice and experienced birder. The kill deer, the western gull with a 58-inch wing span, Forster’s tern, and pigeon guillemot are distinguishable birds to pick out.
HOT SPRINGS, SPA
Not far away is Avila Hot Springs, a natural hot springs with a cold water pool and campground. While its not a fancy place, it is affordable and has its own little grocery shop and pizza spot for a light meal. The hot springs are enclosed in a small pool area and the outdoor pool is huge with a diving board, a generous deep end, and can easily accommodate 50 frolicking kids at once.
Avila Beach isn’t a typical spa destination, but when you are aching for a massage, visit the new Coco Body Lounge to get hair, face, boday or waxing treatments. A massage for one hour runs $80. It is not a megaspa, and you may have a hard time finding it, for a single door leading to an upstairs suite is the entire spa.
SHOPS & FOOD
On Front Street, the main drag on the oceanfront, are establishments where you can rent a kayak, canoe, or a bicycle. The sidewalk is wide and it is a dog and pedestrian-friendly path that takes about ten minutes to walk. Surfers and skateboarders are essential to the laidback landscape here, and you can lounge around taking in an afternoon of people watching anywhere along the strip.
A couple of places stood out when I spied the lay of the land: first of all, there’s Hula Hut, an everything kind of store with toy area and kids corner and Hawaiian knickknacks. It had a Tommy Bahamaesque kind of feel with Hawaiian clothing, Hawaiian music wafting in the background, and hula girl night lamps.
Right away I noticed the15-flavor ice cream section called Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab, and I ordered the amazing Carmel Explosion flavor, and the Merlot Raspberry Truffle was next on my list, but I was too full!
If you have to have a substantial lunch, go to the Avila Grocery & Deli where you can order a delicious mango chicken wrap for $8.95. The grocery store also has a line of nice wines and gift items to bring back to the folks at home.
At the new Avila Wine and Roasting Company, the owners have turned a side street hole-in-the-wall into an interesting enterprise. In the morning it is a coffee house, and by the afternoon it is a wine bar with at least 100 wines. About 95 percent are lots of local wines from the Central Coast, and the rest are California wines and international bottles. Tastings are inexpensive: 3 tastings for $5; 5 tastings for $7.
Next time you go to the Central Coast, slow down and take time to explore Avila Beach. Although small, it is full of interesting people and places you won’t find anywhere else.
www.avilabeach.com - A general overview of the beach town.
www.visitavilabeach.com- More town details.
www.avilalighthousesuites.com - Avila Lighthouse Suites website.
www.avilabeachca.com - details on Inn at Avila Beach
www.sanluisobispocounty.com - more info on the region.