Pirates Cove – Avila Beach, CA
By Donna Polizzi
The California Central Coast offers some of the best views and hiking trails on the Pacific coastline and Pirate’s Cove is one of those places. More and more visitors are becoming aware of this nature lover’s paradise, in San Luis Obispo County. Wedged between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, Pirate’s Cove is somewhat remote, in that there is only one road in and out. Take the Avila Beach Drive exit, off of Highway 101, toward Avila Beach. As you make your way down the shady, windy road, look for Cave Landing Road on your left and follow the steep, two-lane road, to the top of the hill, where you will find a dirt parking lot.
Many of the locals like visiting Pirate’s Cove, because it offers such a diverse experience. You have the visitors who simply want to get incredible views of the coast and other visitors, who go to exercise on some of the more strenuous trails. Some visitors even go to get a tan, where they typically cannot. Yes, Pirate’s Cove even offers a clothing-optional section, which begins on a beautiful trail, down the beach’s hillside. Don’t worry, you won’t see these beach bums basking in the sun, unless you go down the steps that are engraved into the rock, for easy access.
On another end, you have a family-friendly beach, where you will find families playing in the sand. Pirate’s Cove is a true hidden gem, known by locals as Smuggler’s Cave. After you park your car, head into the opening in the brush, where you will find a short, but sweet hiking trail, that ends at an opening in the rock. With its gigantic boulder of a body, it almost feels as if you’re entering a time capsule. It opens up a window to a glorious view of Avila Bay and into the horizon, where you can see the pier in the distance.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, there are other areas of Pirate’s Cove where you will find ropes attached to the Cliffside, to repel down or carry a load of sunbathing equipment. This is obviously not advised for those who do not feel confident in their arm and leg strength or just plain have too much to carry. Or you can go the opposite way, and begin the easy climb towards the top of the rocks, where you can get a view from up on top of the cave.
Besides Smuggler’s Cave, Pirate’s Cove’s most beloved benefit is that it is the start of a glorious hiking trail on Avila Ridge. Many of the locals come to this hiking trail to get a strenuous workout. This hike is one of the best and most popular hiking spots on the Central Coast. After parking your car, this trail begins at the start of yet another enormous hillside. Don’t second-guess it, because the views you get after accomplishing the hill, are well worth the huffing and puffing.
Once you reach the top, the trail continues along the top of the hillside and guarantees that you will catch Avila’s best views. You will have a bird’s-eye view of Pirate’s Cove, Avila Beach, Port San Luis and much more, including the beautiful, multi-million dollar homes lined along the coastline. Your car will look more and more toy-sized as you ascend the trailhead. Keep walking along the trail and you will find beautiful oak trees that provide shade on warmer days.
After you have had a chance to enjoy the ocean view, turn to look at the other side, where you also will have amazing views of southern San Luis Obispo County’s landscapes. You will never mentally tire on the Avila Ridge hike. The beauty is astounding and the variety of blooming plants and wildlife change the landscape with every visit.
You can also find a wooden rope swing, a few letting trees and there is an outlet from the trail that leads you down through the Avila Hot Springs area and into Bob Jones Trail. While the hike is quite rigorous, the views are spectacular and rewarding. Make sure you come out and explore the natural beauty that Avila has to offer!
Donna Polizzi is a Travel Expert and Founder of Keys2TheCoast.com, offering honest recommendations on the “Best Places to Wine, Dine, Explore and More!”) Visit Keys2theCoast.Com or Facebook Keys2TheCoast.)