Hit the Avila Beach shore earlier rather than later to miss the crowds and sample a cup of Jo Momma's famous coffee.
Save room for shrimp
Avila is a sleepy place, and the beachfront Fish & Farmer’s Market, with live music, local artists, and fresh strawberry shortcake, is about as rollicking as it gets around here. Save room for a shrimp cocktail ($6) from BJ’s Seafood and a mahimahi taco ($3) from Pete’s Pierside Café. Fri 4–8 through Sep 24; Avila Promenade; visitavilabeach.com
Do the beach like a local
In the morning, before the day-trippers arrive from the scorching inland valleys, you’ll share the sand with just locals, including a few beach yogis doing their sun salutations. Get a cup of coffee at local fave Joe Momma’s Coffee and head toward the tidepools. By the time you make it back to Joe Momma’s, you’ll have earned a California Kiss (that’s a pineapple mango smoothie; from $4.50) and a cinnamon roll ($3). Sort of. 310 Front St.; 805/627-1500.
Make like an old salt
The historic Harford Pier at Port San Luis (built in 1873, before the trains came to nearby San Luis Obispo) is a working fishing pier that happens to have a couple of low-key restaurants perched at the end. Stop at BJ’s Fish Market to say hello to Speckles and Waddles, BJ’s two adopted pelicans. Spend some time in front of Pete’s Pierside Café and Fish Market ($) watching the sea lions flop around. Finally, nab one of the see-through tables at Olde Port Inn ($$$; 805/595-2515) to eat cioppino while watching the kelp slosh under your bowl. avilabeachpier.com
Chill out at your beachfront hotel
With a sweet spot on the ocean, Inn at Avila Beach is just the right amount of groovy. The rooftop deck with hammocks, pillow-strewn couches, and grills is the best sunset hangout in town. From $95; 2-night weekend minimum.
More: Perfect summer trips