Looking for an ideal California beach town with history, charm and boutique shopping? Cayucos is your destination. Its quaint downtown boasts field-to-table restaurants, antique stores, public art and cafes ― all just steps from the beach. Add a few historic buildings, surf shops, and an old cowboy bar, and you have California coastal living at its finest. Even better, Cayucos residents dine, shop, and connect in all the same places as visitors. Ready to make like a local? Use our guide for the best spots to discover the essence of the California coast.
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Discover Downtown Cayucos
Cayucos’ history begins with the Chumash and Salinan people who first settled here, thousands of years before Europeans arrived. The word cayucos comes from the Spanish for the canoes those first residents used, as named by early explorers. The famed Portola expedition camped near Cayucos in the mid-18th century, and many other explorers passed through as well.
In 1867, Captain James Cass made the founding of Cayucos official, as we know it today. With the local dairy industry growing, he took advantage of Cayucos’ ideal position and built a port from which to ship goods. He established a warehouse and built the Cayucos Pier for steamers to collect and dispatch shipments across California. Many of Cayucos’ dairy farms ― and descendents from those ranching families ― remain in the area today. Captain Cass’ home also stands downtown, restored into a charming restaurant, inn and event venue called Cass House Cayucos.
Eat in Downtown Cayucos
Lunada Garden Bistro
Known for its fresh flavors and modern comfort food, Lunada Garden Bistro keeps locals and visitors coming back for more. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, all of which can be taken onto the pretty back garden patio. The building itself is quite historic: it’s the old Way Station for travelers coming and going along the coast. Built in 1876, the Way Station served generations of guests, including the Hearst family, traveling from their home in San Francisco. William Randolph Hearst continued to stay over at the Way Station as he built his famous estate, Hearst Castle, in San Simeon. Now a popular eatery, the Way Station still sees hungry diners arrive ready for refreshment. For dinner, find a full list of craft beer and local wines, steaks, salads, pasta, seafood, and more. Breakfast, brunch and lunch include sandwiches, salads, French toast and fish and chips. Ingredients are sourced locally wherever possible, and the overall vibe of the restaurant is charming, thoughtful, and delicious.
A visit to Cayucos deserves a meal at this beloved casual eatery. Grab breakfast or a cup of coffee (do not miss the world-famous cinnamon rolls!) before a walk on the beach. Or, if you’re hunting down lunch or dinner, get a tall burger, juicy steak, or crispy fish ‘n chips. If dessert is your thing, you’ll struggle to pick just one from the Sea Shanty’s many decadent desserts. (Try the “Rocky Mountain High Pie” with marshmallow-rice crust, rocky road ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter and white chocolate topping. Or the “Mudd Pie,” with chocolate cookie crust and butter pecan ice cream.) As you lick your spoon, check out the ceiling’s 1,000 hanging ball caps, or enjoy the comfort of the heated patio. Find the Sea Shanty on South Ocean Avenue, at the corner of Ocean Avenue and North 3rds Street.
Brown Butter Cookie Company
This one-of-a-kind sweet shop claims that “butter makes everything better.” If that’s true, the Brown Butter Cookie Company makes its customers feel like a million bucks. Crafted from a short list of ingredients ― browned butter, sugar, flour and sea salt ― these cookies have fans worldwide. Try the original Brown Butter Cookie, or venture out into other flavors like espresso, almond, cinnamon and coconut lime. For those who go gluten-free, the Brown Butter Cookie Company bakes several flavors without gluten. So grab a sample in the shop or purchase a box to bring home…if they make it that far. Find the Brown Butter Cookie Company on North Ocean Avenue, between D and E Streets.
Cafe della Via
This Old World trattoria brings a bit of Italy to Cayucos. Traditional dishes get a California twist, like orecchiette pasta tossed with sautéed shrimp in a white wine cream sauce, or savory pizzas on house-made crust. The thoughtful wine list includes local favorites as well as Italian bottles. Caffe della Via can be found on North Ocean Avenue between D Street and Cayucos Drive.
A fan favorite, Schooner’s has served fresh seafood, steaks, fish ‘n chips and burgers since 1993. The upstairs patio is unrivaled in terms of coastal views, and the nautical theme enhances the experience. Be sure to check the wine and beer lists, or try a craft cocktail and watch the sun set over the Pacific. Schooner’s is located on North Ocean Avenue between D Street and Cayucos Drive.
Duckie’s Chowder House
If you love clam chowder, you’ll be in clam heaven at Duckie’s. Here, they dish up both New England chowder (cream-based) and Manhattan Clam Chowder (tomato-based)l. To up the ante, try your chowder “Nolan-style” with bacon and croutons. Duckie’s also offers fish tacos, steamers and fish ‘n chips, as well as salads, sandwiches and sides. Wash it all down with a locally-made beer or glass of wine from their drinks list. And don’t forget the little duckies! Duckie’s takes care of the kids with a menu offering burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese and fish ‘n chips. Find Duckie’s at the start of the Cayucos Pier, at 55 Cayucos Drive.
Shopping in Cayucos
Main Street Antiques
This fun and rambling antique store carries a wide range of period furniture and collectibles. In its nooks and crannies, find anything from vintage trunks, model trains, cast-iron cookware or even a phone booth. The knowledgeable staff often has the backstory on the shop’s many treasures. Whatever tickles your fancy, you’re sure to find a bit of history to take home here. Main Street Antiques is located on North Ocean Avenue, between D Street and Cayucos Drive.
Remember When Antique Malls
Split across two locations, the Remember When Antique Malls bring vintage kitchenware, furnishings, clothing and more to downtown Cayucos. Find collectibles like Fiestaware, milk glass and depression glass pieces on the shelves. Restored shabby-chic furniture is also on display, with headboards, coffee tables, desks and dressers throughout. Lace, linens, jewelry and artwork: you name it, and it’s probably tucked away here. Remember When is located on North Ocean Avenue, between D Street and Cayucos Drive. Remember When Too can be found one block south, between D Street and E Street.
Good Clean Fun
Need help getting outfitted for your Cayucos beach adventure? Good Clean Fun takes fun very seriously. Wander into the surf shop for towels, sandals and toys, or head to the “Board Loft” for surfboards, bodyboards and skateboards. Good Clean Fun rents surfboards, bodyboards, wetsuits, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUP) for day use. For kayak tours of the coastline, kayak fishing tours or surf lessons, they are the experts. (Just be sure to make a reservation, as these are very popular!) To visit, find Good Clean Fun on Ocean Front Avenue between D Street and Cayucos Drive.
The Best Places to Shop
In addition to the shops mentioned above, Cayucos offers many other places to peruse, purchase, and enjoy. Whether you’re interested in vintage items, handmade goods, gifts, jewelry, art, or surfwear, you can find it all here. All family-owned, these are almost totally located in downtown Cayucos, on the main thoroughfare of North Ocean Avenue. One of the best parts about shopping downtown is its proximity to other attractions like Cayucos State Beach, and the Cayucos Pier. Check out the Cayucos Skate Park and let younger kids burn off steam at the beach playground between shops. Downtown Cayucos also offers restaurants, bakeries, wine tasting, cafes, and other dining, making this an ideal place to spend a day or even just an afternoon. For more information on specific businesses and what they sell, visit our page on Shopping in Cayucos. The expanded guide there will lead you to your new favorite shops and storefronts in charming Cayucos.
Art in Cayucos
Right downtown, find this colorful gallery and shop with a focus on the surf and skate culture for which Cayucos is known. Cayucos Collective was opened by a group of surf and skate artists who wanted a place to feature their work. They also custom print their work on tee shirts for customers, too. These are called “Take-Out Tee Shirts” as they’re made “fresh” and packaged in take-out containers to go. In addition to tee shirts, the Cayucos Collective prints hoodies and trucker hats for a classic beachy Cayucos vibe. The collective also sells sculpted pieces, jewelry, and other gifts, all made by local artisans with a deep love for Cayucos culture. Peruse the shop, pick out your favorite artwork, and buy it as a print or a high-quality, one-of-a-kind tee shirt. If you want to bring a bit of Cayucos home with you, this is a great place to start.
All Art of Cayucos
The fine and visual arts are a critical part of the culture of Cayucos—and one that’s easy to experience for yourself. In Cayucos galleries and artist studios you’ll find masterpieces based on the picturesque coastline that parallels Highway 1. It’s not uncommon to find prints, collages, paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures that portray aspects of seaside life here. Artists capture the waves, rolling coastal grasses, seabirds, whales, and more. To experience the breadth of their work, check our comprehensive guide to the places in Cayucos that feature the talents of visual artists. There, you’ll find in-depth information on where art-lovers should go, and what they should see in Cayucos. You can also discover eateries, attractions, hikes, historical places and shops that are close to these galleries and studios. Follow a bluff trail, watch for whales, or lounge at the beach, and see why artists are eager to capture Cayucos’s charm.
Events in Downtown Cayucos
Cayucos Farmers’ Market
Start a long summer weekend in Cayucos with the Cayucos Farmers’ Market, held Fridays, 10am-12:30pm, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Vendor booths burst with a wide variety of ripe produce, picked that morning. Bread, jam, juices and flowers can also often be found here, among other goodies. And don’t forget live music: nothing beats tapping your toes while shopping for fresh, local produce and products. The Cayucos Farmers’ Market is held at the corner of Ocean Avenue and D Street.
Sea Glass Festival
This favorite annual event features sea glass ―the result of glass that’s worn and smoothed by tumbling in the sea. A collaboration between man-made materials and nature’s process, sea glass is prized by collectors across the globe. On the first weekend in March, many of those collectors descend on downtown Cayucos to celebrate these unique “gems.” Find jewelers and artists who use seaglass for their pieces, as well as live music and plenty of food. Look for “Mermaid March” displays of mermaids throughout the month of March in many local businesses. And don’t miss the Mermaid Ball in the evening, featuring dancing, a chowder cook-off, and prizes for the best-dressed mermaid and mer-couple. The Sea Glass Festival is held at the Veterans Hall at 10 Cayucos Drive in downtown Cayucos.
Polar Bear Dip
Every New Year’s Day, over 1,000 people plunge into the frosty waves for the Carlin Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip. All ages come out to pack the beach for this beloved local tradition, featuring crazy costumes, hilarious team names and drum circles. Festivities beginning at 9:30am by the Cayucos Pier, and the dip takes place at noon every January 1st.
Cayucos Wine & Food Festival
For wine lovers and foodies, the annual Cayucos Wine & Food Festival gathers boutique wineries from the area for a memorable grand tasting. Chefs and area restaurants pair dishes with the wines, and local artists and jewelers show their work. The event also features live music from local musicians. Each ticket includes all wine tasting, small bites, and a commemorative Riedel glass. The Cayucos Wine & Food Festival takes place each November in downtown Cayucos.
Semi-Annual Cayucos Antique Street Faire
Every October and May, antique vendors occupy multiple blocks of Ocean Avenue to sell treasures, art, and memorabilia. This semi-annual antique faire brings collectors and antique-hunters from all over the world in the hopes of scoring a find. The street faire also features live music and food available for purchase. The Cayucos Antique Street Faire takes place along Ocean Avenue in downtown Cayucos.
Cayucos 4th of July Celebration
Nothing says “summer fun” quite like the 4th of July in Cayucos. Every year, the town puts on its red, white and blue for a boisterous, quirky parade down Ocean Avenue. Locals and visitors alike pack the sidewalk to celebrate the many hometown heroes, businesses, and clubs that take part. But the 4th of July Celebration is a whole-day affair! Before the parade, witness the annual sand sculpture contest, open to all ages, that takes over Cayucos Beach. And following the parade, dine on delicious barbecue prepared by the Cayucos Lion’s Club at the Veterans Hall downtown. In the afternoon, the Cayucos Lionesses host a major game of bingo, open to all, at the Veterans Hall. And once evening descends, people stake out a spot along the beach for a festive fireworks display from the Cayucos Pier. The annual Cayucos 4th of July Celebration takes place across downtown Cayucos between Highway 1 exit 284 and B Street.
Ready to travel beyond the boundaries of downtown Cayucos? This community extends past downtown, from the ocean to the hills, and offers something for everyone. Bring the whole family out to experience the best parks in Cayucos, including Hardie Park and the 3rd Street Pocket Park. Along the shoreline, explore Cayucos’s fascinating and abundant tidepools—tiny worlds available right at the water’s edge, begging to be discovered. We can guide you to the locals’ favorite secret fishing spots for lake fishing, surf fishing, rock fishing and kayak fishing. You’ll also find the very best waves along Highway 1, for everyone from beginners to advanced surfers. For cyclists, check out our long list of cycling routes that travel the backroads and coastal byways around Cayucos. And when you’re happily exhausted from it all? Find our authoritative guide to day spas in the area that will bring you to a state of bliss and relaxation.