This Coastal California Town Has Unreal Whale Watching and Outdoor Hot Spring Tubs You Can Rent by the Hour

A coastal hike followed by a hot spring soak? Yes, please.

There's plenty to see and do off California's Pacific Coast Highway — from the sea lion rookery north of San Simeon to the vineyards of Edna Valley. But the coastal community of Avila Beach is often — mistakenly — overlooked.

Two people walking at Sunset at Avila Beach
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Thanks to Avila's protected location on the northern side of San Luis Obispo Bay, the weather tends to be a little warmer and a little sunnier than the rest of the Central Coast, making the palm tree-lined beachfront even more appealing. And while the stretch of white sand, pier, oceanfront restaurants, and shops are an obvious draw, look a little closer and you'll find an outdoor-lover's paradise.

Avila Beach promenade. Avila Beach is a charming beach town, located on the beautiful Central Coast of California.
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From Highway 1, you can hop on the Bob Jones Trail, a paved biking and walking trail that leads straight to the beach. The three-mile, one-way path runs next to San Luis Obispo Creek and the fields of Avila Valley Barn, a local farm. You can pick up peaches, raspberries, blackberries, or apples from the farm stand (depending on the season) or drop by Avila Hot Springs, a public pool and hot mineral springs with camping and cabins for rent.

Avila Beach Pier at Dusk with pink and purple hued skies
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The hot mineral soaking pool at Avila Hot Springs is a must, but travelers who come to Avila Beach for the natural hot water won't want to leave without a visit to Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. The resort has funneled their share of mineral water to 24 open-air tubs — set on a scenic hillside — that anyone (even those not staying at the resort) can rent by the hour. Visitors can also rent the expansive, private, human-made lagoon with a waterfall by the hour. And the resort's overnight guests will enjoy their own private tubs adjacent to their rooms.

People enjoying Avila Beach near the pier on a sunny blue sky day
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In addition to hot springs, warm weather, and a stunning strip of sand, the coastal waters off Avila Beach are home to sea otters and sea lions, and perhaps most notably, pods of gray whales. It is estimated that up to 20,000 gray whales pass Avila Beach on their bi-annual journey between Mexico, where they breed and give birth, and Alaska, where they feed. The great mammals can often be viewed right from Avila Beach Pier, but for an up-close look, you might want to book a tour with Avila Beach Whale Watching or rent a kayak and paddle into the bay.

Avila Beach city promenade filled with restaurants, shops, patios, benches, and art.
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Kayak is the perfect mode of transportation for those looking to visit the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse, which has looked out over Avila and the bay since 1889. The lighthouse has a truly Instagrammable tree swing facing the ocean and tours every Wednesday and Saturday. Visitors who aren't up for a paddle across the bay can book a shuttle or make their way to the lighthouse on the Pecho Coast Trail, which is just under four miles.

Learn more about the coastal enclave of Avila Beach here.

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