Tuesday, November 13 , 2018, 2:47 pm | Fair 72º


Donna Polizzi

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Pirate’s Cove Will Capture Your Heart as You Explore the Central Coast

Secluded beach, an enchanting cave, challenging trails and endless views of Avila and Port San Luis are all part of the treasure you’ll discover


The Central Coast offers some of the best views and hiking trails on the Pacific coastline, and Pirate’s Cove in San Luis Obispo County is one of the best.

Wedged between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, Pirate’s Cove is somewhat remote in that there is only one road in and out.

To get there, take the Avila Beach Drive exit off Highway 101 toward Avila Beach. As you make your way down the shady, windy road, look for Cave Landing Road on the left and follow the steep, two-lane road to the top of the hill and a dirt parking lot.

Many locals like visiting Pirate’s Cove because it offers such a diverse experience. You have visitors who simply want to get incredible views of the coast, and others 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 boasts a clothing-optional section down one trail.

Don’t worry, though. You won’t see these beach bums basking in the sun, unless you go down the steps that are carved into the rock, for easy access.

On another end, there is a family friendly beach, where you will find children of all ages playing in the sand.

Pirate’s Cove is a true hidden gem, known by locals as Smuggler’s Cave.

After parking, head into the opening in the brush to a short but sweet hiking trail, which 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 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 rappel down or to carry a load of beach gear. 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 toward the top of the rocks, where you can get a view from up on top of the cave.

Pirate’s Cove is also a starting point of a glorious hiking trail on Avila Ridge. Locals head there to get a strenuous workout in one of the best and most popular hiking spots on the Central Coast. From the parking lot, the trail begins at the base of another enormous hillside. Feed your determination to reach the top because the views are well worth the huffing and puffing.

Once at the top, the trail continues along the ridge, ensuring that you’ll see Avila’s best scenery. There’s a bird’s-eye view of Pirate’s Cove, Avila Beach, Port San Luis and much more, including the beautiful, multimillion-dollar homes lining the coastline. Keep walking along the trail and you’ll find beautiful oak trees that provide shade on warmer days, and even a rope swing.

After you’ve had a chance to enjoy the ocean vista, turn to look at the other side, where you can get an amazing look at southern San Luis Obispo County’s majestic landscape. The beauty is astounding on the Avila Ridge hike, and the variety of blooming plants and wildlife change with every visit.

There also is a branch of the trail that leads you down through the Avila Hot Springs area and into the Bob Jones Trail.

While the trek 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 regional travel expert and founder of Keys 2 the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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