Avila Beach is one of California’s best kept secrets.It’s a hidden gem located on the San Luis Obispo Bayabout 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and about 200 miles south of San Francisco. It faces south and the 600 foot elevation of Point San Luis breaks the prevailing northwesterly winds; therefore it is usually warmer than the other beaches on the Central Coast with an average annual temperature of 69 degrees.
The name Avila commemorates Miguel Ávila, who was granted Rancho San Miguelito in 1842. The town was established in the latter half of the 19th century, when it served as the main shipping port for San Luis Obispo. Around this time, Luigi Marre built a honeymoon hotel here and steamboats brought customers from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Avila Beach is also known for its natural hot springs.
Although Avila Beach still has a working commercial fishing pier and the inland areas have extensive apple orchards, tourism is now the main industry. There are few historical structures remaining; among the oldest is the Point San Luis Lighthouse, built in 1890 after a series of shipping accidents.
Avila Beach has three piers: Avila Beach Pier, 1,685 feet in length, is open to tourist strolling and recreational fishing; Harford Pier, which is for commercial fishing boats to offload their wares since 1873; and the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly SLO) Pier, part of the university's marine research program, is not publicly accessible. In recent years, the piers have become a site for whale watching as grays and humpback whales come into the bay during the feeding season.
In one of the biggest environmental settlements in California history, Unocal agreed to pay up to $200 million to remove a massive oil spill beneath Avila Beach. In 1999, Unocal began the cleanup of over 6,750 truckloads of contaminated material and replaced it with clean Guadalupe Dunes sand. Many of the town's homes and businesses, including several blocks of Front Street, were demolished as a result of the quarter-mile-wide excavation. New buildings, homes, businesses, modern walkways and sea motif walls and benches were constructed, which gives Avila Beach its redefined look and feel.
Avila Beach offers many things to do including beach relaxation, surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, whale watching, golfing, hiking, biking, wine tasting, many restaurants and dessert places, local produce and farmers market, concerts and events, aquarium, tours, shopping, spas and salons.