The 4-Hour Rule: Cayucos

A weekend of secluded beaches, hiking and wine

By Reuben Brody

This May Be the Best Beach Hideaway in All of California
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13 September 2016

Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The 4hr. Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.

When the weight of the world becomes too much to bear, remember this:

You can always drive up the coast, breathe in that soft Pacific air and hole up in a hidden beach burg where no one knows your name.

Or, as we like to call it, Cayucos.

Nestled between Morro Bay and Cambria, Cayucos is a no-stop-light town with no attractions — which is precisely its attraction. The beach is wide, the hiking trails meandering and the tide pools secluded.

STAY: Cass House

Cass House is one of the oldest properties in Cayucos and was the house of the town founder, who farmed and fished there. The rooms are small but well appointed. Every morning, breakfast is made from veggies harvested in the garden and bread baked on the premises.

Nota bene: Bring your own toiletries and warm layers for the evening.

EAT: The Grill

When the new owners took over Cass House, they added an outdoor restaurant with a wood-burning grill and pizza oven. There’s a bar surrounding the kitchen, and the locals sit here and dip in and out of each other’s conversations. The menu is seasonal and very simple: pizzas, flatbreads, roasted meats and fresh vegetables. Definitely eat both of your dinners here, and be sure to make reservations, as it closes early.

PICNIC: The Bakery

Next to the Cass Grill is their Bakery, which is open for breakfast and lunch. Come in here for some to-go sandwiches for your hiking or beach trips. Also, you may want to pack something for the trip home in case there’s traffic (there will be traffic).

WINE TASTING: Law Estate Wines

Law Estate Wines isn’t the sort of vineyard that shuttles tourists through — you’ve got to make a reservation and be a serious taster. You’ll wander about a modern manse overlooking 57 acres of Rhone-style vines and talk to the winemakers about their award-winning wines. Their 2013s are available for preorder, and their Fall pick-up party is September 24-25th.  

HIKING: Montaña de Oro State Park

Montaña de Oro State Park is about 30 minutes from Cass House and home to a cornucopia of trails, some of which skirt the jagged coast and dip into tide pools. The Valencia Trail goes up some 1,347 feet up, and there’s a picnic table at the peak.

BEACHING: Across the street

The beach is directly across the street from the Cass House. Just walk. It’s big and cold. There’s a surfboard/paddleboard rental place, and if it’s calm enough, a SUP adventure would be an invigorating way to start the day.   

DANCING: The Madonna Inn

Most stuff in this neck of the woods closes very early; however, the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo has swing dancing on Saturday night. The gauche pink interiors are camp to the hilt, and the cakes and cocktails are overloaded with sugar, but if you don’t have fun here, something is wrong with you. There are some serious swing dancers on the floor, but no one is judging, so get out there and cut a rug.

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