Cayucos Is the California Beach Town of Your Midwinter Dreams

Sunshine, whale-watching and smoked albacore tacos

Welcome to your low key midwinter getaway.
Ken Ohyama/Unsplash

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 Four-Hour Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.

Cayucos is the perfect close-to-home midwinter destination, especially if you’re not into snow: It’s only a few hours’ drive, but it’s often a solid 15 degrees warmer than North Beach. Mendocino? We love it, but we love January sunshine more. 

Sample forecasts for this coming Friday: Mendocino, 58 and fog. Cayucos, 73 and sunny. We know where we’re going. 

(On the Beach B&B)
On the Beach


You can find plenty of places to spend more along this stretch of Pacific coastline, but one of Cayucos’s many blessings is a relaxed (read: not extortionate) lodging scene. You’ll find everything you want at the On the Beach B&B, with antique furniture, jacuzzis, private balconies and a breakfast so solid it’s featured in a collection of recipes, Best Breakfast on the Beach, by the chef, Maureen Handshy. 


Myriad Top 10 sunset pictures have been shot at Estero Bluffs State Park; if you’ve ever been the sort of person who likes long walks on the beach, here’s your chance to prove it, with four miles of trail right along the bluffs. Most exciting of all: in December and January, you can spot gray whales heading south; they’ll make the return trip in March and April. You can also see dolphins, sea lions, and other aquatic wildlife, a claim this drone-shot footage, shot near the bluffs, should prove. If you’re looking to get a little closer, sign up for a lesson or tour (private or group) with the local kayaking outfitter

(Facebook/Ruddell’s Smokehouse)


Jim Ruddell devoted a portion of his life to smoking foods better than anyone else — taste the fruits of his education at Smoker Jim’s, famous for its smoked albacore tacos. Keep an eye at The Grill at Cass House for the return of its pop-up Community Nights dinners — you might get lucky. Otherwise, continue the casual-outdoors vibe at Duckie’s, with terrific, classic seafood (like New England chowder served with bacon and croutons) and bay views. 


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