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Pirate's Cove and Smuggler's Cave

San Luis Obispo, California, USA


It's a great delight to discover the view at Pirate's Cove. You stand high above and look down at yellow cliffs, headlands, and waves rushing into sea caves below. You can walk down a steep, though easy, gravel path on the west (right) side of the parking lot and see the caves from closer. There is a lot of erosion in this area, as is attested to by Cave Landing Rd, which used to connect here to The Bluffs neighborhood but collapsed.
There's another path on the east (left) side of the parking lot that leads to more views: an arch of white rock, rock formations in the ocean, and the beach across the water. It lies below ritzy The Bluffs, a development of mansions. This is a fun path because there is plenty of climbing to be done up steep sandstone rock. Kids love it! They are on top of the world, where they believe they undeniably belong!
Another path on the east (left) side of the parking lot (with a white scratched-up sign at the beginning) leads down (on the right fork) to Smuggler's Cave, which is more like an arch. If you stand in the cave you look out on one side at Shell Beach and on the other at Avila Beach. It's very beautiful. There is some graffiti in the cave. The left fork of this path leads to a lovely sheltered beach where boats are anchored. This is Pirate's Cove, a nude beach.
While you're in the area, check out Avila Beach, a lively town with cafes, a pier, and a beautiful beach to stroll along. There is a great playground, Avila Beach Playground, beside Central Coast Aquarium, with plenty of marinelife to check out.

Photo Gallery

View to the east from the trail on the west side.

White arch.

Beach below The Bluffs neighborhood.

Looking down at the beach from the Smuggler's Cave hike.

Smuggler's Cave.

View from inside Smuggler's Cave.

View toward Avila Beach from Smuggler's Cave.

Catamaran at the beach near Smuggler's Cave.

I love rocky coastlines!

Pathway with views!

Hikers at the top!


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

Exit Highway 101 at Avila Beach Drive. From Avila Beach Drive, turn left on Cave Landing Rd and follow it as it head uphill. You will come to a parking lot. Park and enjoy the three fantastic short walks!
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