America's Coolest Small Towns: Cayucos

Every now and then, you stumble upon a town that's gotten everything right—great coffee, food with character, shop owners with purpose.

Cayucos, California
Cayucos, California (Courtesy Amanda Freidman)
Cayucos, California
Cayucos, California (Courtesy Amanda Freidman)

CAYUCOS, CALIFORNIA (pop. 3,000)
serious waves and serious food

About halfway between San Francisco and L.A., Cayucos is everything you want in a mellow beach town—an anomaly on the increasingly built-up coast. While the vibe is decidedly relaxed, two things get residents fired up: serious waves and serious food. Surfer Wade Rumble bridges both worlds as owner of Rogue Wave Cafe, where most mornings, after drying off his board, he sells fair-trade, organic coffee beans (72 S. Ocean Ave., roguewavecafe.com).

Just off Highway 1, Cayucos requires a dedicated detour, which has helped it remain untouched. "We have beautiful beaches and beautiful people," says Christa Hozie, who runs Brown Butter Cookie Company with her sister Traci Nickson; the duo make super-addictive sea-salt-topped cookies (250 N. Ocean Ave., brownbuttercookies.com, $13/dozen). "I came to visit three years ago and thought it was such a magical place," explains Hozie.

Grace Lorenzen had a similar reaction. She moved back to the Central Coast from Seattle in 2002 and now manages the five-room Cass House Inn (222 N. Ocean Ave., casshouseinn.com, from $165). The restored 1860s Victorian has a fitting soundtrack for the coastal town: the lulling surf.

Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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