Pirates Cove


Pirates Cove, a place along the beach where you can get away from cell reception. With a small cliff face to climb getting to the beach, makes for this little cove secluded. The parking lot seems to be busy, but there are several trails leading to different beaches. I was unaware this was a nude beach until I got there. But once down the cliff face and on the beach of the cove I can understand where to go and enjoy the beach without the worry of tan lines.

The wildlife that I observed was mostly birds, Western sea gulls, little egrets and black oystercatchers.


The adventure begins from a large dirt parking area at the end of Cave Landing Road just outside Avila Beach. There are beautiful ocean views from the trailhead, and things only improve out on the trail. Pick up the southbound single track on the left side of the rocky point jutting into the Pacific. Coastal scrub lines the trail, leaving ample headroom for stunning views down the coast toward Shell Beach and Pismo Beach. After a short distance, there comes to a T-junction marked by a unique punched-out metal sign. To the left, a trail descends to Pirate’s Cove, where you may see naked bathers enjoying this clothing-optional beach. Only hit the sands if you are prepared to walk the plank (or walk the walk).

Turn right to continue to the natural twenty-foot tunnel at the end of Cave Landing. Walk through Pirate’s Cave to the ocean-view balcony on the other side. Peer out over the sheer cliff at the rocky shore below. To the west is the rugged coastline of San Luis Obispo Bay including Whaler’s Rock on the far side of Avila Beach.

Graffiti and broken glass mar the beauty of this short hiking retreat. In addition to nudists, this is also a popular casting off point for local fisherman. After taking in the cave, return the way you came for a memorable fifteen-minute hike.

Nearby trails allow further exploration. There is a single track traveling down the top of the headland above the cave, and other paths venturing west across the bluffs toward Avila Beach. Shell Beach Bluff Trail heads east around Pirate’s Cove along a mansion-lined road to Shell Beach. Behind that is Ontario Ridge Trail, which explores the 700-foot ridge that rises over Cave Landing. These trails may be hiked as a loop. No fee or permit is required to visit Pirate’s Cave, so get out and enjoy.

To get to the trailhead: From the 101 Freeway seven miles south of San Luis Obispo, exit on Avila Beach Drive and head west for two miles toward Avila Beach. A mile before the beach town, turn left up Cave Landing Road. Drive half a mile to the end of the road and pull into the large dirt parking area on the left.

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One thought on “Pirates Cove

  1. Pingback: Life Lessons From My First Solo Travel to The Most Famous Cove In Luzon | Stories of My Wandering Feet (& Mind)

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