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About Pirate’s Cove Beach in Avila Beach, California

Pirate’s Cove is a well-known clothing optional beach between Avila Beach and the Shell Beach area of Pismo Beach, California. This south-facing cove is somewhat protected from the weather and attracts many locals looking for a comfortable clothingless beach atmosphere.

Pirate’s Cave and other sea caves are nearby so the area on the bluff has been named Cave Landing. Trails begin at the main parking area and meander around the bluff. One such trail, called the Shell Beach Bluff Trail, begins at the parking lot and traverses the hillside behind Pirate’s Cove all the way to Indio Drive in Shell Beach where a small public parking area can be found. This is a short section of the state-long California Coastal Trail which runs from Oregon to Mexico. Another trail for hikers who want to take a long route to get here is called the Ontario Ridge Trail which begins on Shell Beach Road near El Portal Drive.

The most direct route to Pirate’s Cove is from the main parking area at the end of Cave Landing Road which branches off Avila Beach Drive. From this lot walk east on a path and a sign will point you to either the beach or the main cave. Note that the trail to Pirates Beach is somewhat steep and can be challenging. Be careful on your hike down and stay away from the cliffs as falls have happened here.

The main cave is actually a tunnel through the rock which leads to a stunning viewpoint of the ocean and San Luis Bay. More hidden caves can be found below on what is known as Cave Landing Beach. This is considered one of the hardest beaches to get to.

San Luis Obispo County has taken over ownership of the land around the cove and promise to make improvements to the property in the future. Locals have resisted these changes hoping to protect the rural feel of the unimproved site.

The name of Pirate’s Cove comes from the history of the cove when liquor was smuggled into the area on ships headed to Port San Luis Harbor.

Cave Landing Rd
Avila Beach, CA 93401
County Beach
Pet Details
Dogs allowed on leash
Free parking
Sunbathing, Hiking
Trails, Caves, Tide Pools, No Facilities
Map of Pirate’s Cove Beach
Miles, US
10:28 am, June 24, 2024
temperature icon 78°F
L: 58° H: 79°
Feels like 77.76 °F few clouds
Wind gusts: 2 m/s
UV Index: 8.47
Precipitation: 0.04 inch
Visibility: 10 km
Sunrise: 5:49 am
Sunset: 8:21 pm
Humidity 44 %
Pressure1011 mb
Wind 2 m/s

Nearby Beaches

Cave Landing Beach

0.2 miles away

Cave Landing Beach is a hidden and hard-to-reach beach below Cave Landing in Avila Beach, California. Most of the...

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South Palisades Park

1.1 miles away

South Palisades Park is a linear grassy park along the bluff in the Shell Beach area of Pismo Beach....

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Nearby Attractions

Nearby Lodging


2 review(s)
Very good50%
May 29, 2024

Pirates cove is kewl but beware snapshot shooters wanting to pry into your visit there, from the cliffs above it…perverted fools and creeps! There’s a cave on the southeastern edge of the beach and many sincere beachgoers are quite friendly and kind…kind of dangerous surf but a nice area for sunbathing…sad nobody thought enough to place an outhouse there but fun can be experienced if one puts up a volleyball net and offers liquid refreshments.

July 31, 2023

With the slow county (SLO) now watching the beach has the reputation improved? Is there a group advocating for the beach with rules and amenities for the beach?

Chuck Hutchins