A Little Piece of Heaven – Avila Beach, CA
Avila Lighthouse Suites
Avila is almost smack dabbed in between Los Angeles (160 miles) and San Francisco (200 miles). Avila Beach used to have a large commercial fishing industry, but today there is more apple industry from the orchards and tourism.
Most of my childhood was spent running through my grandparent’s orchard in See Canyon right by Avila Beach. My cousins and I would head out their back door at breakfast time and not come back till night had fallen. We would return with dirt under our nails and stories to tell our grandparents about lizards, forts and adventures.
Avila holds many memories. On most days Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and Montana De Oro were encased in fog Avila Beach would be sunny. The reason for this is because the beach is sheltered in San Luis Bay. Avila Beach faces south with a 600 foot elevation and with Point of San Luis on the west and Fossil Point on the east of the beach they help stop northwesterly winds. The mountains helps dissipate the fog early in the morning and make Avila warmer than other coastal California cities. It is called the Avila Bubble.
Some days we would walk along the shores of the beach with our heads hung down looking for sand dollars. I was lucky enough to be able to take that walk with my own children and find a sand dollar to share with them. They were amazed at these shells that were once alive. I enjoyed being able to show my children a wonder they never knew existed before. When I was a kid and the days got real hot, we would wander over to Avila Beach to enjoy the sand, sun, and the ocean. This also means in the summer when it is 80 degrees this was the first beach that was packed with people. I remember trying to walk over people and not find an inch of empty sand.
Now today most of the Avila that I knew as a child is gone. The store fronts, houses, and businesses that made up the landscape have been replaced in one giant swipe of a bulldozer. The only original site that still greets everyone who pulls up to park on Front Street is the giant pinkish peach hotel with the giant letters that say Inn at Avila Beach.
Years ago a resident discovered oil and gas on his land when he started digging. Unocal had around five large containers perched on a hill right above Avila Beach with the pipeline running right under Front Street. Unocal discovered that the pipe started seeping crude oil under the city as far back as 1977 and did nothing about it. When it was discovered, Unocal had to accept responsibility and start the massive cleanup. No exact amounts of how many gallons of crude oil, were dumped in Avila Beach, the ecosystem of Avila and worse yet into the Pacific ocean, however, there have been numbers from 20,000 gallons upwards of 400,0000,000 million gallons. When they started digging, it was discovered that the pipes under the township were corroding. Six square blocks of private dwellings were demolished including historical houses, businesses that included several blocks of the iconic Front Street and Front Street buildings. Over 6,750 truckloads of contaminated material were taken away and had to be replaced with clean Guadalupe Dunes sand.
The town was rebuilt with brand new buildings, homes, and businesses. Modern walkways were put in with sea motifs and benches. A Sea Life Center welcomes visitors to explore local ocean creatures up close.
When I took my family to visit California two years ago, I wanted to stay someplace on the ocean so that I could enjoy the sounds and smells. I also wanted my children to know what it felt like to fall asleep with the ocean waves in the background, the saltiness of the ocean being wafted in and the occasional bark of a seal. That is why we chose the Avila Lighthouse Suites at Avila. However, if staying on the beach is not a priority I would also recommend staying at Avila Village Inn. It is not on the Ocean at all, but the accommodations are amazing, and the staff is friendly. If you are looking for a little piece of heaven away from the hub bub of the tourist area, Avila Village Inn could work for you.Avila Lighthouse Suites
550 Front Street,
Avila Beach, CA 93424
Phone – 805-627-1900
I didn’t feel the need to make reservations for a place to stay because I knew all the hotels pretty well. I know there are a lot of great ones in San Luis Obispo County. If I couldn’t find one in Avila Beach we could have easily gone south a little bit to Pismo Beach, or north to Morro Bay. It was the off season, so I felt pretty good about our chances. My mom had grown up in Avila and graduated from Arroyo Grande High School so I asked her where we should go, and she immediately said the Avila Lighthouse Suites
***FYI Zac Efron also graduated from Arroyo Grande High School – my daughters were excited at the thought the he might be around the area, he wasn’t.
We did splurge on the Villa Suite. The reason for this was two fold.
- We had spent two weeks traveling over 2500 miles with our three children in a mini van across the United States, and we needed to spread out a little and pamper ourselves.
- When we looked at the price difference between the Suites and the Villas, it was only about $100 difference maybe a little more. The extra room we got, the quiet, and the view was worth it. Overall the same level of room anywhere else in California would well be double what we paid.
The outside of the building is nice. At first one might think that they had wandered into a vacation condo community. It has a very relaxed feel. The courtyard and outside was clean, and that is always a good sign. The lobby had the feel of a country club. You immediately smile and feel lighter and brighter. It has an all nautical and lighthouse feel, but not done kitschy.
Each Villa has a nice balcony, but ours overlooked the pool area. In Avila there is not really any hotels that are smack dab on the beach with nothing in their way. However, at this hotel the Deluxe Oceanfront Master Suite may be the only rooms in Avila that is the closest to being right on the ocean. I can’t say for sure, but it looked like it might be.
The balconies are nice just to sit outside on and listen to the ocean, the sites and the sounds. I did enjoy sitting on the balcony while my teenage daughters were in the pool. They are “too cool” to have mom sitting next to them, so I was able to keep an eye on them from the balcony.
I am jumping to the pool before the room to make a quick point. It might seem silly to have a pool when the ocean is right there. The ocean is natures pool. When we came into California, my daughters were adamant about swimming in the ocean. I told them it was nothing like Lake Michigan. It was salty, cold, there was seaweed, animals, rip currents, and waves that could knock you on your tookis. They were not deterred, and away they went. They stayed out there longer than I expected. Until a family of curious seals started getting close, circling them and then darting around their legs. You would have thought Jaws himself had been seen. It was then that I was very happy to have a pool for my girls to enjoy peacefully. In addition, my 3-year-old son was not interested in going into the ocean but he did enjoy the pool. The pool and pool area was clean and fenced. It was properly maintained and a great place to spend some time.
The Villa Suites are about 1100 square feet and compromise of two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It also has a living room with a fireplace and a pull out queen size bed. The master bedroom features a King size bed, a fireplace and a private bathroom. The second bedroom has two Queen beds. The room also featured a wet bar, microwave and fridge along with the standard coffee maker, hair dryer, 37″ flat screen TVs, and WIFI. They do have nice Bath & Body works toiletries in the bathroom for guests which us three girls all enjoyed.
When we checked in are daughters were treated with beach toys by their beds. Not sure if this is for everyone or if they put them in there when we told them our kids had never been to a the beach before. They enjoyed playing with the beach ball and my son enjoyed using the shovel and pail in the sand. It was a nice touch.
The décor is beach driven and the colors are calming. It is current and not over done. Does it feel cutting edge? No, but it doesn’t feel stale or like a cookie cutter hotel. It feels like someone put some thought into the room décor. When you come in from a day at the beach, your room keeps you in the vacation mindset. Some hotels have rooms that make you feel like you are in any hotel in any city in the world. I appreciated still feeling like I was in California in Avila Beach.
Avila Lighthouse Suites has three different rooms types, and each has their benefits. Some rooms have a full-size refrigerators in them, which makes it easier to not eat out for every meal. The staff was very helpful in putting us in a room that would make us happy. When talking to them about booking your room tell them exactly what you want. For example, I don’t want any car noise, or I don’t want to be around families, and they will do what they can to accommodate you.
The bed was comfortable, and the bedding was nice. It wasn’t super luxurious, but it wasn’t rock hard. I was pretty sure that it was a latex mattress like one of these reviewed by BestMattress-reviews.org. It was clean and not stained. I guess when you think of things that blew you away about your stay the bed wouldn’t pop up in your head but if someone asked what could be improved the bed wouldn’t pop up there either.
The front desk clerk was very helpful at making sure the room we were picking out was right for our family. I didn’t run into anyone that was unpleasant to deal with they were all happy to help.
The Spa at Avila Lighthouse Suites does treatments in your room or in their spa. My husband decided that after 2500 miles I could indulge a little and get a massage, so he took the kids out, and I booked an in room massage. I chose an in room because then I could lay right down after and catch a nap. No getting dressed after and no walking back to the room. I requested a woman obviously, and they were happy to oblige. I got the Pas De Duex massage which was pricey, but you are getting two massage therapists instead of one, so it’s really like an 180-minute massage. The two therapists work together and massage at the same time. It can be done for 90 or 60 minutes. I went for 90 minutes. It was amazing. One of the best massages of my life. I was really glad to have had it done in my room because after they were done, and I got off the massage table I went right to bed and slept for 30 minutes.
The star of this hotel is the available pool for anyone that doesn’t want to swim in the ocean, the calmness of the décor, the in room spa treatments, the price for the rooms, and the overall room. My whole family really enjoyed the experience.