California has a few surprises left along its popular coastline. This one sits halfway between L.A. and San Francisco.
By Heather John

Sandy beaches and a balmy breeze usually translate into crowds. But the bohemian backwater of Cayucos has managed to operate happily below the tourism radar of California's Central Coast. On a sunny Saturday morning, a handful of die hard surfers brave the waves, while a lone fisherman tries his luck off the town's historic pier. Main Street can't help but be picturesque, with its funky old buildings, antiques shops, and seafood cafes.

Still, even on weekends, it seems more like a ghost town than prime seaside real estate just 21 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo, the county seat and home to Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University). Cayucos is a place that time forgot. That, according to locals, is its biggest selling point.

With the area so glorious, says artist Peter Ladochy (known statewide for his mosaic murals), "it's a struggle to keep it from becoming like the rest of California. Cayucos is still a haven."

The name Cayucos (pronounced Ki-YOO-kus) comes from the kayak-like boats used by Chumash Indians who settled here 10,000 years ago. Europeans came later. In the 1860s, Capt. James Cass built the town's wharf, which remains as a public pier. History provides the foundation for community life.

Archaeologist John Parker moved here 12 years ago. "The central California coast was intriguing," he says. "I stopped in Cayucos on vacation and knew I wanted to live here." John's relocation proved to be professionally beneficial. "There are prehistoric cultures dating back 9,000 years," he says. Remnants from Chumash and Salinan village life give him plenty to study.

Peter, the muralist, also uses the area's ancestry as the focus for his work. For a mosaic sculpture in Hardie Park, he consulted with tribe representatives. Locals helped construct a megalith honoring the region's first inhabitants. "For years, this sculpture will serve its community, reflecting a heritage we can all learn from with pride," Peter says. The idea works, as residents choose this park as a gathering spot.

Muriel Wright, another local artist, calls it "a wonderful place to sit, drink in the sunshine, and contemplate this beautiful area.