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

By Heather John
June 25, 2002
Kindra Clineff

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

Still, even on weekends, it seems more like a ghost town thanprime seaside real estate just 21 miles northwest of San LuisObispo, the county seat and home to Cal Poly (CaliforniaPolytechnic 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 (knownstatewide for his mosaic murals), "it's a struggle to keep it frombecoming like the rest of California. Cayucos is still ahaven."

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

Archaeologist John Parker moved here 12 years ago. "The centralCalifornia coast was intriguing," he says. "I stopped in Cayucos onvacation and knew I wanted to live here." John's relocation provedto be professionally beneficial. "There are prehistoric culturesdating back 9,000 years," he says. Remnants from Chumash andSalinan village life give him plenty to study.

Peter, the muralist, also uses the area's ancestry as the focusfor his work. For a mosaic sculpture in Hardie Park, he consultedwith tribe representatives. Locals helped construct a megalithhonoring the region's first inhabitants. "For years, this sculpturewill serve its community, reflecting a heritage we can all learnfrom with pride," Peter says. The idea works, as residents choosethis park as a gathering spot.

Muriel Wright, another local artist, calls it "a wonderful placeto sit, drink in the sunshine, and contemplate this beautifularea.