Pirate's Cove Beach, Avila Bay: The Complete Guide

Pirate's Cove from the Avila Ridge Trail

m+s mumby / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Pirate's Cove in Avila Bay should not be confused with Pirate's Cove in Los Angeles or Pirate's Cove in Marin County. This beach is also called Cave Landing or Mallagh Landing.

The quarter-mile-long cove is one of the most beautiful nude beach settings in California. Some people who go there keep their clothing on, but a large number of folks also go there for nude recreation. Read on for our complete guide to the beach.

Nude Recreation at Pirate's Cove

Expect to find both clothed and naked people at Pirate's Cove. The clothing optional part of the beach is at the far end from where the trail reaches the sand. Almost half of the visitors are women and about 10 percent are families.

Unlike some other beaches, there are no fishermen at Pirate's, so it's easy to walk without fear of getting a hook where you don't want it.

Gawkers are often a nuisance at Pirate's Cove. Some of them sit on the cliffs above the beach but others walk along the beach with a beer in hand as if they think others are there solely to amuse them. Women may find them particularly intimidating, but regulars try to keep them from harming anyone.

Essential Information

This part of the coast is often foggy (and cold) all day, especially during conditions called June Gloom which can happen anytime between May and August.

There are no facilities at Pirate's Cove. No restrooms, no water, or anything else. It can make for an uncomfortable situation and the only civilized thing to do is take care of business before you go or leave when you need to.

People have complained about crime, litter, and vandalism at Pirate's Cove for decades, but opponents of any development along the coastline have made it difficult. In late 2018, the county announced plans to do something about those problems but it may be as long as two years before they can start their project and even then, it's unclear whether it will include any kind of restrooms.

How to Get to Pirate's Cove Beach

Pirate's Cove is about 7 to 9 miles south of San Luis Obispo (depending on which interchange you start at) and 5 miles north of Pismo Beach off US Hwy 101. It doesn't have an official address, but here's how to get there:

  • Take the Avila Beach exit (#195) from US Highway 101.
  • At the end of the ramp, turn west onto Avila Beach Drive.
  • Follow the signs toward Avila Beach for 2.0 miles, past Sycamore Hot Springs and a traffic light.
  • When you see a golf course on the right, look for a road to the left going uphill.
  • Turn left on Cave Landing Road.
  • Follow the road to a dirt, cliff-top parking lot at the end.

To get from the parking lot to the beach take the trail at the south (left) end of the lot. Stay to left and go down a long series of steps. When you reach the sand, walk to the far end of the beach.

Nudity Laws and Pirate's Cove Beach

There is no information available online about San Luis Obispo County nudity laws, but it may help to know what California's nudity laws are. No matter what, the responsibility for knowing the law at Pirate's Cove Beach is yours.

If you are going to Pirate's cove as a first-timer, please be respectful of others and before you go, read the guidelines for nude beach and topless beach etiquette

More Nude Beaches Within 25 Miles of Pirate's Cove

Guadalupe Dunes which is west of Santa Maria is the only other clothing optional beach in San Luis Obispo County.

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The Skinny on Pirate's Cove Nude Beach in San Luis Obispo County