Sometimes Carol Kramer likes to pause during her busy day running her restaurant, Sea Shanty, and observe the tourists as they stroll down the sidewalks of Cayucos.
“You can just see the amazement on their faces as they take in the beauty of our small town,” Kramer said. “You have to almost stumble onto this town and when they do, you can tell that the tourists feel they’ve found a beautiful secret spot.”
That’s what Kramer and her husband, Bill Shea, thought when they discovered this tiny coastal hamlet 32 years ago.
“We had never heard of this place, and we immediately fell in love with it,” Shea said.“When we saw how the town celebrates Fourth of July that just clinched the deal.”
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The quintessential hometown parade draws more than 30,000 people from all over the Central Coast. Shea and Kramer soon joined in, creating floats that often win top prizes.
“The town comes together during the Fourth,” Kramer said. “But it’s not just the holidays, it’s all year round. Everyone knows everyone, and we have a lot of good people living here.”
The town also came together when the Cayucos pier was closed in 2013 out of safety concerns. Local residents rallied to the cause, raising more than $200,000 to help pay for a $3.5 million restoration.
Kramer and Shea lived in Orange County until they discovered Cayucos, and although their children weren’t as taken with the town as they were, the children soon learned to love it.
“You can talk to people on the street and smile at them, and they actually smile back,” Kramer said. “People care about each other here, and we still have small-town values. It wasn’t like that in Orange County.”
The town of about 2,600 people is a throwback to the laid-back California beach towns of the 1960s with its relaxed vibe. Residents and tourists seem to move at a slower pace. Dogs love the town, too, where they can play off-leash along miles of sandy beach.
“This town is a diamond in the rough,” Kramer said. “People come here because they’ve heard something about us, but once they arrive you can tell they think they’ve found someplace special. And they have.”