New Avila Beach attractions should lure more visitors

The Tribune

Avila Beach is buzzing with activity beyond its main thoroughfare.

More requests have come in for licenses for a variety of businesses in and around Port San Luis harbor, said Steve McGrath, manager of the harbor.

“There’s a Jet Ski tour operator, a guy that does boat tours around the harbor, a new kayak rental place and another place that rents stand-up paddle boards,” he said.

McGrath is bullish about the proposed Harbor Terrace project, a 26-acre camping resort on the bluffs above the port with 102 spots for RVs, 50 tent campsites, a main lodge, restaurant, market and deli.

The project could bring an estimated 7,000 camping visits annually, up from about 4,000 in the past 12 months.

Another major draw, community and business leaders say, could be Wild Cherry Canyon, a 2,400-acre ranch that includes a 20-mile stretch of land from Los Osos to Avila Beach. The American Land Conservancy is trying to raise money to buy the property, which would make Montaña de Oro one of the largest parks in the State Parks system.

“Once the Wild Cherry Canyon acquisition is complete and eventually opened to the public, a coastal trail from Avila to Montaña de Oro will be a signature experience,” said county District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill. “Add to that the future completion of the Bob Jones bike trail, along with a few other coastal trails, and I think this form of eco- and sport-related tourism will be a boon to the town.”

The lure of Avila Beach extends to the valley, where agriculture, spa and wine tourism have taken hold — from apples in See Canyon to the open-air market, you-pick-it crops and farm animals at Avila Valley Barn to Avila Valley Hot Springs’ mineral spring pool and family-style cabins.

Occupancy dropped at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa in 2009, but it’s returning this year, said Mike Casola, director of operations for John King’s Boutique Hotel Collection, which includes Sycamore Mineral Springs and The Cliffs.

Rates at Sycamore start at $139 up to $349 for a two-room suite. Casola anticipates a strong July 4 through Aug. 15. The resort hopes to accommodate more guests if 22 bungalows off the Bob Jones Trail are built. That might not happen until the economy rebounds, Casola said.

Rob Rossi, who owns the Avila Village Inn, said that about 60 percent of his business there is driven by out-of-town guests, and visitors at the Avila Village Inn near the Avila Bay Club, which he also owns, are about 90 percent tourists.

Rossi sees room for one more hotel — a small boutique inn — off the golf course at some point in the future.