Take the long, sandy shoreline of Huntington Beach. Mix in the gentle waves of Santa Monica. Add a dash of architecture from Key West, Fla. Then stir in Central Coast wines.
What you get is Avila Beach, a quaint but bustling beach town sandwiched between Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo.
My wife and I stayed at the Avila La Fonda Hotel, where the design cues for its 28 rooms came from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
The hotel's other theme seems to be food: Homemade croissants and organic orange juice are served each morning, a nacho bar is open from noon to 2 p.m., a wine reception is held in late afternoon, and freshly baked pies from the nearby bakery at the Avila Valley Barn are served every night.
Still hungry? At the Ocean Grill, we shared an appetizer of crispy calamari with cilantro aioli and coconut chili dipping sauces, seared diver scallops and pork belly, and a complimentary dessert: a brown butter chocolate chip skillet cookie with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.
Just down the street, the Old Custom House has a great patio for people-watching and a cioppino that is especially good when the weather turns chilly.
Perhaps fish-watching is more your thing. Fortunately, the Central Coast Aquarium sits near the water at the west end of town.
It's a small, family-friendly facility whose mission is to inspire the next generation of marine stewards by providing a hands-on experience. Although modest compared with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the enthusiastic high school- and college-age docents make this a wonderful place to get close to ocean-dwelling residents.
Miles one way from downtown L.A.