If you’re looking or that quiet getaway on the Central California coast, consider Avila Beach, an idyllic little stretch of sand with comfortable accommodations nearby. Not that children would be unwelcome – Avila is a playground for all ages. But the new Avila Village Inn has now brought this destination up a notch or two for those seeking a special romantic beach getaway. The inn has pulled out all the stops to attract couples who want to pamper themselves as much as enjoy the natural beauties of the Central California coastline. About seven miles north of Pismo Beach the sign directs Highway 101 travelers to Avila Beach by way of a winding road that follows San Luis Creek down into a wooded ravine. About a mile before you get to the beach is Avila Village, a new development with condos, a few shops and, adjacent to the creek, the Avila Village Inn. While not actually on the beach, the inn’s wooded setting gives the property a quiet, reclusive feel. The developers of the hotel use the word “refined” to describe the many details and amenities that have been built into the 30 guest rooms. And our impression was that, indeed, this is one of those inns where you enjoy tasting the luxurious accommodations as much as experiencing the beach and other natural surroundings. This property has incorporated many of the design features now seen in newer upscale homes. Wet bars, granite countertops and fireplaces are in each room, while marble is used extensively throughout the shower and bathroom area. The pillow-top king beds both look and feel comfortable with down pillows, blankets and duvets. We especially enjoyed the 103-degree private spa waiting for us on our creekside balcony. If you’re so inclined, each room or suite has its own DVD player and guests are encouraged to check out free DVDs from the front desk. Those who are a little more active will welcome the fitness center that is just across the parking lot from the inn – perfect for working off those snacks, pastries and treats that are provided guests in both a welcoming basket and a breakfast basket the next day. Other details like tasteful art, mission-style furniture and a grand, sweeping staircase in the lobby area all add up to a sense of privilege – which, of course, is what it’s all about when you spend significant money to enjoy quality time with your loved one. A couple of minutes down the road from the inn is Avila Beach, a half-mile long beach area that is growing in popularity because of its more exclusive, almost Mediterranean feel. A few older hotels are situated near the beach, adjacent to some shops that are sprinkled throughout the tiny “downtown” area. There is evidence of new construction that we hear was made necessary from some oil leaks in the area; but the beach itself and the businesses along the beach seem unaffected. Avila Beach has three piers, including two that are public. It’s fun to walk out to the end of the pier where we enjoyed watching the surfers and dockside anglers while also taking in the spectacular views of the shoreline. There were only a few visitors enjoying the wide beach during our week-day January visit. Most people visiting seemed to be either couples, or college students from Cal Poly in nearby San Luis Obispo. From what we could see, Avila is perfect for getting away from people – although one suspects that might change on weekends and during summer months. But even with balmy 75-degree weather, we still felt like we’d stumbled across some small, little-known beach village somewhere in the Mediterranean. It was so deserted that it was hard for us to imagine that more than 28,000 people live in Avila Beach. All we can figure is that most must live well outside the few blocks adjacent to the beach. A larger, busier beach is just south of Avila at Pismo Beach. The views from Pismo Beach are spectacular and this horseshoe shaped beach seems to stretch on for miles and miles. It’s readily apparent that this isn’t the kind of beach where all you do is sit and soak up the sun; ATV and bike rentals are popular, as is sea kayaking and surfing. You can ride horses here or golf – this area is a favorite with retirees who make sure those golf courses get good and used — while fishing from the Pismo Pier also is popular. Just up from the pier is the downtown area – much bigger than the Avila Beach shopping area – where you can find a collection of shops and a choice of restaurants. Beyond this tourist area, Pismo Beach takes on the look of most any other town, although there is a high percentage of homes that are cottage-like and probably once used as vacation getaways. Driving around Pismo we discovered several beach access points, each with its own set of breathtaking views. These are great places to view the power of nature; during our visit, the surf along Pismo was pounding so hard it seemed as loud as a freight train. Another diversion while you’re visiting the Avila-Pismo Beach area is, of course, San Luis Obispo. We made a point of visiting the downtown area and found an excellent selection of shops and outdoor cafes, yet a home-town feel that made for a comfortable afternoon of browsing and exploring. It’s in San Luis Obispo that you’ll find the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, one of California’s historic missions. You can visit the padres’ residence, which is now a museum. San Luis Obispo is actually the hub for this area – a diverse region that has an incredible 100 wineries all within a short distance, and of course great beach communities. There are actually two distinct wine regions in this area – the San Luis Obispo region where the cool climate and marine sediment are conducive to growing Chardonnay grapes and, in the north, the Paso Robles region where the hot summers and limestone help grow the best zinfandels and rhone varietals. But then again, many visitors to the Central California coast are content to keep a low profile, perhaps traveling as far as the beach and a good dinner before returning to a cozy fireplace and soft music. Those are the visitors, no doubt, who will find Avila Beach and the new Avila Beach Village Inn, especially rewarding. AT A GLANCE WHERE: Avila Beach is about 200 miles north of Los Angeles and just north of Pismo Beach. WHAT: Avila Beach is an alternative to more expansive beaches and has a quieter, more exclusive feel. Only a few hotels are in the immediate area, although many more are located in nearby Pismo Beach. WHEN: The area has a moderate climate year-round. Summer can be hot at times, but is generally temperate. Winter is on the cool side. The area gets about 24 inches of rain per year. WHY: Scenic, charming and seemingly remote, yet only a few miles from shopping and restaurants in nearby cities. HOW: For more information on the Avila Village Inn, call the hotel at 805-627-1810 or visit www.avilavillageinn.com.