Half Moon Bay, California, is the ideal place to go if you want to take a beautiful seaside vacation. This little village just south of San Francisco offers a quiet retreat from the rush of city life. Half Moon Bay California has something to offer everyone, whether you enjoy the outdoors, fine cuisine, or adventure. Half Moon Bay offers a wealth of activities that will leave you feeling renewed and invigorated, from the magnificent beaches to the lovely downtown area.
In this guide, we’ll examine some of the must-see sights and undiscovered jewels that this town has to offer. Get ready to discover Half Moon Bay’s charm and beauty.
#1. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
On a magnificent thumb of land south of Pescadero, Pidgeon Point projects into the Pacific. Since 1872, the lighthouse has guided mariners, including some bootleggers during the Prohibition era, since the 1920s. In spite of switching from a typical glass lens to LED lights, the lighthouse is still in operation today.
Not just the lighthouse but also the migratory marine mammals make this location worthwhile for travel. It’s common to see whales, sea lions, and seals passing by. Bring binoculars and be vigilant when you visit.
#2. Half Moon Bay State Beach
There are several beaches along the Half Moon Bay coastline, including Roosevelt Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, and Francis Beach. The most popular activities on these beaches are sightseeing and appreciating nature, and the climate is typically chilly and windy.
Although the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay California is too chilly to enter without a wetsuit and the riptides can be perilous, September through early November are the finest months for sunbathing and wading. Visitors come to take in the breathtaking view and inhale the cooling sea air rather than swim. 52 campsites with hot showers are available at Francis Beach Campground, and groups can sleep in tents at Sweetwood Group Camping, which also has facilities.
#3. Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Patches
The entire Coastside transforms into one huge fall carnival beginning in September. Pony rides, corn mazes, and an abundance of pumpkin picking are among the attractions. I prefer Andreotti Farms since they have rare (and lovely) pumpkin breeds, but for the complete scoop, see our guide to all the pumpkin fields in Half Moon Bay, California.
#4. California Coastal Trail
Seven miles of beautiful coastal habitats, including quiet sandy beaches, verdant rivers, meadows, wetlands, and cypress woods, are traversed by the California Coastal Trail. It starts at Pillar Point Harbor and concludes at the oceanfront five-star resort hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. A stretch of the asphalt-paved trail, which was once the course taken by the Ocean Shore Railroad, is wheelchair accessible. The California Coastal Trail allows users to hike or bike while taking in stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean.
#5. Harley Farms Goat Diary
Trying to decide whether golden retriever pups or tiny baby goats are cuter is difficult. However, if you go to Harley Farms, the vote will unquestionably go to their adorable young goats. These adorable little ones with shaky legs are just beyond.
In fact, Harley Farms is a working dairy where delicious goat’s milk cheeses are produced, not a petting zoo. You can organize a tour if you want to find out more about their dairy business. Otherwise, stop by between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any given day to admire the goats and purchase some cheese.
#6. Pillar Point Harbor
In Princeton-by-the-Sea, California, there is a charming fishing bay called Pillar Point Bay. It provides seaside eateries, including Barbara’s Fishtrap and Sam’s Chowder House, and serves as the starting point for fishing charters and whale-watching expeditions. It also looks out over Mavericks Beach’s renowned waves, where the yearly surfing competition is held. When the stars align, Mavericks waves can reach enormous peaks that are 15 to 30 feet tall. Surfers come from all over the world to take on these waves’ challenges.
#7. Año Nuevo State Park (for Elephant Seals)
Elephant seals have a large breeding population in Ao Nuevo. 10,000 seals flock to the dunes and waters around Ao Nuevo every year to breed, give birth, and molt. The way these boulder-sized animals defy gravity and lift themselves onto the sand for a traditional mating throwdown is amazing. One of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay is to see these enormous creatures. However, tours must be scheduled far in advance.
#8. Dining and Shopping on Main Street
Visitors are charmed by Half Moon Bay’s historic downtown and its relaxed atmosphere and small-town charm. Old-fashioned hotels, charming bed-and-breakfasts, laid-back cafés, and independently owned-restaurants abound in the town’s core. The best place to go for eating and shopping is on Main Street. Italian food is served at the well-known Pasta Moon Ristorante, which uses seasonal foods from adjacent coastal farms and ranches as well as from nearby fishermen.
The Mill Rose Inn, Panificio, Keith’s Chicken-N-Waffles, and Gulino Gelato are a few other restaurants with outstanding cuisine. Excellent information about the nearby beaches and hiking can be found at the visitor center on Main Street.
#9. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (for the Cast of Finding Nemo)
On the northernmost point of the coast, Moss Beach is where you’ll find the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. A variety of marine life, such as anemones, starfish, crabs, and coral, rises to the surface during low tide. While carefully walking on the rocks at low tide, keep an eye out for the offshore rocks and harbor seals. Kids will like this Half Moon Bay activity, but be careful around the water.
#10. Lemos Farm
Families, especially those with young children, like visiting Lemos Farm. It is a fully functional, family-run farm with pigs, goats, sheep, and bunnies living there. Additionally, there are pony rides, a train trip, and a hay ride. A large inflatable barn slide, “Dig Zone,” and “Barn Slide” are a few interactive activities. The farm’s primary seasonal crops are pumpkins in the fall and Christmas trees in the winter.
Two Easter egg hunts are held at Lemos Farm on Easter Sunday. Children can also participate in a “goat yoga” class and explore the mildly spooky Haunted House.
#11. Devil’s Slide Trail
Previously, Devil’s Slide was a hazardous section of the road that was prone to rock falls. A bypass tunnel was finished in 2013 (at long last!). When that happened, the county turned the road into a bike and pedestrian route. Although it isn’t a very challenging or long hike, it offers some of the Bay Area’s best ocean vistas. Easy 2.5-mile round trip distance.
#12. Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
There are approximately 25 miles of trails in the 5,412-acre Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, several of which are suitable for expert hikers. The ancient redwoods, which were felled in the 19th century, were replaced by a lush forest characterized by towering coastal redwood trees. The 4,711-acre Redwood Trail, which is only a quarter of a mile long and has a mostly level grade, can be accessed from the North Ridge Trailhead on Skyline Drive (Hwy 35). A wheelchair-accessible picnic area and public restrooms are provided.
#13. Montara State Beach
There is a beach at Montara State Beach. However, it also includes three significant trailheads in the McNee Ranch area above the shore. Take the short Gray Whale Cove trail, which runs alongside Highway 1 for 2.2 miles. The 4.7-mile Colma Loop trail will take you above the Devil’s Slide and is dog-friendly. You might also begin on the Montara Mountain trail and add any additional distance you choose before returning on one of the many connecting trails.
#14. Half Moon Bay Golf Courses
The Old Course, designed by Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane, and the Ocean Course, created by Arthur Hills, are two top-notch championship golf courses in Half Moon Bay California. The Old Course boasts a parkland links layout, cypress trees, and breathtaking Pacific Ocean views. The Ocean Course is positioned high on a rocky bluff with a view of the Pacific Ocean’s pounding surf.
The course ends with a 405-yard par four on a bluff with breathtaking ocean views, one of the world’s top-ranked and most spectacular holes. Bagpipers perform in the Scottish manner on the course on the weekends at dusk. The LPGA Samsung Golf Championships were held on the course in 2008.
#15. Mavericks Beach
Mavericks is situated on Pillar Point Harbor’s northernmost point. Although it is best known for holding a prestigious big-wave surfing competition, Hawaii also has a lot to offer common people. Although Maverick isn’t your typical sandy beach, I prefer it because, like Poplar, it’s highly dog-friendly. Therefore, Mavericks is the place to go if you want to take a wind-swept stroll among the surf as your dog jumps around in delight. Additionally, the harbor has a kid-friendly little beach.
#16. Pescadero’s Farms and Coastal Delights
A picturesque rural village called Pescadero is situated 17 miles south of Half Moon Bay. There are numerous farms and ranches there, in addition to marshes and beaches. Fresh food and top-notch meat can be found at Arcangeli Grocery Co., while the artichoke soup at Duarte’s restaurant is a local favorite. Wildlife from many different species, including migrating birds and endangered animals, can be found in the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
Pescadero State Beach is a serene, sandy beach with untouched natural beauty, four hiking trails, facilities for kayaking, and a modest picnic area.
#17. Gray Whale Cove
A simple two-mile out-and-back hike, the Gray Whale Cove Trail offers breathtaking views of the coastline and the pounding waves below. It curves around the hillsides before heading south at a gradual incline till it reaches Montara State Beach, a section of sandy shoreline hidden behind high cliffs. The trail is bordered by typical coastal California plants like sagebrush and coyote bush, as well as poison oak.
The trail is covered in colorful wildflowers in the spring, such as blue Douglas iris, vivid pink hollyhocks, and bright yellow buttercups. Instead of the two-mile journey, visitors can descend to Gray Whale Cove State Beach via a shorter (but steeper) trail, where they will discover a picnic area located on an ocean bluff.
#18. Popular Beach
If you want to take your dog to the beach in Half Moon Bay, head to Poplar Beach. The state beach at Half Moon Bay is nearby. With the extra benefit of being dog friendly, it offers the same large sand beach and access to the coastal trail. At Poplar Street’s terminus, there is a short jump down the cliff to pay to park. If you want some peace, just travel south for about 5 minutes, and you’ll have a stretch of lovely beach all to yourself. People like to congregate just at the foot of the entrance.
Reasons to Visit Half Moon Bay California
A Venn diagram of urban agriculture, charming tiny towns, and breathtaking natural beauty can be found in Half Moon Bay (HMB). It is renowned for producing artichokes, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, Christmas trees, and cut flowers. It also has a charming, historic downtown and is a typical tiny northern California seaside town. Many of the town’s historic structures date back to the Prohibition era, when Canadian rum smugglers found safety in the town’s dense fog.
There are 15 state parks in San Mateo County, and all but three of them are either along the coast or in close proximity to tributaries. There is beachcombing, surfing, cliffside coastal treks, little crescent beaches, and migrating marine creatures.
Is Half Moon Bay Worth Visiting?
Check out Half Moon Bay if you want beautiful scenery and mouthwatering seafood. This picturesque coastal community, located 30 miles south of San Francisco, is always worth a stop during a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway because of its year-round activities and unique seasonal events.
Do You Need a Car in Half Moon Bay?
The only practical and best way to travel to Half Moon Bay is by car. The trip along the coast is lovely, and there are stunning views everywhere you turn.
Can You Drink Alcohol at Half Moon Bay Beach?
Dogs and horses are not permitted on state beaches, to name a few of the standard laws for Half Moon Bay State Beach. Only the Coastal Trail and campgrounds allow leashed dogs. Alcohol, fireworks, and bonfires are not allowed on beaches.