Planning a trip to Northern California and looking for the best things to do in Half Moon Bay?! Keep on reading, as this guide will surely entice anyone to take a day trip from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay.
The first time we visited San Francisco a few years back, we had never even heard of this area, let alone all the beachy things to do in Half Moon Bay. We drove the 30 minutes to the coast after a firm recommendation, and found ourselves shoving our faces with lobster rolls and clam chowder soon there after. We’ve been back dozens of times since that initial visit, and love spending our weekend mornings strolling by the beach, coffee in hand, feet in the sand. Who knew that a few years later we’d call this city our home, and be able to spend entire weekends in the cozy seaside village of Half Moon Bay? We definitely didn’t see that coming!
When To Go to Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is best during Spring and Fall. The summer tends to be extremely foggy, and winter calls for storms and high surf. Fog usually clears up by midday, but don’t be alarmed if the day turns out to be cloudy. However, there will be beautiful, sunny days in the winter, as we experienced 80 degree sun-filled days this past January. You just never know! I always suggest bringing along a light jacket or sweater in order to deal with the crazy, constantly changing, California weather. On a typical day, you’ll find temps between 58 and 67 degrees F, but remember, you’re basically at the beach, so it can get windy!
Half Moon Bay is just 25 miles south of the city of San Francisco, 45 miles north of Santa Cruz, and about a 20-30 minute drive from areas on the peninsula.
Things to Do in Half Moon Bay
- Horse Back Riding at Sea Horse Ranch: See the beauty of the coastline while on a guided horse back ride. First time riding? Don’t fret. I went riding for the first time ever with them, and I felt very safe and comfortable with my helmet on! Hoping to go again soon! Definitely one of the most unique ways to enjoy the beach, and something I recommend to everyone looking for things to do in Half Moon Bay.
- Roast Marshmallows and Make S’mores: There’s absolutely no better way to spend a chilly evening in the area. Head to the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay and enjoy their outdoor communal fire pits, perfect for roasting marshmallows and s’more making. Or have a cocktail and watch the sunset at the Ocean Terrace Bar. Fancy a pile of Alaskan King Crab legs? You’re in luck – standard menu item on the Raw bar. (All more than acceptable options). We once stayed the night at the Ritz and the views of the nearby golf course with the ocean in the distance more than made up for the (somewhat-significant-but-not-entirely-crazy) cost. If you’re looking for a night of classy luxury away from the busy life of San Francisco, the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay is your best best. Just promise you’ll send me some s’mores! 😉
[maxbutton id=”2″ url=”https://apassionandapassport.com/2015/05/ritz-carlton-half-moon-bay” text=”Read More about our stay at the Ritz Carlton!” ]
- Go Kayaking/Canoeing: If you’re up for a little adventure, paddle around Pillar Point Harbor on an organized tour in a kayak, or rent a stand up paddle board- wet suit and safety instruction included. Something still on my Half Moon Bay bucket!
- Discover the Beaches of HMB: There are numerous worthy beaches all along the coast, so make a day out of it and explore as many as you can (or do as we do and just keep going back 😉 ). A few of my favorites- Poplar, Mavericks, and Miramar. Bring a picnic blanket, some snacks, some beers, and you’re good to go. Note that the beaches are located below some spectacular bluffs – beautiful, but that means you’ll need to trek down on rocky paths if you can’t find a set of steps nearby. Come early and you may be lucky to spot a few whales or pods of dolphins!
- Watch the Surfers at Mavericks Beach: THIS is the spot to watch surfers on the west coast, as the biggest, best, most perfect insane waves can be found here. Let the pros ride these massive waves during high tide, and watch them during Titans of Mavericks, one of the biggest surf competitions in the word.
- Segway Tours along the Coastal Trail: Probably my favorite way to get around! Segways are just so much better than walking, and way more fun! It’s takes a few minutes to get used to, but once you have it, you’ll never want to walk again!
- Lemo’s Farms for some Fall Fun: If you have young kids, or are undoubtedly a kid at heart, you’ll enjoy the frozen custard and other sweet treats. It gets super crowded during the fall months, but worth it at least once. The perfect spot to pick out your pumpkin!
- Go Tide Pooling: The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a marine protected area, where you can see lots of different creatures, including starfish, crabs, barnacles, mussels, sea urchins, and more. Make sure you check the schedule for low tide– you won’t see anything (and I mean anything!) during high!
- Take in the Sunset(s): There’s absolutely nothing better than witnessing a beautiful sunset with the ones you love. Just check out my sister-in-law and little nephew below – this photo makes me swoon! And the one’s in Half Moon Bay are some of the best I’ve seen in the Bay Area.
- Watch Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo State Park: If you’re visiting the area from December – March, you’re in for a treat. Every year during these months, a large colony of elephant seals assemble on the beach to molt and give birth. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some pups!
- Wander around Half Moon Bay Main Street: Check out the numerous galleries, independently owned shops, and quaint little restaurants. The street isn’t too long, but it’s a great place to stop for an hour or two to grab lunch or dinner in between activities or beach lounging.
- Take a Side Trip to Pescadero: Just about 30 minutes south of Half Moon Bay, you’ll find Pescadero, a charming little town with world-renowned artichoke bread. Make a stop at Pie Ranch to pick up some fresh produce and a seasonal pie as well. Pigeon Point Lighthouse and more tide pools are nearby too!
- Get your Hike On: Half Moon Bay has numerous trails, two favorites including Purisima Creek Redwoods and Montara Mountain. Purisima offers 24 miles of trails through the redwoods for casual strolls or difficult hikes with gorgeous views of the Bay Area. A few miles north you’ll find Montara Mountain, which is a long uphill hike, but on clear days, provides some of the best views of the Pacific Coast. You can even see the Golden Gate Bridge from a number of stops. Definitely on my San Francisco Bucket List for sure.
- Walk the Coastal Trail: We usually park at Poplar Beach, then choose a direction to walk in. Some of it’s paved, some of it’s trail, but no matter which way you go, you’re promised unparalleled views of the Pacific ocean. Come in the early spring when the wildflowers start to bloom, known in Half Moon Bay as the “sea of yellow”.
Places to Eat in Half Moon Bay
- Half Moon Bay Brewing Company: With handcrafted beer brewed right on site and a great view of the harbor, it’s safe to say that you’ll have more than a good time here. Come for the beer, stay for the band! Even better, come during happy hour- 11am-6pm during the week! Bring Fido, because the outdoor patio is dog friendly with complimentary dog treats!
- Sams Chowder House: Known for it’s lobster roll and clam chowder, of course. The views are phenomenal, so be sure to plan some time here to kick back and relax with some drinks on their outdoor patio. Our all time favorite on the coast, as long as it’s a clear, warm day!
- Barbara’s Fish Trap: Promise me you’ll get the Dungeness Crab Sandwich. My husband’s been dying to try it. Cash only with ATM nearby. Come here to watch the sunset over the water.
- It’s Italia: Rustic italian, good wine selection, speciality pizzas, and delicious bread. I tried an Italian soda for the first time, and let’s just say it’s one of my new staples when dining out. My homemade pesto chicken sandwich was pretty tasty too.
- Cafe Classique: They bake all their own items, including breads, muffins, and bagels. Go for a meal or a muffin- you won’t be disappointed. Sit on the outside patio – you’ll get great views of the harbor. Cool FYI – they open up at 4am to serve the local fisherman. A TRUE local gem.
- 3-Zero Cafe: Located at the Half Moon Bay Airport, this great little diner is filled with toy replicas of model airplanes and lots of aviation paraphernalia. Be prepared to wait about 15-20 minutes, the place gets busy on the weekend! FYI- The banana walnut waffle was top notch.
- Pasta Moon: Contemporary, modern Italian, known for it’s house made pasta and butternut squash ravioli. Better save room for dessert-wouldn’t wanna miss the tiramisu or the meyer lemon parfait. Sounds great a like fall meal to me.
- Navio at The Ritz Carlton: Oh my, what can I say about this first-class dining experience? If you’re looking for a romantic place to spend a birthday or anniversary, Navio is the way to go. With exceptional seafood dishes and even better service, you’ll be glad you chose the Ritz Carlton. Plus, the stunning views of the California coastline don’t hurt either. 😉 I’ve heard the buffet breakfast (albeit pricey), is worth trying at least once as well. You can’t really go wrong with the Ritz Carlton.
- Moonside Bakery and Cafe: How can you go wrong with a little European-style bakery with homemade treats? A lovely neighborhood spot with tons of pastries, pies, cakes, cookies, danishes and deserts. Basically a sugar sensory overload. Not that I’m complaining!
- Half Moon Bay Bakery: A no frills bakery serving tons of different cookies, including black and white cookies, double chocolate mint, peanut butter, and extra large chocolate chip.
Where to Sleep: Hotels in Half Moon Bay
There are a few accommodation options in Half Moon Bay, but I strongly suggest spending a night (or two) at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. With beautiful coastline views of the Pacific Ocean, cozy well-appointed rooms, and exceptional service, you won’t find a better place to rest your head.
No matter what, it will definitely be a night to remember. Consider spending an anniversary or special occasion here. And make sure you get the s’mores kit. Oh my god.