All year round, there are plenty of things to do in Half Moon Bay Coastside, especially for outdoor lovers. From seashore to forests to farmland, nature is loud here, and there is plenty to embrace.
No matter which season you choose to visit, you'll find things to do in Half Moon Bay Coastside, California. With an average annual temperature of 62° F, you are highly unlikely to experience snow, frost, or triple-digit heat. Half Moon Bay Coastside is San Francisco adjacent. This coastal area and its beautiful harbor are ideal for taking a slow-paced break. After all, San Francisco is nearby if you need a city-fix. Here are some of the things to do in Half Moon Bay Coastside, filled with grand outdoor adventures no matter which time of year you visit.
Where is Half Moon Bay Coastside?
Sheltered between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific, Coastside has four distinct areas—North Coast, Half Moon Bay, South Coast, and the Redwoods. Thirty miles from San Francisco and 22-miles from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Half Moon Bay Coastside (HMBC) is a world away from the buzz and bustle of the city by the bay. Beaches, coastal trails, redwood forest, wetlands, villages, hook-to-mouth seafood, farm, and ranch-to-table produce, and the Pacific Ocean offer respite in soul-soothing nature.
There are lots of things to do in Half Moon Bay Coastside. Walk, bike, kayak, fish, beach comb, forest bathe, eat, drink, explore art galleries and shops. Best of all, watch the sunset on the Pacific.
Beaches Offer a Variety of Things to Do in Half Moon Bay
When you are thinking about what to do in Half Moon Bay, the first thought is to the beaches. There are so many things to do when you check out one of the area's beaches. In fact, HMBC has beaches for all seasons and all beach-goer interests. Sandy beaches, bluffs, headlands, and wildlife preserves dot the shoreline attracting everything from surfers to seals.
Sunbathe, Surf, Fish, Picnic
Of course, many people come to Half Moon Bay to surf. There are some great day beaches that welcome those who want to surf, fish from the shores, or sunbathe and picnic. One must-see is the 4-mile-long Half Moon Bay State Beach. The California State Park covers 181 acres. It includes Dunes, Francis, Roosevelt, and Venice Beaches. Half Moon State Beach joined the state park system in 1956.
Throughout the park, you'll find parking, restrooms, and water. Camping for tents and RVs is available at Francis Beach Campground. Leashed dogs are allowed in the park, but not on the beach.
Build Driftwood Sculptures and Observe Snowy Plovers
If you want a unique experience, consider bird-watching and building driftwood sculptures. San Gregorio State Beach is a highly protected beach and estuary where the Western Snowy Plover nests. The Plover is a small shorebird that builds its nest on the open beach. Plovers are a Threatened Bird Species, partially due to loss of habitat.
You'll see lots of driftwood on the beach. While you can't take it with you, you can use it to create driftwood sculptures you leave behind. The compositions never last long, so be sure to take a photo before it falls and floats out on the tide. The wood will be reclaimed by wind and water, then recycled through sea and shore to be used by another builder for a new structure.
Parking, water, and restrooms are available. Dogs are not allowed in the park. No camping is offered at this day-use park.
Take Your Horse and Fido to Poplar Beach
If you're looking for the more unusual things to do in Half Moon Bay, how about a horseback ride on the beach? While not all beaches welcome animals, you can take your horse or let your pups run on the sand at Poplar Beach. Managed by the city of Half Moon Bay, Poplar Beach is accessible via a steep trail from the parking lot. This beach is also called Blufftop Coastal Park.
Horses and leashed dogs are welcome here. Parking, restrooms, and water are available.
Go Tide Pooling
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a rocky shoreline filled with marine life, is included in the Montara State Marine Protected Area. Sealife here includes fish, crabs, sea stars, shellfish, and sponges.
Tidepooling is best at low tide. Check a tide table for your visit's low tide time of day. Wear rubber boots or rubber-soled shoes. The rocks are slippery! This area is for observation only. Do not touch or collect anything. All creatures and rocks are protected.
Parking, restrooms, picnicking, and water are available. Dogs are not allowed in this area. The day-use park has no camping available.
Explore Beach and Bluffs
Pomponio State Beach has sandy beaches at the base of 190-foot bluffs. Walk the shoreline, lounge in the sand, fish, windsurf, picnic, view wildlife, or simply enjoy the magnificent view from the bluffs.
The state beach was named to honor Pomponio, a Native American who fought against the mission system. His hideout was at the Pomponio Creek headwaters.
Parking, restrooms, and a picnic area with grills are offered. Dogs are not allowed on the beach. However, leashed dogs are welcome in the parking lot and picnic area.
Paddle with Wildlife
Whether paddle boarding or kayaking, one of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay is to get into the water. There, you'll commune with birds and seals. Bring your own gear or rent what you need from an outfitter. You'll find lots of them in Pillar Point Harbor and along HWY 1.
One of my favorites in the harbor is Half Moon Bay Kayak Company. Rent or purchase kayaks, paddleboards, surfboards, and bicycles. The outfitter provides instruction in all the water sports they outfit. Guided tours via kayak or paddleboard include the harbor and open water. Tours provide everything except sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat.
Pedal the Coast When You Visit Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay Coastside is bordered by the California Coastal Trail. This maintained path is accessible to all wheels and abilities. The coastal trail hugs beaches and bluffs. Along the way, there is easy access to food and libations when you need a break, drink, or snack.
Bicycles can be rented at Half Moon Bay Kayak Company in Pillar Point Harbor.
Wildlife Hikes in Half Moon Bay
One of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay is a hike or leisurely walk. No matter where you hike, walk, or bike Coastside, you will encounter wildlife. The variety of terrain, wildlife, and ability levels is one of the most diverse you'll find. Explore the HMBC Trail Guide to find a walking or cycling track that complements your interest.
Explore Farm & Ranch Country
Half Moon Bay has more than beaches and marine life to offer. It's also agricultural country. Some of the finest meat, dairy, fruit, and vegetables grow in this region. You'll find Half Moon Bay Coastside's produce in some of Northern California's best restaurants, and of course, in local eateries.
Pop-up farmstands can be found along Hwy 1 most of the year. However, fall in Half Moon Bay and throughout San Mateo County brings an abundance of roadside markets and ‘pick your own pumpkin' fields.
Some farms and ranches offer tours. Others have onsite markets selling fresh produce, dairy, meat, and homemade products.
My absolute favorite is Harley Farms Goat Dairy. The goat dairy, creamery, and farm offer tours that explain the holistic practices used for animals and the land. In addition, their tempting store sells magnificent cheese, jams, jellies, preserves, sandwiches, and picnic supplies.
This is a multi-generational destination. After a tour and stop in the farm store, take your goodies to one of the picnic tables in the meadow. From there, you can watch the goats and donkeys going about their daily routines.
Things to Do in Half Moon Bay's Pillar Point Harbor
Pillar Point Harbor is the most protected harbor on the California coast and one of the safest harbors in the US. The harbor protects commercial and sport fishing vessels from storm surges and King Tides that occur during full and new moons.
Birding is One of the Best Things to Do in Half Moon Bay Coastside
The Half Moon Bay area has 20% of all North American bird species either in full-time residence or temporary migrating residents. Pescadero Marsh or Pillar Point Marsh are known for their high number of winged occupants.
Both locations are bird sanctuaries. You can spot up to 200 species Coastside. Some of the most common include Great Blue Heron, Hawks, Loons, Marsh Wrens, Northern Harriers, Pelicans, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Sandpipers, Seagulls, Snowy Egrets, and Snowy Plovers.
Spend a Day in Pescadero
If you're looking for more things to do in Half Moon Bay, I recommend heading to Pescadero for the day, about 15-minutes south of Pillar Point Harbor. It's an inviting place to spend a day exploring eateries, shops, and farm markets. In the fall, pumpkins are everywhere. You can walk into a field and select your perfect jack-o-lantern or future pie.
To explore Pescadero, I suggest leaving your car at one end of Stage Road (Main Street) and wander down the street. Then, at the end of Main, cross the street and stroll back to your car.
Stop into places that captivate you. Made in Pescadero is a treasure trove of local artisan's hand-crafted furniture, home décor, art, jewelry, and more.
Another ‘don't miss' is Arcangeli Grocery Company, a bakery, food store, picnic supply hub, and a source for local wine, beer, and spirits. The Arcangeli family began operation in 1929. Arcangeli is well known for its “better get there early before it's all gone” Garlic Herb Artichoke Bread. This is the perfect place to stock your lodging's fridge.
Where to Eat in Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay Coastside is the epicenter of farm-fresh and just-caught eats. It's almost impossible to go wrong whether you sit down, grab-and-go, or picnic on the beach.
Below are my favorites, but there are many to choose from on the Visit Half Moon Bay website here.
- Sam's Chowder House: Indoor and deck seating serving California and New England style seafood.
- Barbara's Fishtrap: An iconic, harborside, fish-shack serving customers since 1971. The fresh-tuna sandwich is heavenly. Try it with the daily $2.50 beer special.
- Half Moon Bay Brewing Company: Serving craft beer in the harbor since 2000. Sample their Kölsch, Saison, Amber Ale, IPA, Coffee Milk Stout, and Belgian Blonde. The patio is a ‘sip the sun down' headquarters.
- Café Mezzaluna: Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, specializing in Italian and American dishes. It serves the best omelet I've had anywhere.
- It's Italia: Out of this world, braised beef short ribs and polenta. It's Italia is in downtown Half Moon Bay.
- Duarte's Tavern: Located in Pescadero, Duarte's was built in 1894 by Frank Duarte. The family has operated the tavern and restaurant since that time. You can enjoy traditional tavern food and California Casual fare. Ingredients come from the kitchen-garden out-back or farms within a 10-mile radius.
Where to Sleep in Half Moon Bay
One of the best things to do when traveling should be your lodging. You'll be spoiled for choice while in HMBC. Hotels, motels, B&Bs, resorts, vacation rentals, RV parks, and campgrounds line the coast and CA HWY 1. In addition, you may choose from oceanfront, redwood, or inland agriculture environments. You'll be able to find accommodations for all needs and budgets.
My favorite hotel is Oceano Hotel and Spa. It has location, location, location, among its many attributes. Walking into the harbor-front lobby, there is a sense of cool and calm.
It is one of the most prominent places to stay on the Coastside. Stay for one night or a week. Try a hotel room, suite, or apartment. There is a restaurant, bar, and secure parking. The harbor front property is steps from the coastal trail, eateries, a brewery, galleries, and shops.
For a luxurious splurge, book Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. This legendary resort is outstanding in every way. The property, service, amenities, and view are among the finest you can experience anywhere.
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More Things to Do in Half Moon Bay Coastside
I recommend that you can spend a couple of days exploring the area. These are more fun things to do in Half Moon Bay Coastside:
- Charter a boat for fishing, whale watching, and sunsetting.
- Walk the piers and wharf to discover informative panels illuminating the harbor's history and conservation practices in use today.
- Sample seafood, seafood, and more seafood! You'll find plenty of it in eateries ranging in style from seafood shack to upscale dining.
- Enjoy an outdoor meal in one of the many picnic areas with grills and tables.
- Arrange to go during one of the many events and festivals like the Mavericks Surfing Competition.
- Arrange with an outfitter to get you set up for a day of fishing or water sports.
- Wander out on a fishing pier to fish or simply contemplate the Pacific Ocean.
- Get some retail therapy at Harbor Village, a mall only steps from the harbor and Johnson Pier.
When You Go to Half Moon Bay Coastside
Half Moon Bay Coastside is an all-seasons destination for outdoor lovers. A mild Mediterranean climate prevails year-round. Seashore, forest, wetlands, and farmland offer a variety of environments. Nature is loud here, and there is plenty to embrace. To learn more about what to do in Half Moon Bay Coastside, see Visit Half Moon Bay Coastside California. Be sure to check out Wander for more stories about exploring California.