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Coasting Along Half Moon Bay

By Pati Navalta 

With its dramatic coastline, oceanside hiking trails, succulent seafood, and idyllic Main Street boutiques and eateries, Half Moon Bay is the epitome of romance and relaxation. The coastal city, located just south of San Francisco along picturesque Highway 1, boasts big waves and small-town charm—with seemingly something to do for everyone. It was a surprising discovery, given I have lived in the Bay Area all my life and have only driven through Half Moon Bay, en route somewhere else. To be clear: This isn’t a drive-thru town; this is a destination. 

If you love the outdoors, Half Moon Bay has plenty to offer—and if you don’t, the perfect luxury retreat awaits. If you go, here are just a few places to check out to get the ideal Half Moon Bay experience. 

STAY

Ritz-Carlton

Location, location, location. This 5-star luxury resort sits atop an oceanside bluff, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and unparalleled sunsets. The property is peppered with outdoor fire pits and wooden Adriondack chairs facing the ocean to maximize the gorgeous views. Surrounding the property are the emerald, manicured grounds of Half Moon Bay Golf Links, conveniently located for the golfer in the family. For the hikers in your group, you can access numerous oceanside trails, including the California Coastal trail and Wavecrest Open Space. You can also walk down to the beach from the hotel. Order take-out from one of the on-property restaurants, bring a blanket and have a private picnic. And be sure to catch the sunset from here or from one of the chairs set up along the hotel’s vast outdoor space. 

PLAY

Beaches

For a small town, Half Moon Bay has a long list of beaches, many of them with hiking and biking trails. Half Moon Bay State Beaches, made up of four beaches: Francis Beach, Venice Beach, Dunes Beach and Roosevelt Beach, is a favorite spot for sunbathing, picnics, surfing, fishing, and camping. Of course, Half Moon Bay is home to Maverick’s, the big-surf competition, so if you’re looking to surf, Montara, Flat Rock, Ross Cove, Mavericks and Dines beaches are known for optimal surfing waves. 

Hiking

In addition to its coastal trails, you can also have your own forest-bathing experience along one of the town’s wooded trails, including the redwood-filled Harkins Ridge, Craig Britton, Purisima Creek Trail in the Purisima Creek Woods Open Space, which also connects to the Grabtown Gulch, Bordem Hatch Mill Loop, Whitemore Trail Gulch Loop and a string of other forest trails. 

Shopping

The town’s charming, historic Main Street is among the must-go spots. Lined with a variety of boutiques, nurseries, art galleries, restaurants and coffee shops, you can take a leisurely stroll while popping in and out of these treasure troves. 

EAT

A trip to Half Moon Bay is not complete without a stop at its famed Sam’s Chowder House. If you have a craving for all things seafood, this is your spot. Its extensive menu includes lobster, crab, fish and chips, fried calamari, fresh oysters and clams and fresh fish dishes, such as salmon and halibut. There is plenty of outdoor dining space overlooking the water. 

If it’s really fresh seafood you want, as in, still alive, you can head to Pillar Point and buy Dungeness crab from one of the many crab boats docked at the harbor. Half Moon Bay has one of the largest concentrations of Dungeness crab with more than 50 commercial boats fishing off Pillar Point, the last working fishing harbor between San Francisco and Monterey. Be sure to download the FishLine Mobile App, which has a list of fishermen to call, text or email to reserve your crab or fish ahead of time. 

Photos courtesy of Pati Navalta

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