Half Moon Bay, in San Mateo County, is less than 30 miles south of San Francisco. The feel of Half Moon Bay is strikingly different than that of the City by the Bay; while San Francisco is hip, fun and progressive, Half Moon Bay is a small, quieter town, with a rural and agricultural past that is still evidenced away from the water. I’ve enjoyed the slower Northern California pace of Half Moon Bay before, and contributor Laura Diamond found it equally agreeable for her family travel experience there. — Jennifer Miner
“Take a jacket,” our friends suggested for our trip to Half Moon Bay from the inland San Francisco Peninsula.
Luckily, we had grabbed sweatshirts as an afterthought as we rushed out of our house in Venice Beach to catch our flight to the foggy Bay Area. We were headed to the quiet, secluded Half Moon Bay – the same Pacific Ocean but a far cry from the crazy crowds of Venice.
Hoodies zipped, we were free to enjoy the small-town beauty of Half Moon Bay. Staying at the appropriately named Beach House Hotel, we simply had to walk down the hotel steps to access the walking/biking trail, roam the beach, climb the rock jetty, admire dogs splashing in the calm water, and watch families digging for crabs. Back at the hotel we played in the outdoor pool and enjoyed the hot tub while overlooking the ocean view and boats bobbing at Pillar Harbor, the a fog horn keeping time in the distance.
For dinner, we walked back to the path and ambled next door for ocean view dining at Sam’s Chowder House. We were tempted by so many appetizers – we chose the Ahi Tuna Poke, Popcorn Shrimp, Caesar Salad and a special Beet Salad from the array of local ingredient dishes – that we will have to return simply to sample the chowder.
That’s fine, because there are a lot of reasons to return. One enormous reason could be Mavericks, the surf competition made familiar to our ears by our eight-year-old’s fascination with the Chasing Mavericks online movie trailer. The surfing competition is held each winter between November and March, if the conditions are perfect, on only 24 hours’ notice.
More attainable attractions that will bring us back are the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains, hiking trails with breathtaking views, the tide pools at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, and the guided Elephant Seal tour at the Ano Nuevo Reserve and Interpretive Center. We’ll also need another trip to taste the locals’ top restaurant recommendation in Pillar Harbor, Ketch Joanne’s. We had already filled up on the Beach House Hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast.
One activity we didn’t have to save for next time was stand up paddleboarding. The friendly folks at Half Moon Bay Kayak Company, just a few minutes’ walk from our hotel, gave us a quick lesson and first-rate wetsuits, and sent us on our way into the Bay. Gliding across the water (toasty warm) to the sounds of seagulls, occasional flock of pelicans soaring past, it was easy to forget that dreaded civilization, and our looming departure time from San Francisco Airport, was so close at hand. We paddled back in too soon for me, knowing we would certainly return.
Complimentary paddleboards provided by Half Moon Bay Kayak Co., and complimentary dinner for four provided by Sam’s Chowder House. Beach House Hotel upgraded room to ocean view from partial ocean view.
Laura Diamond lives in Venice, California. She is currently working on her first novel. She is a regular contributor to The Vacation Gals.