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Getaway Guide: Half Moon Bay
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Getaway Guide: Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay offers endless things to do on land and sea. This is how we’d spend a long weekend in Half Moon Bay.

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8 min read

December 12, 2022

There is a quality to Half Moon Bay that makes you want to sit back and enjoy the day without paying any attention to any itinerary. But with such an incredible destination before you, it's hard not to make any plans. Known for its agricultural and fishing industries, as well as for its pumpkins and wildflowers, Half Moon Bay offers endless things to do on land and at sea. Be ready for salty breezes blowing in from the coast as the meadow gently sways side to side and boat sails luff in the wind.

Where Is Half Moon Bay CA?

Making your way down to the sandy beach rewards you with some of the best views around as the eroded cliffsides cascade into the waters below.

Arriving

Miles of sandy beaches stretch out along Half Moon Bay, inviting visitors into the city’s relaxed vibes while Highway 1 leaves the door open to continue their journeys farther south to the Carmel Valley and Big Sur.

Driving south from San Francisco, the busy city streets begin to give way to narrower highways, blue waters dotted with the occasional surfer, and rolling hills. Though there are less than 30 miles between these two cities, they feel worlds away. As you enter Half Moon Bay, the Cypress trees seem taller, the Monterey pines appear more sprightly, and the grassy fields feel incredibly inviting. A turn toward Mavericks Beach and you’ll catch glimpses of the coast as it pops out of nowhere along with the iconic surfing station.

The Stay

Once you’re in Half Moon Bay California, it’s time to check in to the Mill Rose Inn and relax. While there are numerous hotels in Half Moon Bay, there is nothing quite like the vibes of a bed and breakfast to get you into a stress-free state. With six distinctly decorated guest rooms, manicured gardens, and a picturesque gazebo with a hot tub, it’s hard not to get swept up in the whimsical nature of this inn.

Day 1

Get ready to be blown away as you take in the majestic vibes of this coast-side city.

Afternoon

A finger lickin’ must-try, Half Moon Bay’s lobster roll from Sam's Chowder House.

Oceanside Lunch

With such a promising morning working up your appetite, lunch is in order. Continue the drive south for 2 miles until you come upon the quaint building of Sam’s Chowder House. Tucked in from the shoreline, Sam’s provides the most exquisite views of the ocean and serves some of the best Bay Area seafood.

Start off your meal with the crispy lump crab cakes topped with shaved fennel, fresh frisée, and a decadent remoulade sauce. Continue on with the refreshing flavors of the seafood ceviche starring bay scallops and sweet shrimp, which are perfectly balanced by fresh mango, avocado, and lime juice. Make sure to save room for the main event, because you don’t want to miss out on Sam’s classic lobster roll. The naked version is served warm with a light coating of butter, which allows the flavors of the tender lobster to dance on your tongue.

The Ritz-Carlton, California coastal trail is a 3.5 mile, out-and-back pathway that’s perfect for a scenic afternoon stroll in Half Moon Bay.

The Seaside Lifestyle

After your undoubtedly satiating meal, hop back into the car and continue to drive south. Park your car in the Redondo Beach lot to walk off your lunch on The Ritz-Carlton, California coastal trail. This 3.5-mile out-and-back pathway is the perfect introduction to Half Moon Bay’s seaside lifestyle. Enjoy a stroll by one of the city’s most iconic hotels, saunter past Half Moon Bay Golf Links, and maybe even practice your swing at the beautiful golf course. Soak up the scenery at Half Moon Bay State Beach before making the journey back.

Evening

Deep-tissue Massage

After the soothing views of the slipping sunset on the breathtaking coastal horizon, it's time to laze away the evening. Head back to Mill Rose Inn for a deep-tissue restorative massage to end the day on a high note as every last bit of tension melts out of your body.

What Is Half Moon Bay Known For?

Day 2

Let your horse-riding dream materialize as you ride-off the morning on the breathtaking equestrian trails of Half Moon Bay.

Morning

Waking up at the Mill Rose Inn on its own is magical. Surrounded by the meticulously designed decor and patterned wallpaper feels like stepping into a fairytale and getting showered with floral confetti. After taking some time to sit by the window and look out at the gardens, the claw-foot tub beckons for a morning soak.

Breakfast

Following a luxuriously relaxing morning, it’s time to start the day with a delicious breakfast. Head to the dining room for a beautiful spread of fresh fruit, French pastries, freshly squeezed fruit juices, crêpes, quiche, and homemade bread. Once you’ve loaded up your plate, wander out to the garden courtyard to savor the flavors under the sun. The handmade cookies are also an absolute must. But with so many things to do in Half Moon Bay, it’s best to take them to go, especially since it’s time for one of the most memorable experiences in the region–horseback riding along the beach at Sea Horse Ranch

Horseback Riding

While there is so much beauty along the coastline, Half Moon Bay Ca offers something extra special. The rugged cliffs reach down to touch the cyan waters as green foliage covers the rocky expanse. The entire landscape looks surreal as you gallop along the Pacific Coast. Let everything else fade away as you ride through the seaside bluffs, onto the pristine white sands of Poplar Beach, and across the equestrian trails to the ranch. Though the horseback-riding tour lasts over an hour, it can seem to be over in the blink of an eye, so savor every minute.

The gentle cliffs and white sandy beaches of Half Moon Bay provide stunning ocean vistas.

While there is so much beauty along the coastline of California, Half Moon Bay offers something extra special. The rugged cliffs reach down to touch the cyan waters as green foliage covers the rocky expanse. The entire landscape looks surreal as you gallop along the Pacific Coast. As you ride through the seaside bluffs, onto the pristine white sands of Poplar Beach, and across the equestrian trails to the ranch, everything else fades away. Though the horseback-riding tour lasts over an hour, it seems to be over in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, prancing on the sand near the water’s edge feels like a distant memory (or even a dream). 

Afternoon

Lunch

With a full morning under your belt, hunger starts to seep in, signaling lunchtime. And there’s no better place for lunch in downtown Half Moon Bay than Dad’s Luncheonette. Tucked inside a train caboose, this roadside restaurant is not what you might expect. While it would be easy to write off this eatery as a run-of-the-mill quirky spot, its 3 Michelin star chef, Scott Clark, has turned beach-town comfort food into responsibly sourced bites. Grab either the hamburger or a mushroom sandwich, served with a soft-boiled egg, melted cheese, Dad’s sauce, and slices of grilled white bread on the side. Make sure to call before going, as the place is always busy and might sell out.

Situated in San Mateo County, Half Moon Bay takes pride in its divine and enchanting Redwoods.

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve

After a messy meal, several napkins, and a few photos later, it’s time to continue on to the next destination. A hike at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve will set the mood for the rest of the day. Trek along towering redwoods as they evoke feelings of Lake Tahoe or the Lost Coast, wrapping visitors up in their canopied embrace. Even with the closures along the way, this forested region is well worth the excursion. Enjoy the fresh air granted by the stretching greenery, as miles of unexplored trails give you reason enough for a return trip. After soaking up the wilderness, make your way back downtown to stroll around the shops and eateries.

Evening

Half Moon Bay State Beach and Dinner

Good times never stop with so many fun things to do in Half Moon Bay. When you’re done exploring the book stores and bakeries, the afternoon will naturally have flown by. Climb back into the car and drive north along the coast after making a quick stop at Half Moon Bay State Beach to dip your toes in the cool waters. 

With sandy toes and a grumbling stomach, cruise on toward Seville Tapas for incredible Spanish cuisine. The brightly colored building perfectly matches the hues of the eatery’s fresh ingredients and the Princeton-by-the-Sea sunsets. Start off with the rich flavors of the lobster bisque before moving on to the savory El Cubano pepitos. These miniature baguette sandwiches filled with slow-roasted Cuban pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard will have your taste buds tingling. Finish off the evening with the flan before retiring to the inn for a good night’s rest.

Still Wondering If Half Moon Bay’s Worth Visiting?

Day 3

One non-negotiable item on your Half Moon Bay itinerary is experiencing the blue swells on a kayak ride.

Morning

Breakfast and Packing

The sun shines in the windows as you awaken to greet another day. Breakfast in bed sounds like the only reasonable solution to continue a bit of packing before the morning ends. Before long, a delectable selection of omelets, bread, juices, and fruits appear at the door. And just like that, all the rushing around comes to a halt, and the relaxation begins, yet again. 

Kayaking is an exciting activity that will take you paddling amongst the blue swells as you experience the ocean so intimately.

Half Moon Bay Kayak Co.

After a leisurely meal and checking out, get ready for the day’s exciting adventures before driving home. Kayaking is one of those activities that always seems to take more out of you than anticipated. Head to Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. for a paddle amongst the blue swells as you experience the ocean so intimately. Although the cool breeze will make you never want to leave, the show must go on — there’s more to experience!

Afternoon

Lunch

Barbara’s Fishtrap is a local favorite, so having lunch here is a non-negotiable item on the itinerary. Start with a sourdough bread bowl of creamy clam chowder, continue on with the coast side calamari, and finish with the Dungeness crab or the bay shrimp sandwich. Order from the take-out window to enjoy an unbeatable picnic on the beach as you wonder why it took you so long to come to Half Moon Bay. 

Point Montara Lighthouse

As you journey home, make a stop at the Point Montara Lighthouse to see the cute lighthouse-turned-hostel just north of Half Moon Bay

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

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