Half Moon Bay is situated 45 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1, but it might as well be half a world away. Home to the world-famous monster waves at Mavericks, Half Moon Bay is a sleepy beach town with a strong connection to the ocean—a perfect place for a walk along the beach or dinner at a local seafood spot.
You’ll definitely want to spend as much time as possible by the Pacific, and several miles of the border-to-border California Coastal Trail run through Half Moon Bay. One particularly nice section begins at Poplar Beach and travels down the coast above the waves. Just north of town at Moss Beach, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a great place to see harbor seals and explore tide pools—look for purple sea urchins and sea stars in the craggy rocks.
The dining is steeped in tradition: Sam’s Chowder House is famous for its lobster roll sandwiches and cioppino, as well as views that look out over the harbor and to Pillar Point. With its neon fish sign outside and nets dangling from the ceiling, funky Barbara’s Fishtrap sits along the harbor and has drawn big crowds since 1971, thanks in part to some of the best fish-and-chips anywhere in California. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has been serving the community with local handcrafted beers for 20 years.
There’s also great eating (and shopping) on Half Moon Bay’s historic Main Street: Pasta Moon sources from area farms and fishermen for its spaghetti puttanesca, which features day-boat sea scallops, clams, and mussels.
As for Mavericks, only the most skilled surfers should consider tackling the challenging waves that can reach heights of 50 feet or more. But you can get a taste of the local surf scene (and pick up cool hoodies to impress your inland pals) at Mavericks Surf Company, owned by Jeff Clark, a big-wave legend. For something a little more sedate, the company’s Mavericks PaddleSports offers stand-up paddleboard rentals and lessons on the flat waters of Pillar Point Harbor. You can also spend the night at the Inn at Mavericks, a dog friendly inn overlooking the Pacific, within walking distance to restaurants, shopping, and the ocean.
And for anyone looking for some pampering after a day exploring the coast, the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay commands a bluff overlooking the ocean. Its spa features treatments inspired by the area’s natural setting—it’s an ideal spot for some rejuvenation.