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Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

This delightful little beach town possesses serious surf DNA and is just a short drive from San Francisco

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Half Moon Bay is situated 45 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway One, 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.

Things to Do in Half Moon Bay

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.

As for Mavericks—the breaks that Half Moon Bay is known for the world over—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. 

Where to Eat and Drink in Half Moon Bay

The dining here 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. 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. If your thoughts run more toward imbibing, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has been serving the community with local handcrafted beers since 2000, and two distilleries—Jettywave Distillery and Half Moon Bay Distillery, both woman-owned—have been receiving accolades for their lines of small-batch spirits. Half Moon Bay Distillery offers private in-store tastings; Jettywave’s pet-friendly garden, The Swell Lounge, serves up cocktails as well as food.

Where to Stay in Half Moon Bay

A few of Half Moon Bay’s standout lodging options include the Inn at Mavericks, a dog-friendly inn overlooking the Pacific, within walking distance to restaurants, shopping, and the ocean. If you’re looking for some ultra-luxe pampering after a day exploring the coast, the grand 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.

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