You can guess the shape of the bay from its name - a crescent-shaped piece of California coast with a nice little town in the middle. It's more laid back than its southern sister Santa Cruz, with a quiet ambiance and rural feel.
You can plan your Half Moon Bay day trip or weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Half Moon Bay?
- Half Moon Bay is popular with families, those who like to be active outdoors and area locals out for a nice day's drive. It also offers some nice opportunities for wine and food lovers.
Best Time to Go to Half Moon BayHalf Moon Bay weather is best in spring and fall. In summer, it's prone to fog and in winter, storms and high surf are likely.
If you've only got a day, downtown Half Moon Bay is good for a few hours' leisurely stroll. The five-block-long shopping area on Main Street is lined with shops, galleries, book stores, a winery tasting room and several restaurants. And don't miss the murals painted along the side streets.
6 More Great Things to Do in Half Moon Bay
- Beaches: Use the San Mateo County beach guide to find the best beach for you. Best spots for tide pooling are the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (north) and Pescadero (south).
- Active Outdoors: Take a long hike following the Coastside Trail which follows the ocean bluffs between Pillar Point Harbor and Poplar Avenue. If you'd rather take to the water, California Canoe and Kayak and Half Moon Bay Kayak Company rent kayaks and offer lessons and tours. Sea Horse Ranch offers trail rides on the beach every day (except when it's storming) and you don't need a reservation. Just drop by (wearing long pants) and they'll do the rest. Children ages 5 and up can ride their own horse and you can always find a horse that meets your needs, whether it's your first ride or your hundredth.
- A Wild Time: December through March, thousands of northern elephant seals haul out of the ocean onto the beach at Ano Nuevo, a few miles south. Babies are born, males fight for dominance, adults mate and the pups are left behind to . Use the Ano Neuvo visitor guide to get all the particulars.
- Side Trip to Pescadero: It's just a few miles south off CA Hwy 1, with a cute little downtown and a bakery that makes some of the best artichoke bread you'll find anywhere. The few shops in town are good for a rambling browse, too.
- Family Fun: The kids like the beach, tide pooling and the pony and train rides at Lemos Farm. The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay is also one of the most family-friendly hotels around, serving hot chocolate and S'Mores around their outdoor fireplaces and offering a wide range of children's activities.
- Cork and Bottle Days: Several times a year, La Nebbia Winery has its Bottle and Cork Days. Bring your own clean bottles (or buy some from them) and they'll fit them up with premium wine and cork them for you, for a price almost anyone can afford. They're on CA Hwy 92 east of Half Moon Bay and their tasting room is also open daily.
Annual Events You Should Know About
- Mavericks Surf Contest: Any time the waves get big enough during the competition's season (November through March), the word goes out - and the world-class, big-wave surfers have just 24 hours to the there.
- Pacific Coast Dream Machines, April: Vintage warbirds, unicycle drag racing, monster tricks, motorcycles and all kinds of "dream machines" show up at this weekend festival.
- Tour Des Fleurs, July: Behind-the-scenes tours of local nurseries, wineries and farms, many not ordinarily open to public
- Pumpkin Festival, October: They run one of the biggest Halloween-time festivals in the area, with a pumpkin championship and lots of activities.
Tips for Visiting Half Moon Bay
- During the most popular events, you'll find the roads getting to Half Moon Bay jammed. With few ways to get there, all we can recommend is a big dose of patience, a full tank and an empty bladder.
- It's a winding drive on two-lane roads no matter how you get there, but CA Hwy 92 has less of it.
- If you live in San Francisco, you probably already know about this, but just in case - the area called Devils's Slide on CA Hwy 1 between the city and Half Moon Bay is prone to landslides which can close the highway. Before you go, call 1-800-427-7623 for current highway conditions or check them online.
Half Moon Bay's most famous brunch is at Navio restaurant in the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, a lavish affair with a price tag to match. Go hungry. You'll also find several nice places on Main Street - Pasta Moon gets especially good reviews. Former speakeasy the Moss Beach Distillery is most famous for its resident haunt, the Blue Lady - and better for drinks than a meal.
The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay offers frequent food and wine events and an annual Fire and Wine Experience weekend that features several great food and wine events.
Where to Stay
Half Moon Bay has a number of nice hotels in a wide price range. To find out about them, consult the hotel listings and ratings at tripadvisor and use the same process we use to choose our recommended hotels. For help getting the best possible deal, read about how to find a good place to stay, cheap .
We enjoyed stay at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay - read our review.
If you'd like a place that's a little more like home, try a vacation rental.
Pelican point RV Park at 1001 Miramonte Road is a good spot for campers - or try Half Moon Bay State Beach.
For something really different, how about staying in converted railroad station?