Half Moon Bay boasts 33 miles of beautiful coastline and miles of wide sandy beaches facing San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This small, coastal community features a vast and diverse landscape that encompasses miles of wide sandy beaches, lush blufftop meadows, rolling forested hills, and inland lakes.
Whatever your pleasure – from strolling the historic downtown with its iconic red-brick architecture to hiking the many trails to Half Moon Bay’s famous lighthouse – if you are looking for things to do in Half Moon Bay, you will always find something pleasing to your taste.
Wanna take a lovely and relaxing weekend with some delicious seafood? Let this be your decision-maker and get your money spent in a valuable way for a soul-resting weekend. We will cover the best things to do in Half Moon Bay that I think are worth visiting and doing.
Feel free to check out the 10 best restaurants in Half Moon Bay. They offer very delicious and fresh foods. But before we eat, let’s dive into what to do in Half Moon Bay.
- Best Things To Do In Half Moon Bay
- Visit the State Beaches at Half Moon Bay
- Get on trip at Pillar Point Harbor
- Take a fresh breath at the Purisima Creek Redwoods
- Hike or Bike the California Coastal Trail
- Have a Picnic at La Nebbia Winery
- Get in a kayak and explore
- Shop & Eat on Main Street in Half Moon Bay
- Spend a night at The Ritz-Carlton
Best Things To Do In Half Moon Bay
Visit the State Beaches at Half Moon Bay
Welcome to the Coastside. Just north of San Francisco, the coast side of Monterey County is by turns sunny and warm and cool and foggy; it’s a place where you can shop artisan cheese and wool blankets on the same day.
For an up-and-comer, this city has an old-fashioned sense of community and an emphasis on doing things locally. When you step off the train or plane, you’ll step into a world that will delight you with its small-town friendliness and big-city sophistication, opening up a plethora of things to do in Half Moon Bay.
Use Half Bay Moon State Beaches Trails to get detailed information about each trail in Half Moon Bay State Beach, including highlights, photos, reviews, and descriptions. Plan your hikes and outdoor activities by discovering new places or revisiting your favorites. Find the best local restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds for all budgets.
With over one thousand acres of coastal headlands, dunes, and beachfront developed for day use or camping, you can enjoy the beauty of this Northern California location with historic access to San Francisco by rail. Half Moon Bay State Beach is only 15 miles south of San Francisco, 55 miles north of Monterey, and 40 miles south of Santa Cruz on Highway One.
The public beach and campground on the west side of Boca Ciega Bay are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. A day-use picnic area with tables is located within the campground, along with two double-sided charcoal grills and a storm shelter. If you are wondering what to do in Half Moon Bay, why not start with a beach cook-out?
Get on trip at Pillar Point Harbor
1 Johnson Pier, Half Moon Bay // +1 650-726-4382
With access to the Pacific Ocean, Pillar Point Harbor is a perfect place to stop off for a meal or to fill your gas tank. Part of Half Moon Bay Coastside, the harbor attracts thousands each year with its variety of attractions from walking trails, dunes, and beaches to picnic areas, shops, and restaurants. And, of course, who can decline the fresh seafood at The Fish House?
Pillar Point Harbor Beach is an isolated beach and area just outside of El Granada, California. The beach is entirely protected from ocean waves by two large jetties. This pristine beach is protected from the ocean’s wrath by the jetty and as such, has not been affected by erosion.
This is one of the few spots on the Peninsula you can actually walk on the beach. Overlooking Pillar Point Harbor, this family beach has picnic tables, restrooms, and seasonal lifeguards. It’s within walking distance from Sam’s Chowder House and Beach House Hotel. Take a stroll then enjoy lunch at Sam’s before hitting the water at Mavericks or other nearby surfing spots.
There are three beaches here. The one on the northside of Pillar Point Harbor is called Portuguese Beach. It’s more of a surfing beach and the northernmost point is called Popcorn Beach. The middle beach is called Oyster Beach and there really are tons of oysters in this area to pick up.
The southernmost beach is better for families and to just relax with views in all directions; including Half Moon Bay to the west, Pacifica to the east, Pillar Point Harbor to the south, and a good view of that lighthouse out there too, plus I could see Princeton across the water. If surf and sand are your things, this is where to go in Half Moon Bay.
Take a fresh breath at the Purisima Creek Redwoods
This trail is very rough, steep and almost impassable in places. Despite the obvious environmental damage that has been done to this area, there are still a few nice redwoods worthy of a short detour off of the Purisima Creek Trail.
The trail, which is kind of like a switchback staircase going straight up the ridge, starts just south of where Lidgeon Road meets De Santos Road and goes all the way to Skyline Boulevard.
The singletrack Craig Britton Trail (formerly called the Soda Gulch Trail) winds around a lush ravine high above a creek, giving you an enjoyable ride. The forest is dense with second-growth redwoods and a groundcover of ferns and redwood sorrel.
With its deep red bark and the very distinctive white horizontal lines that mark the trunk of the tree, this is one of the most beautiful of the redwoods. The scenery gets even better at the Harkins Ridge Trail intersection.
The environment changes abruptly the moment you step onto the ridge; stately lichen-covered fir trees line the trail, giving the area a distinctive coastal look, and there are a lot more panoramic views than before. If you enjoy breath-taking sights and outdoor activity, the Purisma Creek Redwoods should be on your list of things to do in Half Moon Bay.
Hike or Bike the California Coastal Trail
Take a walk or bike ride along the California Coastal Trail. You will be amazed at the variety of scenery that you encounter in just a few miles. Starting at Pillar Point Harbor, you can take an easy ride or walk past Kaiser Permanente Beach Club and the ruins of an old racetrack and golf course to Long Slope Beach, which is popular for camping.
Along the trail, there are varying degrees of difficulty, as some parts are rocky making it difficult to cycle, while other sections are more flat and smooth than others.
The California Coastal Trail is a dream destination for walking, but if you are looking for an adrenaline stop, just head for the beach and attempt to catch the waves. The trail’s outstanding coastline can be enjoyed year-round. Head over when it’s foggy above ground but warm below.
Keep your eyes on the prize. California’s Coastal Trail is open, when the budget allows, so you can pulverize through redwoods fed by Big Sur’s famous fog and beyond.
This 360-mile (580-kilometer) route was used by Native Americans for thousands of years before being abandoned; now it feels like seven trails in one, with beaches, waterfalls, virgin forests, and harbor views.
If you are a trail enthusiast, you have most likely heard of the famous Pacific Coast Highway bike path in California, also known as the Hearst Castle Highway. For thousands of advanced cyclists and amateurs who want to try out some tough hills, the ride from Cambria to San Simeon is one of the best cycling trails on the west coast.
The reason? It offers stunning ocean views, but also plenty of challenges from steep hills up to more than 100 feet high. This is what makes it one of the best trails for mountain bikes in California. Definitely, this is something to do in Half Moon Bay for a fitness enthusiast!
Have a Picnic at La Nebbia Winery
12341 San Mateo Rd // +1 650-726-9463
A trip to the beautiful California coast is almost incomplete without having a picnic lunch or dinner at La Nebbia Winery in Half Moon Bay.
This charming winery sits on a hill overlooking the ocean and features an outdoor bocce court. While relaxing with a bottle of wine, you can play and socialize with your friends and family while enjoying the view. Try one of their many white wines; there are sure to be some that you’ll like!
La Nebbia Winery, a family-owned and family-operated winery in Half Moon Bay, serves as the perfect pit stop for your vacation. Be prepared to have a lovely time in the outdoors with their picnic area and bocce ball courts.
They even have a selection of wines on tap too! Next time you’re thinking of where to go in Half Moon Bay, be sure to put this winery on your list!
La Nebbia Winery is one of the best wineries in Half Moon Bay. La Nebbia wines are a blend of Italian varietals that are handcrafted with the best possible grapes from California. The wines are full-bodied and have a smooth, dry finish, which makes them perfect for an afternoon at the beach or by the fire pit.
They also hold wine tastings during their regular hours and offer special weekend packages. Visit their website for more details or call them today to book your reservation!
Get in a kayak and explore
As you kayak across the bay, watch for the sea lions and seals that populate the area.
The bay is the gateway to the Pacific and a perfect place to start your kayaking tour. While paddling around the city be sure to visit the sea lions and harbor seals that live off of the marina in front of the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club. It is one of several sites that is an attraction for many tourists, as well as residents.
Living on the coast, you’ll probably want to try your hand at kayaking. Our favorite spot is located in the quiet harbor of Half Moon Bay, where there are few wind gusts and lots of space.
You can paddle around the harbor or out into the bay to visit the seals that reside near the yacht club. Many people take a picnic with them, which allows you to stay out longer and makes for more interesting adventures as you can go exploring further away from the harbor.
The local wildlife protection groups ask all visitors to never pick up or touch the pups, as touching a baby seal hurts the chances of it reuniting with its mother. Disturbing the wildlife is absolutely one of the things NOT to do in Half Moon Bay.
Shop & Eat on Main Street in Half Moon Bay
Set in the middle of old town, Shop & Eat on Main Street is easily accessible, and one of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay. Local eateries within walking distance include It’s Italia, Pasta Moon, Sacrilege Bar and Grill, Café Sabor, Carrara Pastry, and Kitchen & Supply Co., as well as many others.
You must not leave Half Moon Bay without one of the delicious Malley’s Double-Dipped Waffle Cones or a scoop of Sweet Rose Creamery ice cream.
The downtown is quaint but packed with delicious restaurants and cute shops. Definitely stop by Wright’s Gourmet Foods to try some of the greatest chocolate on the planet or some exclusive jams they make.
Then just step a little further down Main Street and check out Oddyssea Outside, a must-see in Half Moon Bay. Here, you will find creative projects like building your own terrariums and all sorts of fun happenings from kite building workshops to flower arranging demonstrations. This amazing science store is located just across from the world-famous Coastside Vineyards. There you’ll find creative projects and fun events for all.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the bustling, impersonal shopping malls, come to Half Moon Bay. Downtown shops, restaurants, and pubs are on Main Street — more laidback, yet filled with eye candy (lots of cool art).
When traveling to Half Moon Bay, it’s always a good idea to check out our businesses in the downtown area. With quaint shops, delicious restaurants and live music, you’re sure to find something worth checking out while you’re there.
Spend a night at The Ritz-Carlton
1 Miramontes Point Rd // (650) 712-7000
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is a luxury beachfront resort, offering breathtaking ocean views while encompassing a sense of coastal elegance within the California enclave. The property was renovated in 2010 with a new color scheme of soft greys, blues, and slate hues that complement the stunning Pacific Ocean vistas.
Guests are welcomed by the foyer staircase and reception area showcasing floor-to-ceiling wood framed mirrors, polished stone floors, and an exclusive collection of original works by famed American artist Dave McGary.
Experience warm weather and an inviting welcome to the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. With one and two-bedroom oceanfront suites boasting beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, each is lavishly appointed with sleek interiors featuring lavish bedding, designer fashions by Porthault linens, and a 46″ LCD TV as well as an entertainment library with DVD players. The luxury spa features four treatment rooms and a relaxation pool.
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay personifies the coastal California lifestyle and inspires a sense of elegant coastal living. The property offers four-star amenities, exemplary service, and perfectly appointed guest rooms with luxurious bedding. Some rooms boast uninterrupted ocean views from private balconies in addition to modern amenities for an unforgettable stay. Even with all the other things to do in Half Moon Bay, you couldn’t go wrong just staying here for the view and ambiance.
What is the cost of living in Half Moon Bay?
Half Moon Bay tops the list as a place with the highest cost of living in 2013. There is a 5.5% unemployment rate in San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco Metro Div. The metro area has one of the lowest rates in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro area.
Housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services account for over two-thirds of total expenses. The average household spends almost $1,600 on housing expenses (rent or mortgage).
This includes lodging at hotels or resorts (36 percent); utilities (19 percent), including electricity, natural gas, water, and garbage services; household maintenance services such as cleaning lady or landscaping service; and lodging in recreational vehicles, trailer tents, or campers.
How does Half Moon Bay compare to the rest of the U.S?
With its glorious views of the Pacific Ocean and Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay is filled with locally loved restaurants and lounges, like our very own legendary restaurant – Merritt’s.
Located on the beautiful Pillar Point Harbor, Merritt’s has been a San Mateo County tradition since 1950. Offering fresh seafood, steak, pasta and sushi, Merritt’s is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Some of these things cannot be found on the Eastern Side. Both coasts have their own beauty, and Half Moon Bay tends to be a bit more expensive than New York. Also, when compared to other states, its economy and tourism have kept Half Moon Bay alive and healthy. Statistically seen, Half Moon Bay has a higher economy than 55% of the U.S.
What about transportation?
Eddie Andreini Sr. Airfield is officially the Half Moon Bay airport. If you are traveling by plane, on arrival there are many ways to get to your final destination, such as taxi, bus, public transportation, or private transportation.
Once you get to your final destination, your best bet is to rent a bike and travel around in order to get the maximum of your trip. If you want to visit tougher terrain, then get a solid pair of shoes and don’t be afraid to explore the forests around.
Half Moon Bay’s historic downtown is known for its array of boutique shopping, mouth-watering eateries, stunning art galleries, and many other free activities. With so much to do in Half Moon Bay, your biggest difficulty will be deciding what to do first. From the famous Fishtail Park to the historical Main Street Discovery Cruise on the SS Palo Alto, the rich history of this seaside town will delight you!
Visitors to Half Moon Bay are guests in one of the most beautiful small harbor communities on the Pacific Coast; they are never more than a short walk to waterfront parks, whale watching, sailing, and seaside dining.
The charming historic Main Street district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and abounds with specialty shops, galleries, B&Bs, and fine restaurants in a variety of price ranges.
There is always something new to discover here. From the historic, to the adventurous, to a cool slice of nature—the best way to appreciate your destination is to get out there and see it for yourself.
With this in mind, we’ve brainstormed a list of suggested destinations and activities in Half Moon Bay that will both awaken your appetite for the Coastside and help you plan your itinerary.
Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.