A cozy beach town located on the Northern California coast, Half Moon Bay is the perfect little getaway for an eventful day or a rejuvenating afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Only 45 minutes from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay provides an array of activities.
There is something for the adventure seeker, foodie, dog lover, and beach bums alike. If you are visiting San Francisco or live in the Bay Area, a day trip to Half Moon Bay is well worth the visit, and I am going to tell you why.
What You Need to Know: Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay gets its whimsical name from its beautiful crescent-shaped harbor. Orginally called Spanishtown in the 1840s, Half Moon Bay is one of the oldest settlements in San Mateo county.
When to Visit Half Moon Bay
The weather in Half Moon Bay is pretty comfortable all year long, temperatures usually stay between 45 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit with their hottest months being July through September.
However, even in the summertime, you should always dress in layers. Along the coast there are temperature changes throughout the day, you are going to want to dress in layers to be more comfortable.
Each season brings its own local fun and activities:
Spring: popular for camping and hiking. Our favorite time to visit, because of the beautiful wildflowers.
Summer: brings in the beachgoers, but can have foggy days.
Fall: is for the pumpkin festival
Winter: When the Maverick surfing competition is held. Half Moon Bay is globally known for having some of the fiercest and largest waves in the world.
Where is Half Moon Bay, California
Location, location, location! One of my favorite things about Half Moon Bay is its convenient location. Not only does it sit on the magical and gorgeous coast of Northern California.
It is also only a 40-minute drive from San Francisco and a 1-hour drive from the East Bay. Most importantly, Half Moon Bay is the ideal location to plan a last-minute day trip.
When visiting Half Moon Bay you can also add on a trip to Pescadero, another charming beach town on the California coast. Pescadero is famously known for its yummy garlic artichoke bread, gorgeous sandy beaches, local farms, and wine tastings paired with fresh goat cheese.
Pescadero is south of Half Moon Bay and about a 24-minute drive.
Is Half Moon Bay Worth the Visit?
Is Half Moon Bay worth visiting? My short answer is YES! My husband and I have done numerous day trips to Half Moon Bay since moving to the Bay Area. On our first time at Half Moon Bay, I was blown away by all of the beauty and charm this small town had to offer.
There is something special about Half Moon Bay and the feelings you get while being there. To truly know what I am talking about you will have to experience it for yourself and come visit!
This Half Moon Bay day trip itinerary is perfectly packed with must-do activities, top places to eat, and it will get you back to the city or East Bay by dinner time.
We have found Half Moon Bay to be extremely dog-friendly, which is very important to us. Even the 5 star Ritz Carlton has dog-friendly accommodations!! You can read more about why we love the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay below.
We enjoy bringing along our two dogs with us on our road trips and have traveled to some pretty incredible California destinations. If you are looking for the perfect dog friendly location along the California coast, Half Moon Bay is the place for you.
Now Let’s Start Your Day Trip to Half Moon Bay
The best and only practical way to get to Half Moon Bay would be by car. It is a beautiful drive along the coast and you are surrounded by gorgeous views everywhere you look. On our last visit, I was the driver and I was extremely jealous that I could not spend the entire trip gazing out the window.
The first stop on your day trip to Half Moon Bay is Devil’s Slide in Pacifica. It’s on the way and with the name “Devil’s Silde” how can you not be intrigued?
Devils Slide gets its ominous name for being known for landslides! It was once a dangerous and daunting road that was part of Highway 1, but later got turned into this hiking and biking trail. It sounds like a great place to start your day off, right?
When you enter Devil’s Slide, the steep slopes sit on both sides of the paved trail. You feel so small amongst them. The left side of the trail opens up to scenic views of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rugged rock.
Take a moment and sit on one of the benches along the trail, with the wind sweeping through your hair, and stare out into the never-ending dark blue ocean. It’s an easy 3-mile walk (there and back) and a dog-friendly trail.
Devil’s Slide Mystery House
Listed on Zillow for over a million dollars as a fixer-upper with an open view concept and tons of natural light. Put your offer in now because it will sell fast! Just kidding, Bay Area joke.
Down the road from Devil’s Slide, you can not miss the interesting building sitting on top of a cliff at the side of the ocean. It looks like it is about to crumble from the peak at any moment.
Turns out it was a bunker from WWII. The area is roped off, so you cannot get close-up views. However, it was a fun little conversation topic on our trip to Half Moon Bay.
What To Do Downtown: Half Moon Bay Main Street
A visit to downtown is a great way to break up some of the hiking and learn a little more about Half Moon Bay. It’s a quaint area on Main Street with plenty of great restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, and history. Park your car and explore downtown Half Moon Bay on foot.
Make your first stop at Moonside Bakery and Café for some fresh coffee and baked goods. Our weakness and personal go-to is chocolate croissants and boy did they not disappoint. Every bite of the flaky croissant was filled with delicious chocolate.
Grab a Local Beer at Sacrilege Brewery
Take a peaceful stroll around Main Street popping in some of the local stores that sell a variety of clothes, jewelry, books, art, and more. Before you depart downtown, loosen up at Sacrilege Brewery and Kitchen.
Unwind in the warm sun or with one of their patio heaters on their frontside patio with a local beer. Sacrilege Brewery provides a great list of locally brewed beers from Half Moon Bay and includes a list of rotating guest taps.
We love visiting and supporting microbreweries when traveling to a new town. Each beer is unique and usually tells a story of why they choose those local and fresh ingredients.
Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail
Walk off the croissant and beer at the Coastal Trail. Only about a seven-minute drive from downtown is Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail.
The trail stretches along the Pacific Coast for 4 miles for a scenic walk or bike ride. It’s beautiful and a must-do activity during your day trip to Half Moon Bay. There is plenty of parking available for a $10 fee outside of the trail.
Half Moon Bay State Beach
The Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail begins at Half Moon Bay State Beach. As soon as you open your car door, you are standing in front of a stunning view. What appears is a golden beach that runs along the breaking waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Perched on top of the vista are picnic tables where you can sit in awe of this marvelous view. Take a walk down by the water and dip your toes in the chilly Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on Half Moon Bay State Beach.
Continue Your Journey On The Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail
Work up an appetite and resume your walk on the Coastal Trail. On the outside perimeter of the trail is a line of beach houses with gorgeous views that will make you think to yourself “I could live here.”
The trail provides access to multiple other beaches along the way and runs parallel to an equestrian trail. If you get lucky, you may catch someone taking a horse out on the beach for a ride.
The Half Moon Bay Coastal trail is also a popular location for birdwatching and other various collections of wildlife.
Where to Eat Lunch in Half Moon Bay
If you read any travel guide on places to eat in Half Moon Bay, there is no doubt that you will see the name Sam’s Chowder House. We finally wanted to find out for ourselves if they live up to all of the hype. Spoiler, they do!
We ordered one of Sam’s Chowder House’s famous lobster rolls. You have the option of ordering your lobster roll either cold and “dressed” in a lemon aioli or “naked” with butter served warm.
The huge chunks of lobster were overflowing the buttery sandwich with every bite, exactly how I like it! We also split the New England Clam Chowder and Crab Cakes. Both are great choices and loaded with fresh seafood.
Sam’s Chowder House Award Winning Views
Sam’s Chowder House offered more than just delicious food. They also have an outstanding view overlooking the Pacific Ocean, making for an unforgettable experience.
Looking out you can see the Pillar Point Harbor, which sits on the right with the fishing boats lined up and docked at the port. Don’t just take it from me, but this view has won Sam’s Chowder House numerous awards over the years for the best outdoor dining location.
One Last Time to Explore Half Moon Bay
Take the stairs next to the entrance down to the beach and onto the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail for one last time to explore. The beach is covered with a blanket of beautiful bright green and orange succulents.
It was a windy day, and we along with many others, could not help but notice the enormous waves pounding into the break wall. My husband, trying to capture this moment had me and my dog Cash stand close by to get the waves in the background.
Rookie mistake. The monstrous waves came crashing over us soaking me and the pup. Needless to say, we were not happy, but it later made for a funny story and picture.
Other Places to Add to your Half Moon Bay Day Trip
Staying more than just the day? Check out other must-see attractions in Half Moon Bay, California.
Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
If you plan on making a night out of it, the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay comes highly recommended and should be your number one option. The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay is a gorgeous hotel that provides the best views in town.
The 5-star hotel sits on a bluff and offers impressive views of the ocean and coastline. If you are looking to unwind and relax in luxury, the Ritz Carlton may be the spot for you.
They have a spa with views overlooking the pacific ocean, a golf course on the coast, tennis courts, and lots of other activities to get you moving outside.
Make a reservation at one of their three restaurants, all of which, offers jaw-dropping views of Half Moon Bay. Plan to have cocktails during sunset at the Ocean Terrace, where you can snuggle up around one of their fire pits, with a drink in hand, and catch the beautiful California sunset.
✅ Book your stay at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay here
Currently, the Ritz Carlton is only allowing guests of the hotel to make reservations at the Ocean Terrace and their other restaurant, The Conservatory. However, if you are not a guest, you may make reservations at their restaurant Novio, which also has incredible views from the dining room.
Pet Policy at Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Dogs only are welcome at the Half Moon Bay resort with a maximum weight limit of 40 pounds and limiting two dogs maximum per room. Their dog-friendly accommodations are located at the Guest Houses only. Dogs are not allowed in the Main Building.
You cannot discuss Half Moon Bay without mentioning Mavericks Beach. After a winter storm, waves can grow to be as large as 60 feet, which makes for a popular location for surfers. Typically there is an annual surfing competition held in Half Moon Bay for some of the world’s most elite surfers.
Tidal pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve offers a ton of activities and tours in educating the public about marine life. The perfect spot for families or groups with young children. It is located in Moss Beach, which is about a 10-15 minute drive from Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail.
The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve allows you the opportunity to explore their tidal pools. The pools are home to sea stars, sea anemones, crabs, and many fish. It’s best to arrive around low tide. Before your visit, check their website for low tide times.
Pillar Point Harbor
Great spot to enjoy some fresh seafood! You either grab lunch at one of the many restaurants at the marina or buy freshly caught fish from the local fisherman. If you visit during crab season, you can purchase live crab right from the fisherman’s boat. Other activities to do at Pillar Point Harbor include:
- A kayaking trip with Half Moon Bay Kayaking Co
- Whale watching tour
- Buy fresh caught fish and crabs
- Walk along the beach
- Take a vessel tour or sailing trip on Lady Washington
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is the perfect spot to grab a drink, some yummy snacks, and sit around a cozy fire pit with views overlooking the bay.
They are located at Pillar Point Harbor along the Half Moon Bay California Coastal Trail. We typically like to make a pit stop at Half Moon Bay Brewing for a drink and a bite to eat after a walk or bike ride on the coastal trail.
Besides the incredible coastal views from their outdoor patio, Half Moon Brewing has a wide selection of seasonal and specialty local crafted beer. The restaurant is a California-style brewpub and serves a variety of sandwiches, burgers, seafood, and apps.
The oceanfront views alone at Half Moon Bay Brewing make it worth a visit!
Other Epic Day Trips From San Francisco
If you are looking for other ideas and plans for day trips in Northern California, you must visit Pfeiffer Beach. It’s a one-of-a-kind beach with purple sand, incredible coastal views, unique rock formations, and dog-friendly.
It has personally been on my bucket for years and I finally got the opportunity to visit! Check out Pfeiffer Beach Is More Than Just the Purple Sand Beach, for a guide with everything you need to know before your visit to Pfeiffer Beach!
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First Time to Napa Valley: Guide & Tips: Wine country is a must when visiting California. Find my guide to wine tasting in Napa Valley.
18 Awesome Things to do in Pescadero: Only a 24-minute drive from Half Moon Bay is the charming and beautiful town of Pescadero.
Day Trip to Half Moon Bay
As you can see, planning a last-minute day trip to Half Moon Bay can easily and successfully be done! Your adventures to Half Moon Bay have sadly come to an end, but thankfully it’s so close to the city that you will absolutely be back in the future.