Is Half Moon Bay Worth Visiting?

The Bay Area has so many incredible destinations to add to your northern California bucket list. Only an hour or so from San Francisco, you can be sipping wine in Napa Valley, relaxing with the best views of the Bay in Sausalito, or exploring the ancient redwood trees at Muir Woods. With so much to do and see, is Half Moon Bay Worth Visiting?

As a Bay Area local for the last five years, I am here to share with you everything you need to know about Half Moon Bay and help answer the question, is Half Moon Bay worth visiting for you.

What Is So Special About Half Moon Bay?

What makes Half Moon Bay so special is that it’s the best of both worlds, and it features the finest of Northern California. In Half Moon Bay, you get the small-town charm, but also have plenty of outdoor activities and things to do. Such as the stunning hikes and trails along the coast, it’s unforgettable natural beauty, and the historic downtown.

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    Is Half Moon Bay Worth Visiting For You

    The Bay Area does not come short of things to do and places to visit nearby. However, Half Moon Bay does offer some unique qualities that may make you want to add it to your northern California itinerary.

    If you are a local and haven’t visited Half Moon Bay yet, by the end of this post, you will be able to decide if you should plan a day trip or weekend in Half Moon Bay.

    beautiful beach in half moon bay california

    Half Moon Bay’s Location

    Half Moon Bay is nestled on the gorgeous northern California coast, less than an hour’s drive from San Francisco and about an hour from the East Bay. The best way to get to Half Moon Bay is by car.

    It’s easy to get to location, and its proximity to the city makes it the perfect spot for a day trip or weekend getaway in the Bay Area. Also, if you are road tripping in California, Half Moon Bay is a great pit stop to make along the PCH.

    πŸš— If you need to rent a car for your road trip in California, check out here to compare rates and get the best price.

    The drive to Half Moon Bay alone makes it worth a visit. As you drive along Highway 1, you will experience coastal views of the shimmering Pacific and rugged coastline.

    Are you driving from the East Bay or San Francisco? On your way to Half Moon Bay, stop at Pastorino Farms and stroll some of the shops. There is a collection of nurseries where you can find a wide assortment of succulents, carnivorous plants, lavender, and seasonal plants.

    stop at Pastorino Farms when visiting half moon bay, california

    During October Pastorino Farms is also a great time to visit for its pumpkin farm and fall activities. There are hayrides, ponies, pet and feed farm animals, a haunted house, and face painting.

    succulents at Pastorino Farms in half moon bay

    Escape the City For Some Small Town Charm

    Half Moon Bay is the perfect example of an idyllic California beach town. Only 28 miles away from San Francisco, a trip to Half Moon Bay feels like you have traveled much farther. 

    Half Moon Bay is oozing with small-town charm. From its quaint downtown streets lined with shops and bakeries, beachside restaurants, and an overall relaxing atmosphere. There is something special about Half Moon Bay and the feelings you get while being there. It is the perfect escape from the city! To truly know what I am talking about, you will have to experience it for yourself and come visit!

    Half Moon Bay is Dog Friendly

    One of the reasons why we love visiting Half Moon Bay so much is how dog-friendly the town is. In Half Moon Bay, you can find numerous dog-friendly beaches and trails, restaurants, and pet-friendly accommodations for your stay.

    mirada beach, a dog friendly beaches in half moon bay ca

    Some of our favorite things to do with our dogs in Half Moon Bay are to let them run wild on one of the dog-friendly beaches, explore the downtown shops and bakeries, and get some fresh seafood for lunch.

    The best place to grab a bite to eat with your dogs is Sam’s Chowder House. Their incredible dog friendly patio overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the harbor.

    views from sams chowder house half moon bay

    The view has won Sam’s Chowder House numerous awards over the years for the best outdoor dining location. Also, you can’t visit Sam’s Chowder House without trying one of their delicious and buttery lobster rolls!

    The Gorgeous Beaches in Half Moon Bay

    A trip to Half Moon Bay is not complete without a visit to one of the many picturesque beaches along the California coast. Half Moon Bay has one of the largest beach areas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The string of white sandy beaches offers incredible blufftop views, unique tide-pooling, and coastal mountain views.

    poplar beach, a dog friendly beach in half moon bay ca

    A personal favorite beach of ours is Poplar Beach. Poplar is only a 5-minute drive from downtown Half Moon Bay. What we love about Poplar Beach is the location. The dog-friendly beach sits below the Blufftop Coastal Park. You can either walk along the bluff trails and admire the sweeping coastal views or hike down to the ocean and sandy beach.

    Another unique and interesting beach to visit is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, located right outside of Half Moon Bay. The reserve offers a diverse variety of marine life along its rocky shoreline. It is a great spot to go with the family and explore the algae, crabs, sea stars, anemones, and other delicate sea creatures. Make sure you check the tide table before your visit because you can see the tide pools at low tide.

    Events Throughout the Year in Half Moon Bay

    Each season in Half Moon Bay brings its local fun and activities. The main annual event is the Art and Pumpkin Festival, held in mid-October. At the festival, you can partake in the pie-eating contest, costume contest, live music, or check out one of the main events, the pumpkin weigh-off!

    pumpkin festival in half moon bay california

    Other popular events held throughout the year include the Lobster Feed in March, Coastside Farmers Market between May to December, and the Mavericks Big Wave Surfer Contest scheduled during the winter months.

    Fresh Seafood at Pillar Point Harbor

    Pillar Point Harbor is a great spot to enjoy fresh and local seafood! You can either grab lunch at one of the many restaurants at the marina or buy freshly caught fish from the local fisherman. And if you are visiting during crab season, you can purchase live crab right from the fisherman’s boat.

    best day trip to half moon bay

    Besides the fresh seafood, other fun things you can do at Pillar Point Harbor are fishing, kayaking, walking on the beach or the coastal trail, and chartering a boat.

    Half Moon Bay Restaurants

    For being a small town, Half Moon Bay offers a wide variety of cuisine and Michelin Guided restaurants. Such as the popular and must-try restaurant Pasta Moon.

    The Italian restaurant has perfected the farm-to-table contemporary Italian cuisine. They serve many Italian favorites, such as their homemade Pasta Moon Lasagna and Tagliatelle Bolognese. Also, don’t skip on dessert! They are well known for their Ghirardelli Butterscotch Pudding and Pistachio Chocolate Cannoli. Yum!

    Another Michelin Starr restaurant is La Costanera, a new and sophisticated restaurant in Half Moon Bay. The Peruvian restaurant relocated to its new home in Half Moon Bay in 2021. La Costanera offers stunning panoramic views of Pillar Point Harbor from its 180-degree glass windows and outdoor patio.

    The food at La Costanera will also surely not disappoint. Order some Peruvian classics like ceviche, yucca chips, Peruvian style paella, and a pisco sour, a popular drink from Peru.

    Hikes Along the Coast

    There is no shortage of gorgeous hikes and walking trails for you to discover in Half Moon Bay. The Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail is a well-trafficked paved path. It is perfect for biking, walking your dog, running, and bird watching. The trail runs along the Pacific Coast for four scenic miles.

    half moon bay coastal trail

    During your walk on the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail, you can visit one of the many beaches along the path or stop for lunch at Miramar Beach Restaurant. Relax with a drink and snacks on their cozy waterfront patio that boasts views of the sandy beach and Pacific.

    best day trip to half moon bay

    A unique hike you can do nearby is the deteriorating cliff tops of Devils Slide. The trail was once a dangerous and daunting road part of Highway 1 that later got turned into a hiking and biking trail. It’s an easy 3-mile hike there and back. The trail features scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and rugged coastline. 

    Visit a Nearby Town

    If you are looking to make a road trip out of your visit to Half Moon Bay or plan some extra stops, I have some awesome locations for you to check out.

    Pescadero, is another charming beach town on the California coast about a 20 minute drive from Half Moon Bay. Pescadero is famously known for its yummy garlic artichoke bread, gorgeous sandy beaches, local goat farms, and wine tastings paired with fresh goat cheese.

    🐟 For 18 Awesome Things To Do in Pescadero you can visit here.

    If you continue to go south down the coast you can visit the other popular beach towns Santa Cruz or Monterey.

    🌊 Find out the 15 Best Things To Do With Dogs in Santa Cruz

    πŸ’ž Plan a trip of romance with Top 21 Romantic Things To Do in Monterey

    things to do with dogs in santa cruz

    In Conclusion: Is Half Moon Bay Worth Visiting?

    After reading this post, is Half Moon Bay worth visiting for you? The easy to get to location, the fresh seafood, dog and family-friendly activities, and natural beauty are some of the many reasons why I think you can’t go wrong with visiting Half Moon Bay.

    If you agree, and are planning a trip soon, check out my Best Day Trip to Half Moon Bay, California itinerary for more tips and things to do in Half Moon Bay.

    California Travel Planning Guide

    πŸ—“ What is the best time to visit California? You can’t go wrong when planning your visit to California, it is known for year-round incredible weather β˜€οΈ

    However, the fall months from September to October, are the best time to avoid crowds and the summer fog, and perfect for spending time on the beach.

    πŸš— Should I rent a car? My answer is almost always YES! There are some big cities you can get away with not having a car, like San Diego, San Francisco, & LA. But California has so much more to offer outside of the big cities, such as Napa Valley, Monterey, Palm Springs, and Death Valley. It is also an epic location for a road trip!

    βœ”οΈ Compare the best rate for car rentals in California here

    🏨 What’s the best way to book my accommodation? Booking is a reliable site to book at thousands of hotels in California. They also have a great and flexible cancellation policy for no extra fee.

    If you are traveling with a larger group, Airbnb & VRBO, have numerous unique options of accommodations throughout the state.

    🧳 What do I pack for California? Layers are EVERYTHING in California. We have no humidity here, so expect chilly mornings and nights even during the summer months. Always pack a jacket and other layers for your trip.

    πŸ’Έ Budgeting for your trip to California California is an expensive state to travel to, so be prepared to spend a minimum of $100 a night for a budget hotel. The prices of restaurants and activities also add up. And California has the highest gas prices in the country, so shared car prices will be more expensive as well.

    ✈️ Booking your flight to California As you know, visiting California can be pricey! Save where you can and look for the best rate for flights on Skyscanner

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