A Perfect Weekend in Half Moon Bay, California
Whether you’re road-tripping down the California Coast and wondering where to stop along highway one or just needing a beachy escape from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is the perfect California getaway, for a weekend or just for the day.
Spreading out with jagged cliffs and rolling green hills along picturesque highway 1, about 40 miles North of Santa Cruz and just 28 miles South of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay feels like a million miles away. This beautiful town may boast big-time draws like coastal hikes, stunning golf courses, long stretches of majestic NorCal beaches, and a 5-star Ritz Carlton, but, make no mistake, this is still very much a small town. With a population of only 11,000, and an 1800’s-built Main Street of only a few blocks, Half Moon Bay feels undeniably quaint.
What to Do in Half Moon Bay
I loved stopping by this beautiful boutique winery to wine taste, picnic outside in their beautiful gardens, and play a round of bocce ball. Tastings are only $10 for five wines ( a steal compared to what I was used to in Napa Valley!) and a few times a year, the winery even does these awesome Barrel to Bottle events, a tradition where customers will drop by the winery with empty wine bottles and fill them on-site. You can even bring your own label and they’ll put it on for you!
Half Moon Bay Kayaking Company runs kayak and paddle-boarding rentals out of a marina off of highway one, and I highly recommend doing it on your weekend in Half Moon Bay! Yes, the water is cold, but they even have windbreakers to put on under your life jacket, and theres a HIGH chance you’ll be kayaking next to some NorCal wildlife (otters and seals will often swim right up next to your kayak!!!).
Picnic with Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese
The cutest boutique on Main Street, Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese has an awesome selection of wine tastings, local cheeses and wines by the bottle. It’s a perfect stop for packing your picnic for the beach.
Watch the World-renowned Surf Competition, The Mavericks (if you’re lucky!)
Every year the Titans of Mavericks competition, one of the most prestigious surfing events in the world, happens in Half Moon Bay, where each winter, a one-day, invitation-only surfing competition is held at Half Moon Bay’s legendary Maverick’s surf break. The best, most-adrenaline-pumping aspect of this surf competition (whose waves often reach greater than 60 feet), is the fact that no one, not even the surfers, will know when it will take place until they get “the call” the morning of. Once the season opens on November 1, the watching and waiting begins. The “call” comes from tracking the waves, the wind, the tides, the swell direction and duration, and waiting for the absolute ideal conditions. When all the factors are right, the Committee 7 will make the call and give notice that The Mavericks is on!
Head to the beach!
It does get foggy in Half Moon Bay, but if the sun is out, these beautiful beaches are everything your California coastal dreams are made of. They’re gorgeous, not crowded, and a perfect way to spend the day.
Bring some wine and cheese and relax in the sand as the sun sets. If you’re nearby the Ritz, you’ll also hear their sunset bag-piper playing his nightly tunes from the cliffs above.
Explore Devil’s Slide
This 1.3 mile stretch of dramatic California coastline is a collection of protected lands and marine areas that starts just north of the Devil’s Slide Tunnel and stretches to the famed Mavericks surf break. It makes for a great stop on your drive to or from Half Moon Bay.
It doesn’t get much more luxurious than this stunning 5-star resort nestled between two coastal golf courses. Even though the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is majestic, covering 14 acres and 300,000 square feet atop jagged California cliffs, the stunning property feels unassumingly quiet and serene.. much like Half Moon Bay itself. The hotel gets a lot of comparisons to Scotland, and I can see why. The rolling hills, crashing waves, rugged cliffs and windy, foggy mornings overlooking the golf course all make you feel as though you’ve woken up in a completely different country (and did I mention this is only an hour drive from San Francisco?!). The property also features a beautiful spa, two golf courses (one designed by Arnold Palmer), incredible dining options (at the Conservatory and Navio), warm fire pits for roasting marshmallows as the sun goes down (yes, you can order s’mores kits -complete with melt-in-your-mouth house-made marshmallows- from room service), and unbeatable views everywhere you look. An escape to the Ritz Half Moon Bay is beautifully transporting, as all weekend getaways should be.
A wonderful alternative if you’re not looking to break the bank with the expensive nightly rate of the Ritz-Carlton is the charming Half Moon Bay inn, an adorable Spanish architecture inn that was originally built in 1932 on the small town’s main street and has recently been renovated.
Where to eat + drink in Half Moon Bay
Lunch or dinner at this delicious Italian restaurant is a must-do on your trip to Half Moon Bay. We had the fritto misto (amazing), a delicious seafood wood-fired pizza and an unbelievable lasagna with house-made sausage… which all made for a perfect pre-kayaking carbo-loaded meal.
No matter what time of the day, this local staple is good for breakfast hitting before beach; quick salads in the afternoon; or creamy chowder and lightly battered calamari with beer tastings surrounding the fire pit at night.
You haven’t been to Half Moon Bay until you’ve indulged in Sam’s famous lobster roll. Attracting locals and visitors alike, Sam’s is always crowded. But the food makes it worth the wait.
Via Uno, which translates to Highway One, has been named the Best Italian Restaurant in the Bay Area, and is a delicious spot to have dinner while in town. The wonderful Italian owner has made this place a little piece of Italy in Northern California, with a modern-rustic dining room, dog-friendly heated outdoor patio, private wine room, and full bar and an incredible menu full of homey pastas made in-house, wood-fired pizzas, and delicious appetizers.
Located in the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, The Conservatory features farm-to-table coastal Californian cuisine in a casually elegant atmosphere. This was by far my favorite meal during our weekend in Half Moon Bay! Their dedication to organic, community-grown ingredients and freshly caught seafood was evident in the beautiful and creative menu. I highly recommend the fresh chilled seafood platter, a glass of DuMol chardonnay, the short ribs, and the chocolate brownie. Everything at this restaurant- including the service, was top-notch.
Also located in the Ritz-Carlton, this upscale restaurant serves up coastal California cuisine with picturesque panoramic views of the Pacific. In addition to a killer wine list and wonderful dinner dishes like the smoked fettuccine with Dungeness crab and house-made bacon, the restaurant also serves up its famous Sunday brunch buffet, which includes everything from traditional breakfast fare to a build-your-own bloody mary bar and an extensive caviar station.