Even the name Half Moon Bay (HMB) emits a sense of relaxed quaintness, which you experience when visiting this town. Located less than 45 minutes from downtown San Francisco, this quick getaway feels like it is hundreds of miles away from the busy and often overcrowded Bay Area. And that is because a state park, a national recreation area, and preserves, which keep urban sprawl far at bay, surround the town of Half Moon Bay and its environs.
Getting there and around
Though it is my favorite travel mode, it is quite challenging to bike here from the City. On average, it would take over three hours on the bike, which is a considerable time commitment. Also, there are some steep climbs. That said, it is feasible and a great workout, especially if you are preparing for the AIDS Lifecycle or some other bike challenge. Also, public transit is not much better. It would be best if you took at least a couple of busses, depending on where you depart from, and then you are limited to where you can go once you reach Half Moon Bay since the sights to see are spread out.
Traveling by car from downtown San Francisco takes approximately 45 minutes, and there are a couple of options. The first one is to drive down either 101 or 280, then connect with Route 92 and head west towards the coast. The second option, which is my favorite, is to travel down Highway 1 along the coast. The latter option is more picturesque. However, Route 92 is also quite pretty. I recommend driving down one way and returning the other. That way, you get to see and appreciate the countryside along both routes.
What to see
The Half Moon Bay area includes towns, beaches, and hiking trails. It literally has something for everyone, plus its proximity to the City allows you to visit easily and gradually explore the area. Some of my favorite things to see and do are:
- Walk and/or shop on Main Street in Half Moon Bay: Main Street is the commercial corridor of the town, which includes all kinds of quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants. Additionally, you can find tasting rooms, large gardening and landscaping stores, and even feed and pet supply shops. Also, you can appreciate the Victorian architecture as you walk around Main Street.
- Beaches: the beaches are strewn along a 10+ mile-long swath of coastline, which begins with Gray Whale State Beach further north of Half Moon Bay, then continues south to Montara Beach, Moss Beach, Mavericks Beach, Half Moon Bay State Beach, Dunes Beach, Poplar Beach and Wavecrest Beach. I prefer Dunes Beach for the topography and proximity to HMB, but you should visit all of the beaches and decide which is your favorite. In general, as is expected, the water is on the cold side, plus the currents can be rough. Therefore, I prefer to walk along these beaches and/or find a spot and hang out.
- Hiking Trails: the area around HMB has dozens of trails. However, you must be aware that a lot of them allow mountain biking. Therefore, you need to be careful with bike traffic. However, that said, the trails offer a pleasant exercise activity with views of the coastline in both directions. My personal trail is Twin Pines, but there are many more, which are also worth exploring.
- Road and Mountain Biking: both types of biking are available in the area. It just depends on what your interests are. However, to get around the town of HMB and explore some of its eateries and go to the beaches, I recommend road biking. The area is mostly flat and, at least during weekdays, not too busy with vehicular traffic. That said, the mountain biking trails shared with hikers are exhilarating and offer incredible views of the California coastline.
Where to eat
There are numerous cafes and restaurants in the area, which offer all kinds of cuisine for all budgets. You can also bring or buy something to eat and drink at the local grocery stores and have a picnic. There are picnic areas in the town parks and at the entrances of some of the trials. Of course, my favorite location for a picnic on the beach.
I also want to give a special mention to a local restaurant gem called Barbara’s Fishtrap. They are located on the beach in El Granada, just north of Half Moon Bay and adjacent to Mavericks Beach. Though the food is not considered haute cuisine, it is tasty, and the setting and experience are worth the visit alone. However, it is a popular spot. Therefore, the wait can belong, and, sometimes, you have to settle for a bench outside the restaurant or carry it down to the beach. To see where they are located, as well as read their menu, visit their website at www.barbarasfishtrap.com