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What To Do In Half Moon Bay–The Perfect Weekend Getaway

Here’s what to do in Half Moon Bay.

We had visited Half Moon Bay almost twenty years ago and I remember it fondly. But at the time our kids were young and needed to get home for a nap, so our time there was brief. I was so excited to have the chance to return (without kids) and really explore it.

Located about forty minutes southwest of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay makes for a perfect weekend getaway if you’re living in or visiting Northern California. 

This sleepy seaside town is a relaxing retreat, but still offers plenty of accommodations, attractions, shopping, and dining. So whether you have just a day or a long weekend, I’ll share with you what to do in Half Moon Bay.

What to do in Half Moon Bay--Ritz Carlton
Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

Where To Stay In Half Moon Bay

There’s a nice assortment of accommodations in Half Moon Bay ranging from budget to five star luxury. Here are just a few options.

Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay–We spent two nights here and can’t recommend it enough. If you’re celebrating something special, it is well worth the splurge. The resort is set on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and flanked by two golf courses. The Coastal Trail passes through the resort and each morning there’s a guided walk for a portion of it. At sunset a bagpiper plays signaling the end of the day. 

Beach House Half Moon Bay–A travel colleague of mine recently returned from Half Moon Bay and stayed at this hotel. She gave it excellent reviews. Each of the rooms in this oceanfront boutique hotel are 500 square feet, which gives you plenty of room to relax and enjoy the view. 

Harbor View Inn–If you’re looking for something more affordable, but highly rated, then this is the place. It’s not right on the ocean, but instead across the street from the harbor. The rooms are large and stylish. 

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What to do in Half Moon Bay--View of The Old Golf Course
View of the Old Course at Half Moon Bay

What To Do In Half Moon Bay

I was surprised at how much there was to do in Half Moon Bay. In fact, despite having two full days here, I still didn’t get to do everything on my list. Guess we will have to return.

Golf At Half Moon Bay

Jason is a really good golfer, so he was exceptionally excited about this trip. Half Moon Bay is home to two world-class courses; The Old Course or The Ocean Course. The first is a traditional styled course while the second is links styled. 

Jason spent considerable time debating which course to play and finally settled on The Ocean Course. He said it was the most beautiful course he’s ever experienced. And since we could see it from our room at the Ritz Carlton, I can see why. Most every hole of has ocean views. 

The Old Course was designed by Arnold Palmer, and several of the holes also boast ocean views.

Walk the Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail

The Coastal Trail runs for 11.5 miles through town, including a portion that weaves through the Ritz Carlton property. Its north end begins at Cypress Ave. in Moss Beach and ends south Miramontes Point Road. The trail is open to walkers, runners, and cyclists. Portions of it are also open to equestrians.

I walked about three miles of the trail and was constantly awed by the ocean views. There are some gently rolling hills, but generally this is considered an easy trail. Along the way there are stairs down to beaches and coves, many of which disappear when the tide comes in.

This trail is a part of the California Coastal Trail (CCT) which will eventually stretch from Mexico to Canada.

Spending more time in California? Check out our posts about

Wine Tasting in Napa Valley and What To Do In Paso Robles


What to do in Half Moon Bay--View of the ocean from the Coastal Trail
View of the ocean from the Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay

Explore The Beaches And Tidepools

There’s no lack of beaches to explore throughout Half Moon Bay. Some of the larger ones can be seen all day while many disappear when the tide rolls in. A few of the beaches and coves below the Ritz Carlton are well known for tide-pooling. Tide pools are small saltwater pools located among rocks that house small sea creatures. When the tide is out, hundreds of sea creatures can be seen including snails, sea stars, anemones, and hermit crabs.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is often named one of the best tidepools in California. If you’re traveling with kids, this is a living science lesson that you won’t want to miss. Just be sure to leave all the creatures where you find them. 

Stroll Through Downtown Half Moon Bay

One of my favorite parts about visiting small towns is strolling through their downtown, especially when they’ve made efforts to keep historic buildings and support the small businesses. Half Moon Bay has done both.

Main Street is lined with boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes. Large baskets of flowering plants hang from the light posts and large, leafy trees provide plenty of shade. Pop into one of the boutique shops or grab a pastry at Half Moon Bay Bakery. 

What to do in Half Moon Bay--Mavericks, a famous surf spot
Mavericks courtesy of Cristine Glebova on Unsplash

Check Out A World Famous Surf Spot

Since we moved to Newport Beach two years ago I’ve become much more interested in surfing. I’m amazed at how patient surfers must be to wait for the perfect wave all while bobbing up and down in cold water.

When I Iearned that Mavericks–one of the world’s most famous surf spots–was in Half Moon Bay, I had to go. This legendary big wave spot was discovered by a group of surfers and a German Shepard named Maverick. Each winter a surf competition takes place here.

What I didn’t understand until after my visit is that the famous surf spot is actually a half-a-mile offshore. Unless you’re visiting during the competition, there’s nothing to see other than a beach, and not even one of the more attractive beaches in town. The walk to the beach is easy and flat, and I did enjoy the views of Pillar Point Harbor. Now I can say I’ve seen the spot where the Mavericks competition takes place each year.

Here’s directions for getting to Mavericks Beach.

Go Kayaking

Jason and I love to kayak anywhere we can, but unfortunately we ran out of time during our recent trip. However, Pillar Point Harbor is a relaxing spot to explore by kayak, so we will definitely do this next time. If you want to make your paddling more challenging, you can head out into the open waters. 

Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. is the place to rent single and double kayaks along with paddleboards and bicycles.

What to do in Half Moon Bay--The Barn restaurant
The Barn restaurant in Half Moon Bay

Where To Eat In Half Moon Bay

Come hungry to Half Moon Bay. There are loads of good restaurants here. I’m listing a handful of the ones we had the chance to try during our weekend visit.

Sam’s Chowder House–Seafood lovers will definitely want to head to Sam’s. I tried their delicious New England clam chowder, but reviews say that the lobster roll is also excellent. But they have a large menu, so almost any seafood dish can be had.

The Barn–I love this rustic spot housed in a former barn. They are well known for their burgers and hotdogs, all with unique toppings. I ordered their housemade veggie burger called The Pretender, and it was delicious. All seating is outdoors–in the tent or garden–so dress warmly.

La Costanera–This Peruvian restaurant has five types of cebiche (ceviche) on the menu. We tried the sampler and loved it. Then we shared their pescado a lo macho, a fish and seafood stew prepared with a tasty paprika sauce and served with coconut rice.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Terri

    I had never heard of Half Moon before reading your post … and I have visited SF so many times. Great find.

  2. Elena Pappalardo

    Thank you for introducing me to this scenic place! I’d love to hike the Coastal Trail.

  3. Shannon

    I hadn’t heard of Half Moon before, but it looks like a great getaway!

  4. Linnea

    What a perfect weekend getaway! Thanks for the restaurant recs and where to stay too!

  5. Brittany

    Half Moon Bay looks beautiful! I’d love to explore the beaches and tidepools and also go kayaking. Thanks for putting this gorgeous spot on my radar.

  6. KarlaTypes

    This place looks amazing! Thanks for the info!

  7. Mark

    Great article and agree with your dinner choices and found a couple new spots to try. 🙂
    My wife and I love Half Moon Bay as it’s only 40 minutes from us and a great place to get away especially mid-week.
    My only comment on the article is that the Ritz-Carlton is way too expensive for us as a retired couple.

    1. Wendy

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! And yes, the Ritz is very pricey. Fortunately, there are a variety of hotels in the area for visitors.

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