The pumpkins may be long gone, but don’t hold that against Half Moon Bay. Just a little more than half an hour south of San Francisco, this not too big, not too small coastal town has all the makings of a great winter getaway.
Point Montara Lighthouse
City life gives way to beach life in Pacifica and there are plenty of beaches worthy of a stop as you make your way to Half Moon Bay. If you don’t mind a little sand in your car, pick one that looks good, pull over and go for it. If you’re not in the mood to traipse through the sand, the Point Montara Lighthouse is a great 5-10 minute stop to stretch your legs. Established in 1875, the historic lighthouse is tiny by most folks standards at just 30 feet tall. A hostel operates onsite.
Harbor Seals at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is just a few minutes further south down the road. Check the tide schedule and do your best to fit this into your itinerary when the tide is low. If you’re winging it, you can always check the tide chart posted in the parking lot or just head to the beach. You’ll know the waves are cooperating if you find an anemone every other step. Harbor seals also like to rest on the beach at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve during low tides. Enjoy the show, but law requires you stay at least 100 yards away.
The rest of your time in Half Moon Bay can and should be spent without a timetable. Shop and eat your way down Main Street. Bike, run or just wander for a bit on the Coastside Trail. Watch fishing boats unload the catch of the day at Pillar Point Harbor. Watch surfers make it look easy at Surfer’s Beach and oh yeah, there’s also that fairly famous stretch of waves called Mavericks. I think you’ve just filled your day and then some.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Less than half-an-hour south of Half Moon Bay is Pescadero. December through March, people need reservations because elephant seals take over the Año Nuevo State Park. The mostly flat, three plus mile docent-led walk lasts about 2 and a half hours. On the way you pass Pigeon Point Lighthouse. At 115-feet, it’s one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States and towers over the Point Montara Lighthouse. The actual lighthouse is closed to the public, but the area is a State Historic Park and the surrounding grounds are open. There's a hostel here as well in case you decide you're not ready to head home.
Dana can be found on twitter @drebmann