Locals call the stretch of shore between Pacifica and a bit north of Santa Cruz The Coastside. It's a meandering journey, abundant with seaside views, foggy farmland, and charming pit stops.
The most popular pull-over is no doubt Half Moon Bay, which has a historic downtown, kitschy harborside fun, some classic seafood joints, and modern craft beer and spirits distilleries—not to mention one seriously posh place to stay.
The Best Restaurants in Half Moon Bay
Recently relocated from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, La Costanera serves Peruvian favorites with a coastal vibe. (Courtesy of La Costanera)
You can find great food in all directions from Half Moon Bay (HMB).
If you are arriving from San Francisco, you’ll have the option to turn right near the harbor first and find yourself in Princeton-by-the-Sea, a clump of commerce surrounding the Pillar Point harbor and the two public piers that are protected in this sandy cove, attracting a busy fishing industry, locals, and tourists year round. As expected, there are many options for seafood, like Ketch Joanne Restaurant and Harbor Bar(17 Johnson Pier), which has a classic menu including eight different variations on fish and chips. // Old Princeton Landing Public House & Grill(460 Capistrano Rd.), known as OPL by those in the know, caters to a surfer’s schedule and skews slightly towards the aloha spirit with poke bowls and fish tacos, and a huge emphasis on live music. The grass-fed burger won’t disappoint, sourced from the regenerative Markegard Family Ranch just south of HMB. // Barbara’s Fishtrap(281 Capistrano Rd.), established in 1971, is another seafood institution which overlooks the harbor and gets pretty packed on weekends. Not a fan of waiting lines? Grab your fish and chips from the attached kiosk and savor it on the beach or at the outside tables. // Half Moon Bay Brewing Company (390 Capistrano Rd.) is a local staple, a good option for breakfast before hitting the beach; quick salads in the afternoon; or creamy chowder and lightly battered calamari with beer tastings around the fire pit at night. // For a spot that's a bit less greasy-spoon traditional with views for days and a celebratory atmosphere, La Costanera(260 Capistrano Rd.) is a SF to HMB transplant that serves modern Peruvian food by chef-owner Carlos Altamirano. The cebiches and outstanding pisco punch are standouts, best enjoyed on their huge, sunny patio.
There are also some fun spots along the main stretch of Highway 1.
Everybody knows Sam’s Chowder House(4210 CA-1) so expect the place to be constantly crowded. If this is your first time, you must order the lobster roll. Try to grab a spot outside, or take your clam chowder to the nearby beach. // Granola’s Coffeehouse(116 CA-1) is worth pulling over for the ever-changing selection of housemade vegan and gluten-free baked goods. // The Barn(3068 CA-1) has a farm-y vibe and a menu of artisan burgers, Andytown coffee drinks, and pie. // You can’t miss the little red caboose that is Dad’s Luncheonette(225 CA-1). Chef Scott Clark, a former chef de cuisine of SF's Michelin-starred Saison, is bringing his fine dining training to the delicious roadside menu. Expect a crowed and limited (mostly outdoor) seating.
Half Moon Bay's downtown has the kind of Main Street drag you see in old movies. There is still a general store, a bookstore, and a feed store where locals come to buy pet food. Historic buildings have placards and lore are aplenty. Notable spots that have weathered re-routed traffic and pandemic shifts are Pasta Moon(845 Main St.), a Cal-Italian restaurant that's been sourcing ingredients from local farmers and producers for over 30 years; Moonside Bakery(604 Main St.), a locals favorite that's been cranking out loaves of sourdough—as well as wood-fired pizzas and focaccia—since before Covid made it trendy. // The Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Co.(421 Main St.) sells a careful selection and offers wine tastings. // Sushi on Main Street(696 Mill St.) is a highly decorative spot that feels right for a special occasion. // Don’t miss Gulino Gelato(330 Main St.), Jean Paul Gulino's authentic, hyper-fresh scoop shop that opened in 2019 and just moved into a bigger space with expanded offerings like crepes and bubble waffles.
Spirits + Craft Beer in Half Moon Bay
Enjoy a Half Moon Shine cocktail in the Swell Lounge at the "grain to bottle" craft distillery Jettywayve, in Princeton Harbor.
(Courtesy of @jettywavehmb)
For the smallish size of this community, there’s a pretty big offering when it comes to the adult beverage scene. Three separate businesses sport the word “distillery” in their name, so if you’re a spirits nerd, you’ll have plenty to geek out on here.
The oldest place is actually not really a distillery anymore, but it used to be. Moss Beach Distillery (140 Beach Way, Moss Beach) is hidden among cypress trees on a cliff, making it easy to understand how this old distillery became a smuggler's point during Prohibition. Today, it’s a perfect (and pet-friendly) spot for a simple meal and drinks by the fire pit when the fog rolls in. Hint: Look out for ghosts. A little further from the tourist nexus near the harbor is Half Moon Bay Distillery(103 Harvard Ave.), which slings its coastal vodka and gin in a very under-the-radar location on weekends only. A stone’s throw away is the new Jettywave Distillery(155 Broadway) with slick design that draws you in like a magnet. The distillery's Swell Lounge pours a slew of cocktails alongside a menu by chef Jose Luis Ugalde. Grab a pick-me-up from the Dawn Patrol Coffee shipping container onsite.
If you're into beer, there are two spots near the harbor. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company(390 Capistrano Rd.) and Hop Dogma Brewing Co.(270 Capistrano Rd.). The latter craft brewery opened in Harbor Village in 2013 and hosts a hilarious Comedy Sharks stand-up showcase on the second Thursday and last Friday of each month. Downtown you’ll find Sacrilege Brewery + Kitchen(703 Main St.), a self-proclaimed “irreverent” craft brewery with a chef-driven, beer-centric menu. Ask about their four-course beer dinners.
Fun Things to Do in Half Moon Bay
Redondo Beach, Half Moon Bay.
(Courtesy of californiabeaches.com)
Hit the Beach
Wide open with cream-colored sand, Half Moon Bay’s 10-plus beaches are its signature attraction—they are so spacious, you won't be forced to lay head to head with other relaxing humans. Our favorites are Poplar, Redondo, and Miramar. There’s also the Fitzgerald Marine Reservoir(200 Nevada Ave., Moss Beach), where you can have a field trip to the tide pools even if you’re not a kid. We would be remiss to not mention Mavericks, and surfing in general, as this is the epicenter for the big wave surf competition. Although it hasn’t taken place for the last six years, there are plans afoot to get it back on track.
Farm Stands + Pumpkin Patches
In the summer, hit up Farmer John’s(850 CA-1) and Andreotti Farms (800 CA-1) for flower picking in the glorious sunflower fields. // Down near Jettywave, totter over to Moon Mother’s Nursery(401 Prospect Way) after your cocktail for a dreamy, fairytale-like garden escape. // Come fall, it's pumpkin season in Half Moon Bay, and there are plenty of patches to take the kiddos. Diehards should check out the Art & Pumpkin Festival(Oct 15-16, 2022), one of the largest and oldest California events dedicated to autumnal family fun. // Also worth a visit during harvest season is Arata’s Pumpkin Farm(185 Verde Rd.), located at the southern edge of town. Established in 1932, this is where you’ll find the one and only Minotaur’s Labyrinth Hay Maze, open July through October, as well as hay and pony rides, a petting zoo, and countless photo ops.
Even if you aren’t looking for more food, downtown is fun for window shopping and meandering. Our favorite places to duck in are the old-school Cunha’s Country Store(448 Main St.) and Jupiter & Main(432-B Main St.), a highly curated and hip apothecary meets housewares shop. With everything from bath salts to artisan chocolates, bitters and cocktails books, you won't leave empty-handed.
Where to Stay in Half Moon Bay
A signature suite with ocean views at The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay)
(Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton)
If you can swing it, The Ritz-Carlton(1 Miramontes Point Rd.) is the place to stay, for reasons that will become obvious the moment you first lay eyes on it. The stunning clifftop property, built in 2001, evokes the classic oceanside resort with wide, glass-walled views, outdoor fire pits, and a bagpipe player at sunset. It's all premium here, with a sanctuary-like spa (open to day visitors for $100) and fine dining (including a blow-your-mind brunch) in the onsite restaurant Navio. Even if you don't have the coin to stay overnight, the Ritz is still a must stop. Partake by parking in the free lot and walking the coastal trail that skirts the property, then stop in for a glass of wine on the patio at day’s end.
Down at the harbor, Oceano Hotel & Spa (280 Capistrano Rd.) is close to everything and has a killer ocean view. Enjoy lazy breakfast in bed, long walks on the beach, and relaxing spa treatments.
For a really unique option, the old Point Montara Lighthouse(8800 CA-1, Montara) has been transformed into a hostel with a view to rival the Ritz. Book a room, pack some provisions for a dinner al fresco, and watch the sun dip into the Pacific.