Half Moon Bay
San Joaquin’s Closest Beach Getaway
by DON and ANN JACKSON
Imagine you have guests visiting from the East Coast asking where they can go to best experience a Northern California Pacific Ocean beach. Our answer is always the same: Half Moon Bay. As the easiest and fastest beach town to reach from San Joaquin (take 580 to 880 and then scenic 92 to the coast), Half Moon Bay has scenic beaches, a quaint downtown area, a variety of quality restaurants, the world-famous Mavericks surfing competition (where waves have been known to exceed 40 feet), fun-filled seasonal events, lots of outdoor adventure choices, and more. You might drive there for a day and wish you could stay a week. Be sure to take enough time to really explore the area, you will be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll discover.
What to see and do: Our first recommendation is to visit the city websites, www.visithalfmoonbay.org or www.hmbchamber.com, and click on any of the intriguing choices that most pique your interest, like itineraries, farm visits, festivals, and events. Timeless Half Moon Bay activities include strolling around the quaint downtown, walks along the endless miles of beaches, kayaking in the harbor, surfing (but stay away from Mavericks unless you’re a pro), and horseback-riding and bicycling on off-road pathways.
Where to shop: Don’t miss going into Cunha’s Country Store, operating here since 1923 and considered by many as the heart and soul of downtown. Cunha’s extensive variety of groceries, gift items, and household items will intrigue and tempt. The newer Harbor Village shopping center (www.shopharborvillage.com) across from the harbor, although not yet full, should eventually be a shopping destination to compliment downtown. Half Moon Bay also boasts more quality garden nurseries per capita than any other small California community, a pleasant shopping experience for plants, flowers, vegetables, and seasonal items like Christmas trees and pumpkins. Speaking of pumpkins, Half Moon Bay’s annual Pumpkin Festival in October has become one of the most popular in the state.
Where to stay: One of the premier upscale spa and golf resorts in the country, the Ritz Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com), located on a picturesque bluff, is the perfect choice for a special occasion getaway. Much to our liking, and unlike many Ritz properties, the ambience is considerably less formal here. Dining in the Ritz’s signature restaurant, Navio, is always first-rate and especially stunning on a beautiful sunset evening. Championship golf at the Half Moon Bay Golf Links (www.halfmoonbaygolf.com), next to the Ritz, provides one of the more challenging tests of golf in the west. The Oceano (www.oceanohalfmoonbay.com), one of the newest luxury hotels in California and maybe the last to be approved by the Coastal Commission, overlooks Half Moon Bay Harbor. Their friendly staff, tastefully decorated accommodations, and public areas add up to a delightful lodging experience. Landis Shores Inn (www.landisshores.com) right on Miramar Beach, or the beautifully restored Half Moon Bay Inn (www.halfmoonbayinn.com) in the heart of downtown are also good options.
Where to dine: For Half Moon Bay dining, try longtime critics and locals Italian favorite Pasta Moon (www.pastamoon.com); Cetrella (www.cetrella.com) for dramatic ambience and food to match; Sam’s Chowder House (www.samschowderhouse.com), famous for their waterside location, lobster rolls, and chowders; new spot It’s Italia (www.itsitalia.net) with upbeat ambience and creative cuisine; Crab Landing (www.crablanding.com) next door to the Oceano, with fresh seafood and steaks overlooking the harbor; and Mullins (www.halfmoonbaygolf.com) at the golf course serves up surprisingly imaginative comfort food. For a more raucous evening try Cameron’s Pub (www.cameronsinn.com), where English beer, darts, and British fun prevail. Bottom line: A visit to the seaside sanctuary known as Half Moon Bay area is a ‘shore thing’.
For more information: www.visithalfmoonbay.org