The gorgeous seaside town of Half Moon Bay is an easy drive about 35 miles south of San Francisco. With breathtaking coastal views and a beachy vibe, consider adding this coastal northern California village to your must-visit list.
Here’s how to spend a great weekend in Half Moon Bay.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
Things To Do In Half Moon Bay
1. Glass Blowing At Half Moon Bay Art Glass
At Half Moon Bay Art Glass, you can explore the ancient craft of glass blowing for yourself. Take a look around the studio at the various projects and select your own. Once you have your colors picked out, it’s time to get to work. You’ll grab a pair of safety glasses and gloves, and the owner, Doug, will show you the way.
As you carefully insert your blow pipe into the furnace that’s a warm 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, watch your glass take shape. Next, you’ll twist and turn the rod into your selected colors, and things really come to life. I may not be an artist, but I was that day as I carefully crafted my heart paperweight. What fun! Half Moon Bay Art Glass is the perfect place to acquaint yourself with the fine art of glass blowing. They’ve taught over 7,000 students in the last 10 years, and welcome you to come discover your inner Dale Chihuly!
Pro Tip: If you’re in town on the first Thursday of the month, check out Make It Main Street and look for Glass Blowing At Half Moon Bay’s portable trailer on Main Street. Watch Ron work his magic and purchase a handmade glass treasure to take home.
2. Horseback Riding At Seahorse Ranch
The dream of horseback riding on the beach becomes a reality at Seahorse Ranch. This family-owned business has been thriving in Half Moon Bay for many years and the folks here can’t wait to help you make your dreams come true. Make reservations for your choice of trail ride and upon arrival, you’ll be fitted for your horse and helmet. With the help of the experienced trail guides, you’ll soon be appreciating the beauty of the coast as you meander through fields of wild flowers and volunteer herbs.
Chat with your neighbors on horseback as you wind your way along the secluded trails towards the beach. Next, you’ll be guided down a short bluff, and as my neighbor, the former bull rider advised me to loosen up and lean back! The crashing waves provide a relaxing soundtrack as you make your way along the shore and take in the beauty of the Pacific. This truly is a one-of-a-kind trail ride that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
3. Shopping On Main Street
Discover the shops on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. Marvel at the incredible handcrafted furniture at Cottage Industries, check out the interesting finds at Jupiter & Main and their sister store Juno’s Mercantile, and make sure to stop into Feed & Fuel for everything from western wear to live chickens!
4. Explore The Beaches
Home to legendary Maverick’s, surfing is big here and beaches abound. In the mornings, walk along the beach and watch the kids as they learn to ride the waves at surf school. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
5. Hike The Trails
Not to be outdone by the sea, the land around Half Moon Bay provides gorgeous scenery and excellent hiking. Try Devil’s Slide and Purisima Creek Trail.
6. Bike Along The Coast
Take in the views of the Pacific as you bike along the Coastal Trail. Pick up your bikes from Half Moon Bay Kayak and hit the trail. If you’d rather explore things from the water, they have you covered with stand-up paddleboard rentals, as well as both single and double kayaks. They even offer guided tours via kayak or paddleboard, so you can get your whole group together on the water for a fun adventure!
Restaurants In Half Moon Bay
7. Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Established in 2000, the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company was the first legal brewery on the San Mateo Coast since the late 1800s. Today, it’s one of the prime destinations on Capistrano Road and is the perfect spot to grab an outdoor table, a cold, locally-brewed beer or cocktail, and kick back. With a large, full bar as well as indoor and outdoor seating, there’s plenty of room for all at this award-winning brewery and restaurant.
For a light yet decadent lunch, try the daily special of halibut topped with fresh mango salsa, served with broccoli, cauliflower and parsnip puree, and lobster sauce. The crispy seafood sampler is also a good choice. We dug into this gigantic array of piping hot fish including calamari, BrewCo beer-battered local cod, and prawns. Served with fries and sides of tartar and cocktail sauce, this was way more food than we could handle.
Soup Supreme: Try the clam chowder, named one of the best chowders outside of New England by Food Network.
8. La Costanera
Perfect service, creative cocktails, and extraordinary food. What else does one need? Not sure what to order from the Peruvian menu? The folks at La Costanera are pros when it comes to offering delicious suggestions.
Discover the national drink, the Pisco Sour, and let your taste buds come alive as you sip on this ultra-smooth cocktail. Expertly made behind the bar and with a hummingbird design in the frothy top, this drink is my new favorite. Al, the ambassador at La Costanera, told us that the hummingbird design gracing the top of the drink is a nod to the ancient Peruvian Nazca lines. Our very fun evening was off to a fascinating start!
With drinks in hand, make sure you sample the house-made chips and salsa. These are not your typical Mexican restaurant fare, rather they’re Peruvian-style homemade, crispy potato chips and salsa with the cilantro that I love. Delish!
Whether you opt for a spot on the large patio near the outdoor fire pits, a comfortable spot at the cozy first floor bar, or upstairs in the expansive dining area, you’ll be greeted by friendly, knowledgeable staff, all just waiting to assist you.
For a taste of heaven on earth, try the Pescado a lo Macho entree, which includes a seasonal fish filet roasted over a seafood stew. Mine included mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus, and swordfish all served in a flavorful rocoto-paprika sauce, served with a side of coconut rice. It was simply magical and one of the top entrees I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. My dining partner devoured her entree, the Salmon Bandido. Consisting of plancha-roasted, wild-caught salmon with roasted kabocha squash purée and chicha reduction, it’s a mouthwatering dish for sure. La Costanera serves creative, flavorful dishes with flair. I’m betting this restaurant will earn a spot in your top dining experiences, as it has mine.
Bar Keepers Choice: Pisco Sour flight, a tasting of 3 piscos: Traditional, Maracuya, and Cucumber.
Delectable Dessert: Order the mind-blowing scrumptious chocolate lava cake.
9. Sam’s Chowder House
Some of the best seafood in town is served right here in the award-winning Sam’s Chowder House. Located directly on the beach overlooking the bay, the views are unbelievable and the food is even better.
Start off with something from Sam’s fresh oyster bar, where you’ll obviously find oysters as well as seafood cocktails and ceviche. Indulge in the award-winning lobster rolls, served naked or dressed. An order of the cold-smoked salmon served with pickled cucumber, herbed cream cheese, and toast points proves that simple doesn’t mean boring. Voted by San Francisco Magazine as one of the Bay Area’s Top Three Outdoor Dining Spots, Sam’s Chowder House will have you feeling the love.
Inventive Appetizer: Try this winning combination of a colorful mix of grilled cherry tomatoes, huge prawns, topped with a pesto sauce, and served hot in a cast-iron grill.
10. Garden Deli Cafe At San Benito
Situated among the quaint shops on main street, Garden Deli Cafe at San Benito usually has a line out the door. We found the line moved fast enough and the short wait was worth it.
My vegetarian sandwich featuring avocado and cheese topped with fresh lettuce, onion, pickles, and tomato, served on my choice of homemade wheat, hit the spot. The ham and bean soup of the day was delish as well. The casual grab-and-go spot is consistently ranked as one of the very best sandwich spots on the coast.
Pro Tip: Get your grub to go and grab a table in the adjacent courtyard. Acoustic musicians playing as we munched our lunch made for a relaxing noon hour.
Hotels In Half Moon Bay
11. The Beach House
Comfortable, spacious, and a perfect beachside location are all reasons you’ll love your stay at the Beach House Hotel.
Offering 500 square feet and all-suite accommodations, you’ll have everything you need and then some at the Beach House. The in-room mini-fridge and microwave make it easy to grab a snack, and the Beach House offers the option to order cocktails for your own private happy hour. We liked the daily continental breakfast included with our stay, the in-room fireplace, the wonderfully relaxing hot tub, and of course the amazing views of the bay from the private balcony. You’ll also love the walkability to Sam’s Chowder House right next door, as well as the coastal trail that’s directly behind the property, offering easy access to Pillar Point Harbor.
12. Oceano Hotel And Spa
Steps away from Pillar Point Harbor, you’ll enjoy your stay in a luxurious suite or villa at Oceano Hotel and Spa. At the on-site Oceano Bar & Grill, relax with a cocktail or enjoy a chef-prepared full meal. Afterwards, stroll over to the adjacent Shoppes at Harbor Village for retail therapy.
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