20 Things To Do In Half Moon Bay

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On a stunning but small stretch of coastline midway between the famous cities of San Francisco and San Jose, you’ll find the city of Half Moon Bay. Although visitors often pass by or through it on a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, it is more than worth your time to stop here for a few days to fully explore the area.

The city showcases some of the best Californian landscapes, such as its string of beautiful beaches, the Rancho Corral de Tierra protected area and mountains, and towering redwood forests that the state is so famous for. Here are some of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay.

Half Moon Bay, California

20 Things To Do In Half Moon Bay

1- Walk On Half Moon Bay State Beach

top things to do in half moon bay crashing along the beach on Half Moon Bay in California with sunlight reflecting on the water.
Walking along the beach is one of the most tranquil things in Half Moon Bay.

The main and most popular beach in Half Moon Bay, the State beach, is a great place to start exploring.

It’s not much of a swimming beach due to frequent cold weather here and strong tides, however, many people simply come to walk along the coastline, go fishing or enjoy a picnic.

It’s one of the only beaches in the area that offers camping, so you’ll often find locals and road-trippers setting up in the campground here, making it a stunning place to spend the night.

2- Play Golf On A Coastal Golf Course

things to do in half moon bay california
Rocky cliffs and coastline near Half Moon Bay, California.

Half Moon Bay has multiple stunning golf courses on the coastal cliffs, with views of the Pacific Ocean.

The most well-known is the Old Course at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which has the best views in the area of the coastline, cliffs and distant mountains.

The Ocean Course is also located high on a cliff, and every hole has panoramic views, which is why these are both popular courses for professional tournaments.

If you’re a golf enthusiast or pro, these two are not worth missing, and afterwards, you can grab a cold drink at the Ritz Carlton’s famous bar and gaze through floor-to-ceiling windows at views of the ocean.

3- Walk The Gray Whale Cove Trail

Another one of Half Moon Bay’s most beautiful walking routes, the Gray Whale Cove Trail, begins at the state beach of the same name.

Aside from the sweeping beach and ocean views along the entire trail, you might be lucky enough to spot the majestic gray whales that the trail is named after splashing about in the ocean.

If you’re not keen enough to do the entire hike, there is also a two-mile version that ends at a scenic cliffside picnic spot to enjoy a meal overlooking the pretty state beach.

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4- Visit Pigeon Point Light Station

best things to do in half moon bay ca
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse and its white picket fence in Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park is between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz on the central California coast.

A classic coastal landmark in Half Moon Bay, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse is a historic building and one of the tallest remaining lighthouses in America.

Take a stroll along the cliffs to visit and you’ll find a bookshop and visitor’s centre, plus you can even stay the night.

There are regular historical tours of the grounds, although you can’t go up the lighthouse itself, and the grassy cliffs make an excellent viewpoint for seeing the waves crash below and the local seals who often sunbathe on the rocks.

5- Stroll Along Main Street

Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay is where you’ll find the lively shops, restaurants and bars where the locals hang out.

There are boutiques, bookshops and cute coffee shops, plus a visitor’s centre where you can learn more about the local area.

If you’re counting pennies and would rather not splash out on a room at the Ritz Carlton, this is also where many local hotels and B&Bs are located.

The street comes alive on evenings and weekends.

6- See The Animals At Lemos Farm

Surprisingly, Half Moon Bay has multiple farms that make a fun day out for both kids and adults.

Lemos Farm is particularly great for the former, as a fully functioning farm with pigs, goats, chickens and bunny rabbits, which kids can pet and play with.

Smaller children can also go for a ride on the farm’s ponies, on a miniature train ride or on an inflatable ‘barn slide’.

The farm is best visited on special occasions such as at Halloween when pumpkins are grown in full force or at Easter when children can take part in their annual easter egg hunt.

Lemos Farm is at 12320 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.

7- Hug A Tree At Purisima Creek Redwoods

Over the last century, many of California’s famous redwoods were cut down, and preserves such as Purisima Creek were established to protect the remaining forests.

The preserve is perfect for outdoor types, with over 25 miles (40 km) of trails, although you can simply go to admire the trees.

Trails range from easy to difficult and pass through the forest, where you can see redwoods, flora, and fauna native to the area.

It also makes a pretty place to have lunch or a snack, with a scenic picnic area for visitors.

8- Hike The California Coastal Trail

things to do in half moon bay area
Looking for things to do in Half Moon Bay? Here’s our top 20.

Half Moon Bay is a mecca for anyone who enjoys a good coastal trail, with lots to choose from.

One of the best is the California Coastal Trail, which has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, passing by various landscapes, such as forests, meadows and wetlands.

The trail stretches for seven miles, beginning at Half Moon Bay’s thriving fishing hub, Pillar Point Harbour.

It stretches along the coastline of Half Moon Bay, and sections are of varying difficulty, meaning you can do some or all of it at your leisure.

9- Explore Pillar Point Harbour

Although technically in the next town over, Pillar Point Harbour is a buzzing hub for Half Moon Bay, which is full of hundreds of boats coming in with their catch.

It’s where locals and restaurants buy fresh fish from the sea and is the starting point for many whale-watching tours in the area.

Given its popularity, you can find many waterfront restaurants here, mainly serving seafood, and it’s a top spot to spend an evening watching the sun go down or seeing surfers take to the waves on the nearby beach.

10- Explore The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

In the sparkling waters of Moss Beach, you can find some of the area’s most amazing rock pools and a diverse range of marine life.

Coral, crabs, starfish and more thrive in the underwater world and taking a walk here to spot wildlife is a fun activity for the whole family.

During the right season, you may also be able to spot seals and gray whales offshore.

If visiting with small kids, be aware that the waves here can be strong, so stick close to the shallow tidal pools.

11- Harley Farms

Another great little working farm in Pescadero, Harley Farms, has all the cute baby animals you could ever dream of, from goats and bunnies to pigs and chickens.

They have over 200 goats, so you’ll need to book a tour to see these.

You can buy their fresh produce here, whether you want to cook something fresh or use it for a picnic.

They also offer a dinner service held in their hayloft, which is very popular, and this often sells out up to six months in advance, so if you want to go, make sure to plan ahead.

Harley Farms is at 205 North St, Pescadero, CA 94060.

12- Sunbathe At Pescadero Beach

things to do in half moon bay calif
One of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay is to enjoy a stunning sunset. Here’s a view of coast near Pescadero State Beach.

Although it’s about 15 miles (24 km) south of Half Moon Bay, Pescadero Beach is a worthwhile day trip.

The rugged beach is a scenic spot with high cliffs, bluffs and rocky outcrops, where you can walk, hike or go fishing.

For families, there are also multiple picnic spots and tidal pools to explore.

The beach is a favourite sunbathing spot for the local sea lions and is also a popular bird-watching spot and for wildlife enthusiasts, foxes and deer are often spotted in the area.

13- Hike Around Crystal Springs Reservoir

Half Moon Bay is awash with scenic outdoor spots, and Crystal Springs Reservoir is one of them.

The area is home to many different habitats and ecosystems, such as wetlands and forests, with two reflective artificial lakes.

Take some time to head out here and admire the view or walk the entire trail along the reservoirs.

It’s a protected biosphere reserve due to the animals that live here; you may spot deer, coyotes and many native bird species.

14- Tour The Half Moon Bay Distillery

things to do in half moon bay in october Glass and bottle of whiskey on a wooden table.
Going on a distillery tour is one of the fun things to do in Half Moon Bay for adults.

If you’ve already tried Californian wine and made your way to one of the breweries, the next port of call on a Half Moon Bay Trip which serves great alcohol, is their eponymous distillery.

Although small, they produce excellent, high-quality, handcrafted spirits.

Most importantly, the 45-minute tour of the distillery, which includes a tasting, is free, although you’ll need to book in advance.

Spirits include gin, vodka, whiskey and brandy, and they also have a shop where you can purchase a bottle of your favourite as a souvenir before you leave.

15- Ano Nuevo State Park

things to do in half moon bay bahamas
One of the fantastic things to do in Half Moon Bay for wildlife lovers is to visit the elephant seal colony in Ano Nuevo State Park.

Ano Nuevo State Park is one of Half Moon Bay’s and California’s best wildlife spots and the best place to spot elephant seals.

You’ll only spot them from December to March, during their mating season, but the colony that arrives here is the largest on earth, with up to 10,000 making their way to the coastline to give birth.

Although you can head here and try to spot them, to do the event full justice by taking a guided tour. Experienced guides will help you learn more about the animals and how to visit without disturbing them.

16- Visit A Pumpkin Patch

things to do in half moon bay for kids
Halloween is the time when you get to find your own pumpkins and it’s a fun thing to do in Half Moon Bay.

If you’re visiting Half Moon Bay during Halloween, you’ll be pleased to know it’s often called the World Pumpkin Capital because of the sheer number of farms here.

Pumpkin farms, unfortunately, see massive traffic in October, mainly from people wanting to take photos with the thousands of pumpkins in their fields, but if you manage to get into one, it’s a fun thing to do for a day.

You’ll find lots of decorated barns, scarecrows, photogenic pumpkin patches and more, and there are also usually many Halloween-themed events such as costume parties and performances for everyone to enjoy.

17- Go Surfing At Mavericks Beach

things to do in half moon bay at night
Breathing fresh and admiring the coastline is one of the things to do in and around Half Moon Bay, California.

Mavericks is arguably one of the best beaches in Half Moon Bay but is only popular with one type of person, surfers.

The beach hosts some of the biggest surf competitions around due to its extremely high waves, making it a top spot to watch some of the best surfers in action.

The beach is an excellent place to walk while watching people catch waves.

Those keen for some action can rent surfboards and take lessons available for all skill levels.

18- Go Beer Tasting At Half Moon Bay Brewing

Half Moon Bay Brewing is one of the best breweries on the West Coast.

Located close to the popular Maverick’s surfer beach, the brewery and tap room have a large variety of tasty beers on draft and in cans and bottles, so you can taste as many as you like.

They often offer sample flights containing three or four beer samples in case you can’t decide on one.

The brewery also has a restaurant with outdoor seating and ocean views which is popular with locals and visitors for a bite to eat and to listen to live music on the weekends.

Half Moon Bay Brewing is at 390 Capistrano Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.

19- Eat Seafood At Sam’s Chowder House

best things to do in half moon bay Boiled lobster on old wooden background.
Eating fresh seafood is one of the yummy things to do in Half Moon Bay.

Sam’s Chowder House is one of the only restaurants that make it onto a list of attractions because of its popularity and fame in Half Moon Bay.

With incredible views across the ocean and serving some of the freshest seafood you’ll find in the area, it’s almost always packed with locals and tourists.

Their famous lobster roll has previously been voted one of the top five in the USA, so it’s a must-try if you’re in the area.

There’s often live music, too, making it a lovely place to enjoy the evening and taste fresh Californian cooking.

Sam’s Chowder House is at 4210 CA-1, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.

20- Have A Picnic At La Nebbia Winery

Confusingly, Half Moon Bay is one of the few regions of California that doesn’t have any vineyards, but you’ll still find an excellent winery here.

Le Nebbia sells delicious red, white and rose wines, which are all locally produced.

There’s so much to do here, such as wine tastings or having a look in their shop where they don’t just sell great wines, but a range of tasty local products.

Their outdoor picnic and seating area is super cosy and is the perfect spot for a picnic, or if that’s too much effort, you can simply order a charcuterie board brought to your table. 

La Nebbia Winery is at 12341 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019.

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.