Half Moon Bay Is Quaint in the Right Way

The surf meets the ravioli at Half Moon Bay.


Photo by Kristan Lawson


Half Moon Bay is where agriculture meets the crashing sea. Farmers and fisherfolk. Behemoth pumpkins and a plush Ritz-Carlton. Pioneer graveyards and world-class waves. Redwoods, whiskey, and whales.

It’s a friendly, fruitful frontier laced with lashings of luxury.

Quaint California beach towns are a species unto themselves: a rare, precious species to preserve and protect. But most travelers know that quaintness should be a controlled substance, à la opium or Ambien: best consumed sparingly, with access to antidotes.

Half Moon Bay gets the Quaintness Quotient just right.

Smelling of eucalyptus and the ocean and looking like Lisbon-meets-the-Wild West, its tree-lined Main Street sports red-tiled roofs, biscuit-colored columns, Victorian lampposts, graceful awnings, and gingerbread of both the architectural and culinary kinds. If Pasta Moon’s butternut-squash ravioli and towering local Meyer lemon parfaits or the vintage splendors of golden-archwayed, dog-friendly, marble-restroomed, black-chandeliered Half Moon Bay Inn aren’t quaintness personified, what is?

Keeping Half Moon Bay’s QQ nicely in check is the fact it’s an actual town, some of whose 12,000 residents work the land—growing lilies, artichokes, and more—and some of whom commute: San Francisco, a 45-minute drive away, is also handily accessible via SamTrans buses and BART.

Another QQ calibrator is that Main Street stands nearly a mile from the sea, with dauntingly few access points. Nonetheless, Half Moon Bay State Beach is a stunning four-mile scimitar of pristine surf and sand—the sort of just-rough-enough, often-unpeopled strand that makes the whole world envious.

If you can tear yourself off the beach—hey, that’s a big if—consider camping, kayaking, hiking, fishing, crabbing, whale-watching, farmers’-marketing, horseback riding, golfing and/or strolling the panoramic Coastside Trail. Sip local spirits at fledgling Half Moon Bay Distillery. Savor pumpkin, pearl, and seaweed spa treatments. Multitask by taking a glass-blowing class at Half Moon Bay Art Glass, conveniently located at La Nebbia Winery. Explore Pillar Point Harbor, staging ground for the annual (and newly renamed) Titans of Mavericks surfing competition.

Packed during Mavericks, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company serves comforting spreads and sumptuous suds made on-site with such exotica as cold-brewed coffee and red rice. Nearby, award-winning lobster rolls crown the massive chef-driven menu at Sam’s Chowder House, whose firepit-studded deck renders sunsets pyrotechnically surreal—which puts the QQ somewhere between fabulous, marvelous, and perfect.



Pasta Moon, www.PastaMoon.com

Half Moon Bay Inn, www.halfmoonbayinn.com

Half Moon Bay State Beach, www.Parks.ca.gov

Titans of Mavericks, www.TitansOfMavericks.com

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, www.HMBBrewingco.com

Sam’s Chowder House, www.SamsChowderHouse.com

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