If you’re not local to the Bay Area, you may have never known about all the things to do in Half Moon Bay. Yet this little cove-like resort town just 30miles from San Francisco is a welcome weekend escape for Californians across the state. It’s famous for Maverick’s, a popular surfing destination, and not far from redwood country.
You probably know about the dramatic hillsides, rolling waves and soft beaches of the NorCal landscape. But here are five adorable spots you probably never knew existed in the cozy getaway of Half Moon Bay:
1. Downtown Pescadero, CA
A breathtaking 30-minute drive from downtown Half Moon Bay will take you to Pescadero, a sleepy 19th century town that seems largely unchanged since its birth. With a population of 643, the town seems to swell in the summertime with beach-goers from Silicon Valley taking in its beautiful view and quiet expanses.
Check out some of the nature reserves yourself if you have time, or grab a drink at Duarte’s Tavern, a popular American bar and restaurant that was once featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
2. Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero
In Pescadero is Harley Farms Goat Dairy, a dynamic goat farm that takes you on dairy tours. You can actually walk right into the goat field and meet a lot of friendly goats (be prepared for many goats at once to walk up with you and rub their heads up against you), complete with two llama “bouncers” who apparently can put up a good fight if predators try to mess with their goats.
Don’t miss the adorable Andrea, our tour guide throughout the morning, who took us through the pasteurization process and crafted some of their famous cheeses before our eyes.
The goats REALLY love people.
If you’re in town for a while, don’t miss one of their epic farm dinners in their restored Victorian hayloft above the cheese shop, complete with a long carved wooden table. The dinner features a farm tour and five course seasonal meal by candlelight. Watch your wallet: the dinners run at $150 per person, but the experience is worth the expense.
3. San Benito Deli in Half Moon Bay, CA
You wouldn’t think anything of this little deli if you kept your eyes to the ground. But raise your gaze and you’ll see that the deli is inside the local San Benito House, a historic inn located right in downtown Half Moon Bay.
Additional seating for the deli is available in the bar next door in the San Benito Ale House, an amazing tavern with old-world, rustic décor. Of course, many prefer to eat outside right in the sun, and the deli offers an expansive patio garden for hungry guests. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch some live music while you graze.
4. Here Comes the Sun Coffee House in Montara, CA
If you’re like us, you’re not a functioning human without a cup of coffee in you. But at Here Comes the Sun Coffee House, you’ll feel just that much better when walking into the painted yellow walls of the tiny bungalow tucked along Cabrillo Highway.
It seems the baristas are prepped for zombie customers – they greet you cheerfully as you walk in, and smile liberally. The recipe works – some of their customers seem to have been frequenting their coffee shop for years. Not to mention they have possibly the biggest pastries I have ever seen in my life.
Don’t forget to slip through the sliding door and check out the patio. If you’re not charmed by the coffee shop itself, you’ll melt when you see they grow and sell their own vegetable plants.
5. Half Moon Bay Bakery in Downtown Half Moon Bay
If there’s one thing that Half Moon Bay has a lot of, it’s bakeries. You can find them everywhere, yet no two are the same. If you’re looking for something really local, try our pick – Half Moon Bay Bakery right in downtown Half Moon Bay.
Newspaper clippings along the wall make it appear that they’ve really been in operation forever – and the cash-only service and single pot of coffee sitting in the corner only makes you feel even more confident that you’re in for a real treat.
Bonus tips: Lodging at Beach House Hotel + wheels through Super Cheap Car Rental
Not a bad view at the Beach House Hotel
One question remains, of course – how to get there? When heading to HMB, renting a car may be your only option. I’ll admit that we were slightly nervous when we booked a $30/day rental at a company called Super Cheap Car Rental. The name just looked like it was asking for trouble (but, like many travelers, we were poor and they were, true to name, the cheapest).
It was the best car rental experience I’ve ever had.
Not only were we met at the airport in our rental car, but our sales associate was extremely friendly, offered us great tips about San Francisco living, and was very flexible with our service (though they technically close at noon on Saturday, he mentioned, we were free to hold onto the car as late as we wanted – as long as our Cinderella carriage, a white Nissan Sentra, got home before midnight).
I may never recommend another car rental company in San Francisco again.
I’m a sucker for deliriously comfy beds.
As for where to stay, there are a number of cute inns in Half Moon Bay itself – Zaballa House and Cypress Inn are two. We were lucky to have scored a two-night stay sponsored by the Beach House Hotel and loved every minute of it. The spacious rooms offer a mini kitchen with burners, a small living area with flat-screen TV and fireplace (where you can roast your own log, courtesy of the hotel), and, in our case, a breathtaking view. Check it out the next time you’re in the area.