Half Moon Bay, like its beautiful name, is an exquisite small coastal town not far from the Bay Area. Only a 30-40 minute drive from San Francisco, HMB is one of the people’s favorite getaways for a relaxing weekend getaway.
It has dozens of beautiful beaches, streets full of history, fresh and delicious seafood dishes, trails for hiking and biking, and breathtaking coastal views. So if you’re planning a vacation or a weekend getaway, here is a list of the 25 best things to do in Half Moon Bay. Read on!
Things To Do In Half Moon Bay
1. Enjoy The Half Moon Bay State Beaches
Half Moon Bay is most famous for its countless beautiful beaches that are perfect for a day of relaxing and enjoying stunning views. There are four main beaches in Half Moon Bay: Dunes Beach, Roosevelt Beach, Francis Beach, and Venice Beach.
Roosevelt is a gorgeous beach located north of Half Moon Bay Harbor. It has a peaceful beach setting making it perfect for sunbathing and picnicking.
Dunes Beach is also less crowded, and you can quietly enjoy the beautiful sea view and occasionally encounter lifeguard training courses. It’s also not far from the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. So you can go there directly after playing on the beach.
Francis Beach offers plenty of picnic tables, grills, and convenient parking for cars. This is the best place to have a picnic on the beach. And finally, Venice Beach is the busiest. You can find many locals and tourists alike here playing volleyball, fishing, and surfing.
Note that swimming is not recommended at any of the Half Moon Bay beaches due to the cold water and strong currents. However, they’re still popular attractions in Half Moon Bay for their breathtaking views.
2. Go On Horse Back Riding At The Sea Horse Ranch
Some of the most beautiful things to see in Half Moon Bay are best viewed from Horseback. The Sea Horse Ranch offers guided horseback rides along the coast. This is a great activity for families, as it is both educational and enjoyable. The guides will tell you about the area’s history and the local flora and fauna.
There are different packages available, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. I took the Half Moon Bay Horse Riding – Trail & Beach package, which included a ride along the Coastal Equestrian Trail, bluffs, and poplar beach. The views were absolutely stunning, and the experience was very memorable.
The rides are suitable for all levels. I didn’t have any experience with horseback riding, but the guide was very patient and taught me everything I needed to know. I was also given a helmet to wear, which made me feel very safe.
3. Walk Or Bike Along The California Coastal Trail
One thing I love about Half Moon Bay is that there’s always something new to explore. And one of the best things to do in HMB is to walk or bike along the Coastal Trail. This 7-mile-long trail will take you along the bluffs with gorgeous ocean views, past lush creeks, cypress groves, meadows, and much more.
The trailhead is located at Pillar Point Harbor, a great place to start your exploration of Half Moon Bay. From here, you can walk to Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay State Beach, and finally, The Ritz-Carlton. The whole trail should take you about 2-3 hours to complete at a leisurely pace.
I recommend renting a bike and taking your time to enjoy the fresh ocean air and beautiful scenery. But if you don’t want to rent a bike, no problem. Walking is also a great way to enjoy the trail. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water.
4. Check Out The Pillar Point Harbor
You can’t visit Half Moon Bay without checking out Pillar Point Harbor. After all, it is one of the main things that the city is known for. This harbor was created in the 1960s and is now a hub for all things seafood. So if you love seafood, you’ll want to check out some of the restaurants located here.
In addition to being a great place to eat, Pillar Point Harbor is also a popular spot for fishing, boating, and kayaking. Also, most whale-watching tours depart from here. Therefore, wander around, check out the boats, and have a meal while you’re here.
I spent an afternoon here just walking around, taking in the scenery, and enjoying the fresh air. It was very peaceful, and I highly recommend it if you want to feel the “small town” vibe of Half Moon Bay.
5. Take A Stroll Along The Main Street
Main Street is the historic center of Half Moon Bay, and a stroll along it will surely give you a lot. There are many old buildings lining the streets of the city center, and there are also a lot of small shops and art galleries. You can also find a lot of restaurants and cafes here, so you can take a break and have something to eat or drink.
I spent my evening in Half Moon Bay, going from one shop to another, looking at the items on display and talking to the owners. I also had dinner here, and I must say that the food was really good.
Some of my favorite stores on this street included the fashion store Crow’s Nest, the handmade furniture store Cottage Industries, and the souvenir toy store Fog Town Toys. There are much more things to explore, so take your time and enjoy!
So if you’re looking for the best places in Half Moon Bay to shop, dine, and people-watch, you can’t go wrong with this street.
6. See The World’s Largest Pumpkins
This may sound like a strange thing to do in Half Moon Bay, but it is actually quite interesting. Every year, this town hosts the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, which is the world’s largest pumpkin weigh-off.
During this festival, giant pumpkins from all over the world are brought here to be weighed. The current world record is held by a pumpkin that weighed 2,560 pounds (1,157 kg). That’s the equivalent of 12 adult men!
In addition to seeing the giant pumpkins, you can also enjoy live music, food, and other entertainment at the festival. This is a great event for the whole family and is definitely one of the fun things to do in Half Moon Bay.
7. Have Fun At Lemos Farm
You might not think of a farm as a place to have fun. In fact, most people probably think of farms as places where you go to work. But the Lemos Farm is different. This family-owned farm is open to the public and offers a variety of fun activities for kids and adults.
The farm is best known for its petting zoo, which has a wide variety of animals, including goats, pigs, sheep, and rabbits. Kids will also enjoy the playground and the hayride.
What’s more? There is an interactive exhibit called “Dig Zone.” Here, kids can run their own “excavators” and learn about farming.
Note that the farm focuses on seasonal crops, so the activities available will change depending on the time of year. For example, in the fall, you can go on a hayride and pick your own pumpkins. There is also a “Haunted House” on the farm, which is not too scary and is suitable for kids.
All in all, the Lemos Farm is a great place to spend a day with your kids. It’s one of Half Moon Bay’s attractions that you’re sure to enjoy.
8. Have A Cup Of Coffee At Granola’s Coffee House
Granola’s Coffee House is a very cute coffee shop with a unique style in Half Moon Bay. Opened at the end of 2015, the cafe has been one of the locals’ favorites and an Instagram spot.
This coffee house has indoor seating and outdoor seating areas. The outside of the cafe is a childlike style with white background and colorful dots. The signboard is not conspicuous. If you don’t know in advance, it is easy to miss it. After parking the car in the parking lot, go to the coffee shop. On the right-hand side is the outdoor seating and camper area of Granola’s Coffee House. It is super colorful and unique. You must not miss the fun of tasting coffee in the camper.
Address: 116 CA-1, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, United States.
9. Visit The Harley Farms Goat Dairy
I’ve always known golden retriever puppies to be the cutest things on earth, but baby goats might just give them a run for their money. I know some of you might differ with me on this, but I’m sure you can’t deny that they’re at least somewhat cute.
The Harley Farms Goat Dairy is a working goat dairy farm that offers tours, cheese tastings, and milking demonstrations. The farm is home to about 200 Alpine goats, and it’s one of the only places in California where you can see how goat cheese is made.
The tour lasts for about an hour, and you’ll get to see all aspects of the goat dairy operation, from milking the goats to making the cheese. You’ll also get to taste some of the delicious cheese that’s made here. So why not include this unique experience in your list of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay itinerary?
10. Pamper Yourself At The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
It’s not always about the things to do and see. Sometimes it’s about things you can enjoy. Therefore, if you are looking for a place to relax and be pampered, look no further than the Ritz-Carlton. This 5-star resort is located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and offers stunning ocean views. I mean, what else do you need when on vacation?
But that’s not all; the Ritz-Carlton also offers a world-class spa, two championship golf courses, and a variety of dining options. I loved their outdoor dining, which offers beautiful views of the ocean. The food here is also very fresh and delicious.
Their spa treatments are very luxurious and relaxing. I had the pleasure of trying their Full Moon Massage, which was absolutely amazing. The therapist was very professional, and the treatment left me feeling very relaxed and rejuvenated.
So, take a break from all the sightseeing in Half Moon Bay and enjoy a day of pampering at the Ritz-Carlton. After all, a day of relaxation is one of the best things to do on vacation.
11. Play A Round Of Golf At One Of The Many Courses
If you are a golf lover, you must come here. Half Moon Bay has two world-class golf courses, Old Course and Ocean Course. These courses complement each other with the five-star hotel Ritz-Carlton Resort, which is located in the same scenic spot.
The Old Course has 18 holes, where countless US Opens have been played. The newer one is the Ocean Course, which has 18 holes but stunning ocean views at every point. In 2008, the LPGA Samsung Golf Championships were held here.
Therefore, you can also enjoy the game and the view at the same time. I’m not good at golf, but I enjoyed watching my friends play while enjoying the scenery. So you don’t have to be a golf enthusiast to come here and enjoy the scenery.
12. Go On A Whale Watching Tour
Did you know that Half Moon Bay is one of the best places for whale watching? In fact, it is one of the best places in California to see these amazing creatures.
During the months of January to March, thousands of gray whales travel over 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from Alaska to Mexico. And as they pass by Half Moon Bay, you can take the opportunity to go on a whale-watching tour and see them up close.
There are different companies that offer whale-watching tours here. I went on a tour with Queen of Hearts At Half Moon. I loved their 50-foot (15-meter) cruise, which was very stable and comfortable. The tour lasted for about 2.5 hours, and we were able to see a lot of whales.
Although the tours are a bit pricey, they are definitely worth it. Whale watching is an unforgettable experience and is one of the must-do things in Half Moon Bay.
13. Tour The Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park
One of the most famous attractions in Half Moon Bay is the Pigeon Point Light Station. This historic landmark was built in 1872 and is one of the tallest lighthouses on the West Coast. The light station is now a state park, open to the public for tours and overnight stays.
Although tours are not allowed inside the lighthouse, guided history tours take place on the grounds. These tours are very informative, and you will learn about the light station’s history.
But if you want to get a feel for what it was like to live in the lighthouse, you can stay overnight in one of the rooms that used to be occupied by the lightkeepers. These rooms have been renovated, and HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel now manages them. The rooms are very comfortable, and you will have access to the hostel’s amenities.
14. Tour The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Are you a beer lover? Why not tour the most famous brewery in Half Moon Bay, the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company? This brewery was founded in 2000 by Christine and Lenny Mendonca, and today it is one of the most successful small craft breweries in California.
The brewery is now known for its great beer and wine, friendly atmosphere, and stunning ocean views. Most people who work here are locals, and they will be more than happy to give you a tour and tell you all about the brewing process.
I loved their beer, especially the specially brewed beer (if you don’t know the special beer, you can ask). In addition, their meals are also very delicious. For example, seafood, burgers, and even French fries are specially fried in truffle oil. And with the beautiful sea view, it is really one of the best places in Half Moon Bay to relax and have a good time.
15. Enjoy The Culinary Delights Of Half Moon Bay
Anywhere I travel, I love to try the local food. After all, food is one of the best things in life, right? And when it comes to Half Moon Bay, there are plenty of culinary delights to enjoy.
If you love seafood, then you’re in for a treat. There are many restaurants in Half Moon Bay that serve fresh seafood caught right from the ocean. I highly recommend the Flying Fish Bar & Grill and the Sam’s Chowder House.
And if you’re looking for something a little bit different, you’ll be happy to know that Half Moon Bay is also home to many international restaurants. There are Thai, Italian, Mexican, and even Chinese restaurants to choose from. This means that no matter what you’re in the mood for, you’ll be able to find it here. So be sure to include this option on your list of fun things to do in Half Moon Bay.
16. Visit The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Do you know what the intertidal zone is? It’s the area between high and low tide, where you can find a variety of marine life. And the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is one of the best places to see this.
The reserve is located on the coast of Moss Beach and is protected as an area of scientific interest. Here, you can find a variety of tide pools, which are home to many different marine creatures, including purple shore crabs, anemones, hermit crabs, and sea stars.
The best time to visit the reserve is during low tide. This is when you’ll have the best chance of seeing the tide pools and the marine life that inhabits them.
There are also trails that you can take to explore the area. The whole reserve is very scenic and worth a visit. And being one of the coolest and most popular places to visit in Half Moon Bay, expect it to be crowded, especially on weekends.
17. Watch Sunset At Pillar Point Harbor
I never knew that watching the sunset could be such a magical experience. But when I saw the sunset at HMB, I was absolutely mesmerized. The colors and the way the light reflects off the water are simply breathtaking. I can confidently say that in the whole Bay Area, Half Moon Bay has the best sunset.
So if you want to watch the sunset in HMB, I recommend going to Pillar Point Harbor. It’s a great place to watch the sunset because you can see the entire harbor and the boats. There are also some restaurants and cafes nearby, making it easy to grab a bite to eat before or after sunset. And for this reason, I think this is one of the amazing things to do in Half Moon Bay, especially if you are traveling with someone special.
18. Take A Hike Through The Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
After all the excitement of the pumpkin festival, you might want to take things down a notch and enjoy some time in nature. And the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve is the perfect place to do just that.
This preserve is just a few miles from Half Moon Bay and is home to various plants and animals, including redwoods, Douglas firs, and oaks. In addition, there are over 25 miles of trails in the preserve, so you can spend a whole day here.
I recommend starting at the North Ridge Trailhead, which is the most popular trailhead in the preserve. From here, you can take the Purisima Creek Trail, which takes you through the forest and offers beautiful views of the creek.
If you want to explore more of the preserve, you can take one of the other trails, such as the Redwood Trail. But no matter which trail you take, I promise you’ll be impressed by the natural beauty of this place. After all, this reserve is among the most beautiful places in Half Moon Bay.
19. Shop For Fresh Produce At The HMB Coastside Farmer’s Market
Get to know the locals and shop for fresh produce at the Half Moon Bay Coastside Farmer’s Market. This farmer’s market is open every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm from May to December. It is located in the parking lot of Shoreline Station at Rockaway Beach.
The market features a wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh flowers, pastries, honey, and more. Each seller has their own unique story, and there is a sense of community here that is hard to find in other places.
I enjoyed walking around and talking to the different sellers. I also bought some fresh fruits, vegetables, and a few baked goods. The market was very well organized, and the items were reasonably priced.
20. Watch The Surfers At Maverick Beach
Seeing the surfers doing their thing at Maverick Beach is one of the coolest things to do in Half Moon Bay. This world-famous surfing beach is known for its big waves, which attract surfers and spectators.
The best time to see the surfers is during the winter when the waves are at their biggest. When the conditions are right, the waves can reach up to 60 feet (18 meters). And as you can imagine, this is quite a sight to behold. Also, this means that it’s only experienced surfers who dare to challenge these waves.
However, it’s still fun to watch the surfers and feel the energy of the waves. You’ll be impressed by their skills, and you might even learn a thing or two about surfing.
21. Go Kayaking
Kayaking is one of the most adventurous activities anyone can do. It’s a great workout and an opportunity to enjoy nature at its finest. There are many kayaking tours available in Half Moon Bay, but I recommend the Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. This company offers a variety of kayaking tours, as well as stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) tours.
I took a kayaking tour, which included a safety talk, paddling practice, and a guided tour. We were also provided with wetsuits and waterproof paddle jackets. Our guide was very professional and friendly, and this made me feel very comfortable. The adventure was also very scenic, as we were able to see different types of birds and marine life.
Therefore, kayaking should not be missed if you are looking for fun activities to do in Half Moon Bay.
22. Watch The Elephant Seals At Ano Nuevo State Park
Did you know that Ano Nuevo State Park is the world’s largest breeding ground for the endangered northern elephant seal? Yes, that’s right, and it is located just 27 miles from Half Moon Bay.
Every year, from December to March, more than 10,000 elephant seals come to this state park to mate and give birth. The bull elephant seals are always the highlight of the show, as they weigh up to three tons and can grow up to 16 feet long.
Note that the reserve is only open to the public from December through April, and you need to make a reservation in advance. However, you can still visit the park outside these months, but you will need a permit.
All in all, Ano Nuevo State Park is one of the top Half Moon Bay attractions and a great place to learn about these amazing creatures.
23. Hike At The Quarry Park
This is a hidden gem in Half Moon Bay that only locals know about. Located four miles north of town, Quarry Park is a great place to go for a hike. The park is full of towering eucalyptus trees which provide shade and make the perfect place to hike on a hot day.
There are several hiking trails to choose from, so you can pick one that is suitable for your fitness level. I took the Quarry Park Loop Trail, a moderate 1.5-mile hike. It took me about an hour to complete, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
As I said, more challenging trails are available. So if you are looking for a more difficult hike, you can definitely find one here. But even if you are not an experienced hiker, the Quarry Park Loop Trail is a great place to start.
24. Take A Walk Along The Gray Whale Cove Trail
To enjoy Half Moon Bay’s natural beauty, go for a walk or hike along the Gray Whale Cove Trail. This trail is located in the Gray Whale Cove State Beach, which is known for its dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and crashing waves.
The trail is about two miles long and is considered easy to moderate. It is a great trail if you want to enjoy the ocean views and get some fresh air. And if you happen to be here during whale-watching season, you might even be able to see some whales from the trail.
For me, the best time to hike this trail is during the sunset. The orange hue of the setting sun makes the cliffs and ocean look even more beautiful. And the best part is, you can enjoy the tranquility of the place without much crowd. Therefore, be sure to include this in your list of the best things to do in Half Moon Bay.
25. Enjoy Half Moon Bay Nightlife
I thought Half Moon Bay would be a sleepy town with not much to do at night. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that there was a vibrant nightlife scene. And one thing that I really enjoyed was the live music.
There are several bars and clubs that offer live music, and the genres range from rock to jazz. Depending on your taste, you can find the perfect place to enjoy a night out. I personally enjoyed Cameron’s Pub & Restaurant, which has a great atmosphere and good drinks.
Most of the actions are on Main Street, and things usually get going around 10 pm. But if you want to find a place to have dinner before hitting the clubs, there are also several restaurants that offer great food and drinks. Therefore, after a busy day of enjoying the sights of Half Moon Bay, you can enjoy the nightlife and have a great time.