Half Moon Bay has miles of unspoiled beaches that stretch from the City of Half Moon Bay’s own Poplar Beach, through the Half Moon Bay State Beach complex (Francis Beach, Venice Beach, and Dunes Beach) to the Pillar Point Marsh and the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  And that’s just the beginning!  A short drive to the south is  Año Nuevo State Reserve where the gigantic elephant seals roam, and to the North is Montara State Beach and Montara Mountain.

Half Moon Bay State Beaches

 

Año Nuevo State Reserve

 

This 4,000 acre Reserve is a major gathering area for northern elephant seals, which may be seen year-around. The males battle for mates on the beaches. The females give birth to their young on the dunes.

Major rating websites rate Año Nuevo State Reserve 4.5 to 4.8 stars out of 5.

Address: 1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060
Phone: (650) 879-2025
Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=523

Bean Hollow State Beach & Pebble BeachBean Hollow State Beach & Pebble Beach

The beach features fishing, picnicking and beachcombing. Visitors can walk down the stairs to explore tide pools with anemones, crab, sea urchins and other marine inhabitants. The beach also has a self-guided nature trail.

It has a small  picnic area and dogs are allowed on leash.

Directions: On the San Mateo Coast, Bean Hollow is 17.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay and three miles south of Pescadero on Highway One.
Phone: (650) 879-2170
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=527

 

Coastside Trail -- Half Moon BayCoastside Trail — Half Moon Bay

The Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail runs along the eastern boundary of the four Half Moon Bay area beaches providing close to three miles of multi-use trails to walk, jog or ride bikes. The trail continues north to Pillar Point Harbor.

Half Moon Bay State Beach 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA  (650) 726-8819
Website: https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/coastside-trail/

 

 

Cowell Ranch State Beach

Half Moon Bay State Beach Headquarters — 650-726-8819

Directions: 3.3 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Hwy 1, park at the marked parking lot.

Francis State Beach

Dunes State Beach

Photo by: Rep07

The beach is part of four beaches that make up the Half Moon Bay State Beach complex.

Directions: north of Half Moon Bay — from Hwy 1, turn west on Young Ave.
Address: Half Moon Bay State Beach Headquarters
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=531

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss BeachFitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach 

The reserve is set aside to protect the complex but fragile community for us and future generations. Within the reserve, most marine life is protected. The reserve is popular with school and community groups for its educational value.

For more information, visit https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/fitzgerald-marine-reserve/

Directions: Take California Ave. off of Hwy 1 in Moss Beach.
Address: 200 Nevada Ave, Moss Beach, CA 94038
Phone: (650) 728-3584
Website: https://www.fitzgeraldreserve.org/

Francis State BeachFrancis State Beach

Photo by: Rep07

The facility has a campground with 52 individual sites, some suitable for tent camping, others for trailers or recreational vehicles. Although hookups are not available, there is a dump station.  Coin-operated hot showers are also available.

Half Moon Bay State Beach Headquarters
Directions: From Highway 1, turn west on Kelly Avenue (south of Hwy 92) in Half Moon Bay.
Address: 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=531

Gazos Creek Coastal Access

Bean Hollow State Beach, 650-879-2170.

Directions: From Hwy 1, north of Gazos Creek Rd. & south of Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero.
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=527

Gray Whale Cove State BeachGray Whale Cove State Beach  — Day Use

Photo by: McGhiever

The beach (a.k.a. Devil’s Slide) features a sheltered cove surrounded by cliffs that drop abruptly into the Pacific. A steep trail leads down to the beach. There is a small picnic area on the bluff above Gray whales can often be seen close to the shore the beach. Sunbathing is the most popular activity between mid-April and mid-May

Directions: On the San Mateo Coast, north of Montara on Highway One. The only available automobile parking is on the east side of Highway 1. Crossing to the ocean side of the highway can be both difficult and dangerous.

Address: 10 miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=528

Francis State Beach

Half Moon Bay State Beach

Photo by: Rep07

Four miles of broad, sandy beaches stretch out to welcome visitors to Half Moon Bay. This picturesque setting is ideal for sunbathing, fishing and picnicking. A campground provides accommodations for those who wish to visit longer.

Directions: The beach is located a half-mile west of Highway 1 on Kelly Avenue in Half Moon Bay. There are three parking and beach access points: Francis Beach, at the end of Kelly Ave. in the City of Half Moon Bay. Venice Beach, at the end of Venice Blvd. off Highway 1. Dunes Beach, at the end of Young Ave. off Highway 1.

Half Moon Bay State Beach Headquarters
Directions: From Highway 1, turn west on Kelly Avenue (south of Hwy 92) in Half Moon Bay.
Address: 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=531

Mavericks Surf Area
Photo by: Steve Jurvetson

Mavericks is a surfing location in northern California outside Pillar Point Harbor, just north of the town of Half Moon Bay at the village of Princeton-by-the-Sea. This area is known for monster waves. Only the most experienced big wave surfers should attempt to ride them.

Mavericks Invitational was an annual surfing competition that held if wave conditions are favorable during the competition season (currently November 1-March 31). In 2019, the World Surf League announced that the contest had been canceled indefinitely.

For more information, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mavericks,_California

Major rating websites rate Mavericks Surf Area 4.5 to 4.6 stars out of 5.

Directions: off of Hwy 1, take Capistrano Rd. to Pillar Point Harbor. Travel past the harbor entrance and turn left on Prospect Way. Turn right on Broadway and then turn left on Harvard. Travel to the end of Harvard and then turn right on West Point Ave. until you reach the Pillar Point Marsh parking lot (.05 mile).

The famous Mavericks surf area is located by Sail Rock about ½  mile beyond the Pillar Point’s coastline.

Address: Pillar Point, Princeton-by-the-Sea, Calif., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Phone: (650) 728-1572
Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mavericks,_California

Miramar BeachMiramar Beach & El Granada Beach

This is our top pick for families with younger children.  Although all open ocean beaches are dangerous, Miramir is the probably the least hazardous with a gradual incline into the water and smaller waves.  Although it is calmer than most, always use extreme caution because all of the California beaches can be extremely dangerous with sleeper wavesrip currents, and BIG waves.

A short walk north of the beach Surfer Beach popular with new and experienced surfers.

Major rating websites rate Miramar Beach & El Granada Beach 4.4 to 4.5 stars out of 5. Because it is one of the more family friendly and dog friendly beaches, we give it a solid 4.5 stars.

Directions:  From Highway 1, turn west on Magellan Ave. and then left on Mirada Road.

 

Montara State Beach

This beach is a popular location for visitors who can explore the beach tide pools or go surf fishing. The beach is bounded by low hills both to the north and south. Restaurants and grocery stores and a lighthouse are nearby.

Directions:  On the San Francisco Peninsula in San Mateo County, approx. 20 miles south of San Francisco. The beach is located eight miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway One.
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=532

 

 

Moss Beach

Moss Beach is a coastal census-designated place in San Mateo County, California, with a year 2010 census population of 3,103. Located in Moss Beach are the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a marine sanctuary; the Half Moon Bay Airport, the historic Moss Beach Distillery; and the Seal Cove Inn, a destination lodging property. Moss Beach is a cool coastal microclimate that gives one a sense of separation from the nearby metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area and assures that summer temperatures are generally mild. Learn More at Wikipedia

 

 

 

Naples and Roosevelt State BeachNaples-Roosevelt State Beach

Directions:  from Hwy 1, turn west on Washington Blvd. and then turn right on Naples Ave. then turn left on Roosevelt Blvd.

Major rating websites rate Naples and Roosevelt State Beach 4 to 4.6 stars out of 5.

Address: Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=531

 

Pescadero State BeachPescadero State Beach

Pescadero State Beach has three entry points each having their own parking lots. The south end of the mile-long beach has a  sandy coves, rocky cliffs, tide pools, fishing spots and picnic facilities. The middle and northern end of the State Beach has rock outcroppings, but also has large beautiful beaches with sand. The north end also has hiking trails that lead up to the bluffs.

Please note that it gets very windy and can have some huge waves crashing on shore.

Major rating websites rate Pescadero State Beach 4.5 to 4.8 stars out of 5.

Directions:  The beach is located 14.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway One.
Address: Highway 1 & Pescadero Rd., Pescadero, CA  (650) 879-2170
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=522

Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

Across the highway from the Pescadero State Beach is the 235-acre Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, a popular spot for bird watchers and nature walks. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the Marsh, including more than 60 that nest there. Among the nesting great blue herons, double-crested cormorants and great egrets are deer, raccoons, foxes and skunks.

Major rating websites rate Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve 3.5 to 4.5 stars out of 5. Because it’s great for nature walks with young children and its generally not over populated with people, we give it 4.5 stars.

Directions:  The beach is located 14.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway One.
Website: https://www.coastsidestateparks.org/pescadero-marsh-natural-preserve

 

Pillar Point MarshPillar Point Marsh

Directions: off of Hwy 1, take Capistrano Rd. to Pillar Point Harbor. Travel past the harbor entrance and turn left on Prospect Way. Turn right on Broadway and then turn left on Harvard. Travel to the end of Harvard and then turn right on West Point Ave. until you reach the Pillar Point Marsh parking lot (.05 mile).

For more information, visit https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/things-to-do/bird-watching/

Address: 4000 Cabrillo Hwy N, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

 

Pigeon Point Light StationPigeon Point Light Station — Hostel

Built in 1872, the 115-foot lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouses in America. Located on a cliff on the central California coast, it gives pro and armature photographers the perfect mix of history, beauty and nature. 1/2 hour history tours may be available. Call for availability.

Pigeon Point Hostel is run by Hostelling International for guests who are interested in staying overnight.

Major rating websites rate Pigeon Point Light Station 4.5 stars out of 5.

Directions: California Highway 1, 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 27 miles north of Santa Cruz.
Address: 210 Pigeon Point Rd. Hwy 1, Pescadero
Phone: (650) 879-0633
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=533

Pomponio State BeachPomponio State Beach  — Day Use

Located 12 miles south of Half Moon Bay, this beach provides access to miles of gently sloping, sandy beaches at the base of high sandstone bluffs. This day-use facility features a small lagoon and really big roaring waves with rip currents. It has a small parking lot, several picnic areas with tables and barbecues. It has about 12 tables in all.

Activities include sun bathing, swimming, and hiking.

Major rating websites rate Pomponio State Beach 4.5 to 4.8 stars out of 5. We give it a solid 4.5.

Directions:  Located 12 miles south of Half Moon Bay along the San Mateo coastline.
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=521

Poplar BeachPoplar Beach

Operated by the City of Half Moon Bay, it connects to the south end of Half Moon Bay State Beach.

For detailed information on Poplar Beach, please go to https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/poplar-beach/.

For detailed information on the Coastside and Bluff Top Trails, please go to https://explorer1.com/halfmoonbay/coastside-trail/.

Directions:  From Highway 1, turn west on Poplar Ave. (south of Highway 92) in Half Moon Bay. 

Point Montara LighthousePoint Montara Lighthouse

The original fog signal station was established in 1875.  The current cast-iron lighthouse that now occupies the site was brought  in 1925 from Wellfleet Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  The historic lighthouse and turn-of-the-century buildings have been preserved and restored by Hostelling International, and California State Parks, in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Address: California Highway 1 between Montara and Moss Beach
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=534

 

Redondo Beach

Surrounded by the Ritz-Carlton property, the beach is more secluded and less used than the more popular beaches in the Half Moon Bay State Beach system.  Redondo Beach offers sweeping ocean and bluff views, but please note that access to the beach is a very steep, difficult climb. There are no available stairs. If you can make it down safely, it is well worth the effort.

Major rating websites rate Redondo Beach 4.4 to 4.5 stars out of 5.  We rate it 4.5. If it was easier to get to, we would rate it higher.

Directions: The beach is located .5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1.  Turn right on Redondo Beach Road and travel to the end. Scale the bluffs down to the beach and your there. Please note that the climb is extremely difficult.

San Gregorio State BeachSan Gregorio State Beach

The area includes a protected, driftwood-strewn estuary at the back of a wide, sandy beach – with grassy bluffs along the coast. The estuary is home to many birds and small animals. California Historical Landmark 26 commemorates the passage of Spanish Explorer Captain Gaspar de Portolá through this area in October 1769.

Major rating websites rate San Gregorio State Beach 4.5 to 4.7 stars out of 5.

Directions: The beach is located 10.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1.
Phone: (650) 879-2170
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=529

Francis State Beach

Venice State Beach

Photo by: Rep07

Half Moon Bay State Beach Headquarters — 650-726-8819

Directions:  north of Half Moon Bay — from Hwy 1, turn west on Venice Blvd. Venice State Beach has outside showers, flush toilets, and a payphone.

Half Moon Bay State Beach Headquarters
Directions: From Highway 1, turn west on Kelly Avenue (south of Hwy 92) in Half Moon Bay.
Address: 95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA
Phone: (650) 726-8819
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=531