(Updated October 2020) Half Moon Bay has really grown on me. One of my best friends grew up there, so every few months I find myself in this sleepy foggy city visiting her. Just about 45 minutes south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay (aka HMB) makes a great weekend getaway from the Bay Area.
The coastal trails always seem to be flowering when I visit, no matter what time of year. Even if it’s foggy, the views of the beaches are stunning. Half Moon Bay downtown area is incredibly charming – a lot hasn’t changed over the years and leaves it feeling old-timey in a cute way.
Plus, there are some odd hidden gems in HMB, like a double-decker bus bar, which makes it an extra fun place to travel to. Arm in arm with a local, we set out to gather all the best things to do in Half Moon Bay to make my ultimate Weekend in Half Moon Bay city guide!
When to Go / Half Moon Bay Weather
If you aren’t familiar with Northern California weather, it’s good to be prepared: it’s foggy. Like, a lot of the year, but especially during the summer.
My friend who grew up in Half Moon Bay says August, September and October tend to bring the most sunshine, so if you are set on sunny days, head to the city then. Otherwise, be prepared for fog. This means you’ll need to break out those sweaters and windbreakers, just like you do when you are visiting any coastal city.
Half Moon Bay Hotels / Where To Stay
We LOVE staying in Airbnbs, especially in smaller cities like Half Moon Bay where there aren’t a billion hotels to pick from. There are a lot of cute Airbnbs popping up. I like the idea of spending a weekend in this cute beach house.
This hotel has a fun history! Built-in 1905, the San Benito House used to play host to a variety of wild characters over time. It’s gotten a total facelift though and is now a cute and incredibly affordable hotel, averaging under $100 a night.
My friend stayed the night here once and loved it. We did a quick visit and were able to look at a room while it was being cleaned so I can confirm they are modern with all the old-world charm!
Of course, there is always the Ritz Carlton. This is like, the one big hotel in the city. It’s right on the coast and has great sunsets when it’s not foggy. I personally haven’t stayed here, so I can’t attest to what the service or rooms are like.
I have a feeling it’s either amazing or meh because they pull such name recognition. (I find that sometimes really famous hotels actually provide meh service because they don’t have to try hard.) One day I’ll stay here and let you know my thoughts! I just wanted to point that out, though, because traveler always defaults to recommending it even if they don’t stay here.
In the meantime, I can attest that their famous firepit and s’mores does look really fun. We walked by one evening and I saw couples snuggled up roasting marshmallows and drinking wine. Looked like a good way to unwind.
How To Spend a Weekend in Half Moon Bay
Now, time for my recommended itinerary! This is for a weekend with just one night. Half Moon Bay is small and sleepy, and to be honest, I don’t think you absolutely need 2 nights and 3 days to explore. A shorter weekend trip is PERFECT (and more affordable!) You honestly could even do a Half Moon Bay Day trip and just tweak this itinerary if needed.
Drive down and grab lunch at Sam’s Chowder House at Pillar Point Harbor. This is the famous chowder spot in the city. Bring the kids and relax with the brilliant ocean views from the restaurant windows. A great place to fuel up before a day of exploring!
- Half Moon Bay Brewing company is also here if you wanted to head there instead. They are dog-friendly ad sometimes have live music.
After lunch, head ot The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve to check out the Tidal Pools and go for a short hike! Make sure to check for low-tide here first. Otherside the tidal pools will be covered with too much water. I always love hopping about checking out the pools, finding fun creatures and going for a walk on the beach.
Once you got your fill of marine life, head to Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay. Here you’ll find tons of cute little shops, boutiques and restaurants! Some are still in their historic buildings. My favorite stops are:
- San Benito House for lunch
- Half Moon Bay Jail museum
- Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel Co (sometimes they have live animals to look at!)
- Garden Apothecary
- Unleashed Art Gallary
If you’re looking for an early happy hour, stop by the Sacrilege Brewery + Kitchen. It’s new! Their food is just ok in my opinion, a little too greasy in my opinion, but their beer is great! They have a ton of options on tap, and even have ciders and some guest taps from other breweries. If it’s nice out, sit outside on their porch to soak in fresh air!
There are a lot of Half Moon Bay things to do, but one of my favorites was a sunset walk around the coastal trail near Ritz Carlton! Park at Redondo Beach and take the paved path down towards the resort past the links. (If you are staying at the hotel, just start from there!)
There are part of this walk that made me feel like I was back in Ireland.
That’s what I really love about Northern California – these rugged coasts steal my heart. Keep walking past the hotel and down the hill. Here you’ll find a staircase that leads to the beach if you wanted to walk by the ocean. Or, keep walking on down the coast until you tire out!
For dinner, if you are staying at the Ritz Carlton, just stay put and have a relaxing dinner there. I’m sure their onsite restaurant is 5 stars of luxury dining. If you aren’t, I recommend checking out Pasta Moon or Monsoon. Half Moon Bay at night is underwhelming. Downtown will be a ghost town and many restaurants close up by 9pm. You don’t come here to rage.
With that in mind, make sure to set reservations ahead of time and don’t delay getting dinner or you may miss out on it entirely!
When you wake up, it’ll probably be foggy, so don’t forget those sweaters! My favorite coffee shop in the city is Granola’s Coffee House, which has an airstream out front! The inside is full of polished wood and has a modern hipster vibe. Grab a quiche and coffee here.
After breakfast, it’s time to get outdoors! There are a LOT of beaches near Half Moon Bay. My favorite is Montara Beach State Park, which offers a nice coastal trail hike through followers and down to the water. Another favorite local beach is Poplar Beach, though I haven’t been here yet.
Grab your boots and water bottle and go for a hike on the Half Moon Bay coastal trail! It’s a great way to wake up in the morning. Plus, you’ll probably be able to see the fog slowly burn off and by the time you are done, it may be sunny out!
For lunch, head back downtown to San Benito Deli Cafe for lunch a local’s favorite lunch spot. They have sandwiches and drinks for sale along with tons of outdoor seating. I recommend half sandwich and kombucha from the fridge, or a whole one if you want to split. They’re large! The line can get long, but don’t worry, it moves quickly.
After lunch, swing by Cameron’s to check out their Double Deck bus! You can see it from the road, it sticks out like a sore thumb because how often do you see a red double-decker bus adorned with the Union Jack in California?
It’s part of the pub and in the evening you can find locals drinking and smoking inside. But during the day it’ll be empty. Take 10 minutes to pop inside and look around, it’s really cool!
Just up the road is James Johnston House, that one white house on the hillside that you can see from the highway. It’s only open for tours the third Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed October, November and December, except for the Holiday House held the first two weekends of November.
Even if it’s closed, it’s still fun to visit. There are some walking trails near it and the house is so pretty, especailly in the springtime as that’s when all the yellow flowers out front will be blooming!
By now, it should be mid-afternoon and time to head home. Don’t forget to drive back to San Francisco through Pacifica so you can stop by Devil’s Slide. This road is really cool. It used to be the main highway, but is prone to mudslides and caused a lot of deaths.
It’s now closed off to cars but open to hikers. It’s a really cool experience to walk in the middle of the road with a tall hill to one side and nothing but ocean to the other.
Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Patches
Half Moon Bay is famous for pumpkin patches. Seriously – this town is dubbed the Pumpkin Captial of the World and they have an annual pumpkin festival each year in October. The best pumpkin patches in Half Moon Bay open up around the fal solstice each year in September and run until Halloween.
If you visit during that time frame, make sure to set aside time to visit a pumpkin patch and do all the fun fall activities! If you time it right you may be able to hit the last of the Half Moon Bay sunflower season and visit the u-pick sunflower fields, too!
I hope my Half Moon Bay guide is helpful! I think it’s a great little town that makes for an easy yet fun way to blow off steam for the weekend. here are other fun things to do in Half Moon Bay if you didn’t click with my recommended things.
- Pumpkin festival every October, though it gets crazy crowded so be prepared for traffic!
- Horseback riding in half moon bay on the beach (bucket list!)
- Half Moon Bay Coastside Tours offers guided tours if that’s your thing
- Half Moon Bay beaches are popular for surfing, so bring your board!
- Head south to the Point Bonita Lighthouse (it’s really pretty!)
Got questions or things to add? Leave a comment below! You can also find me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul and I’m happy to answer any questions you have about Half Moon Bay or other fun things to do in the Bay Area!