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Not far from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is a perfect fusion of West Coast beach culture and small-town charm. With thrilling swells, pristine beaches, vintage architecture, and artisan businesses, this town is exemplary of the best aspects of Northern California. On top of the human-centric charms, Half Moon Bay is a perfect place to observe seals and whales! Find out why this California beach city is worth a visit.

Why Is Half Moon Bay Worth Visiting?

Water Sports

First and foremost, Half Moon Bay is another California hub for water sports. Surfers can catch some of the gnarliest tides on the Pacific Coast, and there are plenty of opportunities for kayaking, sailing, and paragliding. However, this is but a tiny part of what the town has to offer.

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Small Town Charm

On the whole, when visitors enter Half Moon Bay, it is common to feel like they are much further away than they really are. This is the effect that this town has. It is almost impossible to believe that this level of rustic charm is available a few minutes from Silicon Valley. There are hundreds of small family farms that cultivate everything from wine to honeybees. In the center of town, there are hundred-year-old bakeries and quaint curio shops that are reminiscent of times long gone.

Related: These Are California's Best Beaches, According To Your Favorite Beach Activity

Dog Friendly

One of the most popular draws of Half Moon Bay is that it is an exceedingly dog-friendly town. Visitors can take their friendly canines onto most of the beaches and enjoy scrumptious meals at the various beachfront restaurants that allow dogs. Sam's Chowder House is one such restaurant with an outdoor porch where dogs can join in on the festivities as equals.

  • Restaurant: Sam's Chowder House
  • Address: 4210 CA-1, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, United States
  • Hours: 11 AM - 9 PM
  • Price: $$$
  • Recommended: The buttery lobster rolls are a must-try!

Marine Life

Visit the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve to get a closer look at rare and fascinating aquatic animals. This is a great option for the whole family, and guests can explore the rocky shoreline to learn about the lives and times of crabs, anemones, sea stars, and starfish. There are also unique tide pools where mini-whirlpools naturally form in the rock structures.

White Sand Beaches

A popular dog-friendly beach in Half Moon Bay is Poplar Beach. This beach offers a good mix of tranquil relaxation and adventure. It's a good place to hike as there is extensive forestation above elaborate rock caves and tide pools. Poplar Beach is less mainstream than other beaches in Half Moon Bay, meaning that it's usually pretty empty and quiet.

Culture

Like any small town, Half Moon Bay has a Main Street where all the action takes place. Here, there are hundreds of small businesses, each with unique and somewhat anachronistic characteristics. Festivals, concerts, and contests take place on Main Street, and on quiet days, if visitors want a guarantee of fresh food, there are a number of gourmet restaurants with farm-fresh ingredients.

Check out the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for some interesting cuisine and local craft beer.

  • Place of Interest: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
  • Address: 390 Capistrano Road, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
  • Hours: 11 AM - 9 PM
  • Price: $$
  • Recommended: Baja Fish Tacos along with a Half Moon IPA

Wildlife

Elephant Seals famously make appearances on many of the beaches in Half Moon Bay, especially in winter, when they are most active.

Similarly, in the fall, Grey Whales make their way to the shallow waters to mate and feed. Visitors can catch sight of the action without leaving the languid beaches of Half Moon Bay.

Related: 10 Best Places To Go Whale Watching

When To Visit Half Moon Bay?

For non-water sports-related activities, the best time to visit Half Moon Bay is in the fall -- specifically in October when the city hosts its annual Art and Pumpkin Festival. Like any small town festival, there is a pie eating contest, live music, and pumpkin weigh-offs. It's amazing to see just how big pumpkins can grow when there's a competition to be won.

How To Reach Half Moon Bay?

Half Moon Bay is about 26 miles (41km) south of San Francisco. There are limited public transport options, so it's best to drive or call an Uber from the nearest city, which is San Francisco. Non-California natives will be best served by hiring a car to get around. While Half Moon Bay is a relatively walkable and bikable city, visiting certain hiking trails and farms will require a car. Luckily, parking is free almost everywhere in town.

Next: You Can't Take Glass From Glass Beach, And Other Things To Know About This California Coast