Monday, February 23, 2015

Half Moon Bay

I consider myself a fairly good driver, but give me a scenic roadway or ridge-line, and all bets are off. How anyone can drive safely when there are jaw dropping views to be seen is beyond me. Thankfully my husband was behind the wheel on our recent drive to Half Moon Bay, which took us along the famous California Highway 1. Our trip only had us on this beautiful stretch of highway for 12 miles, but that was enough to make me a believer!

We originally had not planned on making any stops before Half Moon Bay, but as soon as we made it to the coast, we were eager to slow down and take in the views. Devil's Slide was our answer! After decades of debate on how to handle this fragile segment of coastal highway, known for frequent closures due to landslides, two tunnels were completed in early 2013 to divert traffic from these precarious cliffs. The result was not only a safer passage through the mountainside, but the conversion of the old scenic highway into a path for pedestrians and bicyclists. The views from the path are AMAZING.

These are the views from the parking lot!

The trail is 1.3 miles long and is clearly marked for pedestrians and bicyclists. Barriers are in place along the cliff as well, so the path is safe for little ones (just keep them out of the bike lane!)

In an attempt to not exhaust the kids before our first official stop of the day (which was a hike), we only walked a small portion of the Devil's Slide trail and then hopped back in the car. We continued our drive about 5 miles down the road to Pillar Point Bluff in Moss Beach. This is an easy hike, on a wide dirt path that takes you through wetlands and then along the bluff out to Pillar Point.

We walked along the Jean Lauer Trail, which is part of the California Coastal Trail, but appeared to be less crowded than the portions of the trail that are in Half Moon Bay.

In the distance is Pillar Point
A little over a mile into the walk you will see views of Pillar Point Harbor, and at this point, you can continue on to Pillar Point, or head down to the beach! The path down to the beach is steep, so we had to carry the kids on the more difficult portions.

At the top of the path down to the beach!
The path is actually steeper than it looks in these photos, but I was able to carry our 1.5 year old down in ballet flats, so it's not THAT bad!
Once we made it down the hill, we had the beach to ourselves!
What you can't see here is our 1.5 year old crying hysterically because she is afraid of the waves! Not sure where this new fear came from!

The sun started to peak out from behind the clouds while we were exploring the beach.
Thankfully the kiddos were willing to share a stroller, which made the walk back to the car a little quicker since it was lunchtime and we were getting hungry.
Goodbye beach!
The views inland are beautiful as well

After our hike, we headed into Half Moon Bay for lunch at Cafe Capistrano. The cafe serves traditional Mayan food, which originates from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This restaurant was a bit of a splurge for us, but everything we ate was extremely good and I look forward to returning. Our host was also extremely nice and the restaurant was very accommodating to our children.

My husband got the Conchinita Pibil (lower left), which is pork that has been wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted. He said it was the "best pork he has ever had". I had the fish tacos, which were also amazing and arrived with a garnish of diced cantalope, which was an unexpected and amazing addition to the flavors. HIGHLY recommend this place. Also a hit with our kids, who love rice and beans.

From Cafe Capistrano, you are a short two block walk to the heart of Half Moon Bay's Main street. It's an easy couple of block to walk and there are a number of charming boutiques and restaurants to browse. We stopped in at Half Moon Bay Bakery to pick up some cookies before taking a short drive down the road to Francis Beach.

Downtown Half Moon Bay
Parking at the beach is $10, so we chose to avoid this fee by parking along Kelly Avenue. An added bonus is the Andreotti Family Farm stand, which is located on Kelly Avenue as well, and is a quick stop if you want to pick up some fresh fruit to take down to the beach.

Andreotti's Family Farm stand.
Despite the overcast weather and slightly windy conditions, the beach was a popular spot. There are a number of picnic tables with barbeques set up on top of the bluffs, and then plenty of white sand to explore on the beach. We settled down under our umbrella and enjoyed watching the girls play in the sand.

What are your favorites spots in Half Moon Bay?

The details: Half Moon Bay is about an hours drive from Berkeley. To reach the Devil's Slide hiking trail, there are turnouts both before and after the new tunnels. We parked in the parking lot just south of the tunnel (turn right at the traffic light directly after you exit the tunnel). We began our hike at Pillar Point Bluff at the intersection of Bernal Ave and Ocean Ave in Moss Beach (there is free street parking in the area). 

The facts: Toll/Gas: $10, Lunch at Cafe Capistrano: $42 (after tip), Cookies at Half Moon Bay Bakery ($2). 


  1. You did an amazing job of highlighting our amazing corner of the world. I've lived here for only nine years and consider myself very blessed. Many more amazing spots to discover. Hope you come back.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I'm looking forward to returning to the area in the future. Any tips on how to avoid the fog? ha! Is it like Berkeley, where it tends to be heaviest in the summer months, and clearer in the winter?

  2. Thank you for the tips! Looking forward to returning!