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Half Moon Bay - California

From the Año Nuevo State Reserve -- the breeding grounds of the Elephant Seal -- to the fishing center of Pillar Point Harbor, and then north as far as Moss Beach, the Half Moon Bay coastline provides an uncomplicated and totally relaxing way to spend a vacation. Hotels from syandard to deluxe, plus more than 20 bed and breakfast inns are here, in addition to campgrounds and RV parks. And it's about an hour's drive from San Francisco or Monterey.

The beaches are wide and uncrowded. Tiny historic villages (Pescadero, La Honda, San Gregorio) offer a glimpse back in time, while the seafood restaurants on the shoreline make for fine eating is not fine dining. For the latter, go straight to the Ritz Carleton.

Walking along the shore and examining wildlife -- large and small -- is a real joy. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at Moss Beach contains a natural tidepool formation. Guides are available to show you the marine life which is seen in the pools at low tide. McNee Ranch State Park has hiking trails that lead to high points above the coast at Montara.

What to See & Do

At Pescadero -- two miles east of the highway -- there are two natural areas which are worth exploring. Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, which borders Highway 1, offers trails accessing a large marsh, which provides shelter for many waterbird varieties, in addition to hawks and more than 80 varieties of amphibians and mammals. Butano State Park is located on Cloverdale Road, with trails and campsites situated in a green redwood canyon, quite a contrast from the unforgiving semi-desert of the surrounding countryside.

The town of Half Moon Bay is the commercial center for a rich agricultural area. At the north end of the bay, at Princeton, is Pillar Point Harbor, a functioning fishing port that has a full-service marina and charter boats. Riptide Sportfishing & Whale Watching is an independent charter operation owned and operated by Captain Smitty. Whale watching eco-tours are available all year, and Riptide also offers sportfishing for salmon, rock fish, and tuna ( seasonal). Call (888)747-8433 or send an email to capt.smitty@juno.com.

The southern flank of the Santa Cruz Mountains rise from the fields southeast of Half Moon Bay and the Purissima Creek Preserve offers a lush redwood forest with hiking trails and wheelchair accessible nature trails. You'll find walkers, serious hikers and equestrians throughout the preserve. Horses may be rented for the day at one of several corrals situated beside Highway 1.

Where to Eat

Seafood dining is a must when visiting Half Moon Bay, and the old Miramar Restaurant at 131 Mirada Road is one of the most popular restaurants in the area. Open from 11 am for lunch and again for dinner, the Miramar also offers Sunday brunch. Seafood and steaks are the prime offerings here, and the mood is informal. The Princeton Seafood Company at Pillar Point Harbor is also a relaxed fish house, open from 11 am on weekdays and from 6 am on Saturdays and Sundays.

San Benito House (see below for lodging) offers a fancier brand of Mediterranean cuisine at 356 Main Street in Half Moon Bay. This is a highly regarded and consistently good dining room, suitable for special occasions.. For Mexican food, we suggest El Perico, at 211 San Mateo Rd. in Half Moon Bay, with music and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights and Spanishtown Restaurant and Market at 515 Church Street. Waves, 4230 Cabrillo Hwy., offers Italian cuisine. Just about the only non-chain fast food outlet is Steve's Blue Pacific Barbecue at 171 Seventh Ave. in Montara.

For truly memorable fine dining, the Ritz Carleton Hotel dining room is a must. The Sunday brunch at the Ritz is a favorite place to celebrate special occasions, and the weekday menus are just as impressive. Of course, being the Ritz, meals here are worth a pretty penny.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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spacerThe Ritz Carlton - Half Moon Bay
One Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay
The new Ritz Carlton hotel is by far the most deluxe place to stay south of San Francisco, and north of the Santa Barbara area. It's new, sits beside the sea on a broad headland, and offers just about everything you could want in a hotel, including fine dining. Built like a grand 19th-century lodge -- but modern -- The Ritz-Carlton is a 261-room oceanfront golf and spa resort situated on scenic bluffs overlooking the rugged Northern California coastline.

spacerHalf Moon Bay Lodge
2400 So. Cabrillo Highway, Half Moon Bay
The lodge is a fine looking hacienda style building with 80 deluxe accommodations overlooking the 4th fairway of the lodge's neighboring golf course, the Half Moon Bay Golf Links. 20 of the rooms have working fireplaces.

spacerHoliday Inn Express
230 S. Cabrillo Hwy., Half Moon Bay
Conveniently located on Coastal Highway 1, just 8 tenths of a mile south of Highway 92. This motel is in the heart of Half Moon Bay, with continental breakfast, modem lines, and in-room movies.

spacerRamada Limited, Half Moon Bay
3020 Cabrillo Highway (Highway 1), Half Moon Bay
Located two blocks from the beaches of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. The motel offers 29 new, quiet, over-sized rooms with king and queen beds, some rooms with large whirlpool tubs, microwaves and refrigerators, and with upgraded complimentary continental breakfast.

Camping

Campers have a choice of several campgrounds and RV parks including Half Moon Bay Campground (part of the state beach) on Kelly Avenue in Half Moon Bay. Pelican Point RV Park is a private operation on Miramontes Point Road, offering RV sites with hookups and tent sites. There are two hostels -- at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and the Point Montara Lighthouse at 16th Street and Highway 1 (Montara). Butano State Park Campground is on Cloverdale Road in Pescadero.

 

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