Experience full-time paradise on a jaunt to Half Moon Bay

Photo By: Eren Gknar/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Eren Gknar/Special To The Town Crier Half Moon Bay attracts a wide range of visitors, from those who partake of its outdoor charms at Pillar Point, above, to those who enjoy good food, wine and jazz.


Half Moon Bay, named one of the 15 “Happiest Seaside Towns” in America by USA Today, is a place where life is supposedly a smiley face. I’m certainly happy when I make the 30-minute drive up Interstate 280 and over Highway 92, only to be welcomed by miles of white-sand beaches, spectacular coastline along the blue-and-green Pacific Ocean, redwood forests, beautiful state parks and colorful fields of wild and cultivated flowers.

It’s a place of joy for modern explorers who like to watch the harbor seals and otters, jellyfish and migratory birds gravitating to a tranquil life in this stunning slice of the Golden State. Half Moon Bay boasts an unrivaled combination of coastal-town friendliness, charm and natural beauty.

Dating back to the 1840s, Half Moon Bay is the oldest community in San Mateo County, deriving its name from its crescent-shaped harbor. Today’s town is a mix of old and new, where fifth-generation farm families remain deeply integrated in the region’s colorful history.

Head north on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay and you will hit the small town of Princeton-by-the-Sea, laid out in 1908 and noted for its streets named after colleges. A short drive ahead is Pillar Point Marsh, a well-known bird-watching mecca, and Pillar Point Harbor, home to the legendary Mavericks surf spot.

The area is casual – most visitors are beachcombing, hiking, horseback riding on the beach, fishing or kayaking. You’ll see families with children in strollers, and dogs that, together with their adoring owners, appreciate the town’s hos-pet-ality.

Local restaurants offer a gourmet journey featuring seafood, vegetables and fruits as well as locally produced cheeses and wines, complementing the farm-to-table experience.

Start with aromatic coffee and freshly baked muffins (try the pumpkin) from the Moonside Bakery & Cafe, 604 Main St., in the town’s picturesque downtown, followed by lunch at the popular Sam’s Chowder House (whose Lobster Roll NBC’s “The Today Show” voted as one of the “Top 5 Best Sandwiches in America”). Sam’s, located at 4210 Cabrillo Highway with an additional entrance off the beach, boasts spectacular ocean views.

Enjoy a drink in a comfy chair beside a fire pit as you watch the sunset from Moss Beach Distillery’s Seal Cove Patio, a favorite of the late author Dashiell Hammett. Moss Beach Distillery, a California Point of Historical Interest due to its speakeasy roots, is located at 140 Beach Way, a few miles north of Half Moon Bay.

For the grand finale – a nightcap to a daytrip to Half Moon Bay – listen to the waves roll onto the beach and top-caliber jazz and classical musicians perform at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, 311 Mirada Road. Hot jazz, cool views.

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Lina Broydo is a travel, arts and style writer who lives in Los Altos Hills.

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