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Ideas for California Coast between Half Moon Bay and Monterrey

I am going out to Stanford Parent Weekend in late February and I will have late Saturday afternoon until late Sunday afternoon free to spend with my daughter. I am toying with the idea of getting a room somewhere along the coast for Saturday night -- somewhere laid back and relaxing with great views. We are usually dawn to dusk "let's go see and do as much as we can" kind of tourists, but I mostly just want to see scenery since I have never been to that area before. I'd love some ideas for a nice drive, a few stops, an area to stay in for the night, and a tasty place for breakfast the next day.

Posted by
454 posts

February can be clear weather for possibly seeing whales along the coastline, or it can be rainy.

Since you will be in the Bay Area, I would suggest either Half Moon Bay or going up the coast a bit to Bodega Bay. You could always head into Point Reyes. All of these places would have great views. They are small towns.

Heading up from Palo Alto and over the Golden Gate bridge into Marin is also nice.

Posted by
18 posts

I spent 2 nights in Half Moon Bay about 2 weeks ago. I had previously lived in the Bay area so was just in Half Moon Bay to enjoy the ocean. I stayed in an AirBnB property in the little town of El Granada, just about 4 miles north of Half Moon Bay. It was a room in a house but I had use of the deck. My room and the deck had a view of the ocean in the distance. It was perfect. Have a look at Google maps with the hotels feature and you'll see what exists for something close to the ocean.

Although you ask for ideas for a nice drive, I'll suggest areas to get out of your car and walk. Driving and enjoying the views are contrary. I spent time walking in Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. A great cypress forest there. And if you're lucky the sea lions will be on the beach. You can also go tidepooling here if the timing is right. Another great walk is a few miles north of Half Moon Bay at a place called Devil's Slide. This was previously a main route from Half Moon Bay to San Francisco but after so many rock slides over the years, the road closed to traffic and is now open to pedestrians. It is right on the cliffs above the ocean. Definitely worth a walk.

Posted by
663 posts

Both Carmel and Bodega Bay are favorites of mine; they were weekend destinations when I lived in Napa. But if you really want something special I'll suggest driving a little further north to Sea Ranch. Fantastic hideaways with great scenery in a fairly remote, quiet, upscale community. Plus it's a fantastic drive!

Posted by
13930 posts

Go to Ano Nuevo to visit the elephant seals. It is a wonderfull experience and February is an excellent time of year there. It's very popular so book in advance.

Posted by
1008 posts

We just got back from a 10 day drive down the Pacific Coast Highway starting in San Francisco and ending in Laguna Beach. A nice day/overnight trip could be to start in Half Moon Bay and drive the PCH to Santa Cruz or even to Carmel. If you go to Carmel, take the '17 Mile Drive' through Pebble Beach.

Posted by
5229 posts

Half Moon Bay is the spot. Easy drive over 92 from 280.

Once in the Coast drive south on Hwy 1 to Ano Nuevo and take the tour https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29375.

Then head back North to walk amongst the redwoods of Butano State Park. Afterwards it’s perfect time to visit Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero.

Then back to stay overnight in Half Moon Bay. Lots a great shops to explore in downtown.

Next morning try the Zero Cafe at the Half Moon Bay airport.

Oh and GO BEARS!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for the excellent advice. Since my daughter is a Freshman, I'll use some of these ideas for my February trip and some for later trips to the area. We have previously spent a lot of vacation time in San Francisco and Yosemite, but are complete newbies to the coastal area. I am excited to explore it. @Claudia -- I am new to the Big Game rivalry, but my daughter joined the Axe Committee last week--Go Card!

Posted by
49 posts

First of all, congratulations to your daughter! Major achievement to get into Stanford.
In my resident of the Bay Area opinion, Sea Ranch and Bodega Bay would be ideal if you had more time. For the short length of your visit, Half Moon Bay would be a lovely place to stay. You could also head towards Capitola...more touristy, but maybe not in February. The thing to remember about this area is that there is always traffic...even on the weekends, so build that into your drive time!

Posted by
610 posts

Given your timeframe, I agree with the other posters that Half Moon Bay is a good spot. It is about 45 minute drive from Stanford University. For one night, I would recommend staying at a hotel rather than an air BnB. There are a couple of options depending upon price point. These are the places that I have stayed and would stay again:

-Beach House:https://www.beach-house.com/half-moon-bay/. Right on the water, it is short walk to the beach, but most of the restaurants and downtown are a short drive. Prices are in the $200-$300 depending upon time of year.

  • Oceano Hotel & Spa: https://oceanohalfmoonbay.com/. Right at Princeton Harbor, so you can walk to a number of restaurants for dinner. Stayed here for a wedding and didn't use the spa. It is a nice place with a good location. Prices are in the $200-$300 depending upon time of year.

  • Half Moon Bay Inn: http://www.halfmoonbayinn.com/. This is in the heart of downtown with an excellent restaurant, especially for breakfast. Stay here with my dog (it is one of the dog friendly places in town). You can walk to shops and restaurants.

In addition to the other recommendations, if you are near Pescadero, it is a short ride from the town to Harley Farms: http://www.harleyfarms.com, a family owned goat farm with a wonderful tasting room. Sometimes instead of having lunch at Duartes (which is excellent by the way), I will get the artichoke bread and salumi at Arcangeli Grocery Company (in business since 1929): http://www.normsmarket.com/, then go over the Harley Farms for goat cheese.

For dinner in Half Moon Bay, there are low-end and high-end places, some of my favorites are Pasta Moon, Barbara's FishTrap, Sam's Chowder House, Centrella, La Costenera.

Enjoy Half Moon Bay. It is one of my favorite places for a short trip to the coast.

Sandy

Posted by
11677 posts

Speaking of Pescadero, there is a nice eco-lodge there with a variety of accommodations from luxury lodge rooms to rustic cabins. And lots of activities on offer, from mountain biking, walking the beach, to massage or spa time. They have suggestions for sightseeing including Ano Nuevo mentioned above, as well as others.

https://costanoa.com/stay/

https://costanoa.com/stay/site-seeing/

Pescadero was “our beach” when I was a Stanford student (many years ago!) and I know my sons visited that beach when they were students.

Costanoa looks more relaxing to me than Half Moon Bay. I used to stay with friends there when visiting Stanford, rather than pay the high Palo Alto hotel prices. I never could get a feel for the place; an odd mix of luxury lodges like the Ritz-Carlton, and surf culture.

But if you end up at Half Moon Bay, my friends liked Mezzaluna for dinner.

https://www.mezzalunabythesea.com/

Posted by
89 posts

I wanted to add a note to Claudia’s suggestions. The 3-Zero cafe had been closed for several months and will not re-open.

Posted by
8 posts

Drive down the coast a little ways - the scenic ride itself is worth it! - to Pescadero. Turn left off 1 and go about a mile to the intersection. On your left will be Duartes bar and restaurant. Order the 1/2 green chili/ 1/2 artichoke soup.

Posted by
191 posts

Sorry, late to the party (as usual!). Outlander, I hope you have a wonderful time along the beautiful coast. I'm following this thread now b/c as we live nearby, we mostly do day trips. An overnight would be a fun vacation.

Lola, I wonder if we overlapped at Stanford. I was also there many moons ago, & Pescadero was also a favorite spot. This thread brought back good memories – like foggy, cold BBQs on the beach, or grabbing a bagel and having breakfast on the beach during the food workers' strike : )
My parents met at Cal and my son is a grad student there now ... so Big Game is always interesting. At least I am happy with any outcome. I was glad to see Cal finally win one!