Between San Francisco and Santa Cruz sits Half Moon Bay, a sleepy beach resort community with a population not quite reaching 12,000 people. The Victorian-era Main Street harkens back to its early days as a tourist destination in the 1800s when it slowly evolved from a fishing village with a Spanish mission to a booming town with a major stagecoach depot.
Many of the town’s historic buildings now house upscale restaurants, art galleries and boutiques, but the coast is the real draw here. While temperatures can fluctuate quickly, the long stretch of beach, parts of it now lined with multimillion dollar estates, draws surfers, students and weekend picnickers throughout the year. If you’re looking to catch big waves, head to Maverick’s at Pillar Point, but be sure to wear a wetsuit.
During the winter months, whale watching excursions depart from Pillar Point to see gray whales and sometimes orcas make their way south and back north again. In the summer, you can still spot some marine wildlife in the colorful tide pools of the James Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.