My mother came out to California from the East Coast earlier this year. I didn't have much time to take off work, but I wanted to take her for a quick weekend getaway. She loves the beach, but we've visited my usual haunts in Santa Cruz on earlier trips so we decided to do something different--head north and explore Half Moon Bay and Pescadero.
We spent just over 24 hours exploring the "Silicon Valley Coast" and I wanted to share our itinerary. It's perfect for a quick escape for anyone who loves the beach, rugged Northern California landscapes, and farm-fresh local foods.
Join me on a photo tour of our trip.
First stop: The beach!
We left San Jose early Friday afternoon to try to beat the rush hour traffic. Shortly after 3 pm, we sailed over Highway 92, making great time getting to Half Moon Bay. Our first stop was, obviously, the beach.
We had brought my dog so we drove around a bit looking for a local beach that would allow dogs on leash. A local couple walking their dogs referred us to Poplar Beach, a lovely stretch of clean, white sand. It was the perfect place to enjoy the late afternoon sun. We even saw a pair of humpback whales swimming close to the coast.
Dinner at It's Italia restaurant
After a long walk on the beach, we went to Downtown Half Moon Bay for dinner. I'd reserved a spot at It's Italia, a small Italian restaurant that features local, San Mateo County grown ingredients and fresh-caught seafood. I enjoyed the artichoke and brown butter ravioli with Italian butter beans from Half Moon Bay-based Iocopi Farms. Mom liked the chicken marsala. We both enjoyed the rustic Italian decor, corner downtown location, and outdoor patio.
It's Italia | 401 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, CA | 650-726-4444
A relaxing night at the Half Moon Bay Inn
After dinner and some local Santa Cruz mountain wines, we ready to turn in. Luckily, we just had to go next door to check into our home for the night, The Half Moon Bay Inn.
The Half Moon Bay Inn is a small boutique hotel in the heart of Downtown Half Moon Bay. The building (circa 1933) has just 15 rooms and studio apartments, lovingly restored in a range of modern and traditional styles. Our plush bed and soft linens offered a relaxing escape. I also enjoyed the luxurious marble bathroom with full-size natural bath products blended by a local herbalist.
For business and family travelers, the inn offers a suites and studio apartments with kitchen facilities.
The HMB Inn is dog-friendly ($25 per pet fee), so consider bring your canine best friend.
The Half Moon Bay Inn | 401 Main Street Half Moon Bay, CA | 650-726-1177
A morning walk (and surfer spotting) at Montara State Beach
Mom wakes up early--too early for my taste, but we took advantage of the extra time to head up for an early morning walk on Montara State Beach. We enjoyed the rugged coastal views, and the crowd of surfers lined up to catch a wave.
Point Montara Lighthouse
On our way back to Half Moon Bay from the beach, we stopped at Point Montara Lighthouse, a 19th-century lighthouse, on wildflower covered bluffs high above the sea.
Fact: You can stay at this lighthouse--well, in buildings adjacent to the lighthouse. It's one of two local lighthouses that you can spend the night at. Both Point Montara and Pigeon Point Lighthouse have family-friendly hostels run by the nonprofit association, Hostelling International.
The Half Moon Bay Saturday farmer's market
It was the start of stone fruit season, so instead of breakfast, we opted to fill up on fresh local fruit from the Half Moon Bay Coastside Farmers Market (Saturdays 9 am-1 pm). Unlike other Bay Area markets where the vendors travel from California's massive Central Valley, the Half Moon Bay farmers market keeps it local. Most of the farmers are from coastal San Mateo County and farms in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains.
To see other local markets, check out this post: Farmer's Markets in San Jose & Silicon Valley.
The San Benito Deli's famous olive walnut bread
After checking out of our hotel but before heading out of town, we stopped to pick up a sandwich at one of my favorite local Half Moon Bay bakeries, the San Benito Deli. My sister and I discovered the place last summer, and I always crave their hearty, olive walnut bread.
The San Benito Deli | 356 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, CA | 650-726-9507
Craft brew tasting over lunch at Highway 1 Brewery
We took our time driving the coast down about seven miles past Pescadero to try our a new-to-me brewery, The Highway 1 Brewing Company. The Highway 1 Brewing Company offers about a dozen of their own craft brews and guest taps from other Bay Area and Santa Cruz-based craft brewers and cider makers.
Highway 1 Brewing Company | 5720 Cabrillo Highway | Pescadero, CA | 650-879-9243
Tour (and cheese tasting) at Harley Farms Goat Dairy
I had nabbed a sometimes hard-to-get Saturday reservation for a tour at Harley Farms Goat Dairy. This one hour tour takes you into the pasture to meet the goats, through the milking building, into the kitchen to learn about cheese production, and finally into their historic hay barn to sample the cheese. It's a fun experience for children and adults, alike.
Note: Breeding season goes from fall to winter so if you visit in the spring (mid-February to late May), you'll get to see the baby goats!
Harley Farms Goat Dairy | 205 North Street, Pescadero, CA | 650-879-0480
A coffee stop before heading home.
I decided to drive the winding mountain roads home to San Jose from Pescadero, so by late afternoon, I needed caffeine.
I was surprised to spot Downtown Local, a hip, modern coffee shop in the heart of rustic downtown Pescadero. We enjoyed a few minutes in the brightly lit cafe with our pour-over coffees alongside trendy Macbook-toting engineers. It was a taste of San Francisco on the San Mateo County coast.
Downtown Local | 213 Stage Rd, Pescadero, CA | 650-879-9155
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.